Track is my field: Mark Cullen's international track and field blog featuring storytelling, commentary, and predictions and event analyses for the Olympics and World Championships. I'm writing from Rio de Janeiro and the 31st Summer Olympic Games. I'm active on twitter: @trackerati
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
Andrey Silnov, Russia
Williams, United States
Grabarz, Great Britain
It’s the last round of the men’s discus competition of the
2009 World Championships in Berlin.
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’.
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
Lolo Jones (US) should make the final, and Great Britain’s Tiffany Porter will
have significant home field advantage.