OK, now that we’ve had our first sub10 of the year, it finally feels like track season. And right on time we get the first of the Diamond League meets in Doha on Friday, which means a lot more elite athletes should be competing.
While I have many issues with the way the DL has been set up – chief among them the lack of promised head to heads with the upper tier elite sprinters – this series of meets does run through some of the sport’s best venues. Which combined with the elite athletes that do show up at each meet is enough to ensure that we get some of the best performances of the year outside of the Games and Worlds! And after all that’s what this sport is after, outstanding performances.
Personally, I’m more into the matchups, because history shows that when you get the best together, performances will follow! That said, let’s take an early look at some events taking place in Doha that I feel have some outstanding early season matchups – and should produce some great performances.
Women’s Long Jump
Britney Reese, Janay Deloach, Blessing Okagbare, Whitney Gipson
Britney Reese is the reigning queen of the long jump winning the Olympic title in London last year. My gut says that she’s going to get some serious challenges this year. Janay Deloach had an outstanding indoor season both long jumping and running the hurdles – and it’s her improvement in the hurdles that has me thinking she could pose a stronger threat to Reese this year – because speed goes with the horizontal jumps like peas and carrots. Speed is also why I like Blessing Okagbare’s chances here, because last year her speed carried her to the 100 final in London. This group of women competing in Doha have the skills necessary to get this event out to 23 feet early this season.
Allyson Felix, Christine Ohuruogu, Amantle Montsho, Natasha Hastings
This has the potential to be one of the most exciting events of the meet. Let’s start with Felix who is the sprints most versatile female. Personally I think this could be her best event should she ever focus here. Winning in Doha will not be easy as she’ll be going up against multiple gold medalist Ohuruogu who has already run 50.58 this year – stellar for someone who doesn’t peak until the majors. Even better so far is Montsho who opened up at 50.14 – so this race could go under 50! Adding more fuel to the fire should be Hastings who ran 50.88 indoors. Felix is the key however. If she’s close at 300, she wins – and there’s a definite sub 50 possibility.
Justin Gatlin, Nesta Carter, Mike Rodgers
This race lacks the "star power" of Bolt, Blake and Gay, but it’s quite possibly one of the more significant short dashes of the early season in my humble opinion. Why? Because I think it’s going to go a long way towards determining if we have a Big 3, or a Big 4 this year. Gatlin medalled in London, ran 9.79 and was consistent in the lower 9.8 range. Carter has a 9.78 from Rieti (specious track IMHO) but nothing to back it up .. Rodgers appeared ready for a breakthrough last year before injury struck but has looked hot early. One of these men needs to go sub10, and do so significantly. If so, we could have a Big 4 this year in the 100. And this is the track to do it. Gatlin tan 9.77 here back in ’06 before the time out, and Olusoji Fasuba set the African Record at 9.85 – so we know the surface is fast. We’ll see what these sprinters do Friday.
David Rudisha, Mohammed Aman, Timothy Kitum, Andrew Osagie
Over the last few seasons, whenever Rudisha steps on the track headlines follow as his "slow" races tend to go in 1:43! This one should be swift with Olympians Kitum (1:42.53), Aman (1:42.53), and Osagei (1:43.77) having the speed to fuel a fast race. Of course pace is never an issue in a Rudisha race because he’s more than happy to take the race out and set the pace – and that’s what I’m expecting in Doha. The fact that he has suitable competition should just fuel that intent. I’m hoping to see a sub 50 opening lap given Rudisha recently ran 45.5 in the 400. If that happens 1:41.xx is possible.
Asbel Kiprop, Silas Kiplagat, Daniel Komen, Gehremedhin Mekonnen
This race is full of fast athletes, the best of whom on the clock are Kiprop (3:28.88), Komen (3:29.02), and Kiplagat (3:29.27). Half the athletes in this field are what I call time trial runners – athletes who are quite proficient in running great times on the circuit. Then there is the foursome above, who are also skilled racers. My guess is we get a great second half with a final lap showdown between Kiprop and Kiplagat – and something south of 3:33. Kiprop and Kiplagat are arguably the two best milers out there right now and their races seem very personal to them. Look for another personal battle in Doha.
I like to focus on match ups because for me that’s the fun part of the sport – stirring head to head competition. But as always Doha will also showcase some outstanding individuals. Two athletes they breast keeping an eye on:
Christian Taylor (Triple Jump) – Taylor is on the verge of making this event his own. In an event full of talent, Taylor continues to find ways to win and jump far.
Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce (200) – SAFP has become one of the best short doublers out there. We’ll get a good look at her fitness in this deuce.
Like I said, it’s finally feeling like track season!