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

Hurdlers Oliver and Demus Highlight Shanghai

May 23rd, 2010
7:16 am PST

Solid results in the recently completed Shanghai leg of the Diamond League though not as “hot” as many were anticipating. Glancing around the internet many are decrying the Shanghai track as “slow” because of many of the marks. However, this is the same track that produced 10.64 for Carmellita Jeter in last year’s meet, saw Wariner run 44.02 in ‘07, and has very wide sweeping turns. So I think it a bit unfair to put the onus on the track for today’s performances. Especially in light of the fact that there were many season’s bests set by various athletes today – just not from the athletes many wanted or expected them from.

Having said that, let’s start with the highlights from the meet. First would be Lashinda Demus who demolished the 400 hurdle field in a WL 53.34. Demus is clearly on a mission this year having a full season under her belt following child birth. Not only did she demolish this field but got very close to 53.00 and was exactly one second away from the world record. At her current pace, Demus could give that mark a scare this year. She left the competition well behind today, and there is much work for the rest of the world to do to catch up with Demus at this point.

The other hurdler that put on a show in China was David Oliver who has been nothing but solid and consistent as season long so far. Oliver has always started his seasons fast, but somehow has found injury along the way. So far this season, however, he’s simply ratcheted his season (and world) bests down meet by meet. Today he dipped under the 13 second barrier with a world leading 12.99. It was his 3rd ever sub 13 and very close to his PR of 12.95. If Oliver can stay healthy he is definitely going to be a force in this event. He’s already beaten Dayron Robles – last week in Daegu – and right now appears to have moved into the role of the World Record holders primary competition. We could be seeing the emergence of the newest rivalry in the sport.

The meet’s biggest upset occurred in the women’s shot put, where all everything Valerie Villi (NZL) went down in defeat to Bulgaria’s Nadezhda Ostapchuk. Ostapchuk threw a world leading 67’ 11” far outdistancing runner up Villi’s 64’ 8.5”. Villi entered the meet the clear world leader at 67’ 6” with Ostapchuk well back in terms of marks at 66’ 1.5”, but today the Bulgarian was huge and appears ready to make Villi work for top billing in the event.

Two world leaders that did not falter however, but did not produce what fans may have been looking for were Carmelita Jeter and Usain Bolt. Jeter won the 100 by a huge .20 over World and Olympic champ Shelly Ann Fraser. The race went according to form with Fraser leading early and Jeter coming on in mid race, but once Jeter hit her stride the race was no contest as she won going away 11.09 to 11.29. The mark was well off her season leading 10.94 run in Kingston earlier in the month – somewhat surprising since this is the same track that yielded her a 10.64 last year (would have been nice to have a men’s race to compare against). But her show of power in mid race indicates two things: one, she is going to be very hard to beat in 2010, and two, if she ever nails the start expect something spectacular.

Usain Bolt, meanwhile, did what has come to be expected. He ran by the field on the turn of the 200 and came home under 20 seconds in 19.76. Knowing that this track is fast enough to yield a 10.64 to Jeter, and with it’s very wide turns, I had expected something closer to what Gay produced in Britain earlier in the month – something in the 19.4 range. But after watching the race reality hit me. It was his second hard race in less than a week. But more importantly, watching the run, there was no challenge in this race and Bolt knew it. So the race lacked the intensity of his opener (19.56) where he was clearly running, not against the competition, but against the clock and his own expectations to see how well he could do.  And I suspect that we will see some “down” performances like this until he is on the track against Gay in the 200 (if we ever see that this year) or either Powell or Gay in the 100. Because it has to be hard to self motivate race after race knowing if you simply execute you win. Another reason the sport needs more head to heads among the best.

But if you want to talk about a winner eliciting disappointment it had to be Jeremy Wariner who won his first 400 of the season. The reason is that Wariner’s time was “only” 45.41 yet was his season best so far for the year! Now he did beat solid competition. He avenged his earlier loss to David Neville who was second in this race in 45.70. And he also turned back up and comers Ben Offereins (AUS) and Michael Bingham (GBR) though neither were anywhere near their best marks of the season. Especially Offereins who at 46.08 was a country mile away from his seasons best 44.86. But the story here is Wariner who used to run under 45 seconds as easily as a walk in the park. As a matter of fact, my personal nickname for him has been the Human Metronome so methodically and rhythmically has he cranked out 44 second races over the years. But with June just a tad more than a week away, he is no where near running a sub 45 (let alone sub 44) and one has to wonder where he is in both his development this season, but more importantly in his career. He’s back with coach Clyde Hart (almost a year now) after leaving during the 2008 season. But the “magic” has yet to return. His story is one to keep a close watch on this season.

But the stars of this meet was the hurdlers. So enjoy David Oliver’s World Leading 12.99 below.

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