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

Doha and Kingston Heat Up the Season

May 10th, 2016
10:20 am PST

Sprinter ShadowPenn was the unofficial start to the outdoor season. The "USA v The World" is sort of the kick off to things. That was last weekend. This weekend sh*t got real, as the Diamond League got under way with the first stop in Doha on Friday. And to make sure that things were underway, the Jamaican International Invitational in Kingston made sure that there was plenty of hot action. We’re now officially on our way to Rio!

As usual, the sprinters are in mid-season form – especially the women. Not that the men weren’t impressive. LaShawn Merritt is proving to be in fine form. After running 19.78/44.22 the past few weeks, he ran another 400 in Doha, winning in a strong 44.41over Machel Cedenio (44.68) and Abdellah Haroun (44.81). A day later in Kingston, Javon Francis won in 44.85, as eight men have already gone under 45.00! This is certainly going to be the year of the 400 on the men’s side of things. While we’re talking about the long sprints, another legitimate 200 threat arose in Doha as Ameer Webb showed that his earlier 19.91 was no fluke screaming a 19.85 to dominate a world class field. A strong turn and dominate stretch and Webb looked like an Olympic finalist. Certainly making himself a Trials favorite if nothing else at this point. As a matter of fact, he looked strong enough to be a threat to run faster than his earlier 10.03 – which could make him a double threat heading into the Trials.

Speaking of double threats, that’s what Walter Dix was between ’07/’11 when he was setting PRs of 9.88/19.53. Since then injuries have derailed him, but lately he’s looked to be rounding back into form, and in Doha he ran 20.14 behind Webb to go with a windy 10.03 he ran last month. He too could be a Trials threat. Slowly US men are starting to come to the fore – I’ll examine them more closely soon. On the international front, several men are already starting to stake claim as Olympic favorites. Two specifically come to mind from Doha – hurdler Omar McLeod (JAM) and miler Asbel Kiprop (KEN).

McLeod has already done what no other hurdler has ever done – run under 13.00 in the hurdles, and under 10.00 in the 100! His speed has been evident in the last couple of weeks as he ran 13.08 in the rain at Drake, and followed that with a dominant 13.03 performance in Doha! A very nice set of opening season marks. He appeared almost too fast however, as he was coming up quickly on hurdles late, and actually clobbered the 9th. One can’t run flat out in the hurdles as it does require a three step pattern. We’ll see how well Omar manages his speed throughout the season. The sport has seen fast hurdlers before – Mark McCoy (10.08/13.12), Tony Dees (10.15/13.05) and Greg Foster (20.20/13.03) come to mind – but at the end of the day it was hurdle rhythm over speed that determined their hurdling fate.

Rhythm is also very important in the middle distances, and right now the best rhythm is owned by Asbel Kiprop, who made his world leading 3:32.15 in Doha look like a Sunday afternoon walk! Asbel cruises to victory in a race where the first 8 became the eight fastest on the planet, and 5 more entered the top 20! Yet Kiprop made them all look rather pedestrian – such is his dominance right now. Impressive.

And impressive is how the elite female sprinters are performing right now. Yes, the men, behind Bolt and Gatlin, get the headlines, but for hot races, awesome match ups, and sizzling times,it’s the women that are constantly throwing down! Take Doha, for example, where the trio of Tori Bowie, Dafne Schippers, and Veronica Campbell Brown lines up in the 100 – that’s last year’s Worlds silver and bronze medalists and the fourth place finisher! That’s a tremendous early field – as were the performances. Murielle Ahoure was out quick at the gun, but it was Schippers and Bowie flying in full flight with Bowie taking the 10.80 to 10.83 win. Campbell Brown ran an excellent 10.91 but was left in third.

The next day in Kingston, Elaine Thompson rode a +2.4 wind to a sizzling 10.71 over English Gardner (10.85), Michele Lee-Ahye (10.98), and Jenna Prandini (11.08). Two Olympic quality sprints in two days in early May! The women’s sprints are DEEP right now. The Trials races in the US and Jamaica will be cut throat, Olympic quality affairs. And I dare say that I expect the Games themselves to produce Olympic Record level races in both the one and two – yes I believe the 200 record could be challenged!

It’s early and there’s lots of competition to be done. We get to turn around and have Shanghai at the end of the week. It looks like the Diamond League is beginning to live up to the hype. A great time to do so as we move forward on the Road to Rio!

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