We’re finally headed to the great outdoors. No, not Yosemite or Yellowstone, I’m talking about the 400 meter ovals we call tracks – and what I’m anticipating is going to be one of the greatest seasons ever. Last year’s Games were outstanding, and with the World Championships on tap I would expect many top athletes to still be in form as they’ve been able to add to last year’s base.
The year after the Games saw Michael Johnson run 43.18 (‘01), Bolt speed 9.58 “09), Steve Cram run 3:29.67 "(‘85), Bubka go 6.00m (‘85), and Wilson Kipketer set his 1:41.11 (‘97). So exciting things can happen in the year after the Games.
Throw in a rather mild winter in many parts of the country/world this year, and there should be a lot of athletes in the condition of their lives this year! Add a dash of disappointment from those athletes injured in 2012 or simply not performing the way they wanted to, and you have all the ingredients needed for some stupendous action this summer.
That’s why I’m crawling out on this limb and predicting some very stellar performances for the 2013 season. Do I expect to see them all come true? It would be nice, but that would take the greatest season ever! I do think that all have the potential to come true however – we’ll ee how many actually make it at the end of the year. Take a look below to see what I mean by "out on a limb".
1. We get a new men’s 100 meter champion
The year after the Olympics usually sees a rise in 100 meter action. New stars emerge; times drop, and the event explodes. I think this year will once again follow that general script with the emergence of at least one major player and the crowning of a new champion. Yes I know, blasphemy in the age of Bolt. But turnover in this sport is inevitable. After the ’80 Games Carl Lewis emerged. After ’84, Ben Johnson. Mo Greene became a star right after ’96. This event is full of young talent as well as some stars heading towards twilight with something left to prove. Something’s gotta give.
2. We get a return to the 59 foot triple jump
We’ve seen several of the best in this event go down to injury in the past few seasons. Christian Taylor has been so stellar that we forget about Teddy Tamgho, Phillips Idowu, and Sheryf El Sheryf. Point being is that there is a lot of talent in this event – and where talent gathers great results usually follow. Taylor’s my favorite to hit the mark, but he’ll need a push from one or more of the others – as well as teammate Will Claye. As a matter of fact, there’s enough talent that I wouldn’t be surprised to see two athletes go over 59′ this year. The long jump used to be king of the field events, but the triple jump has been stealing the headlines lately. Look for big noise here in 2013.
3. The men’s 4×1 record returns to the US
Yes, Jamaica has had a stranglehold on this event since 2008. And yes, they still have Bolt & Blake. And I know some will say “wishful thinking”. But the US team ran 37.04 last year with what I’m going to call a "young" squad – young in terms of being together as a team. Throw in a rehabbing Tyson Gay – who shockingly got worked by Blake around the bend in London – and the "rookie" breakout season of Ryan Bailey, and there’s plenty of room for improvement. Did I add there was no Walter Dix on board either? This is a squad that held onto the stick for the first time in a major since 2007 – I think big things are in store this year.
4. The 110 hurdle record goes below 12.80
Aries Merritt was on a roll last year the likes of which has rarely been seen in any event – ending last year with his marvelous 12.80 run to set the current record. I’ve watched that race several times and as perfect as it looked I have to think that a fresher Merritt can run a tad faster – and that puts him into barrier breaking territory! I’m thinking in a loaded race we see something around 12.77. Merritt should indeed be fresher as he did not compete indoors this year, which means he had plenty off time to put in a solid fall/winter base. So I’m thinking we see 12 followed by a 7 this year.
5. We get a return to the 20 foot pole vault
Some athletes set a standard and then you don’t see anyone like them in almost forever. Javier Sotomayor, Jonathon Edwards, and Sergei Bubka immediately come to mind when talking about field events. With his performances this winter however, Renaud Lavillenie looks ready to finally emulate the great Bubka this year. If not for a "technical“ malfunction, Lavillenie would be heading outdoors with Bubka’s indoor mark in tow – of course we all know that he cleared that bar. So I’m just waiting on his 20 foot clearance sometime this summer – 6.10m to the rest of the world!
6. The women’s 100 meter hurdle record is broken
It’s been long enough now. Long enough that the old Eastern Bloc had dominated the record books on the women’s side of the ledger. One record that had been in sight for a couple seeding now is the short hurdle record with Sally Pearson getting quite close. Dawn Harriet shoved hey hat in the ring last year add another who just might be capable. I expect to see at least one more join them in that 12.3x range which means some great competition ahead – and potentially some history making times. I think the field finally exists that can lay claim to that record.
7. We see a return to the 24 foot long jump
The 24 foot long jump for women is one of those "barriers" that’s great but we know is attainable. For whatever reason however, it’s remained elusive for a couple decades now – like 48 seconds in the 400. Britney Reese is too talented; the Russian’s too technically solid; and Janay Deloach possesses too much potential for someone to not get out to 24 feet in the near future – so how about this year. Reese is THE candidate, but then Carl Lewis was the anointed one too. The key for Reese is pressure – can the others exert enough and will she respond. But clearly she possesses the level of talent that JJK and Dreschler had. The others are solid enough that in the heat of the moment – a la Mike Powell – they could produce something special. The key will be getting them all in the same place, at the same time, healthy. Moscow would be the place.
8. We see 21.5x again in the deuce
Another long over due mark is the 21.5 deuce for women. There have been enough 21.7s historically that I think asking for 21.5 isn’t that big a stretch. Especially considering that a) we’ve got the fastest tracks ever, and b) the women running the deuce today are bringing plenty of speed! Top candidate Allyson Felix is down to 10.89. Carmelita Jeter (10.64) and Shelley Ann Fraser Pryce (10.70) bring more speed than anyone not named FloJo and are just settling into the event. And moving up an octave on the scale, Sanya Richards Ross is 48.70 and 10.97. Surely all of these women are capable of sub22, and pushing Felix, not to mention each other, to something really FAST! Moscow again would be the place. Perhaps a replay of Seoul ‘88, with 4 women under 22.00?
9. The women’s 4×4 record falls
Last year we saw the 4×1 record fall after a decades long run. This year I think we see the 4×4 follow suit. It will take a bit more help than the 4×1 however, because this is an event where pressure creates the big times at the women’s level. We need a Seoul-like competition with Russia and Jamaica at their best and applying serious pressure, because the record will take at least a pair of high 47’s – something that I think both Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards Ross can provide. But they can’t do it solo, so we’ll need the other squads to throw in some serious 48’s. If we can get that, we can get to the record. A tough task, but not completely impossible.
10. Mary Cain runs 4:25 in the mile
Actually, I think this is my most conservative prediction. I wanted to put 4:20, but that’s asking a bit much of the young 16 year old. Than again, I’m not sure I would be surprised by anything this young lady produces. For my money she’s the most exciting high school track athlete since Houston McTear. Not just a prodigy, but one I’d pay my money to go watch! She may be a year away just yet, but with Salazar in charge, and the way she follows direction I’m not shocked by anything she does.
So those are my out on a limb predictions. The season gets rolling this weekend with a ton of outdoor meets. I’ll be taking a look at them as usual and start trying to get a handle on how this season is going to unfold.