The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

Who Wins the London 100?

Aug 2nd, 2017
7:46 pm PDT

Who ShadowPersonally I think the men’s 400 presents the matchup of the meet. For the millions watching this year’s World Championships however, most will be tuned in on Saturday to see if Usain Bolt can win one final 100 title before exiting, stage left.

Entering the stadium, this is a very interesting race. For starters, Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin – who between them have won every Olympic title in the new millennium except ’00 – have both been sub par this season. And interestingly enough, both men enter London with identical season’s bests of 9.95. What are the odds of that, especially since their last Worlds’ final finding them only .01 apart 9.79 to 9.80.

That said, how is the London 100 shaping up? Well, those 9.95’s make Bolt and Gatlin equal #7 on the season – with South Africa’s Thando Roto! For comparison, this year’s world leader is America’s Christian Coleman, the NCAA champion and record holder (9.82). Coleman was undefeated this year until the US Championships where he lost to Gatlin’s 9.95! In the track game of "rock, paper, scissors", experience trumped youthful speed! And in a season where only one man has truly separated himself on the clock, experience could well be the most important commodity!

On paper, the race looks, close. On paper, Akani Simbine looked best early, then started taking some loses in July. On paper, both Wayde van Niekerk and Cameron Burrell are faster than Bolt and Gatlin – yet neither will be running the 100 in London. On paper, 18 men have broken 10.00, but only three of them have World 100 medals – Bolt, Gatlin, and Blake, each having at least one gold. And on paper, Coleman is nearly a tenth faster than anyone else on the planet – yet lost to GatlIn, because races (championships) aren’t won on paper, they’re run, and won, on the track!

On the track, Bolt is history’s #1 championship sprinter – Gatlin history’s #2. They were 1, 2 in the sports’ last three championship finals in Moscow, Beijing, and Rio. History on the track says they’re the most likely medalists entering the stadium in London – regardless of the current yearly lists. Who else rates based on past performance?

Let’s start with 2011 champion Yohan Blake – winner in the wake of Bolt’s disqualification. Blake has been sub par for a few seasons due to injuries but won the Jamaican title this year – in Bolt’s absence – in 9.90. There’s also Canada’s Andre DeGrasse, bronze in both ’15/’16. However, he’s yet to run sub10 legally in 2017 and his PR 9.91 is slowest of the primary contenders. And then we have the afore mentioned Coleman, the year’s leader on the clock.

In my opinion, that’s where this year’s race sits Bolt, Gatlin, Blake, deGrasse and Coleman battling for the three medals. Coleman is the only one without a global medal, and he is the only one under 9.90 on the season – and he ran Gatlin to the tape after rounds. For anyone else to get past this quintet they will have to run out of their mind. I’ll give an outside mention to South Africa’s Akani Simbine who was tearing it up early. But championship racing is another animal from circuit racing – rounds, pressure. Simbine did make the Rio final, but he’s got a lot of proven men to get past to reach the podium. Fifth in Rio, possibly sixth here.

So, who medals? Bolt and Gatlin have been the favorites since after London ’12 they’re the two men to best entering London ’17. After that it gets tricky as in many respects Blake, deGrasse and Coleman represent the past, present, and future of the top of the podium.

Blake looked liked the heir apparent in ’11/’12 winning in Bolt’s absence in ’11 and finishing right behind him in London. He became =#2 all time at 9.69 in this event – making him only the third man in history under 9.70. Since then injuries have derailed his career. The question on the table is can he get back to pre injury form in London – which could mean 9.7x?

DeGrasse finished third behind Bolt/Gatlin in Beijing/Rio and many immediately tabbed him as the next great thing. He’s been a bit slow to come around this year, however, and has yet to run under 10 – though he’s had windy efforts of 9.96/9.69. The question for him being can he significantly improve on his PR of 9.91 in London, because the others have shown that they can!

Coleman burst onto the scene in force this year. He’s got a half dozen legal efforts under 10; the NCAA record; and is =#9 all time as he enters Worlds competition. He seemed fatigued at Nationals as he was edged by Gatlin. The big question for him is, will rest return him to sub 9.90 form!

Of this trio, Coleman has the best race pattern to challenge Bolt/Gatlin – excellent start,  good transition, ability to hold speed. Neither deGrasse nor Blake have great early race acceleration, but both close well. Either will need to nail the first thirty meters to secure gold.

Based on recent global finals, this one goes between 9.78/9.82 for gold. Silver should also be sub 9.90, bronze sub10.

Late note, deGrasse pulls out due to injury. Doesn’t affect my feelings as, of the five, he’s the slowest on the clock. Race pattern remains the same, with Gatlin and Coleman out quickly, Bolt and Blake moving mid race. Final thirty meters tells all. Gatlin remains the best option to finish ahead of Bolt. That said potential means you have yet to do it. Result, Bolt, Gatlin, Coleman, gold, silver, bronze.

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One Response to “Who Wins the London 100?”

  1. Aurelio says:

    Today´s final is a strange one. Not a lot of fast times by the big guys, and the ones that ran fast are not at the top right now.
    I think that Bolt will take the gold, Gatlin silver and Coleman bronze, but only because Bolt can deliver when it matters and Coleman needs more experience at the biggest stage.

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