Friday, August 21, 2015

Beijing Buzz - Day 1, Morning

The morning session of the first day of the 15th IAAF World Championships has unusual bookends: the longest race and the shortest.

First up is the men’s marathon at 07:35, and the session concludes with heats of the much anticipated men’s 100m at 12:40.

In between, we have the first two events of the women’s heptathlon, as Canada’s Brianne Thiesen-Eaton attempts to join husband Ashton as multi-event royalty. Evan Jager’s quest to end Kenyan dominance of the 3,000m steeplechase gets underway, and the first round of the women’s 1500m – one of the most electrifying events of the year – begins. 

Just think: new world record holder Genzebe Dibaba, Jenny Simpson, Sifan Hassan, and Shannon Rowbury - and you haven’t even had your second cuppa jo yet!

The Krisztian Pars - Pawel Fadjek rivalry renews in the hammer, and the first round of the men’s 800m gets underway, with much speculation that world record holder David Rudisha may be in much better shape than he claims. One of China’s brightest hopes for a medal comes in the women’s shot put as Lijiao Gong tries to upset favorite Christina Schwanitz. Notable is the absence of Valerie Adams, whose 56 meet win streak was broken earlier this year; she just underwent surgery - again - in her native New Zealand. I hope this is not the end of her magnificent career.

The good vs evil storyline of Usain Bolt vs American drug cheat Justin Gatlin starts to play out in the opening round of the men’s 100m. No false starts, please.

The men’s marathon field is loaded. This is news;  not every outstanding marathoner chooses to run Worlds since the six World Marathon Majors are so much more lucrative. As noted here yesterday (scroll down, below), Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto – the former and current world record holders in the event – are among the favorites for medals.

Kipsang has won four marathon majors (London twice, Berlin, New York), and Kimetto has never finished worse than third in these events. Kipsang holds the edge as a tactician, though I’m afraid he’s remembered for going out too fast in the London Olympic race, where he nonetheless won bronze. Kipsang has run in the 2:03-2:04 range every year since 2010. He won New York last fall with a confident, definitive move in Central Park.

Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, this year’s London winner, is absent from this field; I had him as a medal pick for sure. Once again Kenya's hyper-political selection system costs them a legitimate chance at a medal. It will be interesting to see what role Kenya’s Mark Korir plays in helping teammates Kipsang and Kimetto; he could play a key pacing and tactical role.

Name champ Lelisa Desisa (Eth) is remarkably consistent, and his Boston win this year was impressive. Nonetheless, he has thrived most in ‘time trial’ races.

Olympic (2012) and World (2013) champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda is two times king. A huge upset in the first race, an unexpected confirmation in the second. He’s a brilliant, patient game day racer, no matter the pace. It’s time to give him his due and pick him to win. It pains me to pick Kipsang for second as gold here would be the perfect end to a memorable career… lots of pressure on him as he knows that the whole running world is watching to see just how patient he’ll be.

For third? Kimetto would be a logical pick, but I was particularly impressed with Ethiopia’s Haile Berhanu in his win under hot conditions in Dubai this past January. He’s 20 and has won all four of the marathons he’s ever run. His is an atypical progression (4 marathons at 20?!), as he’s skipped basic training in the 5k and 10k. I’m going with the newbie for 3rd.

     A note about event coverage and predictions. My goal here is to provide a narrative of the championships from beginning to end. My prediction tome (usually about 24 pages) is something I prepare for the Olympics every four years. In that, I make predictions for all 47 events before the first event begins. Here, I’ll be observing the development of each event throughout the qualifying rounds and semis, and will offer observations about who’s hot and who’s not, and whether or not the favorites are likely to live up to expectations in the finals. I’ve written up the marathon here as it’s a finals-only event. I'll be covering the men's and women's hammer, men's and women's discus, and men's javelin for Track and Field News. Any writing I do about throwing events will also be posted on the Throwholics website. 

A note about web access and blocking. The Chinese government blocks Google (this website is Google-based) and social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The blocking has been particularly challenging the last two days, in spite of my use of a VPN (virtual private network). All of these sites work in the stadium, but not in my hotel room near the stadium. That’s where I’m writing right now, and I have no idea if I’ll have this posted before the marathon begins or not. It took at least two extra hours to get yesterday’s piece on Kipsang and Kimetto posted.

Meanwhile, the air quality is the best it's been in 10 days  - how fortuitous is that?! It's 70F with 73% humidity at 6:33am with the marathon set to begin in 62 minutes.

Let the games begin!

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to keeping up. Always a fun read, Mark.

    Try not to work too hard!