Thursday, August 9, 2012

Day 7 - 8/9 - m Triple Jump, m800m, m200m, wJavelin, mDecathlon 1500m

m Triple Jump
Former Florida teammates Christian Taylor and Will Claye dominated the US Olympic Trials; Taylor’s winning jump of 57’ 10 ¼”, just 3 ¼” ahead of Claye, was over three feet ahead of 3rd.
There have been two other dominant jumpers in the world the last four years. Great Britain’s Phillips Idowu is a terrific big meet competitor who has gone silver-gold-silver in Beijing and the two subsequent World Championships. His status is unclear, to put it mildly, as he has been injured and has been in a tussle with the British Olympic Association over his medical records; the British tabloids have had a field day with this. If you’d like to get a cultural perspective on the status of track and field heroes in England, just google his name with the word ‘injury.’

So who’s in it for bronze? Italy’s Fabrizio Donato won the European Championship, and Alexis Copello (Cuba) won bronze in Berlin. Ukraine’s Sheryf El-Sheryf was 2nd behind Donato and had a huge PR in Ostrava last year. A tremendous young talent, he’s not yet been consistent at the medal level, but his 58’ 1 ¾’ PR shows that on a given day, anything – and much – is possible. Lyukman Adams (Russia) soared to a huge PR in May after winning bronze in the World Indoors in March. Thanks to Luc for the – for me – easiest to spell Russian name ever.

Finally, French Indoor World Champ Teddy Tamgho is out with an ankle injury; so, too, is Portugal’s Beijing gold medalist and Berlin silver medalist, Nelson Evora, he with a second stress fracture of the shin. The triple jump does indeed put exceptional stress on the lower limbs, and we really weren’t looking for proof, especially not in this Olympic year.

  1. Christian Taylor, United States
  2. Will Claye, United States
  3. Lyukman Adams, Russia

m 800m
David Rudisha (Ken) has owned this event for the past three years. Twice he has set the world record – currently at 1:41.01 – and fans around the world expect him to crush that record before the year is over. The only question is whether or not he’ll have the record in him in the Olympic final in his 3rd race in 4 days. Rudisha leads the world list by over a second and a half, and the only question in this race is which of King David’s supplicants will be smart enough to run for the glory of a medal, even if it isn’t gold. Remarkably, there are 13 individuals behind Rudisha on the yearly list who have all run in the 1:43s – all within .85 of a second of each other. An incredibly deep and competitive field. Abubaker Kaki (Sudan) was the boy wonder of this event when he burst onto the scene in 2008 and won the World Indoor title at age 18. Memorably, he won the World Indoor title before winning the World Junior title later that year. I would say the pressure was on at the World Juniors, no?! He has world-ranked 2nd behind Rudisha the last two years and yet he’s having an uneven season due to a hamstring injury which forced him to pull out of this year’s World Indoors. He’s mixed a 1st at the Prefontaine Classic (6/3) with 9th at Monaco (7/20), yet he just pulled off a return-to-form 1:43.69 at the beginning of July. Mohammed Aman has raced well on the Diamond League circuit this year, Poland has two fast finishers in Adam Kszczot (an early finalist in the name Olympics) and Marcin Lewandowski, and 2004 Olympic Champ Russian Yuriy Borzakovskiy is possessed of a withering kick – not to mention 4 World Championship medals. Sad to say teen sensation Abraham Rotich didn’t qualify for the Kenyan Olympic team; he rather easily would have been my pick for 3rd. Duane Solomon surprised everyone but himself when he made the US team in Eugene - and then gained international attention when he blew his PR out of the water with his 1:43.44* in 3rd at Monaco. Suddenly, his PR is faster than that of his far more famous compatriot, Nick Symmonds, the dominant US 800m runner the last four years. Symmonds has steadily improved his performance on the world stage with 6th at the Worlds in Berlin in 2009 and 5th at the Daegu Worlds in 2011. So I guess I’ll pick him for 4th, but I just don’t see his hang back and kick strategy resulting in a medal. While I would be delighted to see him medal at last, I am concerned about his focus as he seems to be getting caught up in his own celebrity; a recent trip to Los Angeles for a date with Paris Hilton ought to earn him an automatic DQ.

  1. David Rudisha, Kenya
  2. Abubaker Kaki, Sudan
  3. Yuriy Borzakovskiy, Russia

m 200m
To the 100m discussion(see Day 2, 8/4), we add these three names for consideration in the 200m:
Wallace Spearmon (US), Churandy Martina (NL), and Christophe Lemaitre (FR). Martina and Spearmon crossed the Beijing finish line in 2nd and 3rd and had their medal celebrations well under way when they were disqualified for running on the line. Spearmon won the US Trials and finished impressively in 19.82w. Martina set a PR of 19.94 in the New York Diamond League race. Lemaitre won bronze in Daegu in a scintillating 19.80; the Frenchman is used to running in London-like weather, and won the London Diamond League race on 7/14 in the rain, edging Martina 19.91-19.95.

With Bolt at 19.19 – Track and Field News’ men’s performance of the decade - and Blake at 19.26, the next fastest PR is Wallace Spearmon’s 19.65, though it dates to 2006. Blake took the measure of Bolt in the Jamaican Trials at both 100m and 200m, and Bolt has been working on healing his gimpy hamstring ever since (he was injured in 2006 and 2010 as well). This may be where rounds work against Bolt, as he could be running his 7th race in cold weather on a tight hamstring. I’m not at all convinced Bolt makes it to this final, but if he does, he rises to Blake’s challenge. For bronze, it’s a tossup between Lemaitre and Spearmon, and I give the slightest of edges to Spearmon, in spite of the fact that he called me “sir” in the Eugene airport this spring.

  1. Usain Bolt, Jamaica
  2. Yohan Blake, Jamaica
  3. Wallace Spearmon, United States

m Javelin
Andreas Thorkildsen is Norway’s two-time Olympic champ (04, 08), World champ (09), and three-time Worlds silver medalist (05, 07, 11). So in every major meet since 2004 he’s won gold or silver. But in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately event, he is a surprising 10th on the world list going into the Olympics – not his accustomed spot. And he came in 3rd in the only Diamond League meet he entered, and that was at home in Oslo. Vitezslav Vesely (CZ) won the European Championship this summer and leads the world list by almost two meters; he has placed 1st or 2nd in four Diamond League events. Oleksandr Pyatnytsya (UKR) won two Diamond League events and is 4th on the world list behind Veseley. Vadims Vasilevskis (LAT) won the Eugene Diamond League Meet and was second to Pyatnytsya in Monaco just before the Olympics. Cuba’s Guillermo Martinez has not been heard from much this year, but he won silver and bronze in the last two Worlds. And where is Thorkildsen’s great Finnish rival, Tero Pitkamaki? Actually, in 9th on the world list, just ahead of Thor.

A difficult one to call in a wide open field, as I sense a changing of the guard in this event.

  1. Vitezslav Vesely, Czech Republic
  2. Oleksandr Pyatnytsya,Ukraine
  3. Vadims Vasileskis, Latvia
m Decathlon
Many have said that the story of the US Olympic Trials was the (supposed) tie between Jenebah Tarmoh and Allyson Felix in the women’s 100m. I’m happy to report that this is not true. While it deservedly received tremendous immediate attention, what will last, as always, is the performance of the athletes, not the administrators (hey, I’m a former coach and athletic director and current official – I’m not taking an easy swipe at very dedicated and professional people here). And so, the greatest story from these Trials is Ashton Eaton’s World Record in the decathlon. His needed-to-break-the-record PR in the 1500m, Curtis Beach’s sportsmanship inspiration of the decade as he waved Eaton ahead of him to the finish line and to track and field infamy – these moments defined the Trials and are what people will be talking about 40 years from now.

The understatement of this preview may well be that Ashton Eaton is the overwhelming favorite in the decathlon. Not only has he just set the world record, he leads the world list by a staggering 481 points. And he did it in mostly miserable weather conditions. The two other major competitions this year have been the annual deca-fest at Gotzis and the European Championships. At Gotzis in May, Hans van Alphen (Bel) recorded a 300+ point PR to win over the charmingly named Eelco Sintnicolaas (NL) by just 13 points (his last name means Saint Nicholas in Dutch – the Dutch version of Santa Claus). 3rd at Gotzis was Germany’s Pascal Behrenbruch with 8433, who went on to win the European Championships with 8558. Cuba’s Leonel Suarez withdrew from the World Indoor meet reportedly due to problems with high blood pressure, but with a PR of 8654 and bronze-silver-bronze in Beijing as well as the last two Worlds, he may be primed for a significant improvement. What stands between two-time World Champion Trey Hardee (US) and a medal is his surgically (Tommy John) reconstructed elbow, and a verklempt-inducing moment at the Olympic Trials came when he successfully threw the javelin to virtually assure his membership on the US team - and he did, indeed, go on to finish 2nd behind Eaton.

Assuming all goes well in the first day’s five events, the track and field world will hold its breath at the beginning of the second day when Eaton lines up for the hurdles at 9:00am. Should he navigate those successfully, he’ll win the gold, and with even moderately better weather than what he faced in Eugene he’ll shatter his own world record with a score of over 9200 points.

  1. Ashton Eaton, United States
  2. Trey Hardee, United States
  3. Leonel Suarez, Cuba

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