Finally, it’s time to head outdoors, where the Olympic season will begin to gear up in earnest. But before I say goodbye to the 200 meter ovals, I want to point out a Baker’s Half Dozen (7) athletes that showed serious growth this indoor season. Good enough that I want to keep an eye on them as the year moves forward.
Indoor track and outdoor track tend to be two different animals. If you remember earlier I listed the Indoor Champions from ‘08 to see how they faired in Beijing. While all of these athletes did not win gold in Istanbul, all had indoor seasons that if duplicated could at the least get them to London – and one thing we know about the Olympics is that we never know exactly how it’s going to turn out. The Games have a way of creating stars – after all, this time in ‘08 Usain Bolt was a sprinter that had made a few finals in the deuce with one World silver to his name. Half a year later he sat on top of the world.
So here are seven who grew indoors, let’s see if they have similar growth between now and London:
Holly Bleasdale (GBR) – Pole Vault
Everyone should be familiar with Holly by now. She stunned the world by vaulting 4.87m (15’ 11.75”) and becoming #3 all-time indoors. She was good enough to have Yelena Isinbayeva take notice, and say that she did not consider Holly a rival. Isinbayeva won round one in Istanbul, let’s see how Holly does later this year – after all the Games are in her back yard.
Adam Kszczot (POL) – 800 Meters
Kszczot led the world at 1:44.57 – moving into the #3 all-time position indoors. It was no fluke as he also ran 1:45.44. Of course Kszczot will be chasing WR holder David Rudisha (KEN) outdoors – and that changes the dynamics considerably. Still, the door is wide open to get onto the podium in London, and Kszczot was a finalist in Daegu. The question this year is can he be more than just a finalist?
Genzebe Dibaba (ETH) – 1500 Meters
Running 4:00.13 in the 1500 meters gets you noticed – doing it indoors makes you a potential Olympic favorite. Only four women ever ran faster indoors, and no one has ever had a better set of times indoors than Dibaba’s 4:00.13/4:01.33 – not in the same season, not ever. Her gold medal performance in Istanbul was a thing of beauty – increasing her speed lap after lap. She joins last year’s big 1500 meter improver (Morgan Uceny, USA) as the two best tacticians in the event – perhaps we will see both a smart and fast race in London!
Ameer Webb (USA) – 200 Meters
The 200 meters is sort of going out of style indoors on the international circuit – so sort of tough to translate what this young collegian did to the international scene this summer. That said, my best guess is that he is capable of running in the 19.90/20.00 range – at least off his indoor times. Counter with the fact he’s a tallish sprinter who is hampered by the smaller indoor tracks, and I would say he could be a Trials finalist, if not better. Time will tell, but he is an intriguing talent.
Erica Moore (USA) – 800 Meters
Moore came out of nowhere (at least in terms of my radar) to win a bronze medal in Istanbul and break the 2:00 barrier for the first time. Her 1:59.97 made her the =9th American ever indoors, but more impressive to me was the fearlessness with which she ran. She’s a front runner who’s not afraid to go with the pace – the kind of runner that’s in the mix and if you’re in the mix you always have a shot. This is a tough event – the Trials will be tough, London even tougher. But I like her moxie, and sometimes attitude can be more important than aptitude. Next stop the Trials for this young lady.
Nery Brenes (CRC) – 400 Meters
While one or two names at the top seem to repeat from Games to Games over the years, the 400 tends to have a lot of turnover among finalists and medalists – which is why I like Brenes’ chances of at least making the final in London. He showed he’s not afraid to take it out, going past 200 in 21.2 in Istanbul – and he held on just fine, his 45.11 making him #9 all time indoors. That’s better than Butch Reynolds, Jeremy Wariner and Angelo Taylor to name a few all time top 10 performers outdoors. That’s not saying he’s a lock to join them, just that he had a nice run indoors. Outdoors will be different. I don’t expect to see Kirani James in lane one again. LaShawn Merritt will have a full season under his belt. And Jeremy Wariner looks to be healthy again. But you never know what happens in the Games – and Brenes is in good position.
Aries Merritt (USA) – 60/110 Hurdles
Finally, we have a different Merritt – but one who earned some merit in Albuquerque and Istanbul. Aries Merritt won both the US Championships and the World Championships. No mean feat when you have to go against David Oliver in one and Liu Xiang in the other – #’s 2 & 3 all-time outdoors. The indoor dashes and hurdles are shorter, quicker and quite a bit different than their outdoor counterparts. Trying to translate indoor success is very tricky. What I do know however, is that in the hurdles if you can put pressure on the field early, you have a shot – and Merritt was able to do that this indoor season. If he can continue to do so outdoors, he’s in the mix. If that happens, what a year or so ago looked like a three man race could blossom into a five or six man super race – with last year’s sensation Jason Richardson and an athlete to be named later, because there’s always one of those.
OK. I think that closes things out indoors. Time to start talking about who’s who and what’s what as we head outdoors, and that’s next on my agenda.