A classic long jump competition at the US Trials saw three jumpers break 23’; imagine jumping 22’10 ½” and not making the team, which was the sad fate of Whitney Gipson. Two-time World Champ Brittney Reese won the scintillating competition with a last jump of 23’ 5 ½” to secure the win. Chelsea Hayes popped a PR by over a foot with a 23’ 3 ½” last jump to make the team, and Janay DeLoach took the third spot 23’ 2 ¾”after soaring over 23’ in qualifying as well. Natassia Mironchyk-Ivanova of Belarus is 2nd on the world list a centimeter behind Reese, though wind has been on her side (or at her back, actually) on her two longest jumps this year. Yelena Sokolova (Rus) and Shara Proctor (GB) both have a first and a second in Diamond League meets. Proctor had better get used to that roar.
- Brittney Reese, United States
- Natassia Mironchyk-Ivanova, Russia
- Janay DeLoach, United States
Dominating the major meets since Beijing have been Melaine Walker (Jam) and Lashinda Demus (US). Walker won gold in Beijing; subsequently, it was Walker-Demus 1-2 at the ’09 Worlds, and Demus-Walker 1-2 in ’11. Demus won the US Trials in 53.98, and while Walker won the last Diamond League meet before the Olympics, it was in a time two seconds slower than her PR. Russia has had stellar performances from ’11 World bronze medalist Natalya Antyukh and Irina Davydova. Davydova won the European Championships in a world-leading time while Antyukh won the Russian Championships - in a new world-leading time! They avoided each other in these two races but will find that tough to do in London. Perri Shakes-Drayton (GB) won the London Diamond League race, the last before the Olympics, in wet conditions and took the measure of Walker and Davydova while she was at it. An impressive run against tough competition in difficult conditions at home. When asked the reason for her breakthrough performance, she said that before the meet she told herself to “pull my socks up and go for it.” Coaching really isn’t that complicated, is it?
- Natalya Antyukh, Russia
- Lashinda Demus, United States
- Perri Shakes-Drayton, Great Britain
On the other hand… I must say that I am really bothered by the mainstream press coverage of this event. Much is made in US media of Allyson Felix’s two silver medals in the last two Olympics, both defeats coming at the hands of Jamaica’s by now venerable Veronica Campbell-Brown. Could somebody please mention that Felix won three consecutive World Championship golds (05, 07, 09) in this event? This is one of the most remarkable accomplishments in recent sprinting history. So the question going into London is: is she ready to win on this stage? One of the thunderclap moments of the US Olympic Trials was Felix’s dominating sprint to become the #4 all-time performer, with the #6 all-time performance, in 21.69. This race has become Felix’s to lose. Veronica Campbell-Brown has seemed just off the top of her game this year, and she finished a surprise 3rd in the Jamaican national Championships behind Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Sherone Simpson. Fraser-Pryce is peaking perfectly. Carmelita Jeter, world silver medalist last year, was second at the US Trials and PRed in that event. Watch out for Russia’s Alexsandra Fedoriva, who blazed a 22.19 at the Russian National Championships. A major theme of this event is that almost every one of the major players has PRed this year, and that includes some of the most recognizable names in world track and field. Remarkable. They know what’s at stake, and they’re ready.This will be one of the definitive events of these games.
- Allyson Felix, United States
- Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, Jamaica
- Carmelita Jeter, United States
With Dayron Robles’ (Cuba) world record of 12.87 as a reference point, Aries Merritt’s (US) three-meet streak of 12.93s takes on added luster. This means Merritt has missed the world record by .06 three times in a row. His PR was 13.12 coming into the Trials and 13.01 after the semis. Last year’s World Champ Jason Richardson was second in in the Trials in12.98, and with that time he became the first person in history to go under 13.00 twice in the same day, as he had won his semi-final in the same time. Note that it was raining during the US Trials final. London, anyone?! I saw Chinese star Xiang Liu win the Prefontaine Classic in a wind-aided 12.87 (and therefore not a world record tie) and thought I had seen the future Olympic Champion. He was so remarkably fluid that his time wasn’t that much of a surprise. Still, it’s important to note that the weather for Liu’s run was far better than that for the Olympic Trials finalists. It will be a huge advantage knowing you have run 12.93 – and 12.98 twice – in the rain. If Robles shows up he obviously will be a major factor, but it’s hard to know by now how seriously to take his announcements that he’s about to run his next race. Visa problems, again? Sergey Shubenkov (Rus) and Garfield Darien (Fr) waged an epic battle in the European Championships final, with Shubenkov edging Darien 13.09-13.15. They are likely finalists. Someone could break 13.00 and not medal. One of my most highly anticipated races of the meet.
- Aries Merritt, United States
- Jason Richardson, United States
- Xiang Liu, China