Let’s dive right into part two of my London Olympic 2012 track preview.
This go round were looking at the 400 meters, 400 meter hurdles, 1500 and the sprint relays.
400 meters Men
Where have all the great Jamaican quarter-milers gone? It has been a very long time (by my account, Bert Cameron in the 1980’s)
since Jamaica has had a 400 meter world beater. Unfortunately I don’t see that changing this year.
Lashawn Merritt of the USA is the favorite going into the Olympics. He has the fastest time in the world this year and has been running consistently well all season. Tony McQuay of the USA, the impressive youngster Luquelin Santos of the Dominican Republic and Kirani James of Grenada are also medal contenders. James won the World Championships last year in a great finish beating Merritt at the line.
If anyone can defeat Lashawn Merritt, James is the guy. Barring injury however, I don’t see it happening; Merritt should get the gold medal, James silver and McQuay bronze.
400 meter Women
This race is sure to be interesting for several reasons. Jamaican born American star Sanya Richards-Ross is the presumptive favorite. She has been simultaneously the best and the must uneven 400 runner for the last six years. She has never won an individual 400 meter Olympic gold, but was on both the 2004 and 2008 4 x 400 relay teams. She has finished first overall in the Golden League circuit three times, and won the World Indoor and Outdoor 400 meter titles.
Richards-Ross will be hard pressed by a pair of Russians, Antonina Krivoshapka and Yulia Gushchina as well as Amantle Montsho of Botswana who is the defending World champion from 2011.
Richards-Ross is a great runner, but seemed to have worn down in the 2008 Olympics and the 2011 Worlds. She will have a battle on her hands with the two Russians, Montsho and Jamaica’s Novolene Williams-Mills.
Sanya is overdue for an Olympic title, and I think she gets it in London.
400 Meter Hurdles Women
This is a wide open race with several legitimate contenders. Lashinda Demus of the USA, Kaliese Spencer and Melaine Walker of Jamaica, Perri Shakes-Drayton of the UK, Natalya Antyukh of Russia, Vania Stambolova of Bulgaria all can be considered serious contenders for the gold. Demus is a veteran and the World champion from last year. Melaine is the 2008 Olympic champion and Antyukh has the fastest time in the world this year.
If you want a long shot for this event, I would say T’erra Brown of the US could sneak onto the podium.
As a footnote, I believe that unlike the quarter-milers, Jamaica’s future in this event is very bright. Jenieve Russell, who just won the World Junior Championships for Jamaica in this event and Ristianana Tracy are on a trajectory of greatness and come 2016 they will be major factors. T’erra Brown and Queen Harrison should likewise be carrying the torch high for the US in the near future.
400 Meter Hurdles Men
Javier Culson of Puerto Rico is the prohibitive favorite. His all out, run from the front style seems to lack tactical substance, but no one has caught him yet. David Greene of Great Britain is his closest competition and if Culson wears down running the rounds of this grueling event Greene could win gold for the home team.
I think Culson is ripe for an upset here. Greene is my pick to win gold for the hometown folks.
1500 meters men
This event should probably be renamed ‘the Kenyan Invitational’ to reflect their dominance. Asbel Kiprop, Silas Kiplagat and Nixon Kiplimo Chepseba between them have the five fastest times of the year.
I think Kiplagat wins this, but one thing’s for sure: a Kenyan will be taking home the gold medal and he wont be alone on the podium.
Mariem Alaoui Selsouli of Morocco, Abeba Arigawe of Ethiopia and Asli Çakir Alptekin of Turkey are all contenders, but I think Arigawe and Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia will be battling for the gold.
Sprint relays – 4X100 men and women
In the men’s relay, this is a Jamaica versus USA duel. The US has a troubling recent history of failing to pass the baton all the way around, but if they do, they have enough great runners to make this a very tight race. Trinidad should also be in the mix for a medal.
Unless there is a miscue, It should finish Jamaica, USA, Trinidad in that order.
In the womens race, the USA teams have had the same issues in recent years that plague the men. They should also take it down to the line with Jamaica if they can pass the stick, but that has proven to be a big if.
Bahamas, Germany, Trinidad and Russia should also be competitive, but barring any mishaps, I think the USA wins this in a close race over Jamaica.
The USA has a stranglehold on this event. The 1988, 1992, 1996, 2004 and 2008 teams all won gold medals. The 2000 USA team also won, but that medal was stripped because more than half the team (Jerome Young, Alvin & Calvin Harrison and Antonio Pettigrew) used performance enhancing drugs.
Jamaica has reached the podium on a few occasions during that 22 year stretch, and so has Great Britain. In 2012, No one is challenging the USA domination of this event. That teams wins in a walk, with Jamaica, Belgium, Trinidad, Bahamas and Great Britain fighting for silver and bronze.
If-and it’s a big if-the USA stumbles, I think Belgium, led by the Borlee brothers, will win gold.
This will be a lot more competitive than the men’s race, at least until they get to the anchor legs. The USA has a team that should win, but they will be challenged by a few strong contingents; Great Britain, Jamaica, France and Ukraine all have more than a punchers chance to win the gold.
I think it comes down to this: If the USA is trailing going into the anchor leg by more than a couple of meters, they will lose. If Sanya Richards-Ross running the anchor leg gets the baton in first place, it will be a laugher for the USA.
One of the most entertaining races will be the women’s 5000 meters. Meseret Defar of Ethiopia
and Vivian Cheruyiot of Kenya
have competed against each other several times this year in both the 3000 and the 5000 meters and each race has been a thrilling down to the wire affair.
Defar is the most decorated distance runner of the last decade, an amazing athlete who has won medals and set records at every major international meet, indoor and outdoor. She has lowered her own world record on three occasions between 2005 and 2008, and still owns the indoor world records in the 3000 and 5000 meters.
Cheruyiot is the younger of the two and over the last couple of years, the more consistent.
In what is most likely Defar’s last hurrah, she will want to go out with another gold medal, but Cheruyiot may want to start her reign at the top now rather than later
This is too close to call, but it should be great to watch.
Let the Games begin!
With a month to go before the 2012 London Olympics, all eyes, bets and conversation will be centered on the many track events that will be hotly contested and as of right now, wide open.
At every Olympics, track and field reigns and the sprints are the crown jewel.
This year, the competition for events ranging from the 100 to the 10,000 meters will be hotly contested. Conventional wisdom has been turned on its head, with many familiar names coming up short and newcomers shouldering their way to the fore.
That being said, I’m going to give you the first part of my official “Quick And Dirty Water Cooler Cheat Sheet For The London Olympics.”
General disclaimer time: This is my outlook and preview on the events, not an inducement to wager money or services. But if you do wager and my selections are successful-which I fully expect them to be-I anticipate a small stipend as a token of gratitude.
So without further ado, here we go:
Part one, the 100, 200 110/100 hurdles and 800.
100 meters, Men
The biggest name in track, Usain Bolt, has not looked sharp all season; some cynics have chalked it up to his enjoying his ‘global icon’ status. Others attribute it to other runners studying and stepping up to challenge Bolt, shrinking the gap he created in the historic 2008 Olympics.
Yohan Blake has the pedigree to be the best sprinter in the world. He has been the ‘next big thing’ since his high school days at St. Jago and his desire is unquestioned.
The only real contenders for this title are as follows:
Usain Bolt-Defending champ and as of right now, quite possibly the most motivated runner in the world.
Yohan Blake-Peaking at the right time and definitely the one to beat.
Justin Gatlin-He beat Asafa early in the year and hasn’t stopped chirping since. He’s running for bronze but if anyone slips up Gatlin could surprise.
Asafa Powell-Stop me if you’ve heard this before: “Asafa is running better than he ever has, but…” Powell has the talent to win but not the intestinal fortitude. He’s a medal contender but not really a challenger for the gold.
Tyson Gay-Broke down a year ago trying to catch up and keep up with Bolt. He’s running well but sparingly. Can he hold up through the grueling rounds to really challenge in London? I don’t see him getting on the podium.
Prediction: Blake first, Bolt second, Gatlin third.
100 meters women
This is a three woman race. Set aside the US Olympic Trials Felix/Tarmoh mess for a second, as neither woman should factor in this race in London. This event will come down to Carmelita Jeter of the US, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce.
Not every athlete can succeed in a world championship setting like the Olympics. Some runners, on any given day running one race, can be worl
d beaters. In the Olympics you have to bring it, bring it and bring it again, often in the same day, consecutive days or several days in a short period. Many runners have been Diamond/Golden League superstars and wither by the time they get to the Olympic finals.
Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce is not one of those. She shows up best when it counts the most, and if she gets a lead on the field the race is usually over.
Alyson Felix, Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast, Kelly Ann Baptiste of Trinidad and Kerron Stewart of Jamaica all have the closing speed to crash that party, but I think this will end up as follows:
Fraser-Pryce first, Jeter second, VCB third.
200 meters men
This will have mostly the same cast of characters as the 100, except for Gay and Gatlin. The main challenge to Bolt and Blake will be American Wallace Spearmon, but he’s running for bronze. There could be a Jamaican sweep, but like Gay in the 100 meters, I am not sure how Warren Weir of Jamaica in his first major international championships will hold up through the heats, semis and final.
Bolt first, Blake second and Spearmon third.
200 meters women
This is one of the most competitive races in the entire slate of events. The top five female sprinters of the last decade will be in this one; Sanya Richards-Ross, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Alyson Felix, Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce, Carmelita Jeter.
Every single one of these women has at least one Olympic or World Championship gold medal on their resume. They are the cream of the crop in women’s sprinting and every one of them has a legitimate shot to win the gold. I think this will be best race of the entire Olympics.
VCB has had a very uneven season so far, but like Shelly Ann, she tends to raise her effort when it’s all on the line.
I think Veronica Campbell-Brown defends her 2008 Olympic gold medal, Alyson Felix second and Jeter third.
110 Hurdles, Men
This is another highly competitive race with a distinguished field. The biggest surprise going in is that David Oliver, the World Champion from 2008, did not make the US team. Personally, I could not see him getting on the podium with this field anyway, but rest assured, this race will be cracking.
This time around, Liu will leave no doubt. I think Liu wins this going away, with Robles, Merritt, Parchment and Richardson vying for second and third. Don’t be surprised if Robles’ world record of 12.87 falls in this race.
100 Hurdles, Women
As competitive as the men’s race will be, this will be just as anti-climatic. Sally Pearson of Australia was the silver medalist in 2008, the race notorious for Lolo Jones’ stumble on the last hurdle.
Pearson has dominated the event since Beijing, putting yards of daylight between her and everyone else. She has 3 of the 5 fastest times of the year going into this Olympics and has been more dominant than Jones was going into 2008. If healthy, she should win easily. Brigitte Foster-Hylton of Jamaica, Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells of the US, Lolo Jones and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Canada are running for second and third.
Pearson first, Harper second, Foster-Hylton third and it’s not even close.
800 meters, Men
David Rudisha is the name to know in this event. He has the three fastest times this year and is a full 2 seconds faster than everyone else. He has talked about taking the world record into the 1:30’s and he is quite capable of it. Rudisha owns the world record of 1:41.01 and this is another record that could fall in London.
Rudisha first, Abubaker Kaki of Sudan second and Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia third.
800 meters, Women
This is going to be another interesting and highly competitive race. Pamela Jelimo is the favorite here. She is coming into this Olympics as the defending champion, and she has been consistently under 2:00.00 in all of her 2012 races.
Kenia Sinclair is the wild card. Quite possibly Jamaica’s best ever distance runner, Sinclair was in position for a medal in Beijing and faded down the stretch to 6th place. She has run sparingly this season, but won the Jamaica Trials and could be a serious medal contender next month.
Caster Semenya of South Africa, Fantu Magiso of Ethiopia and Irina Maracheva of Russia are all in the mix for a medal but Jelimo is the class of the field and should get the gold medal.
Jelimo first, Semenya second and Sinclair third.
Next week i’ll give you part two, and yes, there will be more surprises!