With the indoor season getting ready to wind down with various championships, some athletes are beginning to test themselves outdoors under the Australian sun. The result this weekend has been a combination of sterling marks both indoors AND outdoors, as the year looks ready to shift into Olympic Preparation Mode.
The big indoor meeting of the week was the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham England, and it didn’t disappoint as several athletes left with world leading performances. Perhaps the most surprising being Jessica Ennis’ 7.87 60HH victory. Surprising because Ennis is foremost a Heptathlete, but clearly the hurdles are one of her strengths. She’s good enough to edge World silver medalist Danielle Carruthers’ 7.91 effort in second. Ennis seems well on her way to a showdown with Russia’s Tatyana Chernova in the Heptathlon this summer – and if she continues to hurdle like this Chernova will find herself starting off with a huge deficit after the opening event.
Speaking of great early starts, Lerone Clarke (JAM) used his to run off with the men’s 60 in a world leading 6.47 – the fastest mark since 2009. Clarke led fellow Jamaican’s Nesta Carter (6.49) and Asafa Powell (6.50) as the Jamaican’s all showed strong early acceleration. Clarke has been a terror indoors and is my early favorite to win the World Indoor title at this distance in a couple of weeks. Also using a strong early race to bury the field was hurdler Liu Xiang (CHN) who was never pressed as his world leading 6.41 was well up on rival Dayron Robles’ (CUB) 7.50. Liu looked smooth and easy in this race, and if this is how he will be starting this year Liu will be extremely difficult to beat. This was the pre-injury, world record setting Liu on display this weekend, and the rest of the world’s hurdlers should take note. Both Clarke and Liu’s races are available on my Video page.
The distance runners also blazed the track in Britain with the men’s two mile race setting six personal bests headed by Eliud Kipchoge’s (KEN) sizzling 8:07.39 just ahead of the British Record 8:08.07 by Mo Farah, the Ugandan Record 8:08.16 by Moses Kipsoro, and the PR 8:08.27 for Tariku Bekele (ETH). With results like these this early the 5000 in London could become one of the highlight events of the Games. As a matter of fact, both the men’s and women’s 5000’s should be extremely competitive and fast. Look no further than the women’s 3000 in Birmingham for a clue, as the ever present Meseret Defar (ETH) set another world leader with her 8:31.56 win – a race she controlled throughout.
All of the hot indoor action wasn’t confined to the Birmingham oval, however. At the Asian Indoor Championships, Mutaz Barshim (QAT) sailed over the bar, and into world leadership in the high jump, clearing 2.37m/7’ 9.25”. The mark is an Asian Indoor Record and only .01m outside of the all time top ten. It also vaults Barshim into the early medal conversation. Istanbul (World Indoors) should give us a good indication of the Qatari’s new range. Istanbul could also see some serious vaulting as two world leads were set in the men’s pole vault this weekend. First in Potsdam Germany, Bjorn Otto (GER) cleared a PR 5.92m/19’ 5”. Not to be outdone, later in the day Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie vaulted 5.93m/19’ 5.5” before taking shots at 6.05m/19’ 10.25”. With four men over 19 feet indoors this winter, we could see a hot vault at World Indoors in a couple of weeks.
Istanbul will pretty much bring an end to the indoor season, but several athletes proved to be more than ready to head outdoors as several had outstanding performances in Sydney Australia. For me the hottest of these was David Rudisha (KEN) in the 400 and Sally Pearson (AUS) in the 100 hurdles.
In February of 2010, David Rudisha ran the 400 in Australia and turned in a blistering 45.50 – that mark proved to be the prelude to a WR breaking season for the long striding Kenyan. This weekend he again ran the 400 in Australia, this time clocking 45.82, just behind the 45.61 for former Worlds finalist John Steffensen (AUS). Once again we see Rudisha under 46 seconds in the quarter – and my guess is that once again we will see him under 1:42 in the half. And with the WR holder showing solid early season form, could the 1:41 barrier fall this year? A tad early to judge how his season will go, but his speed is sharp, and with possible aspirations of running a leg on the 4×4 for Kenya, I would imagine he will keep his speed sharp – and that could propel him to a new mark. At the very least, with this under his belt, everyone else should take notice that they will need to step up their game. See Video.
Ditto for the world’s 100 meter hurdlers, because World Champion Sally Pearson is also starting off the season sharp. How sharp? She ran 12.66 this weekend, a time that only five other women bettered in all of 2011 – and it’s only February! Sally didn’t run that fast last year until the end of June, and didn’t debut over the hurdles last year until the final day in Mar (12.85). This was Sally’s second hurdle race of the year as she debuted at 12.86 last week in Perth. If the last few season’s of Sally’s career are a guide, she could well PR later this year – and if she does it means she could be taking a shot at a WR that has stood since 1988! See Video.
And if this weekend is any sort of guide, this is going to be HOT Olympic season.