Saturday 14 December, 2019

LONDON 2017 PREVIEW: 100m, 200m and 110m hurdles

Usaain Bolt and Wayde van Niekerk.

Usaain Bolt and Wayde van Niekerk.

The 2017  IAAF World Championships in London starts in another two days and Loop News continues to preview the events in which Jamaica are expected to gain medals.

Well -respected American track and field publication, Track and Field News has predicted that Jamaica will win nine medals, including four gold.

The American publication said that Jamaican  will win four gold medals, three silver and two bronze.

Usain Bolt (Men's 100m & 4x100m relay)
Elaine Thompson (Women's 100m)
Omar McLeod (Men's 110m hurdles)

Fedrick Dacres (Men's discus throw)
Women's 4x100m relay)
Women's 4x400m relay)

Yohan Blake (Men's 200m)
Men's 4x400m relay


HEATS - AUG. 4  - 8:20 PM (2:20 PM JAMAICA TIME)
FINAL - AUG. 5 - 9:45 PM (3:45 PM JAMAICA TIME)


We have been here before so many times, it has become almost deja vu central: Usain Bolt heading a global championship with a question mark over his ability to produce his customary Midas touch.

This time we have reason to savour the uncertainty and anticipation all the more, because sadly we won’t be venturing this way ever again. So, here goes…

Bolt, who turns 31 on August 21, sits joint seventh on the 2017 world list with the 9.95 he clocked in winning at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco on July 21. That is the Jamaican’s only sub-10-second clocking from a season in which his form and fitness have been affected by the heartbreaking sudden death of his close friend Germaine Mason, the 2008 Olympic high jump silver medallist, and by the back problems that have afflicted him since his youth.

It was, however, a 9.95 performance with considerable room to spare. There was the customary sluggish start, yes, but then the pick up and drive took just enough out of the Bolt tank to secure victory.

Statistics might never be the story with Bolt but some of them can be quite revealing. There have been major questions marks about his form and fitness ahead of the past four global championships. Each time he has answered with a gold in the 100m, another in the 200m and a third in the 4x00m.

This time, in his final competition before he sprints off into the sunset, the fastest man in history (lest we forget, 9.58 for 100m, 19.19 for 200m at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin) only has the 100m and 4x100m relay to contest as he seeks to take his record gold medal tally to 13. He has become a seasoned campaigner at shaking off pre-championship rust, improving through the rounds and hitting his annual peak in finals.

In the 100m at the Olympic Games in Rio last year, Bolt improved his season’s best by 0.07 and took gold in 9.81. At the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in 2015 and Moscow in 2013 and the 2012 Olympics in London, he improved his year’s best by 0.08, 0.08 and 0.13 respectively. 

So Christian Coleman may hold an impressive world lead of 9.82, stretching back to the semi-finals of the NCAA Championships on June 7, but Bolt will be confident of getting himself down into the 9.8s and into razor-sharp racing form for when it matters most. 

The Jamaican phenomenon has won six of the seven global 100m finals he has contested. He has only been beaten by himself: when he false-started at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu and his training partner Yohan Blake proceeded to temporarily claim his title. 

In those six other finals, Bolt’s average winning margin has been 0.10 – a significant gap in global sprinting terms. Only once has a rival come seriously close to beating him. Justin Gatlin was edged out by a mere 0.01 at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing but in Rio last year Bolt had a 0.08 gap on the US sprinter, as he had at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow, when the former 100m world record-holder was again the silver medallist.

Like Bolt, Gatlin has a season’s best of 9.95, which the 34-year-old achieved in taking the US title ahead of Coleman (9.98) in Sacramento on June 23. Coleman has not contested a 100m since, so the current shape of the 21-year-old collegiate star is not entirely clear.

The same could be said of Blake. He won the Jamaican title on the same day (June 23) in 9.90, the second best time of the year, but a groin problem has kept him from racing since following up with success in the 200m two days later.

Among the other men capable of capitalising on a below-par Bolt, Canada’s Andre De Grasse, third behind Bolt and Gatlin in the Olympic final last year, has yet to record a valid sub-10-second clocking in 2017; his 9.69 in Stockholm and 9.96 in Eugene were achieved with wind assistance. 

South Africa’s Akani Simbine has eight legal sub-10-second performances to his name this year, and stands third on the world list with 9.92. Britain’s Chijindu Utah and Ivorian Ben Youssef Meite have both scraped under 10 with 9.98 clockings but, more pertinently, have shown a level of racing consistency that suggests they could feature in the hunt for medals in what is destined to be a momentous men’s 100m final.

HEATS - AUG. 5  - 11:45 AM (5:45 AM JAMAICA TIME)
FINAL - AUG. 6 - 9:50 PM (3:50 PM JAMAICA TIME)

In the world of sprinting, a lot can happen in the space of two years. But a glance back at the result of the 100m at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 highlights some names familiar to 2017 observers.

Dafne Schippers is there in the silver medal position, having run 10.81 for a Dutch record. So too is Tori Bowie, who claimed bronze in 10.86. While outside of the medals, there’s the Trinidad and Tobago pair Michelle-Lee Ahye and Kelly-Ann Baptiste, with the former breaking the 11-second barrier and the latter just outside.

And there’s a Jamaican world champion, 0.05 ahead of the rest.

It’s a scenario that could well transpire again in London, despite the fact that Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the Jamaican who took the gold, is absent as she prepares for the birth of her first child.

Instead, it’s Elaine Thompson, the Olympic champion over both short sprints in Rio last year, who is the favourite to take her first world title. The 25-year-old with a best of 10.70 from 2016, tops the world list with 10.71 set in Kingston in June and is unbeaten in finals over 100m this season, including four victories in IAAF Diamond League meetings.

Schippers, the champion over 200m two years ago, won in Rome in June and has run consistently within 11 seconds since opening her season in April and her rivalry with Thompson promises to be continued over the coming few days.

Bowie, too, will feel confident of returning to the podium following a silver medal in Rio and some fast times over the past few seasons, including 10.78 in Eugene in 2016.

Of the Trinidad and Tobago duo, it is Ahye who has run the quickest so far in 2017, her 10.82 set in winning the national championships in Port of Spain in June putting her second on the current world list.

Third on that list with 10.83 is Murielle Ahoure, the silver medallist in Moscow four years ago. The 29-year-old is enjoying a resurgence in form in 2017 having failed to make the final in Rio, suggesting that she could contend for a medal.

But compatriot Marie-Josee Ta Lou could perhaps be Ivory Coast’s best bet for a podium place. She finished just outside of the medals in the 100m and 200m at last year’s Olympic Games and has recorded times of 10.90, her second-best ever, for 100m and a national record of 22.16 for 200m.

In addition to Bowie, Deajah Stevens and Ariana Washington will represent the USA and will each be hoping to break 11 seconds for the first time. Nigeria’s 30-year-old Blessing Okagbare has made the 100m final in each of the past three World Championships and, following a third place in London last month, can expect to make a fourth.

HEATS - AUG. 7  - 6:30 PM (12:30 PM JAMAICA TIME)
FINAL - AUG. 10 - 9:52 PM (3:52 PM JAMAICA TIME)

One way or another, history will be made in the men’s 200m as the winning sequence established by Usain Bolt in 2009 – when he set his current world record of 19.19 in Berlin – comes to a close.

After four successive world golds at his favourite distance, the 30-year-old Jamaican, concentrating on the 100m and 4x100m in his last championship hurrah, has left the field open for a new talent to get the winning feeling over the longer sprint. But who will it be?

Bolt himself has hinted that he believes it will be the South African who is currently world and Olympic champion at 400m, 25-year-old Wayde van Niekerk, who will be seeking a 200m/400m double in London.

But also seeking that double will be Botswana’s in-form 30-year-old Isaac Makwala, whose clocking of 19.77, set on the same day as a sub-44-second 400m in Madrid on July 14, replaced Van Niekerk’s best of 19.84 at the top of this season’s lists.

And the 200m forms the common ground for another athlete seeking to double in London – Canada’s Andre de Grasse, who set a national record of 19.80 in taking Olympic silver last summer, and who is also after gold in the 100m, the event at which he claimed bronze in Rio.

De Grasse is eighth on this year’s world list thanks to the 20.01 he clocked in winning the IAAF Diamond League event in Rome, and underlined his form by winning at the Rabat IAAF Diamond League meeting on July 16  in 20.03.

Jamaica’s Yohan Blake, joint sixth on the 2017 list with a clocking of 19.97 and with the second fastest 200m of all time, 19.26, to his credit from the 2011 Brussels IAAF Diamond League meeting, remains a conundrum.

Now 27, he has suffered a seemingly endless sequence of injuries, and most recently had to pull out of last month’s IAAF Diamond League event in Rabat as a precaution because of a hamstring injury. The talent, clearly, is huge. But although Blake is entered, how fit will he be? Because a fit Blake could still change everything…

It’s a similar question with Olympic bronze medallist Christophe Lemaitre, also 27. The Frenchman has only managed 20.29 this season, when he finished second at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome on 8 June, and he had to pull out of the European Team Championships in Lille with injury – but he has a proven championship record once his body allows him to compete.

The main US challenge looks likely to come from the man who won the US Championships in a season’s best of 20.09, Ameer Webb, who has a personal best of 19.85. Second-placed Christian Coleman, the 21-year-old who has the third fastest 200m time of 2017, 19.85, to his credit, is selected for the 100m, and 20-year-old Noah Lyles, fourth in the lists with his 19.90 victory at the Shanghai IAAF Diamond League, was forced to withdraw from the US Championships.

Van Niekerk’s compatriot and training partner Akani Simbine, whose 19.95 at altitude in Pretoria on 4 March has established him at fifth on this year’s world list, will also like his chances of making an impact, as will Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago, whose personal best of 19.95 in May has him at joint sixth in this year’s list along Blake.

Meanwhile Britain’s Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, who heads the 2017 European list with 20.04, will be looking to go sub-20 as he mounts his challenge for the podium.

Also likely to be in the mix – Panama’s Alonso Edward, who has only managed 20.74 this season but who has a personal best of 19.81 and won last year’s Diamond Trophy.

HEATS - AUG. 6 -  1:15 PM (7:15 AM JAMAICA TIME)
FINAL - AUG. 7 - 9:30 PM (3:30 PM JAMAICA TIME)

This is shaping up to be a particularly fantastic championships for coach Edrick Floreal whose athletes are favoured to claim the 100m hurdles title courtesy of world record-holder Kendra Harrison as well as this title through Omar McLeod.

Not since Allen Johnson in 1997 has an Olympic 110m hurdles champion claimed the world title the following season but the Jamaican has backed up his breakthrough season brilliantly. He moved to fifth on the world all-time list with a 12.90 clocking at the Jamaican Championships in Kingston and not only is McLeod aiming for the world title, he is also chasing the world record.

"I am going after it. I didn't get it [at the Jamaican Championships], but I am going for it next time,” said McLeod after setting that world-leading mark in June.

The world record has stood to Aries Merritt since those halcyon days five years ago when he clocked 12.80 in Brussels, one month after claiming the Olympic title on this track. Since then, Merritt – who broke the 13-second barrier eight times in wind-legal conditions that season – has had to overcome some serious health problems but he has battled back to form to make his fifth successive World Championships team.

After finishing second to Aleec Harris at the US Championships, Merritt defeated some of his main rivals at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London last month, setting a season’s best of 13.09 in the process. The third member of the US team is the multi-talented Devon Allen, who is back in shape after sustaining an ACL knee injury during the collegiate football season last September.

Defending champion Sergey Shubenkov is improving with every race this season and he won’t give up his title easily. The 26-year-old pushed the Olympic champion right to the line in their most recent showdown in Szekesfehervar with McLeod edging the win in 12.96 followed by Shubenkov in 13.01, the second-fastest time of his career.

The new find of the event this year is the Stephen Francis-coached Ronald Levy, who has improved his lifetime best from 13.50 to 13.05 this season, while the Jamaican team also includes world silver medallist Hansle Parchment, who also took the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics.

European athletes won two medals at the Olympic Games last summer and they feature prominently on the world list. Behind Shubenkov, Garfield Darien leads the French challenge, but Olympic bronze medallist Dimitri Bascou and fourth-place finisher Pascal Martinot-Lagarde are both injured.

Spain’s Orlando Ortega took the Olympic silver medal behind McLeod last season and he will be aiming to claim his second major medal in as many seasons. His best mark this year is 13.15.

European indoor 60m hurdles champion Andy Pozzi has put together a largely uninterrupted season and has improved to 13.14.

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