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!