I was reviewing the Marathon Trials finish last night and wondering how well Shalane Flanagan will do doubling in the 10,000/Marathon, when it hit me: we may have more legitimate “doublers” heading into London than ever before!
In Beijing we had 5000/10000 double victories turned in by Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba; and a sprint double (100/200) by Usain Bolt. We also had double silver by Elvan Abeylegesse (5000/10000) and Tatyana Lebedeva (LJ/TJ); a double bronze performance by Walter Dix (100/200); and a silver & bronze performance by Kerron Stewart (100/200).
Heading into this Olympic season of the ’08 doublers, Bekele, Bolt and Dix seemed best positioned to double again in London. In the interim, however, several other doublers have emerged with medal potential, among them:
- Shalane Flanagan – 10000/marathon
- Mo Farah – 5000/10000
- Tyson Gay – 100/200
- Yohan Blake – 100/200
- Christophe Lemaitre – 100/200
- Allyson Felix – 200/400
- Veronica Campbell Brown – 100/200
- Carmelita Jeter – 100/200
- Christian Taylor – LJ/TJ
- Will Claye – LJ/TJ
- Blessing Okagbare – 100/LJ
- Abubaker Kaki – 800/1500
- Imane Merga – 5000/10000
- Vivian Cheruiyot – 5000/10000
Adding another layer of complexity to what is already sure to be an interesting season. The first question being how many of these individuals will actually attempt to double? The second question being, of those that make the attempt, how many will get to the second half of the double healthy? Then of course, of those that complete the double how many will be able to medal?
The short sprint double (100/200) would seem to be the easiest. However, we have seen many injuries from the sprinters over the past several seasons, so getting through in one piece may not be as easy as one would assume. Even taking that into account the competition is at the highest level we may ever have seen – on both the men and women’s sides. Especially the men – Bolt, Gay, Blake, Dix, Lemaitre. Because in addition to racing each other in two different events, they will face a very deep 100 meter field that will add sprinters like Asafa Powell, Richard Thomspon, and whatever new sprinters rise from the ashes – as sprinters are prone to do in an Olympic year. Similarly in the deuce, fatigued sprinters could be facing a vet like Wallace Spearmon or an up and comer like Nickel Ashmeade.
On the female side, Jeter and Campbell Brown are the two most dominant women out there. However, they could face stiff competition from Kerron Stewart and Shelly Ann Fraser – both of whom have double aspirations. Then there is the spectre of Allyson Felix, three time World 200 champion who will be looking for a much higher medal than the bronze she garnered in Daegu. Of course, she’ll face the same situation she had at Worlds – running the deuce after rounds of the quarter!
The distance runners could have it a bit more difficult. Bekele, Farah and Merga are all fierce competitors, and the 10000 comes first – meaning these men will take a lot out of each other before toeing the line for the rounds of the 5000. We’ll see how they do with 4 days rest. The same scenario exists for the women. That 10000 comes first before they set off in the rounds of the 5000 – and for Flanagan she then moves up to the marathon!
Those attempting to double in the field will face technical adjustments between events as well as facing new flights of fresh athletes heading into the second event – a scenario that all the doublers will face heading into event #2.
It will be interesting to see just how many of these athletes attempt to double – and how many yet to be named athletes make the attempt. After all, the Olympics only come once every four years and you have to make the best of the opportunity. The question many will have to ask themselves is: will it be better to put my eggs in one basket, or can I successfully pull off a double?
I think much of the early season will find athletes testing themselves to try and find the answer to that question. How well they recover between meets/events, as well as their health, will be evaluated. Especially with athletes like Tyson Gay, and Kenenisa Bekele that are coming off injuries. Will they be healthy enough to double or will they have to make a choice? Just something else to keep an eye on as the Olympic season begins to unfold.