m Pole Vault
France’s Renaud Lavillenie is a heavy favorite to win this event. Bronze medalist in each of the last two World Championships, he has also been the #1 ranked vaulter in the world the last two years, as well as #2 in ’09. He has won the World Indoor, three Diamond League meets, and the European Championship, the latter in a stratospheric 19’7”. Germany’s Bjorn Otto was second to Lavillenie at both the World Indoor and Euro Champs, but otherwise brings a rather thin record to the table; his only world ranking, a #3, came in 2007. Still, he’s hot this year and has PRed at
19’ 5¼”. A more consistent performer over time is countryman Malte Mohr who’s done no worse than third in Diamond League meets and has PRed at 19’ 4¾”. If Germany had a pole vault relay team, the third leg would be no-slouch-himself Raphael Holzdeppe, who PRed at 19’1” just two weeks before the Olympics. Brad Walker (US), World Champion in Osaka (07) and silver medalist in Helsinki (05), won the US Trials in difficult weather conditions, which may bode well for him in London. World and Olympic champion Steve Hooker of Australia finally showed up on the world lists in late July. Watch out! He’s been known to win with a just a very few jumps (Berlin ’09). Last year’s gold and silver World medalists, Poland’s Pawel Wojciechowski and Cuba’s Lazaro Borges, are off the radar screen so far this year.
- Renaud Lavillenie, France
- Malte Mohr, Germany
- Bjorn Otto, Germany
Defending Olympic champion Aksana Miankova of Belarus roared back onto the world scene this year with the #2 throw in history, 258’ 2”. So, you think, nice comfortable lead on the world list? Not quite, as Russia’s ’11 World champion (and ’05 bronze medalist) Tatyana Lysenko is a mere 5” behind. Third on this list is none other than Germany’s ’07 World champion, two-time Worlds silver medalist and world record holder, Betty Heidler, who has thrown just over two feet short of her world record this year.
Cuba’s 4-time World # 1 ranker Yipsi Moreno is within striking distance of the leaders, albeit just over 10’ short of their seasonal bests. Yet she threw her 248’ at the beginning of July and seems to be peaking well; notably, Miankova and Lysenko’s seasonal bests are July marks as well. One of the greatest big-meet throwers in history, between 2001-08 Moreno won two world championship golds, two world silvers, and two Olympic silvers.
China’s Wenxiu Chang won bronze at home in Beijing and again in Daegu, and PRed in May. ’09 World champ Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland recorded her seasonal best less than two weeks from the start of track and field competition in London and she won this year’s European Championship.
4 of the world’s 6 greatest throwers with seasonal bests in July.
Three of them with lifetime bests this year.
3 world record setters: when Heidler set her world record, she beat Wlodarczyk’s. And when Wlodarczyk set her world record, she beat Lysenko’s.
This is one of the greatest fields in these Olympic Games. The best just keep getting better.
It’s hammer time!
- Tatyana Lysenko, Russia
- Betty Heidler, Germany
- Anita Wlodarczyk, Poland
Track and Field News’ Female Athlete of the Year for 2011 was Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya, who won both the 5k and 10k at the 2011 World Championships and was undefeated for the year. (Track and Field News got it right; amid much controversy, hurdler Sally Pearson had one loss in her single event and yet was named IAAF Female Athlete of the Year – go figure.) Cheruiyot returns as favorite here, even though she’ll be challenged by Ethiopian great Meseret Defar, Athens Olympic gold medalist and Osaka (07) World champ. Still in the mix in every major meet she enters, Defar has won bronze in each of the last two world championships. Viola Kibiwott was third in the Kenyan Trials and is a bit of a surprise pick for this team; looks like Athletics Kenya has no faith in Sally Kipyego’s ability to double. Sylvia Kibet is a wiser choice as she was silver medalist behind Cheruiyot – and ahead of Defar - in the last two Worlds. Geleta Burka (Eth) brings 3:58.79 1500m speed to this race. And as we go to press, 5,000m world record holder Tirunesh Dibaba (Eth) appears only on the entry list for 10,000m.
- Vivian Cheruiyot, Kenya
- Meseret Defar, Ethiopia
- Geleta Burka, Ethiopia
w 4x100m relay
The 9 medals awarded in this event in the last three majors have been won by 8 different countries; could someone please hang onto the baton? This year Jamaica and the United States will field star-studded teams with at least 4 World or Olympic individual champions between them: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell-Brown (Jam), and Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix (US). For fun, perhaps they could put those four on the same team. Ukraine won bronze in Daegu last year, while Russia does not have its usual depth to select from this year. Trinidad has a terrific anchor in Kelly-Ann Baptiste. The US and Jamaica will mix it up for gold and silver, while it’s a tossup between Ukraine and Trinidad for bronze.
- United States
You can tell it’s an Olympic year when some of the leading veteran contestants in an event start to set personal records, sometimes well into their careers. Five noted runners have set their 1500m PRs to date, and more are sure to follow. Abeba Aregawi of Ethiopia and Asli Cakir of Turkey are separated by just .02 at the top of the lists, and Aregawi has the best competitive record in Diamond League competition this year. While Aregawi’s progression has followed a somewhat more traditional trajectory, Cakir’s raised eyebrows when the former drug cheat dropped her personal record by five and a half seconds in one race. In that same race, Morocco’s Mariem Selsouli ran even faster that Cakir, and within weeks Selsouli flunked her second drug test and now faces a well-deserved lifetime ban from the sport.
Who medals will depend on the type of race that develops; fast from the start favors Aregawi and Cakir; slower and more tactical favors all three US runners. Jenny Simpson showed that she can kick well when she stunned no one more than herself with her World Championship win in Daegu last summer. And Morgan Uceny, world #1 last year (she was tripped in the Worlds final), won the Olympic Trials going away after a shrewd tactical race, while Shannon Rowbury put her speed to good use in clinching bronze in Berlin. Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba ran 3:57.77 in Shanghai, and Russia’s Katya Kostetskaya has terrific range over 800m and 1500m with PRs of 1:56.67/3:59. 28. I was going to pick her for a medal in the 800m, and the Russian was entered here instead. I think I know why!
How wide open is this event? The last 9 medals awarded in World and Olympic competition have been won by 9 different women.
- Abeba Aregawi, Ethiopia
- Katya Kostetskaya, Russia
- Morgan Uceny, United States
*I understand that Cakir has served her suspension, but if she wins, just how much joy will we take in her gold? Yes, I say the same for Justin Gatlin, Andrei Miknevich, and the rest.
The US has owned this event with gold in every Olympics since 1984. But this year’s seemingly invincible team has some vulnerabilities. For example, it’s great to have Jeremy Wariner on your team, but not quite so helpful when his season’s best is almost a second and a half slower than his PR. And how healthy is LaShawn Merritt? Belgium has the Borlee brothers in the 44s but their 3rd and 4th men are in the 46s; how would you order this team? Bahamas has a very evenly matched team, and this can make a big difference in positioning the team on the 2nd and 3rd legs. There has been much speculation about Usain Bolt anchoring Jamaica, but I don’t think so – the 4x100m final is the next day. Great Britain has similar balance and was edged out by Belgium at the European Championships; home track advantage could be substantial. With Oscar Pistorius on South Africa’s team, this race not only will be historically close, it might make history all its own.
- United States
- Great Britain