The beginning of every year has those athletes that everyone is waiting on pins and needles to see. We can hardly wait to see what Usain Bolt, Sally Pearson, Allyson Felix and David Rudisha are going to produce. But while I enjoy watching the veterans do their thing, what’s really exciting is watching new talent emerge. After all, once upon a time every star veteran had a breakout season of his or her own.
Every year we get to witness athletes coming of age and this year was no different. In recent seasons we’ve got to watch Kirani James and Yohan Blake, among others, blossom into verifiable “stars” internationally. Following are some young people that I think are going to fit this same mold. Athletes that in my humble opinion are going to be heard from a lot during this next Olympic cycle.
Ryan Bailey (100) – In the sprint wars it’s all about the US and Jamaica right now. So it matters who the new replacements are that are coming through the pipeline. On the US side of the ledger, Bailey appears to be next in line. He had a better than solid season making the team for the Games. He followed that up by placing 5th in the deepest 100 in history. Then found himself head to head against Usain Bolt on the anchor of the 4×1 and bringing the US home in NR time. Not a bad baptism by fire. I suspect were e going to see a lot more.
Warren Weir (200) – Weir looks like the next young stud in the Jamaican sprint stable. After all he helped Jamaica to a sweep in the deuce with his bronze medal performance. Not a bad debut on the global stage. Bolt we knew was coming from his Junior exploits. Ditto Yohan Blake. This kid just seemed to appear out of no where – but I don’t think he’s going back there. Most emerging sprinters want to star in the 100, but this kid seems happy with his station in the 200. And coming in at 19.84 is a very nice jumping off place in this event.
Robbie Grabarz (HJ) – I remember a time when the high jump was must see TV with jumpers like Hollis Conway, Charles Austin, and Javier Sotomator flying through the air with the greatest of ease. Watching Grabarz this year makes me believe that a revival of this event is at hand. While many athletes are going to get over the bar Mr Grabarz seems to believe that he is going to clear it. That minor distinction is what I believe is going to propel him to higher heights than the average jumper. It’s been a while since 7’ 9” was a common jump, I think Grabarz is going to lead the way back to that level of jumping.
Nigel Amos, Timothy Kitum, & Mohamed Aman (800) – I put these three teens together because they ARE the future of the 800 meters. Not that I expect David Rudisha to be going away any time soon mind you. But these “kids” are going to be the reason that the WR in this event will NOT stay at 1:40.91 for very long! It’s almost unfathomable that this trio (all born in 1994!) already has PR’s of 1:41.73, 1:42.53 & 1:42.53 respectively!! And Amos has TWICE defeated Rudisha – once last year, and once this year. This event is headed into the stratosphere and in my humble opinion is going to become the premier event in the sport – at lest in terms of superior marks. These young men are destined to do some extraordinary things. Just watch.
Sandra Perkovic (Discus) - The darling of Croatia for some time now has been high jumper extraordinaire Blanka Vlasic. Yet for all her accomplishments, Vlasic has yet to win Olympic gold. The woman that brought that prized commodity home to Croatia was discus thrower Perkovic. Perkovic was a successful junior thrower and became the youngest ever European Sr champion in ‘09. She was very inconsistent in ‘10, and missed ‘11 to a six month ban. But she was on a roll in 2012, winning several Diamond League competitions and most importantly the Olympic title. She’s one of the younger medalists in the women’s field events and I think will be heard from for a while.
Brigetta Barrett (HJ) – Another young medalist was Brigetta Barrett. Barrett was the dominant high jumper on the collegiate scene. And making the Olympic team I thought would serve her apprenticeship this year while watching Chaunte Howard Lowe battle for a medal. Imagine my surprise when Lowe bowed out and Barrett was still jumping. That surprise became elation when at the end of the competition, Barrett was standing on the podium with the silver medal draped around her neck. Often young collegians melt under the heightened pressure of Worlds or the Olympics – Barrett seemed not to notice the difference! I expect to see this woman leading US hopes for some time.
Francine Niyonsaba (800) – This young teen aged lady is the epitome of athletics in Africa to me. Out of nowhere she appears with a 2:02 to PR and start her season. She wins the African Championships in a PR 1:59.11. She runs a PR 1:58.67 during the rounds in London and eventually makes the final where she finishes 7th. Then post Games she explodes twice beating gold medalist Savinova and setting a PR 1:56.59 with a 1:57.65 back up! It’s SCARY to think of just how good she can be. I’m hoping that Burundi can give her the support she needs to be able to accomplish what the future could hold for her.
These are the young people that I think are going to be “common” face going forward. We’ll see how their careers actually progress and how good a prognosticator I turn out to be.