Monday, August 12, 2013

Day 4 - Tues, 8/13 - w 20 Walk, m Discus, w Pole Vault, m 800m, w 3,000m steeplechase, m 400m

w 20k walk
In my London preview I urged readers to watch one of the walks from start to finish. Who could have guessed that one of the most dramatic events of the ’12 Games would be the women’s 20k walk? 20 year old Yelena Lashmanova (Rus) scorched the last part of her race to pass defending Olympic Champ Olga Kaniskina and break the world record.

It seems this has disheartened Kaniskina to the point that, at 28, she is announced as out of Moscow and possibly retired from the sport. I hope not. Imagine another ten years of their duels!
And intriguingly… she is entered in this meet (presumably using her defending world champion tiket), although without an entry time from this year.

Tibetan-born Shenjie Qieyang was a surprise bronze medalist in London, and teammate Liu Hong is a great major-meet competitor with two medals and a 4th in the last three majors, not to mention a sizzling Lugano win by almost two minutes. Russians swept the top 4 place in this year’s World Cup – and that didn’t even include Lashmanova! Anisya Kirdyapkina won going away, and Vera Sokolova showed Lashmanova-esque finishing ability in third. AK was 5th in London and won bronze in Daegu. Don’t be surprised by a Russian sweep.

  1. Yelena Lashmanova (Rus)
  2. Liu Hong (Chn)
  3. Anisya Kirdyapkina (Rus)

m Discus
Two World Championship titles (09 + 11) with a silver to boot (07), and gold in London - think that’s enough? How about a 35 meet win streak over nearly four years? Robert Harting has dominated this event as none other in recent history – and in fact, his streak of over 1,000 undefeated days in a row set a world record for the discus. And he has a flair for the dramatic, as his memorable come-from-behind win at home in Berlin attests.

Losses this season to Poland’s Piotr Malachowski and German teammate Martin Wierig have created a competitive buzz in this event, and Malachowski’s thunderous 71.84m in Hengelo - the #5 throw in history – should give anyone pause, including Harting.

But a streak of over 1,000 days, wins in all but two events this year, a second in those two, make Harting a strong favorite once again. Expect Harting and Malachowski to duke it out for gold and silver; bronze is wide open. London medalists Ehsan Hadadi (Iran) and Gerd Kanter (Est) should be in the thick of it for bronze… but it’s Martin Wierig who has the competitive edge going into Worlds.

Meanwhile, brother Christoph Harting has improved this year to 64.99m; if both medal, the Harting family will do better at these Worlds than most nations.

  1. Robert Harting (Ger)
  2. Piotr Malachowski (Pol)
  3. Martin Wierig (Ger)

w Pole Vault
The medalists are likely to come from these four (or are they?!): Olympic champ Jenn Suhr, Cuban star Yarisley Silva, German veteran Silke Spiegelburg, and Brazil’s Daegu gold medalist, Fabiana Murer. But what, no Isi?  Just when it was looking like a medal for Russia biggest star, world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva, was but a distant memory, she won the Ostrava meet in the third highest jump of the year. We don’t often say “not so fast” in track and field, but this is one of those times. OK, so out of five:

Jenn Suhr won in London with Silva losing on more misses; in other words, they had the same height. A narrow win to be sure, and it has set Silva on fire this year. In a 10-meet season she’s won 7 times, including three Diamond League meets. Interestingly, Suhr has done better at the Olympics than Worlds with gold and silver in the former and no medals yet in the latter. And she’s lost to Silva twice in her last two outings.

Murer and Spielgelburg were 3rd and 4th behind the dynamic duo in the London DL meet this year; Spiegelburg is a consistent, if not persistent, finalist in world and Olympic competitions. Murer has the mettle to back up a medal pick here.

Meanwhile, Silva turns to gold.

  1. Yarisley Silva, Cuba
  2. Jenn Suhr, US
  3. Yelena Isinbayeva, Rus

m 800m
Could it be? Could we really give serious consideration to picking not one but two Americans as serious medal contenders? That would be an emphatic “Yes”!

With this year’s field decimated by the absence of Olympic gold medalist David Rudisha (Ken) as well as silver medalist Nijel Amos (Bot), this field is as wide open as any in these Championships. And sorry to say that Russian Yuriy Borzakovskiy is out. The brilliant 800m man and Athens gold medalist had just won the Russian championships, albeit in a slowish time. But he is the master of pace and strategy and this might well have been a career capping golden moment at home.

Mohammed Aman was 6th in the legendary London final and has been the class of the distance this year. In seven races he has won all but his season opener.

Duane Solomon (US) just missed setting the world 600m record in Vancouver in early July, but his shows that, especially if it’s a race similar to the one Rudisha led in London, Solomon has a good chance of burning everyone else off. Meanwhile, multiple US champ Nick Symmonds won the London Diamond League meet with a brilliant race that was both fast and tactically smart. If he runs that type of race in Moscow, it will be hard to keep him off the podium..

Kenya has a young, talented, and untested team in this meet. 20 year old Anthony Chemut was 7th in his only Diamond League test but no worse than 3rd in his other five races. Jeremiah Mutaim ran a speedy 1:43.9 in Nairobi in May; on this year’s list, that’s only .63 from the top.

On the horizon, 21 year old Pierre Ambroise Bosse (Fr) was second in both Lausanne and Monaco and could surprise for a medal here.

  1. Mohammed Aman, Eth
  2. Nick Symmonds, US
  3. Duane Solomon, US

w 3000m steeplechase
Yuliya Zaripova, the defending world and Olympic gold medalist, brings remarkable range to this event.  She won the Russian Championships… at 1500m… in 4:02.6. With a steeple PR of 9:05.02, the 8:58.81 world record of compatriot Gulnara Galkina is in deep trouble. Milcah Chemos (Ken) has  PR just two seconds slower than Zaripova, and the two-time world bronze medalist figures to be in the thick of it for a podium spot again. Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa hopes to win her country’s first medal in this event after she won bronze in London. It figures to be another Kenya vs Ethiopia distance tussle for silver and bronze, as runners from these two countries occupy all 6 of the top spots on this year’s list. Fast among the many who could medal is Ethiopia’s Hiwot Ayalew at 9:09.61.

  1. Milcah Chemos, Ken
  2. Sofia Assefa, Eth
  3. Hiwott Ayalew, Eth
(Friday, 8/9, 11:00am –late word is that Zaripova, my gold medal pick, has withdrawn due to injury. I've adjusted my picks accordingly.)

m 400m
The Caribbean swept the top four spots in the Olympics. Kirani James (GRN) won with surprise Olympic medalists Lueguelin Santos (Dom) and Lalonde Gordon (TTO) winning silver and bronze, and more heavily favored Chris Brown (Bah) in 4th. James and LaShawn Merritt own the top 11 times in the world this year – a rare domination by two athletes in one event, so a repeat sweep is unlikely. But Santos had a notable 44.74 at Drake, and Saudi Arabia’s Youssef Al-Masrahi also had a fast early-season time, 44.72. Good news about Santos? This year he’s 20.
Kevin and Jonathan Borlee (Bel) finished 5-6 at the Olympics, and will be joined this time by youngest brother, Dylan, and this trio will give Belgium a formidable 4x400m team, and quite possibly an individual medal.

  1. Kirani James (Grn)
  2. LaShawn Merritt (US)
  3. Lueguelin Santos (Dom)

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