Nothing cures failure like success, and after a solid week of failed drug tests dominating the news about track and field, athletes got back to the track to do what they do best – compete. Well enough that, at least for me, thoughts ran back to Moscow and the upcoming World Championships.
What better way to get things "back on track" than with a pair of world leading 4×1′s as the US screamed 41.75 and 37.59 with a 41.78 thrown in for good measure by the women’s "B" team! The men’s squad set their mark without Tyson Gay, almost as if to say to everyone that things would be just fine. As the sprinters that took the trip to Monaco made it clear that they are ready to represent!
So after a week of bad news, that’s how the day went – just fine. As a matter of fact, better than just fine in many cases as the athletes put the bad news behind them as they left some super marks and performances on the track at the end of the day.
None more stunning than the men’s 1500 where Asbel Kiprop strode majestically around the track with his long loping strides to a sizzling 3:27.72 – becoming the #4 performer in history! Just as impressive in second was Mo Farah as he took down the British record and moved to #6 all time with his 3:28.81. Very impressive given the British legacy that includes Steve Ovett, Steve Cram and Sebastian See. Kiprop however, was a level beyond impressive – he was superb. Kiprop looked looked like David Rudisha in the ease with which he toured the track. If he runs THIS type of race in Moscow everyone else will be running for the lesser medals long before they reach the bell lap.
Stunning in her own way was Jenny Simpson in winning the women’s version of this race. In contention from the start, Simpson took over on the final lap only to be challenged and passed by Hellen Obiuri down the backstretch. Simpson showed both guts and a turn of speed of her own as they came off the final bend however, retaking the lead and holding off the challenge of Obiri 4:00.48 to 4:00.94 – looking like the defending champion that she is! Behind them Americans were strong as Brenda Martinez (4:00.94PR) and Shannon Rowbury (4:01.28SB) and we’re back to looking like podium contenders in this event at Worlds. The women’s event is always a tactical affair at Majors (1988 being a notified exception) and the Americans seem particularly geared to this type of race.
Just as the 1500′s are starting to look a bit predictable for Moscow, Amantle Montsho showed a turn off dominance in the women’s 400. Running a very solid even paced race, Montsho performed her usual string run to the finish in the stretch and was rewarded with a world leading 49.33. Of she can replicate this type of race wheel it matters, I don’t see another woman out there currently that can defeat her!
On the other hand, the women’s deuce suddenly has several potential players. Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce looked almost unbeatable early in the season. Then Kimberlyn Duncan sizzled at nationals and looked like a potential gold medalist at Worlds. Lately however, it’s Murielle Ahoure that’s looked like a potential gold medalist – and she did nothing to dispel that possibility in Monaco. Ahoure blazed the turn in Monaco out running the field. Then she showed strength by holding off everyone in the stretch for the 22.24 win – ahead of the 22.28 for SAFP and the 22.46 for Kimberlyn Duncan. Allyson Felix wasn’t in the race, but she’s about the only sprinter that matters that wasn’t there. On the note of sprinters that matter, Tiffany Townsend entered that realm as her strong finish brought her home in 22.26 and just short of victory. All of a sudden, without seeing Felix since Nationals, this race is now wide open!
In spite of the time(s), I think the men’s 5000 is pretty open as well. I say this with caution as Farah’s 1500 makes him the favorite IMHO, but Soi Edwin Cheruiyot must be taken seriously after his 12:51.34 win. The time was a world leader and meet record, breaking the former record held by one Mo Farah . The race itself saw the first four men run under 13:00 – two others under 13:05.50 . So winning this race was definitely a big deal, and Cheruiyot and runner up Rop Albert (12:51.96) must be taken seriously as podium threats.
Now THAT is how a sport comes back after negative news – with sterling performances by the rest of its athletes! These athletes are the reason why we need to fix the problems that face this sport. They’re why the field must be as level as humanly possible, and why having rules matter. In the mean time they remind us that we have a meet coming up in a few weeks – and from the looks of things is still going to be a real humdinger!