If this weekend was any indication, we’ve got a Wild West shoot out kind of World Championships coming up, because there just aren’t that many “sure things” out there this year. But that’s a good thing, because it means we’ll have a week of exciting track and field in store with so many event titles / medals up for grabs. In event after event, London showcased excellent competition with few winners decided before things got started, and a few surprises along the way. It’s a bit dangerous to put too much stock into a single meet ahead of The Games or Worlds, but there were some things that stuck with me.
Let’s begin with Zuzana Hejnova who won the 400H once again in convincing fashion. This time a nice even paced race found her well down coming into the stretch, but she’s just stronger than everyone else and has a gear that no one else could touch. She blew by the field then eased off in the final meters, yet still ran a world leading PR of 53.07 – just off 52! Unless Lashinda Demus shows up in vintage form, this could be one of Moscow few runaway races.
That few should include Usain Bolt as London showed no one capable of replacing Tyson Gay or Yohan Blake as creditable foes to Bolt. As a matter of fact I didn’t see anyone in the 100 capable of outrunning Gatlin for silver as the men’s sprints have been decimated! Bolt ran right through the field in the 100 after a poor start and was never challenged – and that’s that. He should have it as easy in the deuce as only teammates Weir and Young broke 20.00 in London. Jamaica could be looking at another sweep here unless American Isiah Young can replicate his Nationals run, or Wallace Spearmon – who replaced Tyson Gay – can find old form in time. Right now however, it’s not looking good.
Renaud Lavillenie also looks pretty invincible these days as well. His 6.02m/19’9″ clearance in London was yet another big win in what appears to be a run towards the gold medal and possibly 20 feet. No one else is in his range, and no one else is as effortless at the higher heights. I expect he will put the field away early at Worlds before attempting to supplant Bubka as WR holder.
After this trio, Moscow will resemble the Wild West! In this regard, we should have some great “showdown” events lead by the men’s 400. Kirani James looked fit and in control in London. Though I’m not so sure that third 100 will be enough against LaShawn Merritt. Still everyone else looked mortal against James, so it will be up to Merritt to topple James from his pedestal. This should be the headline match up of the meet!
Another who could be toppled is Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce. At the start of the season, SAFP v Carmelita Jeter looked to be a potential highlight of the season and Worlds. Jeter has had to bow out of her co leading role however, as injury has hampered her, but recently Blessing Okagbare has stepped in nicely. A preview of THAT race was held in London and Okagbare crushed the field twice – heat and final. SAFP was in that final, and without a blazing start looked average – after a blitzkrieg 10.77 heat. After watching Okagbare ‘s heat (10.85) & final (10.79) she moved to the top of my list in the 100!
Also moving up on my list for Moscow are America’s female middle distance runners. Shannon Rowbury looked awesome in winning the 3000 meters. She did so with a devastating finish – which is suddenly becoming an American female trademark! She flowed up the final stretch increasing her lead as she ran. If she can continue that form in Moscow she has a chance in the 5000. Also showcasing her kick was Mary Cain who hung around the back of the pack in the 1500 until the final stretch where she reeled in over half the field to take 5th in her international debut. She looked like those were her “instructions” as she was clearly sticking to the script she was given. Similarly Brenda Martinez stuck to her race plan as well which also included a devastating finish as she stormed to victory in the 800. I believe all three ladies can make the finals in their respective events and make strong medal runs. Including Cain who I think will compete well in the slow down mode of championship miling.
While I’m talking/thinking distance, let me add one more “invincible” – Mo Farah. Farrah can run any pace and has a devastating kick. When he shifts gears, as he did in London, everyone else starts to look pedestrian. His 3000 in London looked like a training run it was so effortless, but his winning time of 7:36.85 was anything but pedestrian. Mo has become THE distance runner of note in the last few seasons, defying even the Kenyan’s and Ethiopian’s to challenge him. Right now he IS the best in the world.
Farah’s training partner, Galen Rupp also looked good in London running a PR 3:52.11. Like Farah, Rupp’s speed is sharp, which puts him in a position to be competitive in Moscow just as he was at the Olympics. As a matter of fact, five Americans ran between 3:52.11 & 3:53.15 in this race, finishing in the top 10. Add that Americans finished in 2nd, 3rd, and 5th behind Farah in the 3000, and London was a very good meet for American distance runners both male and female. The question is does that bode well for Worlds?
Back to speed, the deepest and closest event in Moscow should be the men’s 110 hurdles. I was hoping to get clarity from London but that didn’t happen. Instead Aries Merritt looked ready to Yale over the race early, then hit a hurdle and didn’t finish. American champion Ryan Wilson was only 4th even with Merritt not finishing. And while David Oliver emerged victorious, the time was only13.20. This race is anyone’s to win heading to Worlds.
But if you want a real preview of Moscow, check out the men’s 4×1 from the past couple of meets. The US looked very good in setting a WL 37.58 in Monaco. London saw Jamaica take to the track with a squad composed of the Racers Track Club – which I believe will form the core of their Moscow squad with Nesta Carter probably manning the leadoff position. The resulting 37.74 with a very strong close from Bolt was just short of the US world leader. These two should battle it out in Moscow as both squads have had losses this year. Flip a coin to select your winner!
Which is how most of Moscow is looking at this point.