m Pole Vault
France’s Renaud Lavillenie is as big a men’s pole vault star as there has been since Sergey Bubka. A look at the yearly list shows how dominant he is, with a lead of over four inches over the dynamic German trio of Raphael Holzdeppe, Bjorn Otto, and Malte Mohr. Otto and Holzdeppe were Olympic silver and bronze medalists. Otto has had a remarkable 15 meets including a win in the German Championships. Holzdeppe took the measure of Mohr at stratospheric heights in the Rome DL, and knocked Lavillenie off his pedestal while he was at it. Greece’s Kostantinos Filippidis has finished third or higher in 8 of 12 meets, with two Diamond League wins to his credit.
Brad Walker (US) has a complete set of Indoor Worlds medals to go with his outdoor silver and gold. And yet he’s one of the most inconsistent great pole vaulters I’ve ever seen. He won this year’s US title and one month later no-heighted at the Jockgrim Stabhochspring meet. I mean, how many guys can say that? Still, on a given day, the former Seattle Academy assistant coach can rule – or rue - the world.
- Renaud Lavillenie, Fr
- Raphael Holzdeppe, Ger
- Bjorn Otto, Ger
Let’s see… 5 World and Olympic Championships in a row, 38 wins in a row, the 2012 Track and Field News world athlete of the year. She is over two feet ahead of anyone else on the world list this year. Only flaw on the resume of New Zealand’s Valerie Adams is that before she married her name was the mellifluous Valerie Vili.
The remaining medalists will likely come from Michelle Carter (US), Christina Schwanitz (Ger), Gong Lijiao (Chn), and Yevgeniya Kolodko (Rus), whom I’ve listed in order of their standing on the world list behind Adams. US champion Carter, a consistent major meet finalist who has finished no worse than 3rd in every competition this year, may well show that slow and steady wins the race, or at least a medal, and hopes to join her father, Olympic silver medalist Michael, as a major meet medalist.
Schwanitz won the Shanghai - where she beat Gong and Carter - and Oslo Diamond Meets, and was second to Adams in London, where she beat Carter again. Gong Lijiao, bronze medalist in Berlin and London, has only one meet outside of China this year, when she finished second the the Pre Classic. Kolodko, London’s silver medalist, is peaking well and won the Russian Championships.
- Valerie Adams, NZ
- Christina Schwanitz, Ger
- Yevgeniya Kolodko, Rus
With silver in Daegu and gold in London, Kristian Pars (Hun) is an obvious focus of this event. Think an eleven-meet undefeated season contributes to that perception? With Oly silver in London and gold in Beijing, as well as a complete set of World championship medals, Primos Kozmus (Slo) is always a threat. A slim competitive record against modest competition this season, but he’s first or second every time.
Of many others in the hunt for a podium spot, Japan’s Koji Murofushi (Jpn) is always a contender. In Olympic Games, he’s 1-3-5; in Worlds he’s 1-2-3-6. After being absent from the world scene he showed up in June to win the Japanese title to let us know he’s still on the radar screen.
Poland’s Pawel Fajdek and Lukas Melich of the Czech Republic are a foot apart in 4th and 5th on the world list; Melich has a stellar competitive record in a possibly too busy 14-meet season. A tossup between these two for bronze.
Sorry to see that Russia’s Denis Lukyanov did not make the team; he bombed to 5th in the Russian championships, a bad time for an off-day. If the name Sergey Litvinov sounds familiar, that’s because he’s Jr., the son of Russia’s Olympic champion and 2x world champion in the same event, one of the dominant throwers of the 80s. So how’s Jr doing? Mighty nicely, thank you, as he’s currently 2nd on the world list, though a modest competitive record might make it hard for him to make the podium. Nonetheless, he has thrown his four farthest throws in his last four meets and is peaking well for his moment in front of the home crowd.
- Kristian Pars, Hun
- Primos Kozmus, Slo
- Lukas Melich, Cze
Botswana’s Amantle Montsho and Russia’s Antonina Krivoshapka are the class of the 400m field as they lead the yearly list at 49.33 and 49.57, respectively. With 5 Diamond League wins, Montsho, the Daegu champ, should be the heavy favorite. But I am worried about her heavy competitive schedule… while, Krivoshapka’s has been too light, she just re-emerged with a 49.57 in July.
US champ Francine McCorory ran well in the stifling heat of Des Moines and is definitely a medal contender here; she has taken on all comers in a busy schedule this year and finished out of the top three only once. Meanwhile, Great Britain’s former world champ and Olympic silver medalist Christine Ohuruogu is peaking well. While quite understandably many say that it’s Montsho’s time for gold, I give the home field edge to Krivoshapka.
- Antonina Krivoshapka (Rus)
- Amantle Montsho (Bot)
- Francine McCorory (US)
m 110m hurdles
Olympic Champ and world record holder Aries Merritt will pursue gold in Moscow, but he is not nearly as dominant as he was a year ago. He won a deep and close race in Paris but followed that with a DQ in London. Diamond League wins have gone to all the major contenders: David Oliver (US) in Lausanne, Jason Richardson (US) in Shanghai, and Hansle Parchment (Jam) in Eugene. Sergey Shubenkov has home field advantage as well as a Diamond League win in Rome, though he lags the field in overall performance by a crucial tenth of a second. The resurgent Oliver won the US title and leads the world list going into Moscow. Ryan Wilson (US) has been hovering on the edges of great success for many years in a nation of great hrudlers;is this his time?
Every one of the major contenders has flawed credentials – which is what makes this so much fun!
- David Oliver, US
- Aries Merritt, US
- Sergey Shubenkov, Rus
This has been a breakthrough year for Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare, who has soared to #2 on the yearly list at 10.79. She ran that time while winning the London Diamond League Meet., where Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce finished a surprising 4th. Still, SAFP has three Diamond League wins. Trinidad’s Kelly-Ann Baptiste blasted a 10.83 in June, while Duck English Gardner (10.85) seems to be making the transition to the pros rather nicely, thank you, as she brings US and NCAA titles – not to mention multiple rounds experience – to this meet. Defending world champ and US 4x100m anchor in London Carmelita Jeter has been a bit if a mystery as she has slowly but surely recovered from injury.
- Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jam)
- Blessing Okagbare (Nig)
- Kelly-Ann Baptiste (TTO)