Tag Archives: Usain Bolt

Hopes and thoughts for 2014

*At least a few (if not all) household names of track and field compete at the Commonwealth Games. The organisers cannot be pleased with the reluctance of Yohan Blake, Usain Bolt and Mo Farah to commit next July and one can’t help but feel the Commonwealth Games is living on borrowed time if it continues to fail to attract the world’s very best in the event’s marquee sport. Some of my formative memories of the sport are from the 2002 Commonwealth Games and an edition which matches Manchester for enthusiasm and attendance would act as a much needed shot in the arm for the Games.

*Thin entry-lists were the underlying theme of the European Championships two years ago but this won’t be the case in Zurich and many field events will be of world and Olympic standard. The men’s pole-vault, discus, women’s hammer and heptathlon will be among the highlights.

*The World Junior Champs might get a bit lost in the hubbub of the Commonwealth Games but the hallowed Hayward Field track in Eugene will no doubt host a superb edition. Top of the bill could be a clash between Mary Cain and Jessica Judd over 800m or 1500m (or why not both?!)

*Relays are sometimes thought of as a frivolous afterthought at major championships but they will take centre stage at the inaugural IAAF World Relay Championships in the Bahamas. The UK 4x100m records are within the grasp of both the men’s and women’s quartets and an appearance of full-strength British teams next March might act as a good warm-up and a chance to run out the rust before an assault on the records later this summer.

*April 13 has for a long time been penned in Mo Farah’s diary as this is the date when he steps up to the marathon. The double world and Olympic champion is accomplished at the shorter road distances but this doesn’t guarantee a successful transition. Alberto Salazar will have no doubt considered every possible ramification though, as he prepares his charge for his much-awaited debut.

*Tirunesh Dibaba has also suggested she will make her debut in London and it will be interesting to see how she fares against the archetypal marathon-specialists, most likely including Priscah Jeptoo. The reigning champion broke away from Dibaba at the Great North Run but this race did come at the end of a long track season for the Ethiopian. 

*Jessica Ennis-Hill, David Rudisha and Yohan Blake were sorely missed from their respective events in 2013. Let’s hope they will all return with aplomb in 2014.

*The hammer to be introduced into the Diamond League programme for 2015. The IAAF’s intransigence to include it is unjustifiable.

*Drug busts to be kept at a minimum. Obviously it’s great cheats are getting caught but suffice to say, the high-profile positive drug tests of Veronica Campbell-Brown, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay didn’t do much to boost the sport’s fledgling image. One can only hope the ever-increasing militancy of the IAAF to catch cheats will prove a deterrent.

*Without any global outdoor championships on the calendar, let’s hope we get plenty of bona fide rivalries on the Diamond League circuit. Who wouldn’t love to see more Aregawi-Dibaba, Rollins-Pearson, Merritt-James and Bolt-Blake contests over the course of the summer? 

*Fast times and the commercial circuit take just as much precedence this year for many athletes and after a dearth of world records on the track last year, might we see one or two during the course of the Diamond League circuit? Bohdan Bondarenko and Zuzana Hejnova are among the most likely candidates to revise the world records in their respective events. 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Olympic encore – London Anniversary Games preview (day one)

Twelve months after the Olympic Games, London will once again be at the epicentre of world athletics as a plethora of Olympic champions including Mo Farah, Usain Bolt and hopefully Jessica Ennis-Hill return to the setting of their gold medal triumphs. Drug scandals have dominated the back-pages but off-track controversies should be put to one side as capacity crowds are expected to rekindle the feel-good factor of the Olympic Games.

6.55pm – women’s pole-vault (DL)

Jenn Suhr returns to the scene of her Olympic triumph although the mantle of pre-competition favourite lies with Yarisley Silva from Cuba, who is the holder of the four best vaults outdoors this year including the world-lead of 4.90m. The silver medallist at the Olympics also has a 2-1 head-to-head record on Suhr this year including a win over her at the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix in Birmingham. Fabiana Murer from Brazil doesn’t have such good memories of this stadium as the world champion didn’t even get through qualifying last year but the 32-year-old is in good form with a 4.73m season’s best.

7pm – men’s discus (DL)

Piotr Malachowski’s form has waned since launching the seventh longest throw of all-time of 71.84m in June although the Pole did record his second best mark of the year of 68.53m in his penultimate competition to show he is coming back to form. Olympic champion Robert Harting, whose 35 competition win-streak was ended by Malachowski last month, is absent but the field still contains the two previous Olympic champions in Gerd Kanter and Virgilijus Alekna, who are both also ranked inside the all-time top-five. UK champion Brett Morse is ranked inside the world’s top-10 in 2013 with 66.84m and the world finalist will be looking for some scalps.

7.52pm – men’s 100m B

Moscow-bound Harry Aikines-Aryeetey leads the domestic cast although he could be called up to the ‘A’ race if someone pulls out. The runner-up at the UK Championships in a 10.08 PB is joined by third and fourth-placers Andrew Robertson and Mark Lewis-Francis, European under-23 champion Adam Gemili while 10.10 performer Joel Fearon will be hoping to make an impact after false-starting in the semi-finals at the UK Championships.

8.04pm – women’s 400m hurdles (DL)

This is shaping up to be the best race of the season in this event as the five fastest are set to race. Zuzana Hejnová from Czech Republic has dominated the commercial circuit with seven wins from seven races although the Olympic bronze medallist’s unblemished record might be put under some jeopardy as she faces Kori Carter for the first time. The newcomer won’t be going to the World Championships as she missed her trials semi-final with food poisoning but the 21-year-old won the much-coveted NCAA title in a world-leading 53.21 which is two-hundredths faster than Hejnová’s PB. Meanwhile, Perri Shakes-Drayton has been a perennial top-three fixture on the Diamond League circuit and the UK champion will be looking to give the Czech another close race.

8.09pm – men’s high jump (DL)

Bohdan Bondarenko is an unrecognisable athlete this year to the one who finished an anonymous eleventh at the European Championships and seventh in the Olympic final. The Ukrainian has won all but one competition this summer and his 2.41m clearance in Lausanne translated to the world’s best jump outdoors since 1994. The Olympic final which promised much last year was a disappointingly flat affair but this contest could be a classic as Bondarenko goes head-to-head with Mutaz Essa Barshim, who improved his Asian record to 2.40m in his last high-profile competition in Eugene. Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz and US champion Erik Kynard are also in the field.

8.15pm – women’s 3000m (DL)

Mercy Cherono comes fresh from winning the 5000m at the Kenyan Trials and she steps down to the distance where she’s twice won the world junior title. The American middle-distance fraternity will be keen to see how Jordan Hasay fares on her European debut while controversial Moscow omission Stephanie Twell will no doubt be hoping to prove the selectors wrong with a strong performance.

8.31pm – women’s triple jump (DL)

World University Games champion Yekaterina Koneva is expected to prosper with Diamond League leader Caterina Ibargüen from Colombia and world champion Olha Saladuha from Ukraine both absent.

8.36pm – women’s 1500m

Mary Cain was initially entered in the 800m but the US phenomenon could take a high-profile victory in her first race on the European circuit with Genzebe Dibaba, Abeba Aregawi and the leading Kenyans all absent.

8.46pm – men’s 200m (DL)

Warren Weir’s bronze medal last year came as something of a surprise but he’s proved that performance was no fluke with a mightily consistent season including victory at the Jamaican Championships in a 19.79 PB.

8.56pm – women’s 800m (DL)

In-form Brenda Martinez pushed her 1500m PB down to 4:00.94 in Monaco but she turns her attention back to the distance she’ll compete in at the World Championships. The runner-up at the US Championships will be confident of taking her first high-profile victory of the season with world-leader Francine Niyonsaba from Burundi a late scratch.

9.08pm – women’s 4x100m relay

This races provides an invaluable chance for nations to try out new combinations and to practice exchanges in a competitive environment before the World Championships. The much-chastised British sprint relay team have qualified for Moscow after missing out on an Olympic berth and a sharp showing will no doubt act as a confidence booster. The world-lead is held by a US team including Carmelita Jeter who produced a 41.75 clocking in Monaco.

9.21pm – men’s 400m (DL)

The gold and silver medallists from the Olympic Games reconvene a year later although the outcome shouldn’t be much different as Kirani James arrives with the two fastest times in the world to his name including a 43.96 world-lead which was only two-hundredths slower than his winning time at the Olympics. On the other hand, silver medallist Luguelin Santos, who started the season promisingly by running his fourth fastest time ever of 44.74 in April, hasn’t broke 45-second since. Moscow-bound Nigel Levine has already beaten leading Europeans Pavel Maslak and the Borlee brothers this year and he’ll be hoping to replicate this form on home-soil.

9.33pm – men’s 800m

American half-milers could take a clean sweep as the fastest in the field this year are US champion Duane Solomon (1:43.27), runner-up Nick Symmonds (1:43.70) and Brandon Johnson, who recently improved to 1:43.84 in Madrid.

9.48pm – men’s 100m

Sprinting is in desperate need of some good press in light of Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay’s positive drug tests so let’s hope Usain Bolt, who returns to the setting of his three gold medals from last summer, gets inspired to produce his best run of the season. The Jamaican, who has ‘only’ clocked 9.94 for the 100m this year, will be hoping to get out of the blocks better than he has done this year otherwise he could be vulnerable to his second defeat of 2013. James Dasaolu, who rocketed up the world-rankings and UK all-time lists with a 9.91 PB in the semi-finals at the UK Championships, won’t get many better chances to defeat the world record-holder and a straight final will help the cause of the oft-injured Brit, who was forced to sit out the final in Birmingham with cramp. Nesta Carter and a rejuvenated Kim Collins, who ran his first sub-10 clocking since 2003 in Lausanne, are also in the field.

As published in Athletics Weekly on July 25

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

A look back through the archives – five one-day moments to remember

Geb loses two WRs in one night

A third world 10,000m title and world records over 5000m and 10,000m in the build-up to the World Championships meant 1997 marked arguably Gebrselassie’s best season to date although the Kenyans, no doubt tired of trailing the great Ethiopian whenever they stepped foot on the track, launched a coup d’etat in the penultimate big meeting of the summer in Brussels that year.

Thirteen days prior to the penultimate ‘Golden 4’ meeting (as it was known then), Daniel Komen couldn’t offer any resistance to Gebrselassie’s penetrating sprint finish in Zurich and the Ethiopian, who only contested the 10,000m at the World Championships, decisively defeated the world 5000m champion on the last lap and improved his WR down to 12:41.86.

Gebrselassie was absent from Brussels though, and Komen stole the limelight by becoming the first man to break 12:40 for 5000m with 12:39.74. Salt was added to the wound about an hour later as Paul Tergat broke through the 26:30-barrier with a 26:27.85 world 10,000m record.

These world records didn’t last a year though as Gebrselassie wrestled them back from the Kenyans’ grasp in 1998 and they remained untouched until Kenenisa Bekele took the mantle of the world’s greatest distance runner from Gebrselassie in 2004.

Kipketer breaks Coe’s WR

The 1997 World Championships aren’t remembered as a particularly vintage edition but the post-champs Grand Prix circuit played host to a spree of record breaking performances, including Wilson Kipketer in the 800m. The most impressive aspect of the record was his speed on the first lap as he passed through the bell in about 48.5 – more than a second faster than when Seb Coe set the world record of 1:41.73 in 1981!

Kipketer, who equalled Coe’s world record earlier in the season, claimed it outright with a 1:41.24 performance in Zurich, which he then improved to 1:41.11 eleven days later in Cologne.

Ashford’s world 100m record

The US and Eastern Bloc boycotts of successive Olympics didn’t achieve much beyond watering down most events in Moscow and Los Angeles but thankfully, we weren’t completely deprived of the US vs. Eastern Europe clashes as most of the world’s top athletes descended on Zurich and Brussels for clashes largely viewed as the de facto Olympic finals. 

One of the best clashes was over 100m in Zurich which pitted together Evelyn Ashford and Marlies Gohr. The clash was all the more mouthwatering because not only was Gohr absent from Los Angeles, Ashford pulled up in the world final a year earlier and, of course, missed Moscow because of the US boycott.

Gohr bolted from the blocks but Ashford’s second half was the stronger and, as she was sometimes guilty of, Gohr lost her form when Ashford pulled even and the American came through to improve her world record down to 10.76 to Gohr’s 10.84.

Blake demonstrates 200m potential

Yohan Blake was never considered a slouch before his 19.26 performance in Brussels over 200m but the consensus was, if he was going to beat Usain Bolt, this was more likely to happen in the 100m. This assumption was altered after the world 100m champion moved to second on the world all-time rankings and within one-tenth of Bolt’s world record with an astonishing run at the Ivo Van Damme Memorial to which Bolt said, somewhat in jest, he would never give advice to Blake on how to run a race again!

Blake’s turn wasn’t particularly special and he came off the bend even with Walter Dix but the Jamaican blasted clear of the American in the straight.

Decker outduels Puica

The Decker-Budd narrative of the 3000m from the 1984 Olympic Games obscures the fact the race was a wholly anti-climactic affair although the leading protagonists from the LA final had a series of gripping (although largely forgotten) races in the 1985 season, including the mile in Zurich.

This was the first time Mary Decker and Maricica Puica had met since the Olympic final and the American came out on top ahead of a battling Puica with Zola Budd third. The first two were under the previous world record (held by Puica, incidentally) and the race added further speculation Decker would have won the Olympic final had she stayed on her feet.

Tagged , , , , , ,