One of the recurring themes of the recently completed World Championships was that of up and coming athletes breaking through to the big time. While it was clear in Zurich that it’s time for the season to end as many athletes are now weary, several of the upstarts in Daegu are clearly out to prove that their performances in Daegu were no flukes.
Take the men’s 100 for example. Yohan Blake (JAM) became the youngest ever World champion, yet it rang a bit hollow as Usain Bolt (JAM) false started out, Tyson Gay (USA) was at home recuperating, and Asafa Powell (JAM) pulled out of the meet with a groin problem. In Zurich Blake and fellow medalists Walter Dix (USA) and Kim Collins (SKN) got to face ’09 bronze medalist Powell. At the gun it looked like Powell was going to run away with the race as he got his typical blitzkrieg start blowing the field away in the first 50 meters. The second 50 meters was also typical, except instead of Bolt and Gay shifting gears it was Blake as he ran past Powell to victory in a new PR of 9.82. Blake is clearly one of the elite sprinters and with this race may have become Jamaica’s #2 man. It looks like Bolt and Gay may have a new threat to deal with next year.
Kirani James (GRN) is another young champion that solidified his win in Daegu with a big win in Zurich as he once again took on LaShawn Merritt (USA) – and won! But this time it wasn’t in 44.60 – leaving a bit of doubt as to whether or not the win may have been more a component of Merritt’s “rustiness” than to James’ own ability. As they got in the blocks James himself seemed to have that on his mind. Because at the gun young Kirani was all business as he, Merritt and Jermaine Gonzalez (JAM) went sailing down the backstretch. And coming off the final bend the race looked like Merritt v Wariner of yesteryear, but it was Merritt and James that came sprinting down the final stretch – and James pulling away from Merritt in the final stretch to win in a sizzling new PR of 44.36! This kid is for real – and the look on Merritt’s face post-race said so. Suddenly the London 400 is looking like it could be one of the top tickets in the stadium instead of a bunch of journeyman level athletes looking to run mid 44! And I’m hoping that the IAAF does the right thing and puts Merritt on the track along with James, Gonzalez and whoever else is ready so that we leave no questions on the political table.
Speaking of leaving no questions on the table, Carmelita Jeter left none as to her commitment to the 200 meters with her resounding victory in Zurich. A novelty in this race when she stepped on the track at the U.S. Trials in June, she has since run under 22.30 four times including her win today in Zurich – her third in a row over three time World Champion Allyson Felix! Once again Jeter was stellar on the turn as she came off the bend a hair in front of Felix. But instead of Felix making up ground on Jeter, the World 100 meter champion pulled away in the stretch for yet another win over the distance. And the talk heading into London will not only be about Allyson Felix and a shot at the 200/400 double but also of Carmelita Jeter and a possible shot at the 100/200 double. As suddenly the hottest sprint for the women is becoming the 200 meters with Felix, Jeter and Jamaica’s two time defending Olympic champion Veronica Campbell Brown leading what has become one of the hottest races/rivalries on the planet.
In other action, Dayron Robles (CUB) and Jason Richardson (USA) again went 1-2 in the 110 hurdles. And with David Oliver back in third, we could be witnessing the latest changing of the guard for U.S. men in the hurdles. I know that Oliver has been struggling with some nagging injuries, but that is often how changes begin. This will be an important off season for the man that was undefeated last year in one of the events best ever seasons. Meanwhile Richardson seems to be gaining confidence by the race, and Robles too seems back to his pre injury level – Pre 2009. In the women’s 800, Mariya Savinova (RUS) followed up her Daegu win with another win over what was essentially a repeat of the World Champs final. American Alysia Montano came second, as she too is beginning to look like she is finally gaining confidence in her abilities over the distance. It was another odd race for Caster Semenya (RSA) who finished well back in 5th – and I’m starting to wonder about the motivation, or lack of, for this athlete. I have no question about Sally Pearson’s (AUS) motivation however, as she seems dead set in every race to prove that she is indeed the best 100 meter hurdler on the planet. Once again she decimated the field – this time by .29 sec with a solid 12.52 – even though clearly the efforts in Daegu took a bit out of her.
The full results for Zurich can be found here. This next week will be a busy one with meets in Berlin, Rieti and Roverto before the Diamond League concludes in Brussels on Friday. Between now and then I will be taking a few more looks at some of the happenings from Daegu.