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

Very, Very Early London Favorites

Dec 18th, 2011
11:14 am PST

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
4×1 Jamaica United States
4×4 United States Unites States


Sprint Comments

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.


Hurdle Comments

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.


Distance Comments

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.


Jumps Comments

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.


Throws Comments

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.


13 Responses to “Very, Very Early London Favorites”

  1. Anderson says:

    Honestly, I think its hard to say Gay will complete the double at US champs. He hasn't done the double since Osaka. And he hasn't even completed full rounds of the 100m since Daegu, which led to him having to pull out of the 200.
    I think the argument of Gay getting healthy is becoming like the Asafa wining a title argument. Its like were all waiting for it to happen, but when the time comes, it doesn't happen.
    We can keep saying if he gets healthy he will win/medal, but at this point I think we need to worry more if Gay will even make it through the rounds of the 200m, let alone the 100m

  2. Conway Hill says:

    Well, I'm going to both agree and disagree with you ..

    First, Tyson didn't run in Daegu at all, or the US championships this year .. It was '09 where he didn't complete the rounds of the 200 at Nationals .. Of course he then went to Berlin and ran 9.71 with the problems that he had fixed with surgery this year ..

    As far as the comparison with he and Powell, I think it would be more appropriate to compare X-man .. Because it is X-man that has had difficulty returning to form after his injuries in '08 … He's only a shell of the sprinter that we saw before that ..

    Tyson on the other hand has still put in sterling performances even while injured .. Ergo my feeling that he can surpass them healthy .. 9.69/19.40s/19.58 with the issues he's had says volumes for what he should be able to do now that they are fixed … And I hear that they have been …

    Of course the one thing I haven't said yet, and will as we get closer to the Trials, is that I think he should focus on the deuce and let the 100 go … His style of sprinting does put a lot of pressure on his body and I feel the deuce is his better event …

    Time will tell ..

  3. Anderson says:

    Sorry I typed Daegu instead of Berlin by accident. Buy basically Tyson has just shown a trend of slowly shown his inability to handle rounds. 2008 trials and in Beijing. 2009 Berlin after the 100m, 2010 he had no rounds to run, so it was great for him, but once we get to US trials in 2011, the groin problem is back up and stops him after 1 round in the 100m. And he is at surgery #2 or now?

    But I do hope the best for him, and I agree about the 200. From a fan perspective, the potential line up for the 200 next year is more exciting than the 100 in my opinion.

  4. Conway Hill says:

    I do agree with you about the rounds … Not that he can't get through them, but I'm not sure he can get through two sets of them .. Remember he handled the rounds just fine in '05 and '07 .. The injury in '08 set him back .. He's been "hobbled" since then and hasn't gotten through the rounds well ..

    I just think the 100 causes him too much stress .. And while the idea of WFH makes a lot of people run the 100, the deuce CAN be a premier event … Especially with the guys out there now … And his skill set is taylor made for the event …

  5. Martin says:

    I'd have to tab Kozmus for the gold in the men's hammer at this point for the same reason you picked probably picked Merritt. Merritt had some competition rust that stopped him from getting gold his year.

    Kozmus also had some rust. He didn't had retired and not trained for more than one year (at least Merritt was training during his banned period). Still he came back to win bronze and break 80m. With another year back in training I see him as the favorite. He is a proven competitor after winning gold in Beijing and gold in Berlin. Plus, Murofushi will be turning 38 next year. While he may me able to maintain his level from this year, I don't see him as being able to improve as much as Kozmus could.

  6. Conway Hill says:

    I can see that .. I wasn't aware that Kozmus had been short on training in 2011 .. I know that Murofushi will be 38 but he's like Bernard Lagat, they just keep churning out the results .. I'll have to keep an eye on Kozmus early on …

  7. CHill says:

    I believe the RSS link in the upper right hand corner will keep you updated ..Thanks

  8. Aurelio Feldman says:

    About the 100, if Bolt is really ready to go, I don’t think that Blake can beat him, no matter the start.

    I don’t belive that Gay will double in the trials if he gets the spot in the 100.He is not a kid anymore and after so many injuries he will play it safe.

    I pick a healthy Bolt to get the double gold in London.

    The 400 is all about who is the american team, James is great and I am a big fan, but if Merrit and Wariner are healhty he is going for the bronze.

    • CHill says:

      Interesting thoughts .. I think the Men’s 100 will be all about the start, because half the field should be very strong finishers .. And Gay already proved that Bolt can be beaten from in front .. I would like to see Gay play it safe .. But would like to see him do so by running the deuce … I’m not sure anyone wins the double .. And I think we see another 43 in the 400 this time around ..

  9. Aurelio Feldman says:

    The thing about the 100 is that we learned from Daegu that Bolt is trying to start fast,and I don’t think that he would false start 2 finals in a row.
    I really like Gay, and I believe that if he is in shape he could get the silver. Blake is fast, we know, but he got the gold in a final that nobody that matters attended, ok Dix was there, but he was the only one. As much as I like Kim Collins, we know that his medal happened because of the people absent of the final.
    The 200 will be the surprise event I think, because of Blake’s time. Before that we assume that Bolt would destroy everybody around him but now we have a guy that is in the same level as him.

    • CHill says:

      I agree about Bolt trying to start fast .. I think he realizes that there are a handful of men capable of beating him if he isn’t spot on .. Given good health and everyone is in town, London will not be as easy as Beijing ..

      Gay is capable of gold, he proved that in Stockholm .. But he must be healthy and he must nail the start .. That’s a lot of “must’s” … I agree that Blake won gold in a comparatively “weak” field, but he has shown to be capable of beating the best .. Dix is good, but not at the Blake, Gay, Bolt level .. He’s in hte next tier ..

      I have felt all along that the 200 is the premier sprint … Bolt, Gay, Blake, Dix, a healthy Spearmon, a healthy Edward, and a rising Lemaitre could do something great together .. but everyone is engrossed in the 100, and that always changes the 200 picture …

  10. Aurelio Feldman says:

    In the dream final, I think we will have 3 races:

    1 – Bolt x Gay for gold. If both get good starts the others are not in the picture. Gay must run the race of his life to win, Bolt will have to be close to 09 form, if better is another WR.
    2 – Blake trying to get both guys after 50m mark, but having a great shot at bronze.
    3 – Dix and everybody else running for their lives and hunting Blake for the bronze.
    And, of course, Powell losing his mind, nervous ou whatever he is going to say.
    The 200 is a surprise event because, as you said, depends of how the 100 goes and how they menage the rounds after the 100.

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