Saturday 14 December, 2019

WORLD CHAMPS PREVIEW: Men's 110m and women's 100m hurdles

Omar McLeod wins the 110m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships London 2017.

Omar McLeod wins the 110m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships London 2017.

We are almost there. Well, it’s another three days to go before the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, and the excitement continues to build for the much-anticipated 10 days of action.

Loop Sports continues its event-by-event previews for the September 27 to October 6 championships.

MEN'S 110M HURDLES

The men’s 110m hurdles at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 promises to be an intriguingly open affair involving numerous stellar talents but no one obvious favourite after a season where injuries and circumstance have taken the edge off many leading performers.

So it might be the year of another US breakthrough in the event, given the dynamic talents of two competitors who have just turned professional after competing with honour in the collegiate system: Daniel Roberts and Grant Holloway.

But first, to recap the trials and tribulations of the men who have won the significant medals in this event in recent years.

Orlando Ortega

Olympic champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica will defend the title he won in London two years ago, but he has had a bumpy ride in the past couple of years. In 2018 he had to cut his season short because of injury and later in the year moved to a new coach. In 2019 he lost form in the middle of this season, suffering an unprecedented four successive defeats, before shifting camp once again and setting up with US coach Rana Reider in a temporary base in Germany.

Training alongside genial colleagues including USA's world and Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor, and Britain’s 2014 European 200m champion and world 4x100m gold medallist Adam Gemili, McLeod has got himself into a happier state of mind and won at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham last month.

He did not appear in the IAAF Diamond League final, but was a confirmed Doha entrant on September 22.

The winner of that IAAF Diamond League final was Spain’s Orlando Ortega, who took silver behind McLeod at the 2016 Olympics. This looks like his big chance to step up one place on the global podium.

Sergey Shubenkov, the authorised neutral athlete who won world gold in 2015 and took silver behind McLeod in 2017, has had an up-and-down season – becoming a father for the first time may or may not have had something to do with it.

After an awful race at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris last month, where he finished eighth and last in 13.88, he recovered his form to finish third at the IAAF Diamond League final in 13.33, as Jamaica’s Ronald Levy, who will also be in Doha, took second place in 13.31.

That Paris race saw France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, who beat Shubenkov to the European title by a fraction in Berlin last summer, finished fifth in a season’s best of 13.24 – a useful marker after a couple of months of enforced inactivity because of the insidious and weakening Epstein-Barr virus.

Paris also marked the IAAF Diamond League debut of the impressively fast – and laconic – Holloway, whose winning time of 12.98 at this year’s NCAA Championships on 7 June tops the season’s list.

Holloway finished sixth in Paris, but will have learned from the experience. The race was won by his teammate Roberts, second on the 2019 list with the time of 13.00 he registered in finishing second at the NCAA Championships, who subsequently beat Holloway at the US Trials.

Roberts, confident beforehand, walked the walk as he won in 13.08.

These two 21-year-olds have a big global future in the event that might be starting in Doha.

WOMEN'S 100M HURDLES

When Danielle Williams won the world 100m hurdles title four years ago, it was seen as one of the biggest surprise performances of the championships. Now, however, she heads to Doha as one of the favourites in her event.

Jamaica's Danielle Williams, left, beats American Kendra Harrison to win the women's 100m hurdles  Diamond League title in Brussels on Friday, September 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco).

A false start in the 100m hurdles final at the Jamaican Championships meant she faced the prospect of missing the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 altogether. But as the season gained momentum, so did Williams and over the past couple of months, she has produced the four fastest time of her career.

At the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London, she ran a PB of 12.41 in her heat and followed it with a national record of 12.32 to win the final, moving to seventh on the world all-time list. She notched up two more IAAF Diamond League victories, winning in Birmingham and at the final in Zurich, clocking 12.46 on both occasions.

More significantly, though, she defeated Kendra Harrison both times.

Harrison started the season in flying form. The world record-holder won 10 consecutive races, including heats, and beat Williams on two occasions, including at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco where Harrison recorded a season’s best of 12.43. Harrison gained further confidence by winning at the highly competitive US Championships, running 12.44 into a -1.2m/s headwind.

The 27-year-old had a shaky start to her international championships campaign, having been disqualified for a false start at the 2015 World Championships, placing eighth at the 2016 World Indoor Championships, missing selection for the 2016 Olympics and finishing fourth at the 2017 World Championships.

But her victory at the 2018 World Indoor Championships showed that she is more than capable of performing when it matters. And if anything, perhaps having her winning streak broken before Doha will help ease the pressure on Harrison heading into the World Championships.

The US team includes two other women with strong championship credentials.

Two-time world indoor champion Nia Ali returned to action earlier this year after taking the 2018 season off to give birth to her second child. After giving birth to her first child in 2015, Ali went on to win her second world indoor title in 2016 and followed it with Olympic silver later that year.

Her most recent maternity break clearly hasn’t slowed her down either and she has consistently featured among the top three or four finishers in almost all of her races this year. Her most impressive run of 2019 came at the competitive US Championships where she ran 12.55 – the third-fastest time of her career – into a -1.2m/s headwind.

“Having babies makes us stronger,” she tweeted after that race. “There’s nothing weak about having a baby, so what makes any one person think we won’t ‘make it through it’ and succeed?”

Brianna McNeal may have only won a couple of races this year, but the Olympic gold medallist and 2013 world champion clearly knows what it takes to reach a global championships podium.

Janeek Brown, who won the NCAA title in 12.40 to hold the Jamaican record for a matter of weeks before Williams broke it, heads to Doha as the second-fastest woman in the world. After a long collegiate season, though, her recent races haven’t quite matched the times she was running earlier in the season. Compatriot Megan Tapper equalled her PB of 12.63 in July and followed it with bronze at the Pan American Games.

Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan has had one of her best seasons to date, clocking a PB of 12.49 in July and following it with 12.51 to win at the recent ISTAF meeting in Berlin. Over the past 18 months the Nigerian has won gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, African Championships and African Games, so clearly thrives in a championship setting.

Other potential finalists include Pan American champion Andrea Vargas of Costa Rica, European champion Elvira Herman of Belarus, European indoor champion Nadine Visser of the Netherlands and Finnish record-holder Annimari Korte.

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