Friday, August 3, 2012

Day 2 - Saturday, 8/4 - Finals: M 20k Walk, W Discus, M Long Jump, W Heptathlon, M 10,000m W 100m

Day 2 - Saturday, 8/4 - Finals: M 20k Walk, W Discus, M Long Jump, W Heptathlon, M 10,000m W 100m

Men's 20k walk
Valeriy Borchin (Russia) should be an easy pick for gold: defending Olympic Champion, World champ in 2009 and 2011… but then he fell apart in the World Race Walking Cup in May at home in Saransk. Let’s hope he got that one bad race out of his system. China’s Zhen Wang has the season’s second fastest time and biggest win, in Saransk. The always deep Russian team picked up the slack for Borchin as Andrey Kirov and Vladimir Kanaykin won silver and gold. (Russia went 2-3-5-6-10; how do you think they did in the team competition?!) Alex Schwazer (Italy) and France’s Yohann Diniz had exceptionally fast early-season times in Lugano in mid-March, while Ding Chen was a close second to Wang in Taicing later that month.
  1. Zhen Wang, China
  2. Valeriy Borchin, Russia
  3. Ding Chen, China 
Women's Discus
A very deep field should pick its medalists from six. Defending Olympic Champion Stephanie Brown Trafton was as big a surprise winner as there was in Beijing, but in the two subsequent World Championships she finished 12th and 5th. Sandra Perkovic (Croatia) failed two drug tests last year but received only a 6-month suspension as the drug in question was found to be on the inadvertent food additive list. She has been the hottest thrower in the world this year with wins in the European Championships as well as 6 of the 7 Diamond League meets she has entered. Germany’s Nadine Muller has finished second to Perkovic thrice this year, was second last year in Daegu, and – this just in – second in July’s European Championships. You might call this a sterling record. Cuba’s Yarelis Barrios is great big-meet performer: silver in Beijing, silver in Berlin, bronze in Daegu. China’s Yanfeng Li is defending world champion and is 5th on this year’s world list. Darya Pishchalnikova (Russia) is getting a lot of attention because of her 231’11” throw, longest in the world in over a decade.  She is back from an almost three-year drug suspension; her performance in the Russian Championships exceeded her previous PR by over five meters.

  1. Sandra Perkovic, Croatia
  2. Nadine Muller, Germany
  3. Yarelis Barrios, Cuba

Men's Long Jump
This year’s world list tops out at only 27’ 4 3/4”, but there’s remarkable depth behind that mark. From 27’ to the top are 14 athletes; in the next 1 ¼”, another 11. So, 25 athletes separated by six inches: here, you pick this one! Tied for first at the top of the list is Great Britain’s Greg Rutherford, who has one Diamond League win to his credit this year. Another podium possibility for the Brits is Chris Tomlinson, whose PR matches the top of this year’s list. Australia’s Mitchell Watt has world championship bronze (09) and silver (11) hardware to his credit, not to mention a win in the London Grand Prix in mid-July. Sebastian Bayer (Germany) won the European Championships and has the 2nd longest PR among the entrants. Godfrey Khotso Mokoena has finished second or third in every Diamond League Meet he’s entered this year and won silver in Beijing (08) and Berlin (09). Marquise Goodwin (US) won both the NCAAs and Olympic Trials, the latter by PRing twice, including a dramatic last jump win. World (07) and Olympic (08) champion Irving Saladino nabbed bronze in Berlin (09) but was off the world radar screen until he suddenly won the Diamond League meet in Monaco on 7/20… watch out!

  1. Mitchell Watt, Australia
  2. Godfrey Khotso Mokoena, South Africa
  3. Greg Rutherford, Great Britain
*14th on the world list this year at 27’ is Ashton Eaton, the world record setter in the decathlon. 

Women's Heptathlon
This shapes up to be a great competition between Jessica Ennis of Great Britain and Tatyana Chernova of Russia. Ennis has the edge with a superior competitive record with gold and silver in the last two World Championships. And a terrific performance at this year’s prestigious Gotzis meet with a PR and national record of 6906 with Chernova 132 points behind in 2nd. Yet Chernova defeated Ennis in last year’s Worlds by 129 points. Could it get any closer? Imagine the stadium at the start of the last event (800m) with a gold on the line for Ennis. Kind of like Hayward Field in Eugene during Ashton Eaton’s 1500m!  US champion and Beijing Olympic silver medalist Hyleas Fountain has been off the radar screen for two years but rebounded nicely in the rain in Eugene with her 6419. Beijing champ Nataliya Dobrynska (UKR) slipped to 4th in Berlin and 5th in Daegu, though she won the World Indoor pentathlon in Istanbul in March. While prognosticators often put too much emphasis on the indoor multi-events results (they are, after all, different events when one is 5 disciplines and the other 7), it might be noted that the world indoor record for the men’s heptathlon was set in Istanbul this year - for the third time - by some kid named… ummm… lemme see… oh, yeah, that’s right… Ashton Eaton, who so far, anyway, seems to have survived rather nicely the addition of three more events. Only 21 years old, Kristina Savitskaya won the Russian championships in 6681 in June, but has little to back up this terrific performance. A rising star? Jessica Zelinka (Canada) was 5th in Beijing and PRed in winning the Canadian Championships this year. Finishing 2nd in the same meet was Brianne Theisen, Oregon’s NCAA champ and the only heptathlete guaranteed of striking gold… when, later this summer, she marries Ashton Eaton.

1. Jessica Ennis, Great Britain
2. Tatyana Chernova, Russia
3. Nataliya Dobrynska, Ukraine

Men's 10,000m
Every now and then, as a track fan, you get to see someone’s breakthrough race – the before and after moment after which the athlete is never again the same. My favorite was seeing a young woman unexpectedly run away with the 400m in the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, BC, and so I decided to follow her career closely to see where it would lead. Charmingly, the 2000 Olympic Champion in the same event is listed in the Victoria results as Catherine; we know her better as Cathy Freeman.

Similarly, Mo Farah had been a distance runner of the future until he dropped a 26:46.57 at the 2011 Prefontaine Classic, a British and European record. Before and after; what a difference half an hour makes. The Eugene stage was far more public than Victoria’s, and the scrutiny has been intense ever since. In spite of the scouring of the British press, Farah has managed to escape much of it, training as he does with Coach Alberto Salazar – and, notably, Galen Rupp - in Oregon. The distance runner now of the present won the 5,000m World title in Daegu last summer and took silver in the 10,000m. Can you imagine the stadium in London as he toes the line for these finals? What is now separating Farah from the rest is his fearsome kick, and he’ll need to judge it just a bit better in the 10k this time than he did last summer when he was corralled down the last straightaway by Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeilan who, oddly, is not entered here. Ethiopia’s legend Keninisa Bekele has, rather quietly, been running himself back into form after a two-year absence from the world stage. I doubt very much that he would show up for this, his international farewell, in anything less than medal shape. Geb Gebremariam (Eth)  is far better known as a marathoner (2010 New York City Champ) and I’m surprised to see him entered here instead of the marathon. Kenya Athletics ran an experiment in Eugene this year: why not hold the men’s 10,000m Olympic Trials at close to sea level? This was an absolutely classic championship 10k: no pacers, varied pace, surges, surges, surges, everything on the line, every man truly for himself. Wilson Kiprop had impressive finish to win in 27:01.98 – and dropped his PR by 26 seconds in the process! Moses Mutai was close on his heels, just .27 behind. Much has rightly been made of Galen Rupp’s (US) rise to the upper echelons of world class distance running. His breakthrough (a la Farah a year earlier) 26:48.00 in the 2011 season-ending Brussels meet put him, finally, where many had long thought him headed. But he is still gaining experience with the surging tactics typical of championship meets, and in his most recent 10k race of that style, the 2011 World Championships final, he just wasn’t able to keep up when the last lap dash came. Still, he has improved notably in this regard, as his speed workout at the end of the Olympic Trials 5,000m showed: his 1:53.45/52.53 finish is world class, indeed.

  1. Mo Farah, Great Britain
  2. Wilson Kiprop, Kenya
  3. Keninisa Bekele, Ethiopia

Women's 100m
Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, noted for her doubly hyphenated name, is also noted for her World (09) and Olympic (08) golds. She slipped to 4th at Daegu (‘11) where 2nd, 3rd, and 4th finished in 10.97, 10.98, and 10.99. To set things right, she won both the 100m and 200m in this summer’s Jamaican Nationals and PR’ed in both as well - her 10.70 leads the world list by .11.
Carmelita Jeter (US) had a scintillating ’11 when she won the World 100m title in 10.90 and  silver in the 200m. She also won the US Olympic Trials 100m this year after an uncharacteristically slow start to her season. Veronica Campbell-Brown (Jam) was second to
S-A F-P in the Jamaican championships in the season’s 3rd-best time. The 2007 World champ was 4th in ’09 and 2nd in ’11. Tianna Madison was the girl wonder of the long jump when she won the World title as a teenager in Helsinki in 2005;she’s finished 2nd in both of her Diamond League appearances this year. Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare has been a consistent performer on the world scene and broke through with her 10.96 (no aiding wind that day - there’s more there) in winning the Monaco Diamond League meet on 7/20 – she’s peaking well. Jamaica’s Kerron Stewart ran scintillating times in ’09 and returned to snag the 3rd spot on her Olympic team this year. Trinidad’s Kelly-Ann Baptiste ran an early-season 10.86 but has been fairly quiet ever since. Allyson Felix (US) does not have a strong international record in the 100m; perhaps she’ll make as dramatic an improvement in the 100 as she made in the 200 in the US Trials final now that she has the opportunity to run this race here. (Don’t even get me started.)

  1. Shelly-Ann Fraser Price, Jamaica
  2. Veronica Campbell-Brown, Jamaica
  3. Carmelita Jeter, US