Jesse Williams (US) and Ivan Ukhov (Rus) have traded #1 and #2 world rankings the last two years, with Ukhov ranked #2 in 2009 for good measure. What Williams has to show for this is the 2011 World Championship title. What Ukhov has to show for this is two World titles – but they’re indoors. He jumps higher than anyone else outdoors - except in the major meets. Williams has had a few bumps along the way this year – not quite the stellar season he had in ’11, most notably when he backed into an Olympic berth at the US Trials in 4th place when 3rd did not have the “A” standard. Keep your eye on Trials winner Jamie Nieto, who jumped superbly in challenging weather conditions – not unlike the kind he may encounter in London. It’s high time he earned his first major meet medal. Defending Olympic champ Andrey Silnov (Rus) is back in fine form with his 7’ 9 ¼” jump in the Russian National Championships, second to Ukhov’s 7’ 10”. Robbie Grabarz (GB) will be helped by the home crowd, and he is jumping well going into the Olympics. So wide open is this event that the last 9 World and Olympic medals have been won by 9 different people.
- Andrey Silnov, Russia
- Jesse Williams, United States
- Robbie Grabarz, Great Britain
It’s the last round of the men’s discus competition of the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. Germany’s Robert Harting sits in the silver medal position and steps in the ring as the second to last competitor and it’s his last throw. To say that the place is going crazy is actually true as the home crowd stomps and claps and cheers and hopes against hope for a miracle. Good time for a PR, wouldn’t you say? Pity poor Piotr Malachowski of Poland, leader since the first round, as he watches Harting fling it into the lead. Cacophony. Malachowski, on the competition’s last throw, tries mightily to surpass Harting, but falls short. Bedlam. Top ten T+F moments I’ve seen in person. For good measure, and as if to prove it wasn’t hometown madness alone that propelled him to his win, Harting returns in Daegu (11) to win again. And for good measure wins this summer’s European Championship. Did I mention his PR this year? Set in the Ludvik Danek (’72 Olympic Champ) Memorial Meet in Turnov, Czech Republic, at the end of May, he leads the world going into the Olympics at 231’ 10”. With silver in Osaka in ’07, the only one of the last four major meets in which he has not won a medal is the Beijing Olympics, where he finished 4th. Time for Harting to win Olympic gold to cap his remarkable career, and he’s a heavy favorite to do so.
Malachowski won Olympic (’08) and World (09) silver (and, in fact, was second to Harting at the Danek Meet). If only the Olympics were in Poland, I might favor him for gold. Estonia’s ’08 Olympic Champ Gerd Kanter is high up the 2012 world list. Lithuania’s two-time Olympic Champ (’00 and ’04), two-time World Champ (’03 and ’05), national hero, and ageless (40) wonder, Virgilius Alekna, has messed with everyone’s minds by plunking one out there to 2nd place on the yearly list, 15” behind Harting and almost 4 ½ feet ahead of Malichowski. Every year our school hosts a delegation of students from Lithuania, and every year I surprise them when I ask them if they know who Virgilius Alekna is. I keep claiming that track and field is my international language, and every year this single question opens the door to a great conversation with these engaging Lithuanians. When planning where to live next, be sure to pick a country where a discus thrower is god.
Knowing all about this last round business in Lance Brooks (US), who, though he had led the Olympic Trials competition since the first round, still needed an “A” qualifier to get him to London, and he would need a PR to do it. What’s a little rain mixed with a whole lotta pressure? So, with 22,000 Hayward Field fans acting like it’s Berlin ’09 all over again, Brooks steps into the slippery ring needing a 65 meter throw. 65.15, no problem – it was Berlin all over again. Looking to replicate Harting’s ’09 homefield triumph is Lawrence Okoye (GB) who may have an even louder stadium behind him, if such a thing can be imagined. Perhaps the Queen will jump out of a helicopter, snag his discus, and transport it past the world record line. I’m just sayin’.
- Robert Harting, Germany
- Piotr Malachowski, Poland
- Virgilijus Alekna, Lithuania
*Special note to Lance Brooks: Your last name is Brooks. Your sponsor is Nike. Go figure!
I wish that Australia’s Sally Pearson would make it easier to pick her for gold. I mean, she’s the obvious choice, as she won the World title last year - but she lost her undefeated season to a face plant in the Diamond League finals in Brussels. At that point she had won 19 races in a row. She’s had another great season this year, only to complicate matters by recording her first loss in her last competition before the Olympics. She won silver in Beijing; the video of that final shows a delightful moment as she crosses the finish line, looks sideways, realizes she’s won a medal, and looks utterly shocked. (If you’re looking for her in those results, then she was Sally McClellan.) Dawn Harper won that race and returned this year to win the US Olympic Trials. A terrific competitor when she’s healthy and sharp, this year she’s healthy and sharp, though she’ll need to improve her seasonal best be a tenth or two to contend for a medal. Kellie Wells (US) pulled the upset over Pearson in – get this – the London Diamond League race in the rain. Don’t say I didn’t tell you. And Wells had predicted she would win; a little confidence is a good thing. Jamaica’s Brigitte Foster-Hylton, ’09 World Champ, has been consistently medal-fast this year.
Lolo Jones (US) should make the final, and Great Britain’s Tiffany Porter will have significant home field advantage.
- Sally Pearson, Australia
- Kellie Wells, United States
- Brigitte Foster-Hylton, Jamaica