Since we reached the half way point of the Diamond League things have really kicked into gear. Performances have begun to pick up and we are seeing more and more solid head to head match ups. Tomorrow we head to Monaco for a meet that promises to be hot from start to finish. My picks for hot match ups.
|Men’s 200||WL: 19.56, Usain Bolt – JAM||Best Entry: 19.72, Walter Dix – USA|
The big headlines have gone to the 100 meter races this year, but this deuce could be the deepest sprint of the season. Three of history’s fastest take to the track with all three having clocked under 19.80 so far on the season – Walter Dix (19.72), Tyson Gay (19.76) and Wallace Spearmon (19.77w). And, as good races often do, this one has a bit of revenge factor to it as Dix ran to an upset victory over Gay in Eugene. At least Gay will want to prove it was an upset – I’m sure Dix would like to paint it as status quo. And Spearmon would like to steal Tomorrow’s headlines. Which is what is going to make this race something special. The key will be the turn. Will Gay or Dix win that battle and will Spearmon be close? Eugene was Gay’s first run since injury, so he’s had time to sharpen since then. Expect him to win the turn war. Dix and Spearmon need to be close – very close or this will be over by the half. Gay having shown consistency in the past and the ability to run in the 19.5 range is the favorite here. But if Dix’ turn is close to Eugene’s it could be another interesting battle down the straight. And if by some chance Spearmon is near even coming off the turn he could steal the race. I’m saying Gay in 19.50, but the stretch run should be memorable.
|Women’s 100||WL: 10.78, V. Campbell Brown – JAM||Best Entry: 10.78, V. C-Brown – JAM|
Another headline stealer in Eugene was Veronica Campbell Brown who stole Carmelita Jeter’s thunder with her PR and world leading 10.78 dash up the track at the Prefontaine Classic. it was an upset from the standpoint that Jeter has become the world’s second fastest ever over the distance and very consistent under 10.90. She was again under 10.90 in Eugene (10.83), but a solid start by Campbell Brown put Brown ahead early. Both women have fierce finishes, but in a race of finishers he (or she) who starts best usually wins. Such was the case in Oregon and such will be the case in Monaco. The first 30 meters should tell the tale of this race. And Campbell Brown has suddenly added a very solid first 30 to her race. We now know that her World Indoor title over 60 meters was no fluke – this woman can now get out of the blocks. And Campbell Brown may be the one woman on the planet that can withstand Jeter’s blazing finish – she has won two Olympic titles and run 21.74 for 200 meters! Jeter has yet to nail a start this year. Campbell Brown has with consistency. Edge goes to Campbell Brown in what should be a race in the 10.75 range.
|Men’s 110H||WL: 12.89, David Oliver – USA||Best Entry: 12.89, David Oliver – USA|
Typically I preview what I feel are the best match ups heading into a major meet. Because I prefer to focus on the competitive aspect of the sport – I want to see us sell match ups. I was hoping for just that here in Monaco, in the hurdles but Robles has once again pulled out due to injury. That said Oliver deserves his due, because he is having a season unlike any other. I’ve compared him to Renaldo Nehemiah on several occasions, because I remember when Nehemiah was rewriting the hurdles between 1979 and 1981. Taking the WR from 13.24 to 13.16 in 1979, 13.00 in 1980, and 12.93 in 1981 – a season that saw him run 12.93, 13.04, 13.07, and 13.07 along the way – unheard of at the time. Oliver has shown that kind of consistency and excellence this year as his last three races have been 12.93, 12.90 and 12.89 – the last two AR’s. He says he runs to win and that the times will come – and come they have. And while it’s hard to expect him to keep getting better each and every time out, he has yet to put together that perfect race! Which is what now makes every race he runs intriguing. Because when he DOES run that perfect race the results could be devastating. And the question in Monaco, as it will be in every race he runs the rest of this season, is will this be the one?
|Men’s 400H||WL: 47.32, Bershawn Jackson – USA||Best Entry: 47.32, B. Jackson – USA|
The 400 hurdles is one of those events where the top combatants get together regularly and compete – and they tend to give the fans their money’s worth every time out. This season has been no exception as we’ve seen the return to the top of Bershawn Jackson, who has gotten healthy AND back to a 15 step hurdling pattern. We’ve also got to watch the rise of Johnny Dutch, who ran his way to the headlines with an NCAA championship win that was considered an “upset” at the time. Since then, however, we watched him battle Bershawn in Des Moines for the national title. A race that saw “Batman” run the current world leader, and Dutch (the new Robin?) turn in a 47.63 that moved him to #19 all time. In Monaco they will get to go up against two time Olympic champion (‘00/’08) Angelo Taylor. Taylor is #9 all time (just ahead of Jackson at #10) and is the fastest hurdler ever over the flat distance at 44.05. When Taylor is on, he can be deadly. Setting up what could be a sizzling race. Dutch and Taylor are strong finishers. Jackson at 15 strides does his real damage on the second turn. And it’s that third 100 where things should get interesting and the race could be decided. Taylor has been very fit this year, running the 200 and 400 in addition to the hurdles. His speed is sharp and if he stays close on the turn the fireworks will be awesome up the stretch. Batman is the man until beaten, so I give him the edge, but this should be a barnburner.
|Women’s 800||WL: 1:57.56, Mariya Savinova – RUS||Best Entry: 1:57.85, A. Johnson – USA|
This race should be another step in the evolution of US women’s middle distance running. Alysia Johnson steps on the Monaco track fresh off of her new PR 1:57.85 set in Italy. With US middle distance hopes rising, she will need to show consistency if she wants to be among the top three heading into the Trials for Daegu next year. Here to challenge her will be two of last year’s top American risers in Maggie Vessey and Anna Pierce, and this year’s in Phoebe Wright. They will have their hands full with Halima Hachlaf (MAR), surprise winner in Rome, and Kenia Sinclair (JAM) who has been solid and consistent all season. Johnson has fought with consistency throughout her career, and Vessey has since her big PR run last year (1:57.84). Pierce is steady, but has been slowly rounding into form this year. Sinclair is also steady but well off her PR (1:57.88) set back in 2006 and could be on the down side of her career. All of which is why I’m pipping the front running Phoebe Wright to win her first Diamond League race and possibly improve upon her PR (1:58.22).
|Men’s 1500||WL: 3:31.52, Nicolas Kemboi – KEN||Best Entry: 3:31.52, N. Kemboi – KEN|
The 1500 has become a race where competition has taken the place of fast times. We no longer have a Hicham El Guerrouj or Noureddine Mourceli running roughshod over the competition and setting multiple records. The current group of “milers” is fairly evenly matched – which gives the US an opportunity to make some in roads here. This field has the world leader in Kemboi (KEN), and the event’s Diamond League leader in Asbel Kiprop (KEN). The US has three entrants who could be our top three heading into Daegu – Andrew Wheating, Leonel Manzano, and Bernard Lagat. Lagat is the old guard miler – he goes back to the days of El Guerrouj – who just keep cranking out solid times and high placings. Manzano and Wheating are two of our top rising middle distance runners. With all three in solid form right now, this race will give us a glimpse at how well they compete among the world’s best. Watch Kemboi, Choge, Kiprop and Lagat closely as they should be the top four here. But also keep and eye on Manzano and Wheating – how well they race and how well they finish. This should be another win for Kiprop, but let’s see how the American’s respond.
|Women’s javelin||WL: 226’ 0”, Maria Abakumova – RUS||Best Entry: 225’ 3”, B. Spotakova – CZE|
This should be a match up between the multiple medalist (Spotakova) vs the young upstart in Kara Patterson (US). Spotakova is the defending Olympic Champion and Berlin silver medalist (not to mention gold in Osaka ‘07). Patterson is the new American Record holder (218’ 8”) who has been on a tear of consistency of late over the 200 foot barrier. She’s become one of our strongest competitors in the field winning at Pre (over Spotakova), and taking second at Gateshead (again ahead of Spotakova). Another victory over the Olympic champion would be quite the feather in Patterson’s cap. Given her competitiveness and recent results, I’m looking for three in a row, and win over Sunette Viljoen who defeated both at Gateshead.
Hard to leave anything out, because the start list is loaded. Rogowska, Feofanova, and Murer make for a very competitive women’s pole vault. And the men’s long jump is loaded with Saladino, Phillips and Lapierre. Shannon Rowbury will continue to work on her strength with a run in the 3000. And Lolo Jones leads a tough field in the 100 hurdles. Another great line up that you won’t want to miss!