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!