Friday, August 9, 2013

Moscow Fearless Picks and Predictions, Event Analyses

Coach Cullen’s Guide to the Universe

Event Analyses
Fearless Picks and Predictions
of the
2013 World Track and Field Championships

by Mark Cullen

 © 2013 Mark Cullen. All Rights Reserved

Welcome to edition #7 of this guide, which began in 1988 when the Summer Olympics started in Seoul in late September and I wanted to show my cross country runners that there was more to the sports world than Michael Jordan – or, for that matter, the men’s 100m. While the fun of this guide is the picks, for me it’s just as much about giving an accurate sense of each event. This is the first time I am writing previews for the World Championships, though I have entered WC prediction contests since the inception of the Worlds in Helsinki in 1983.

Since my goal here is to provide context for each event, I am writing this for readers who are seeing this for the first time, though I do certainly assume a certain familiarity with track and field. Those of you who read the London Olympics guide will find, from time to time, some material that is familiar. So, biographical information about the athletes, or observations about the time schedule (for example, the 100m schedule rewards those who are strongest in 4 rounds over two days) will seem familiar to past readers (multiple blessings upon the souls of repeat readers!) but are essential to understanding this year’s events.

Many of you know that last year was the highlight of my prognosticating career as my entry finished 2nd in the London Olympics prediction contest out of over 1,000 entrants; it had the highest score in the United States. A tip of the hat to winner Ferdinando Fanin of Italy, who has won a remarkable three times in the last decade.

References are as follows:

 Major Meets are Olympic Games and World Championships:
’00 – Sydney Olympics
’01 – Edmonton Worlds
’03 – Paris Worlds
’04 – Athens Olympics
’05 – Helsinki Worlds
’07 – Osaka Worlds
’08 – Beijing Olympics
’09 – Berlin Worlds
’11 – Daegu Worlds
’12 – London Olympics

World list refers to the yearly top 25 in each event as determined by each competitor’s top mark of this season going into the Games.
Diamond League refers to the 14 major meets held on the international circuit every year. First, I’llpost the entire guide as one document. At the same time, I’ll post each event on my website as it happens. For example, on August 13 the seven finals are the women’s 20k walk, 3000m steeplechase, pole vault, and heptathlon, and the men’s 400m, 800m, and discus – so I’ll post those seven on that day for easy and timely reference. That way you won’t have to scroll through 47 events to find the one you’re looking for. For the same reason, from time to time I’ll repeat information which crosses over from one event to another, for example, what I say about Mo Farah in the 5k also applies in the 10k and I’ll include it in both previews.

Research Credits: to Track and Field News, the IAAF website, and, all of which – and whom – have provided invaluable and voluminous resources in the preparation of this guide.

Special Thanks: to Track and Field News for linking on their front page to two of my articles at last week. This was terrific exposure and the link to “Curtains for Ato” generated over a thousand page views. Special thanks to Garry Hill and Sieg Lindstrom.

Personal: I’m a 1975 graduate of the University of Oregon; I began running in Bill Bowerman’s beginning jogging class in the fall of 1971, a week after he had been named Head Coach of the US Olympic Track and Field team. I coached track and field for 13 years and cross country for 26, and served as president of the Washington State Cross Country Coaches Association. I‘ve been privileged to attend 4 Olympic Trials, 6 World Championships and one Olympics – Montreal in 1976.

The very first prediction I ever made was featured by Joe Henderson in the July 1976 issue of Runner’s World magazine when I picked Don Kardong to win the coveted third spot on The US Olympic marathon team. So I’ve been doing this awhile and love it as much now as I did then.

In Track and Field News’ 1988 preview of the men’s javelin in ’88, they summarized all of this
by saying, “(but) really, anyone could win – and we like the suspense.” Have fun!  On Your Mark…


What if they gave a race and nobody showed? The highly anticipated clash between Usain Bolt (Jam) and Tyson Gay (US) dissolved in a test tube when Gay tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. This leaves Bolt as the prohibitive favorite over a diminished field. Some of the contenders for silver and bronze, including US 2nd and 4th placers Justin Gatlin and Michael Rodgers, are themselves returnees from drug suspensions. And in a year when there is a golden – well, silver or bronze – opportunity to win a medal, France’s Christophe Lemaitre is having an off year. Britain’s James Dasaolou is this year’s find, though his absence from the London Diamond League race muddies the waters for him. NCAA champ and USATF 3rd placer Charles Silmon was hot in June, but it’s looking as though it’s hard for him (or anyone else) to sustain his sharpness for such a long time.

Remember that the World Championship 100m is not the same as an invitational. It’s not who’s best in one single blazing race; it’s who’s fastest and strongest over four rounds in a day and a half.

  1. Usain Bolt (Jam)
  2. Nesta Carter (Jam)
  3. Justin Gatlin (US)

Bolt seems a lock here as well as he leads the yearly list at 19.73, with teammates Warren Weir, Jason Young, and Nickel Ashmeade forming a stellar 4x200m – if only there were one. This could well be a repeat Jamaican sweep. Wallace Spearmon is not as high on the yearly time list as I’d like to see him, but the US veteran is an outstanding multi-round competitor. Isiah Young’s stellar 19.86 behind Tyson Gay at the US Nationals can’t be overlooked, especially after making the US London Olympic team, and he has recent collegiate multi-round experience.

  1. Usain Bolt (Jam)
  2. Warren Weir (Jam)
  3. Isiah Young (US)

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)

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

A review of Kenya’s team might come close to a review of the best contenders for medals. Asbel Kiprop is only 25, and yet his Olympic gold medal stretches time back to Beijing, and his World gold updates it to Daegu. A last-minute injury in London saw him finish last when he was heavily favored to win. Now, he is an even stronger favorite to take gold in Moscow. With three convincing Diamond League wins, including his stunning 3:27.72 in Monaco, and a sub-1:50 finish, Kiprop is clearly the man of the hour. He is now within striking distance of the world record of 3:26.00, though that is not likely in a meet of heats.

His teammates Silas Kiplagat and Nixon Chepseba are stars in their own right, and Bethwell Birgen was pulled to a 3:30.77 in the dramatic Monaco meet; it seems that a Kenyan star of the future might have found his present. Kiplagat won the Kenyan Trials as well as silver in Daegu, and he won the Pre meet mile in 3:49.48. Chepseba also made the London final but was 11th ahead of Kiprop – not a great day in the annals of Kenyan distance running.

Ayanleh Souleiman (Dji) won Oslo and Paris, while Ethiopia’s Amon Wote won the DL Birmingham race; 3:49.88 got him 3rd at Pre!

The US Olympic 2-4 duo of Leo Manzano and Matt Centrowitz has been searching for a return to form. Perhaps the last two weeks of no racing will be to their advantage; their withering speed always makes them contenders, and their 2-4 in the London Olympics was better than… yes, any other nation.

  1. Asbel Kiprop,Ken
  2. Silas Kiplagat, Ken
  3. Amon Wote, Eth

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

Mo Farah is a prohibitive favorite to win this race. With an astonishing European record of 3:28.81 in the mile and a withering last 800m in the London Diamond League 3,000m, Farah can win at any distance he wants – including a charity match race he has proposed vs Usain Bolt at 600 or 800m.

Hagos Gebrhiwet scorched a 7:30 3k in Doha and beat a stellar field as well as the weather in New York. An Olympic 5,000m finalist and World Junior Cross Country champion in March, he has finished no worse than 3rd in anything since London. He upset Galen Rupp in the Boston Indoor this year (modesty prevents me from noting that not everyone thought this was an upset…). You know what he did the next day? He turned 19. If he is anywhere near the lead with 300m to go, watch out.

Galen Rupp certainly has the finishing chops to medal if he can be in the mix with 400m to go. The slower the pace the better he’ll do. I have a feeling that with what’s perceived as a bit of an off season for him, he’s lying in wait to pounce in Moscow.

Isiah Koech (Ken) has been third twice this season in deep Diamond League meets and won the Kenyan Trials. Edwin Soi (Ken) and Albert Rop (BRN) went 1-2 in 12:51s in the outstanding Monaco race. Yenew Alamirew (Eth) has won two Diamond League 5ks this year, and Alamirew and Gebrhiwet went 1-2 in 12:54-12:55 in Rome.

And who’s getting better with each race? The United States’ Lawi Lalang, that’s who. A possible American record?

  1. Mo Farah, GB
  2. Hagos Gebrhiwet, Eth
  3. Edwin Soi, Ken

M 10,000m
Mo Farah is a prohibitive favorite to win this race. With an astonishing European record of 3:28.81 in the mile and a withering last 800m in the London Diamond League 3,000m, Farah can win at any distance he wants – including a charity match race he has proposed vs Usain Bolt at 600 or 800m. Meanwhile, Kenyan Olympic 4th placer Bedan Karoki has been speaking atypically publically about Kenyan strategy that he expects to execute with teammates Paul Tanui and Kenneth Kipkemboi. He says the way to take the sting out of Farah’s kick is to set a ‘searing pace’ (Saturday Nation) and then see who’s fastest over the last 400m. However, in recent iterations of this strategy, the Kenyans have tended to burn themselves off rather than others.

Yet a memorable photo of the Daegu 10k shows Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeylan passing Farah just before the finish of the 10K as Farah looks startled – the “Oh, no!” moment of his race. Jeilan has run only 3 5ks this year with 3-4-8 finishes.

Dejen Gebremeskel (Eth) won bronze Daegu and silver at 5k London; is he on track for gold?
With a 26:51 at Sollentuna at the end of June, he is a major force.

Galen Rupp sizzled indoors with 7:30.16 and 3:50.92 but has been searching for a return to top form before Worlds – not that a 3:52.11 suggests that he’s falling apart, mind you. But with US nationals run in the heat and humidity of Iowa, it’s hard to judge exactly what kind of distance shape he’s in. Remember who his coach is (Alberto Salazar). I think he’s a more likely medal candidate at 5k this time than 10k.

With a fast pace by the Kenyans and Farah’s withering kick, this could be the defining race of these championships. With no qualifying rounds and everyone on fresh legs on Day #1… dare
I utter these words: world record?

  1. Mo Farah, Eth
  2. Dejan Gebremeskel, Eth
  3. Bedan Karoki, Ken

Tsegaye Kebede (Eth) has won London twice including this year, and set his PR in winning Chicago in 2012. He won bronze in both Beijing and Berlin and is a great major meet competitor.

Stephen Kiprotich, UGA, is the Olympic champion; since then, he’s finished 6th at London and run 27:58 for 10k.

Feyisa Lilesa, Eth, won bronze in steamy Daegu; it could be hot and humid in Moscow as well. He has been nipping at the heels of greatness but has yet to put together a major win.

The IAAF website notes that Bernard Koech (Ken) ran a 59:54 half-marathon in Lisbon two months after running 2:05:53 in Dubai in January. True, but he even more remarkably followed that with a 58:41 half marathon in June! A man of steel: fast and strong.

Lelisa Desisa (Eth) owns the world’s top mark on the pancake course in Dubai and then returned to win Boston in April. Is a third all-out effort too much to ask in 8 months? Note that 5 runners in all finished within 8 seconds of each other in Dubai!

I had hoped Geoffrey Mutai, Ken, one of the most consistent of the top-level road runners, would be in this race, but it appears not to be. Winner of Boston and New York in 2011 and Berlin in 2012, this year he has run 27:57 on the track and 27:37 and 27:39 on the roads. Did I mention his 58:58 half-marathon in February? Yowza!

With team running tactics, an Ethiopian sweep is not out of the question.

  1. Bernard Koech, Ken
  2. Tsegaye Kebede, Eth
  3. Lelisa Desisa, Eth

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!

  1. David Oliver, US
  2. Aries Merritt, US
  3. Sergey Shubenkov, Rus

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

20k walk
China’s Olympic bronze medalist Zhen Wang dominated the Lugano Cup by 90 seconds in a super-fast 1:19:08. Russia’s Denis Strelkov won the highly competitive European Cup with Miguel Angel Lopez of Spain and Matej Toth of Slovakia a mere 8 and 11 seconds in arrears. Strelkov says he doesn’t like heat, but with two excellent performances in the heat this year, he is a major contender in likely-to-be-sultry Moscow. China Teammates Jianbo Li and Zelin Cai sped to an impressive 1-2 finish in Taicing in February while Oly gold medalist Ding Chen DNFed in the same race. Late word is that Li will contest only the 50k and that China’s 1-3-4 trio from the Olympics will constitute China’s 20k team in Moscow: Ding, Zhen, and Zelin. On top of the world list is Piotr Trofimov (Rus) who scorched a 1:18:28 in Sochi this year on 2/23 – the fourth consecutive year he has walked his best early in the season only not to back it up later. Olympic silver medalist Erick Barrondo (Gua) was second to Diniz in the Euro Cup at Dudince over 50k and won at Dublin in May; he has remarkable range. But has he raced too much? This field is stacked; time to put the Yahtzee dice in the cup and roll. Russian legend Valeriy Borchin is nowhere to be found in this year’s results.

  1. Denis Strelkov, Rus
  2. Zhen Wang, Chn
  3. Erick Barrondo, Gua

M 50k  walk
Yohann  Diniz (Fr) and Erick Barrando (Gua) staged an epic battle in the Euro Cup 50k in May with Diniz getting to the finish line two seconds ahead of Oly 20k silver medalist Barrando. Olympic 50k medalists Sergey Kirdyapkin (Rus), Jared Tallent (Aus), and Tiangfeng Si (Chn) are notably absent from the top 20 time lists this year, but Kirdyapkin and Tallent rise to the podium in major meets. Jianbo Li PRed in 7th place in London and scored a notable 1:18:52 20k PR in winning the Euro Cup in Dudince in May; think of this as a speed workout for long distance walkers!

1. Yohann Diniz, Fr
2. Erick Barrando, Gua
3. Jianbo Li, Chn

11:00am Friday, 8/9: Late word is that Kirdyapkin, my gold medal pick, is out.

M 4x100m relay
With Bolt (9.85), Carter (9.87), Cole (9.96), and Ashmeade (9.99), Jamaica simply has more depth than the US with Gatlin (9.89), Locke (9.96), Rodgers (9.96) and Silmon (9.98). Did I mention Jamaica’s anchor? It’s wide open for bronze. Interestingly, St. Kitts has three at 10.01 or faster, and Great Britain has an outstanding anchor in James Dasaolu (9.91). Canada returns only two of last year’s bronze DQ team.

  1. Jamaica
  2. United States
  3. St. Kitts
M 4x400m relay
The US dominates the 400m lists with 10 of the top 22. It could be pretty wide open for medals… Bahamas has great depth with Chris Brown on anchor… Jamaica has three at 45.28 or better with plenty of 200m runners who can move up… and Belgium will have plenty of crowd support with the three Borlee brothers. Last year’s surprise bronze medalist, Trinidad and Tobago, have only one athlete in the top 20 this year. Russia and Great Britain always have highly disciplined teams. Think Russia hasn’t made it a national priority to bring home a medal in one of the Championships’ signature events?

  1. United States
  2. Bahamas
  3. Russia

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

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.

  1. Renaud Lavillenie, Fr
  2. Raphael Holzdeppe, Ger
  3. Bjorn Otto, Ger

Long Jump
When I saw Alexander Menkov jump in Eugene in June, I thought I might be watching this year’s world champ. In six meets he’s won four and placed 2nd twice. Usually the early Diamond League meets reveal little about the year in store, but this was not true in Shanghai in May when Li Jinzhe was the unexpected winner and in an attention-getting 27 4 ¼”. But with only four competitions and no mark in two of them, I’m not ready to jump on his bandwagon quite yet. Great potential, but if he can’t take the heat in the Gent Flanders Cup…

One of the most exciting jumpers to come along this year is Mexico’s Luis Rivera who is either hot or not. When ‘on,’ he jumped a world lead 29 9 ¼”  and defeated Menkov in Kazan. In a busy season, he has finished out of the top 3 only twice in 12 meets.

NCAA and Paris Diamond League champ Damar Forbes deserves serious consideration as a medalist… Olympic gold medalist Greg Rutherford is just back from injury and barely made the British squad… Brazil’s Mauro da Silva was 2nd to Menkov in Eugene, third in London, and in what, granted, has mostly been a regional campaign, he has finished no worse than 3rd in a dozen meets.

It’s an extraordinarily tight field as 19 jumpers are within 12” of each other on top of the world list. An exceptionally young group makes this a fascinating event. Who will be oblivious enough to the moment to shock the world? I give home field advantage to Menkov in front of a raucous sold-out stadium.

Meanwhile, Rivera, an artist of the long jump, who has his doctorate in industrial engineering and is a clear medal favorite with the world’s longest jump this year, says that “if a dream crosses your mind, it will cross your life.” (IAAF website) He is 26. I am so unworthy!

  1. Alexander Menkov, Rus
  2. Luis Rivera, Mex
  3. Mauro da Silva, Bra

Triple Jump
With gold in Daegu and London, Christian Taylor (US) is going for the triple crown in Moscow. With four Diamond League wins, he has the best competitive record in the event this year – though do note a couple of uncharacteristic third-place finishes. London silver medalist Will Claye was third in Daegu – time to complete the set? Teddy Tamgho France is one of the most consistent performers since 2010; this year in 11 competitions he has four firsts, six seconds, and a third. Reserve a spot for him on the medal stand.

Last year’s World Junior Champion Pedro Pichardo of Cuba leads the outdoor world list at 58’ ½”; while he has jumped close to home for the first half of the season, he sustained his placings with 1st at Lausanne and 3rd at Monaco. One to watch.

Three entries in our all-name competition: Cuba’s Ernesto Reve – jumps an average of approximately two feet farther per competition at home in Cuba but falls off considerably when he competes off the island; for him, winning worlds would be a dream. Youngster Alexiy Fedorov, who always looks good in a hat, may not be quite there yet, but he was a surprise winner of the Russian National Championships. Italy’s Daniel Greco actually leads to world list at half an inch farther than Pichardo; not quite sure how an indoor March mark will stand up. Perhaps he’s been too busy painting?

  1. Christian Taylor (US)
  2. Teddy Tamgho (FR)
  3. Pedro Pichardo (Cuba)

Shot Put
Ryan Whiting has a Valerie Adams-like lead on the world lists of almost two feet. In 8 competitions he has won 6 times and finished 2nd the other two times. Reese Hoffa (US) was second to Whiting at the US Championships. The London bronze medalist (and Osaka world champ in ’07) isn’t showing his age quite yet as his 71’ 2 ¾” at second on the world list demonstrates.

David Storl won the German title in early July; he is down on the performance list this year at more than a meter behind Whiting, but the still-young (he just turned 23) London silver medalist and Daegu world champ is a great big meet competitor. And Whiting fell apart in London. Thomas Majewski (Pol) has two Olympic golds to his credit but is clearly off-form this year. Another 23-year-old, Ladislav Pravel (Cze), had a big early-season throw of 70’ 5 ¼”, and has been over 21 meters (just under 68’ 11”) a total of four times this year.

Belated Beijing bronze medalist Dylan Armstrong gets the travel award of the year as he threw in Vancouver, BC on a Monday, Lausanne on Thursday, and Victoria on Saturday. With silver in Daegu and 5th in London, he is always in the thick of it for the podium. Zach Lloyd picked the right time to PR when he grabbed the third spot on the US team in Des Moines.

I get nervous picking two medals for the US as our shot putters have often not lived up to their pre-major meet performances.

  1. David Storl, Ger
  2. Ryan Whiting, US
  3. Ladislav Pravel, Cze

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)

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.

  1. Kristian Pars, Hun
  2. Primos Kozmus, Slo
  3. Lukas Melich, Cze

The most shocking, off-the-charts, unanticipated performance in London was 19-year-old Keshorn Walcott’s mighty win. No one of the over 1,000 entrants in the prediction contest picked him to win. Perhaps we should have given the world junior champion more cred… but this is an event that usually rewards longevity, and that’s what made last year’s final so compelling – it didn’t.

Things seem to be back to form this year. Vitezslav Vesely (Cze, my pick to win last year; he threw a huge world leader and PR in qualifying and led by almost 4 metres; he then fell apart in the finals) sits in #2 on the world list with only Russian national champ Dmitry Tarabin ahead of him. Behind them in third is Finland’s almost venerable Tero Pitkamaki; with gold in Osaka (’07) and gold in Beijing (’08), his medals may seem a bit dated, and he’s had mixed results in major competitions ever since.

Japan’s Yukifumi Murakumi has thrown far but does not have the competitive record to back up a medal pick. Never count out a Finnish javelin thrower; Ario Mannio sits in 6th on the world list.

And orld and two-time Olympic champ Andreas Thorkildsen is in 7th. Thorkildsen finished 1-2-3 in his last three Diamond League meets. With World gold (07) and Olympic bronze (08), Tero Pitkamaki, also from Finland, has finished in the top three of all seven of his competitions this year. Wouldn’t it be magnificent to see these two great veterans and rivals on the podium together?

  1. Dmitry Tarabin, Rus
  2. Vitezslav Vesely, Cze
  3. Andreas Thorkildsen, Nor

Olympic gold medalist and world record holder Ashton Eaton remains a prohibitive favorite in this event, even though he acknowledges that he just doesn’t have the same spark this year that he had last. (Reuters) But Eaton has only one item missing from his resume, and that’s a World Championships gold medal; his silver experience in Daegu was, I think, one of the better things that could have happened to him in his development, as it showed him that not everything was going to come to him as easily as many had predicted. Giving him ample incentive will be two-time world champ and US teammate Trey Hardee, the Olympic silver medalist. Canada’s Damian Warner won the prestigious Gotzis competition in May and was 5th in London, and Germany has 4 atop the world list, which is not always a particularly helpful indicator in this event. Pascal Behrenbruck (8514) had a narrow win over Rico Freimuth (8488w) at the German national championships, and Holland’s Eelco Sintnicolaas was off-form at Gotzis but returned with an 8322 at the end of June. Russia’s Ilya Shkurenyov won their national title at 8354. Cuba’s multi-major meet medalist, including bronze in London, has been lying low but is always a huge factor. Hard to not call a repeat of London, but Behrenbruck and Freimuth are clearly ready for the podium.

  1. Ashton Eaton, US
  2. Trey Hardee, US
  3. Pascal Behrenbruck, Ger


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.

  1. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jam)
  2. Blessing Okagbare (Nig)
  3. Kelly-Ann Baptiste (TTO)

Allyson Felix finished second to NCAA and US champ Kimberlyn Duncan at the US Nationals,
and she is ever-so-slighty below her 2012 gold medal standards. Same can be said for Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. But Felix and SAFP are great big-meet competitors, and slighty off for them can be still be gold. Muriel Ahoure brings strong credentials at 22.24 and 10.91, the former her winning time at Monaco. And note that Ukraine’s Mariya Ryemeyen beat Duncan in Lausanne – I’m just sayin’. Duncan brings great multiple rounds experience and is a strong contender for a medal/

  1. Allyson Felix (US)
  2. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce
  3. Muriel Ahoure (CIV)

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.

  1. Antonina Krivoshapka (Rus)
  2. Amantle Montsho (Bot)
  3. Francine McCorory (US)

Everyone’s favorite seems to be Russia’s Maria Saminova, the Olympic and World champion.
She’s had an unusual approach to her season with only three 800s (and a 4x400 leg at the Russian Championships), but she’s confirmed her fitness with a 1:58.75 in early June. She peaks beautifully, and her winning times of 1:55.87 in Daegu and 1:56.19 in London ought to give competitors pause.

Francine Niyonsaba (Bur) leads the world list with 1:56.72 in Eugene. Brenda Martinez (US) and Janeth Jepkosgei (Ken) followed her in Eugene in 1:58.18 and 1:58.71. Martinez won the London Diamond League race and was second to Alysia Montano in the US title race. Jepkosgei was last in the quick London final, but brings a wealth of experience with a complete set of World medals as well as silver from Beijing. She’s finished 2nd or 3rd in each of four major races this year.

Russia’s Olympic bronze medalist Ekaterina Poistogova is in the mix once again with a sub-2:00 win in Oslo. Morocco’s Malika Akkaoui is peaking well with two wins in her last three races and a stellar 1:57.64 in second behind Francine Niyonsaba (BDI) in Paris.

Niyonsaba, a London finalist 7th, has the best competitive record coming in to Moscow with three Diamond League wins, but, most unfortunately, is out with injury.

US champ Alysia Montano, fifth in London, was only seven tenths away from silver. The five-time US champion showed great fitness in 3rd in Paris in a fast 1:57.75, but followed with a DNF in Madrid

  1. Mariya Savinova, Rus
  2. Malika Akkaoui, Mor
  3. Alysia Montano, US

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

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.

There’s always something of a mystery about who is going to run which distance event, but this year we seem to be in for disappointment as the latest word from Moscow is that Meseret Defar will run only the 5,000m and Tirunesh Dibaba the 10,000m. It’s bad enough that we have so many stars missing from Moscow, but to have them there and dodge each other? The frostiness between the Ethiopians is well-established; is it really better to avoid losing than to walk away with silver? It seems neither wants to risk losing twice. Nonetheless, this makes Meseret Defar a heavy favorite to win at 5k and Tirunesh Dibaba an even stronger favorite to win at 10k.

Few could have been more heavily favored in London than Tirunesh Dibaba in the distances on the track. So when Meseret Defar pulled off her last lap shocker, it seems to have had an impact which ripples all the way to these worlds. Almaz Ayana (Eth) has actually run faster at 5k than her teammate Defar this season, as she was pulled to a 14:25 behind Dibaba’s 14:23 at Paris.

But Defar dusted the field by 6 ½ seconds in Oslo, with Kenya’s Viola Kibiwott next in a very creditable 14:33. Mercy Cherono, Kibiwott’s teammate and Kenyan Trials winner, will be in the mix as well, as she tested Dibaba in Eugene’s 5k and finished only half a second behind.

  1. Meseret Defar, Eth
  2. Almaz Ayana, Eth
  3. Mercy Cherono, Ken

There’s always something of a mystery about who is going to run which distance event, but this year we seem to be in for disappointment as the latest word from Moscow is that Meseret Defar will run only the 5,000m and Tirunesh Dibaba the 10,000m. It’s bad enough that we have so many stars missing from Moscow, but to have them there and dodge each other? The frostiness between the Ethiopians is well-established; is it really better to avoid losing than to walk away with silver? It seems neither wants to risk losing twice. Nonetheless, this makes Meseret Defar a heavy favorite to win at 5k and Tirunesh Dibaba an even stronger favorite to win at 10k.

With four world and Olympic gold medals at 10k, and with 3 at 5k, Tirunesh Dibaba is the class of this field. A master tactician, patient, and possessed of a withering finish, Dibaba can handle any situation presented to her, whether it be a fast-from-the-start race or one which requires her to use her blazing speed – or both. A modest race schedule this season has her chalking up wins at 5k in Eugene and Paris in 14:42 (yawn!) and 14:23, respectively, along with a 30:26 10k in Ostrava.

Second and third in Ostrava are among the most likely contenders for medals in Moscow. Gladys Cherono (Ken) was three seconds behind with Ethiopian Belaynesh Oljira two more seconds back in 3rd. One of only two others under 31:00 this year is Yeshaneh Ababel (Eth) at 31:35, also in the Ostrava race. Emily Chebet (Ken) has been better over hill and dale as two-time world cross country champ. And Shalane Flanagan has an outside chance at a medal if she runs her own (fast) race and picks off those who started too fast for too long.

  1. Tirunesh Dibaba, Eth
  2. Gladys Cherono, Ken
  3. Belaynesh Oljira, Eth

Kenya and Ethiopia have remarkably deep teams and the medals will likely come from these two teams. Tiki Gelana (Eth) won gold in London in Olympic record time, but was injured by a collision with a wheelchair marathoner in this year’s London race. Edna Kiplagat, the defending Worlds champ, was second in London. Paris produced two contenders in winner Feysa Tadesse (2:21:06) and Merima Hasen (2:23:14). Meseret Hailu won the world ½ marathon championship and then was 2nd at Boston.

It could look like a replay of Athens as gold and bronze medalists Mizuki Noguchi (Jpn) and Deena Kastor (US, now a masters runner) toe the line once again. Noguchi ran a 2:24:05 in March, and Kastor has said (perhaps a bit too loudly) that she is in top 5 shape. Wouldn’t that be terrific?!

Priscah Jeptoo won silver in the London Olympics and silver as well as part of the Kenyan sweep in Daegu, and she leads the yearly list at 2:20:15… but I am not finding her on the entry lists! She won the 2013 London Marathon with Kiplagat second. Tatyana Arkhipova (Rus) won bronze in London; she intrigued me as a possible winner here with 9:09 steeplechase toughness and speed, but I cannot find her on any entry lists, either.

  1. Edna Kiplagat, Ken
  2. Tiki Gelana, Eth
  3. Feysa Tadesse, Eth

100m hurdles
Let’s see… NCAA and US champion… US and 2x collegiate record setter this year… 12.26… the #4 performer all-time with = #5 performance. Only .05 away from Yordanka Donkova’s (Bul) 25 year old world record. She has kept a low profile since US nationals with a couple of sharpening races in Switzerland and Finland… good coaching considering the multiple rounds she ran in June. Brianna Rollins is almost 2/10 of a second ahead of the world… and yet their is a question of experience. OK, she’s short on international experience but is used to the collegiate grind.

Much like Aries Merritt on the men’s side, Australia’s Sally Pearson is not having quite the dominant year she had on her way to Olympic gold. She had a busy July as she raced herself back into shape, but she remains almost 4/10 of a second behind Rollins on the yearly list.

Beijing gold medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson has more international experience than teammates Nia Ali and Queen Harrison, though Harrison has compiled a relatively strong competitive record this year. Harper-Nelson has three Diamond League wins to her credit, and only Rollins has more wins overall. The only thing keeping me from picking the veteran over the new star is a significant .27 time differential this season – but that can go in one hurdle, right?

  1. Brianna Rollins, US
  2. Sally Pearson, Aus
  3. Dawn Harper-Nelson, US

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

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)

Editor’s note: when it comes to injustice in the world, Lashmanova’s experience in the TFN annual rankings of the top ten performers makes, well, what Lashmanova didn’t: the top ten.
She won everything in sight, though granted, there just aren’t that many 20k walks each year. But she won the won the World Cup and the Olympic gold medal in world record time while defeating the defending Olympic gold medalist. She wins on all three counts: honors won, head-to-head, and time. Not in the top ten? I’m still not over it.

4x100m relay
With a 1-2-3 of English Gardner (10.85), Octavious Freeman (10.87), and Alexandria Anderson (10.91) joined by defending world champ Carmelita Jeter (10.93), the defending Olympic Champs look hard to beat. Great depth with Jeneba Tarmoh and Barbara Pierre should ease the early rounds. With Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price and Kerron Stewart, the Jamaican relay looks like a strong candidate for silver, even with Veronica Campbell-Brown out on a drug violation. Ukraine won Olympic bronze over a Nigerian team anchored by a now-faster Blessing Okagbare. Trinidad and Tobago will want to avenge their Olympic DQ; could be a fascinating matchup between Okagbare and Kelley-Ann Baptiste on anchor. Russia has had this meet as a national training focus for several years; expect a highly disciplined team with perfect passes. Ukraine returns from a bronze in London and with Mariye Ryemeyen having defeated Duncan over 200m in Lausanne.

  1. United States
  2. Jamaica
  3. Trinidad and Tobago

4x400m relay
The United States dominated the Olympic 1600m relay by more than 3.5 seconds over Russia. How to make that up for a popular home-town win? Well, for starters, take Sanya Richards-Ross off the US team with injury. Russia and the US are tantalizingly close on paper this year, and this could well come down to how fast hurdlers Natalia Antyukh and LaShinda Demus run. This will be fun in front of the home crowd. Great Britain and Jamaica should duke it out for bronze; Jamaica has 5 under 50.91, while GB has former world and Olympic champ Christine Ohuruogu on anchor.

  1. Russia
  2. United States
  3. Great Britain

High Jump
A home win for Anna Chicherova would be hugely popular.The World and Olympic champion also has a silver and two bronzes in her last 5 major meets. She has won four of six competitions this year, and has a 4-1 record against London silver medalist, the effervescent Brigetta Barrett (US). Barrett tops the yearly list at 6’8 ¼” with Chicherova ¾” behind.

In a wide open contest for bronze, Olympic bronze medalist Svetlana Shokolina gives Russia a strong chance of winning two medals. Italy’s young Alessia Trost is third on the worldlist, and Spain’s Ruth Beitia is right behind her. Croatia’s Blanca Vlasic is one of the notable absentees from this championship.

If this were about singing the national anthem, Barrett would win gold for sure.

  1. Anna Chicherova, Rus
  2. Brigetta Barrett,US
  3. Svetlana Shokolina, Rus

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

Long Jump
There’s no doubt that Brittney Reese (US) is the world’s greatest long jumper – female or male.
In spite of some stress-inducing inconsistency, she’s a great big-meet jumper who excels under pressure and regularly bests her competition by substantial margins. She’s won World-World-Olympic gold in the last three majors. If she would just nail a first-round jump for once, she’d make this so much easier on her many fans. Blessing Okagbare is in danger of spreading herself too thin. With two Diamond League wins and a defeat of Reese in Lausanne, Okagbare seems destined to be a multiple medalist in these Worlds. Will the LJ be one of them?

Janay DeLoach Soukup won the US title when Reese flamed out in Des Moines (Reese goes as defending world champ); the Olympic bronze medalist is poised for even the top of the podium given her steady and consistent performances.

Last year’s Olympic silver medalist Yelena Sokolova could pull a colossal upset; for her, it’s never ova ‘till the Russian national anthem plays.

  1. Brittney Reese, US
  2. Yelena Sokolova, Rus
  3. Janay DeLoach Soukup, US

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

Shot Put
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.

  1. Valerie Adams, NZ
  2. Christina Schwanitz, Ger
  3. Yevgeniya Kolodko, Rus

There are few more heavily favored athletes in these championships than London gold medalist Sandra Perkovic of Croatia. She’s undefeated in eight competitions and atop the world lists by over a meter. Olympic bronze medalist Yarelys Barrios of Cuba, who has five major meet medals to her credit, is having the best season behind Perkovic, with 5 firsts and 5 seconds in a busy 10-meet schedule. Yaimi Perez took her measure at the Cuban Championships in March; on a given day…Germany’s Nadine Muller was fourth in London and won silver in Daegu; she sits fourth on the yearly list, ready to pounce.

The mystery women of the year is China’s 20 year old Siyu Gu (Chn) who nailed a 222’ 8” throw in Weisbaden in May. But she hasn’t come closer than almost 5 ½ meters since! Was that her Bob Beamon moment?

  1. Sandra Perkovic, Cro
  2. Yarelys Barrios, Cuba
  3. Nadine Muller, Ger

World and Olympic gold medalist Tatyana Lysenko won the Russian Championships at the end of July in a world-leading mark of 256’ 4”. She’s ready. She’s followed on the world lists by teammates Oksana Kondrateyeva in 2nd and Anna Bulgakova in 5th – a Russian powerhouse to be sure. Kondrateyeva has a huge PR this year but has competed only in Russia. Germany’s Betty Heidler has won major meet medals four times in a row, including gold in 2007, and she is undefeated coming into Worlds. Poland’s London silver medalist Anita Wlordarcryk has finished first or second in every meet this year. A scintillating competition is on tap; Russia could well bring home multiple medals. It’s hammer time!

  1. Betty Heidler, Ger
  2. Tatyana Lysenko, Rus
  3. Anita Wlordarcryk, Pol

This year’s women’s javelin looks just like the women’s high jump: two big names at the top, with the field wide open behind them. Germany’s Christina Obergfoll trails Russia’s Maria Abakumova on the yearly list, but head-to-head, Obergfoll has won every contest, including four Diamond League meets, and she is 7-1 overall.

Two metres behind Obergfoll are Linda Stahl of Germany and China’s Huihui Lu. Stahl has been in majors finals three times and won bronze in London. She was fifth in her only Diamond League meet this season (why only one DL meet?) but won 6 others, including the German Championships to hand Obergfoll her only loss.Lu was fifth in London and is certainly one to watch.

Obergfoll has four Olympic and World medals - none of them gold. It’s her time.

  1. Christina Obergfoll, Ger
  2. Maria Abakumova, Rus
  3. Linda Stahl, Ger

There is much buzz about Canada’s Brianne Thiesen, rightly so with her big Gotzis win in May. The fact that she added a new last name, Eaton, should not confuse the issue. She has steadily improved to world class level over the last two years and is poised for a big PR in Moscow. And teammate Jessica Zelinka has one of the best PRs in the competition at 6599. US national champ Sharon Day leads with world lists with 6550 and Germany’s Julia Machtig won the Ratingen Meet to vault to 3rd on the world list, albeit 120 points behind 2nd. The Ukraine veteran Hanna Melnychenko is fourth on the world list, 3rd among those participating. With Olympic champ Jessica Ennis-Hill and defending World champ Tatyana Chernova out with injury, this is one of the wide open events that will make these championships so exciting.

  1. Sharon Day, US
  2. Julia Machtig, Ger
  3. Brianne Thiesen, Can

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