Christmas is less than a week away, and we’re within counting distance of the dropping of the ball in Times Square and the start of the New Year. So it must be time to start talking about the Olympics!
Olympic talk will dominate the world of track and field in 2012 – it always does in an Olympic year. So what better way to start/instigate discussion, than to put some early predictions out there. Of course we don’t even know who will be competing in London just yet, since everyone will have a selection process of some sort to go through. So instead of saying these are my predicted “winners”, this is my list of “Favorites” for London. Those athletes that I think if everything goes right for them could take the top of the podium at the Games.
So here is my list of favorites, followed by some general comments by competitive areas. Let the debates begin!
|Event||Men’s Favorite||Women’s Favorite|
|100||Yohan Blake||Carmelita Jeter|
|200||Tyson Gay||Veroinica Campbell Brown|
|400||LaShawn Merritt||Allyson Felix|
|800||David Rudisha||Mariya Savinova|
|1500||Silas Kiplagat||Morgan Uceny|
|5000||Bernard Lagat||Vivian Cheruiyot|
|10,000||Kenenisa Bekele||Vivian Cheruiyot|
|Steeple||Ezekiel Kemboi||Yuliya Zarapova|
|110H/100H||Xiang Liu||Sally Pearson|
|400H||Jeshua Anderson||Lashinda Demus|
|High Jump||Ivan Ukhov||Blanka Vlasic|
|Pole Vault||Renaud Lavillenie||Fabiana Murer|
|Long Jump||Mitchell Watt||Brittney Reese|
|Triple Jump||Christian Taylor||Olha Saladuha|
|Shot Put||Christian Cantwell||Valerie Adams|
|Discus||Robert Harting||Yanfeng Li|
|Hammer||Koji Murofushi||Tatyana Lysenko|
|Javelin||Andreas Thorkildsen||Maria Abakumova|
|Multis||Trey Hardee||Tatyana Chernova|
|4×4||United States||Unites States|
Perhaps the hardest events to predict are the sprints. And I’m sure my early favorites here will be a bit controversial – primarily because I’ve not put Bolt as favorite in either sprint. Blake is just improving too rapidly. And while Bolt & Gay are one and two all-time and ultimate warriors, both have the Achilles heel of poor starts. If either nails it he could win, but Blake is the most consistent from the blocks. As for Gay and the deuce, in limited action he ran 19.58 & 19.40 (straight) while battling injuries in ‘09/’10 and dropped 44.89. Add his screaming turn and the fact that all that was done early season without peaking, and don’t forget he’s 9.7 on any given day with a 9.69 PR and he has all the elements – just needs good health. And dare I say that while Bolt has dominated the last three Majors, he hasn’t faced Gay, or the improved Blake. Stay tuned! Merritt over James, yes. James Improved tremendously in 2011, but Merritt lead the world with just a handful of races and barely lost in Daegu with no base behind him. James will have to get to sub44 to take London. This battle will be HOT!
Jeter wins without a great start in Daegu. She’s got to be the fave. Veronica Campbell Brown is looking to win her THIRD in a row in the deuce, and is coming off her first Worlds win. She’s my early favorite but this is Felix’ favorite event and she doesn’t take losing lightly. And the spectre of Jeter continuing to improve here makes this the hottest women’s sprint in London. On the other hand I see Felix as the best female quarter miler in the world – and yes I know that Richards Ross hasn’t retired. We’ll see if Felix doubles again, but if she does she’s my early favorite here because she now has a year of doubling experience under belt and she and coach WILL make adjustments.
in the 110 hurdles, Dayron Robles and David Oliver have shown that they are as good as it gets when healthy, but there is something about a healthy Xiang Liu when the chips are on the line! Just go back and look at that Daegu race. He can be beaten, but someone is going to have to get out and run away from him to do it. The men’s long hurdles were a mess this year. I finally went with the young stud poised for growth in Anderson. The vets are aging and just didn’t get it done this year. We could be turning the corner of change in this event.
Sally Pearson. Sub 12.30. It’s going to take a lot for others to dial into her area code at this point. The long hurdles, on the other hand has several women capable of crossing that line first, but for now I’m going with the experience and talent of Demus.
Middle Distance Comments
These events are beginning to develop solid cores of favorites. In the men’s half, right now gold is Rudisha’s to lose. He’s that good. Kaki could get there. But right now Rudisha rules. The metric mile is a bit more of a mystery, but Kiprop and Kiplagat are the heads and tails on the coin. Will be interesting to see if Kaki runs it more in 2012 though!
On the women’s side Savinova looks to be settling in in the half mile. Semenya is lying in wait, but the spirit seems lacking. In the metric mile there are several capable women right now – probably about half dozen or so. But Uceny has the most solid/consistent race pattern. This will be another exciting final in London.
On the one hand I believe Bekele to be back – and that means trouble for everyone else. On the other I don’t think he will double. With that in mind I think that “Old Man” Lagat is still the world’s best kicker not named Kenenisa, so he’s my early 5000 favorite. In the 10,000 Bekele v Farah could be the new Bekele v Gebrsellassie!
On the women’s side Cheruiyot is an easy call in the 5000, as there is no one in her league right now. The 10,000 is the question mark. Will the other women let her have her way there? For now she’s my double favorite, but only just barely. Because I can’t believe they will just let her run easy here before running her “better” event.
I know Jesse Williams just won gold, and I do have faith in Jesse. But Ukhov has the ability to jump higher than anyone we’ve seen in a very long time – and he’s seasoned. All things being equal he gets my nod – but prove me wrong Jesse. In the pole vault not sure what happened with athletes coming out of nowhere in Daegu, but Lavillenie is the most consistent of the last few seasons – and he jumps high too. Mitchell Watt fell prey to an old lion in Daegu – and there are a lot of young lions waiting in the wings. But he rates early fave for me off of consistency on the 2011 season. Taylor gets my nod in the triple jump because of his consistency as well – he consistently comes through and gets better in the clutch!
Blanka Vlasic is a member of my All Swagger team! She has it in droves and a subpar Blanka made a run at gold in Daegu. Gotta be the favorite. Murer gets the nod in the pole vault as Isinbayeva works her way back to form. My guess is that this may be one of the first changes I make next year. Brittney Reese is a talent and is my early fave. But a warning as Darya Klishina is tighter technically – and this IS a technical event. You can only win off of natural ability for so long. The women’s triple jump has a handful of women within a finger’s width of each other. Saladuha gets the early nod off my gut.
I know the men’s shot put is a contradiction to what I’m going to say, but I find that in the throws solid vets tend to rule. That’s why all the names in my men’s throws are so familiar, starting with Christian Cantwell and the shot put. I don’t see the big man getting pushed off the podium in London and he’s my favorite for the top spot. He will bring the shot back in line with the men’s discus (Harting), men’s hammer (Murofushi), men’s javelin (Thokildsen), women’s shot (Adams), women’s discus (Li), women’s hammer (Lysenko) and women’s javelin (Abakumova). Someone is going to have to come take the gold from them. That said Spotakova was oh so close to getting the nod from me in the women’s javelin.
Hardee gets the nod in the Decathlon because he’s more complete than Eaton. But this is another of those, could go either way picks. On the women’s side I went with Chernova because of steady growth. But this could be another pick em by the time they get to London because Ennis will be at home.
Jamaica gets the easy nod for the 4×1 because they’ve finished the race and set two WR’s in the last three Majors. However, I’ve felt for a decade that the WR is soft – and it’s still soft. And the U.S. showed – without Tyson Gay – that it could run leg for leg with Jamaica in Daegu, until disaster struck! This event will be one of those barber shop/internet message board conversation pieces throughout 2012. As for the 4×4, Jeremy Wariner – injured. Tony McQuay – injured. Intermediate hurdlers – subpar. And LaShwn Merritt still crossed the line first. Hard not to make the U.S. the favorite.
Jamaica set a NR, and was still behind the first place U.S. squad in Daegu. The U.S. is the favorite, but when you have VCB, if you can get her close, you have a shot! The U.S. women are as strong a favorite here as the men are. IN the post Eastern Bloc era, U.S. squads have turned in the most consistent set of marks in history. And Felix is one of those “relay beasts” that has the ability to bread a 4×4 wide open.
Ok, there are my Early London Favorites. I wanted to get those out there before we actually hit 2012 and the indoor season gets going in earnest. My gut says this is going to be one VERY exciting season.