The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

London Final Test Before Moscow

Jul 25th, 2013
8:20 am PST

PlaceholderThe World Championships are just a few weeks away and athletes are in the final stages of their preparations. Some are looking to get that final meet in before the big dance. While others have had layoffs and are looking to see just how sharp they are. This weekend’s Diamond League meet in London is going to fit the bill nicely for both.

London is unique in that it offers ALL of the events in the sport in one meet – albeit that it takes two days to do so. Still it gives everyone that wants to compete that final chance as it’s the last "big" meet before the World Championships. A special treat for us fans who typically get half a meet at a time these days.

Being the final meet before Moscow has its advantages because London will have a large number of top level athletes competing so most events will be loaded. A potentially great purview of "Coming Attractions". Following are the events I’ll be watching most closely for "clues" to Moscow.

Let’s start with the women’s 400 hurdles. World leader Kori Carter will be running her first race since missing the final at Nationals due to food poisoning – missing a potential tell to Moscow. If proving herself is on her mind shell get to do that against the hottest hurdler of the summer – Zuzana Hejnova. Hejnova is right behind her on the clock and has been destroying the competition all summer. Throw in Georgianne Moline who’s been a consistent runner up all year and you have the makings of a Worlds final type race, which is exactly how Hejnova runs!

One of the biggest "tests" of the weekend could come in the women’s 1500 where we get the long anticipated international debut of Mary Cain! She’ll do so against a field of women that have fast R, which will test Cain’s. speed and racing savvy against international class runners. The best of whom should be Ibtissam Lakhouad who has a history of success on the Circuit. A sub story could be how well young Cain competes against fellow American Morgan Uceny who just a couple of years ago looked like the future of US distance running – that mantle seems to have transferred to Cain. Especially since Cain handily beat her at Nationals. Cain could prove to be final material in Moscow with a solid run here.

The mantle of world’s best quartermiler currently rests with Kirani James after wins in the last World Championships and the Olympics. He’s got a test coming in Moscow however, as LaShawn Merritt and he have been trading wins this season and Merritt has been on point this year. James gets his final tune up in London against #2 American Tony McQuay, Kevin Borlee, and Luguelin Santos. These young men are all capable of something in the 44.5 range which will force James to a good race. My guess is we see a strong 3rd 100 from James in preparation for his showdown with Merritt.

Reflecting on showdowns, the Moscow100 has gone from marquee event to possible runaway. The path to gold still goes through Usain Bolt but it’s been made much easier with the withdrawal of Tyson Gay and Yohan Blake. London will give us an idea of whether or not anyone is ready to challenge as Bolt will tune up against Nesta Carter, Mike Rodgers, Christophe Lamaitre, and the year’s surprise, James Dasolou. My guess is, this is another time trial for Bolt, but I’m curious to see how they finish behind him. Carter, Rodgers and Dasolou will have an opportunity to sort themselves out in this race as possible medalists at Worlds. Bronze if you assume Bolt and Gatlin for gold/silver.

If they’re jockeying for position in the men’s100, then the next two events could be full on Moscow previews. Let’s start with the men’s 110 hurdles which has WR holder Aries Merritt, defending World champion Jason Richardson, US champion Ryan Wilson, former AR holder David Oliver, former WR holder Dayron Robles, and up and coming Cuban Orlando Ortega! All have had their issues this year and come into London fairly even, but this is the hurdles and anything can happen. This could be a big race in terms of establishing confidence and pecking order heading to Moscow. Merritt has been steadily improving and could make his mark in this meet. If not, it remains wide open.

Ditto the women’s 100 which has Murielle Ahoure, Kelly Ann Baptiste, Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce, Carmelita Jeter, English Gardner, Blessing Okagbare, and Barbara Pierre. That’s an Olympic caliber final right there! Fraser Pryce has been consistent, but also consistently pressed, most recently by Okagbare who’s gotten better technically and faster this season. Ditto Ahoure who’s looked very good in recent weeks. Gardner exploded at Nationals taking the title and will get a major test here before Worlds. But the biggest test will be for Jeter who’s been coming back from injury all summer. The winner here gains a mental edge heading into the big dance.

The longer women’s sprint isn’t nearly as loaded, but if will mark the first things we’ve seen Allyson Felix this summer. When last we saw Felix she was finishing behind a blazing Kimberlyn Duncan – that doesn’t happen often. Look for Felix to be fit and ready to roll. Shalonda Solomon should give her a good run.

There’s obviously a lot more in store, but these are the events I find extremely interesting heading to Moscow. This should be the best meeting of the summer.

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