Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Day 6 - Thurs, 8/15 - m High Jump, w Triple Jump, m 3,000m Steeplechase, w 400m, m 400m, w 1500m

m High Jump
The hottest event in 2013 has been the men’s high jump. Everything but the world record has been cleared this year, and Javier Sotomayor’s venerable 8’1/2” from 1993 is at risk. I thought I’d seen the highest clearance we’d see this year at the Pre Classic in June when Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim soared to 7’ 10 ½” (and then declined to try higher heights, which always mystifies me – what, you think you’re gonna jump 7’10 ½” every day? – when you’re hot, go with it.) But Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko topped even that with his 7’ 10 ¾” win over Olympic silver medalist Erik Kynard at Lausanne.

Canada’s bronze  medalist Derek Drouin is tied with Russia’s Aleksey Dmitrik at 8’ 8 ¾” on the yearly list, with Russia’s Sergey Mudrov a quarter inch behind them. Fireworks, anyone?

My Canadian friends will hoot if I pick Kynard, so let’s take a close look at their competitive records. Kynard won the US title and has finished second in five major meets. Drouin won the NCAA title over Kynard but slipped to a worrisome fifth in Lausanne. I’m going to give the NCAA win the credit it deserves.

One prediction: the highest height ever not to medal. Someone could clear 7’9” and watch the medal ceremony from the stands. Note: Barshim also was Olympic bronze medalist as there was a three-way tie for third in London, and of the five medalists, only Great Britain’s Robbie Grabarz is not in the mix this year. Giving five medals in the men’s high jump in London could not have been a more appropriate indicator of what was to come.

  1. Bohdan Bondarenko, Ukr
  2. Mutaz Essa Barshim, Qat
  3. Derek Drouin, Can

w Triple Jump
Yekaterina Koneva is not the biggest name in this event, but with only one loss this year she needs to be given serious consideration as a medal contender in front of the more than friendly hometown crowd. The more established medalists are Olympic silver medalist Caterine Ibarguen of Columbia and Ukraine’s bronze medalist Olha Saladuha. Saladuha has been inconsistent in spite of her world-leading 48’ 10”, but such is the closeness of these top three that Ibarguen is second at 48’8” and Koneva is third at 47’ 7 ½”.
Hanna Knyazyeva finished 4th in the Olympics (then from Ukraine, now Israel); she has some strong results on the European circuit including 2nd at Paris and 3rd in London – she seems to be eaking well. Ibarguen has won four Diamond League events and seems a heavy favorite to win her country’s first World gold. As much as I’d like to see her do it, I like Koneva’s competitive record combined with a once in a lifetime chance to win gold at home.

Among the many contenders for bronze should any of the faves falter are Name Hall of Fame candidates Mabel Gay of Cuba, who had better watch out with that last name, and Greece’s Athanasia Pierra, whose brother, EU, was the cause of so much concern over the last several years.

  1. Yekaterina Koneva, Rus
  2. Caterine Ibarguen, Col
  3. Olha Saladuha, Ukr

m 3000m steeplechase
This season’s steeple is summarized in the finish of the Diamond League race in Eugene: The young and inexperienced Conselsus Kipruto trying to pass master of the event and Kenyan teammate Ezekiel Kemboi on the inside of lane 1. Kemboi looks both surprised and distressed; it will be fascinating to see who looks that way at the end of the final in Moscow. Kemboi was DQed for interference; seems the young one was interfering with his plans and Kemboi took action! Kemboi has twice mined Olympic gold, twice World championship gold, and three times World silver – a remarkable 7 major meet medals that go back 10 years. Meanwhile, Kipruto has won all five of his steeples this year; noteworthy is that three of them were Diamond League races, one was the Kenyan Trials, and he has defeated Kemboi twice. Kemboi is 31, Kipruto is 18.

Kenya’s remaining entries are no slouches. Abel Mutai won bronze in London, while Paul Koech’s bronze goes all the way back to Athens ’04. France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad has shown himself to be fearless in taking on the Kenyans in this event, and has two Olympic silvers and a World championship bronze to show for it. And US steeple star Evan Jager may well set an American record while finishing out of the medals.

It will be interesting to see what type of race this is and how it develops; remember, in spite of much talk about a world record (including from yours truly), Kemboi won London gold in 8:18.56. If they go out in 75, I’m going to scream.

The consensus is for Conselsus.

  1. Conselsus Kipruto,Ken
  2. Ezekiel Kemboi, Ken
  3. Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, Fr

w 400m hurdles
This will be one of the highlights of these championships. Zuzana Hejnova (Cze) and Perri Shakes-Drayton (GB) hooked up in a London Diamond League barnburner with Hejnova taking the measure of PS-D, 53.07 – 53.67. London silver medalist and defending world champ Lashinda Demus has been off the radar screen since mid-June, and with a middling competitive record until then, I don’t see her as a medal contender quite yet. An interesting approach to her season, with four competitive 800m in March and April. Olympic champion Natalya Antuykh (Rus) has been off the radar screen this year until a modest performance in the Russian Championships. Georganne Moline was 5th in London and 2nd both the NCAA and US championships.

  1. Zuzana Hejnova, Cze
  2. Perri Shakes-Drayton, GB
  3. Georganne Moline, US

m 400m hurdles
The US trio of Michael Tinsley, Kerron Clement, and Bershawn Jackson is fast and experienced enough that they could sweep the medals, unlikely as that might be. Off the radar screen again is Felix Sanchez, who pulled off one of the more improbable wins in London to match his golden performance in Athens. In 9 races this year, Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson has not medaled twice. Very reminiscent of last year when he was such a favorite going into London, where he was 3rd.

Clement, the Osaka and Berlin champ, brings a heady wealth of big meet experience. And Bershawn Jackson, perhaps my favorite off-the-radar pick to win in 2005, has, interestingly, never bettered his 47.30 from his Helsinki Worlds win. Tinsley, the Olympic silver medalist, has a series of 1sts punctuated by a 3rd and 8th this season. All those 1sts have got my attention. Besides, when it comes to gold medal contenders in Moscow, how many guys can say they won the 200m at the San Marcos Texas State Invitational in June? I rest my case. However, I’m probably going to pay for not picking Sanchez for the podium.

  1. Michael Tinsley, US
  2. Javier Culson, PR
  3. Kerron Clement, US

w 1500m
The Doha Diamond League race gave us an early indication of what was – and is – in store for us in the women’s 1500m this season. Sweden’s Abebe Aregawi won in a scorching 3:56.60, Faith Kipyegon (Ken) was second in 3:56.98, and Genzebe Dibaba (Eth) third in 3:57.54. Notably, there is then a gap to 4th, and only Hellen Obiri (Ken) has joined this threesome on the sub-4:00 list since with her 3:58.58 win in Eugene.

Aregawi was a surprise 5th place finisher in London in spite of being a strong favorite going in. She finished behind the Turkish 1-2 who now find themselves suspended due to drug positives, and she did not handle a slow, tactical race particularly well. Since then, she has dominated the 1500m world. She tops the world list in time, but more importantly, in wins, and she is undefeated this season: 5/5 in Diamond League races.

With two Diamond League 2nds as well as 2nd in the Kenyan Trials, Kipyegon has proved herself capable of high finishes off both fast and slow paces. She is only 19. Dibaba has raced two Diamond League 5ks in 14:45 and 14:37 while finishing 2nd and 3rd in her only two DL 1500m races.

Hellen Obiri won the Pre meet, the Kenyan title, and was 2nd to Jenny Simpson (US) in Monaco. Simpson won the US 5,000m title, and her strength and speed could prove devastating to this field, especially off a slow pace. Nancy Langat (Ken), the Beijing gold medalist, has run a lot of races this year but just not up to her previous level.

And the 17 year old US wunderkind, Mary Cain, will be the talkof this event; she has been on a near world-class tear and finds herself 26th on the 1500m list and 13th on the 800m. With blazing finishing speed she could produce quite a shocker in a slow final, as she did when she won the US indoor title in Albuquerque. But getting through the rounds to the final will be her big challenge.

  1. Abebe Aregawi, Swe
  2. Faith Kipyegon, Ken
  3. Hellen Obiri, Ken

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