Wednesday 12 August, 2020

WORLD CHAMPS PREVIEW: Women's and men's 200m

Olympic champion Elaine Thompson.

Olympic champion Elaine Thompson.

The eagerly awaited 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, is only 24 hours away and the excitement has now reached fever pitch.

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

Below we feature the women's and men's 200m races.


Olympic champion Elaine Thompson arrives in Doha with ambitions to capture a world title that has eluded her since she landed squarely into the 200m world elite in 2015.

In what turned out to be an epic showdown at the World Championships in Beijing that year, the Jamaican pushed Dafne Schippers to the line clocking 21.66, finishing a scant 0.03 behind the Dutchwoman. Both have sat third and fifth on the world all-time list, still chasing those performances that have largely set the tone for the pair since.

Thompson has run under 22 seconds four times since, including a 21.78 run, her second fastest ever, that propelled her to the Olympic title in Rio. But lingering bouts with injury over the past two seasons have slowed her progress over the half-lap, a funk she seems to have broken from this year with a 22.00 performance at the Jamaican Championships, her fastest in nearly two years. She's been consistently faster over 100m in 2019, but with victories in three of her seven races – and runner-up finishes in three others – you can expect her to be a solid threat for gold in Doha.

With world leader Shaunae Miller-Uibo opting out of the 200m for Doha, Dina Asher-Smith looks to be her primary roadblock. The 23-year-old Briton clocked 21.89 to take the European title last year and, while dividing her attention between the 100m and 200m, appears to be approaching similar speed in the lead-in to the World Championships. The 23-year-old recorded season's bests at each of the IAAF Diamond League finals, clocking 22.08 in Zurich where she finished second and 10.88 in Brussels, where she lifted the Diamond trophy. 

With a 22.45 season's best, defending champion Dafne Schippers hasn't been nearly as fast as Thompson and Asher-Smith due in large part to a lingering back injury, but don't discount the two-time gold medallist. In the lead-in to her successful title defence in London, with one exception – a 22.10 win in Lausanne five weeks before – Schippers didn't produce exceptionally quick races. But she rose to the occasion in London where she raced to a convincing 22.05 triumph.

Another former champion to watch is Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who took the dash double in 2013. At 32, the Jamaican is back to near full blast, riding the momentum of one of her finest seasons to the Doha start line. She's clocked 10.73 in the 100m, just 0.03 shy of her career-best, and 22.22 over the half-lap to finish second behind Thompson at the national championships.

Nigerian veteran Blessing Okagbare could also be a threat. The 30-year-old, who took bronze in the event at the 2013 World Championships, has pieced together a decent season, headed by a notable 22.05 win at the Prefontaine Classic on 30 June.

The US, which have surprisingly only produced two 200m champions – Allyson Felix, who took the title four times, one of those – fields a trio of relative newcomers led by Angie Annelus. The 22-year-old successfully defended her NCAA title with a 22.16 run on June 8, then returned to action at the national championships where she finished third to earn her first national team appearance. She hasn't competed since, so her form is shrouded in mystery.

Similarly, Dezerea Bryant, who clocked a 22.47 season's best to take the US title, has raced just once since over the distance, a 22.84 run for a distant sixth at the IAAF Diamond League stop in Birmingham.

Brittany Brown, the US runner-up, clocked 22.61 to win at the Europe-USA match in Minsk on September 10, just 0.01 shy of her season's best.

Others to keep an eye on include Mujinga Kambundji, who lowered the Swiss record to 22.26 this year, and Marie-Josée Ta Lou, the silver medallist two years ago, who's clocked 22.36.

MEN'S 200M

Noah Lyles’s talent and exuberance has lit up athletics for a number of years. Although he only turned 22 in July, this young sprinter from Gainesville, Florida, has already won gold medals at the Youth Olympics, Pan American Junior Championships and World U20 Championships, as well as winning the Diamond trophy for 200m for the past three seasons.

Noah Lyles.

Now, at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019, he stands ready to earn what could be the first of many senior global titles.

Earlier in the season Lyles was still in two minds about whether to go for the 100m and 200m in Doha, but he made his decision ahead of the US Trials – where he contested the 200m only – and with his task simplified he won in 19.78 at Des Moines, 0.24 faster than the man who had taken world 100m silver two years earlier, Christian Coleman.

“It feels amazing, I ain’t gonna lie,” Lyles said after his trials win. “There’s a lot of things I wanted to happen this year, and this was one of the highest on the list.”

Next up: the IAAF Diamond League. Tick. Only this time he prefaced it by winning the 100m title the week before in Zurich in 9.98. His season's best of 9.86 in that event, set when winning in Shanghai, puts him second on this year’s world list to Coleman’s 9.81.

Next up: Doha, where he arrives as the fastest 200m runner this year, having run 19.50 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne, putting him fourth on the world all-time list behind Usain Bolt, world record-holder with 19.19, Jamaican teammate Yohan Blake, who has run 19.26, and USA's former world record-holder Michael Johnson, who ran 19.32 in winning the 1996 Olympic title in Atlanta.

For all his achievements, however, Lyles faces some serious opposition in Qatar. The man who inflicted a rare 200m defeat on him by winning at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome in 19.70, 21-year-old Michael Norman of the US, is concentrating on his main event of the 400m at the World Championships.

But present and correct will be Turkey’s defending champion Ramil Guliyev, who will be ready to seize on any mistakes Lyles might make having improved his personal best to 19.76 in Berlin last year.

Guliyev followed Lyles home at the IAAF Diamond League final in 19.86, just 0.01 ahead of Canada’s Olympic silver medallist Andre De Grasse, who, as he makes his full recovery from a hamstring injury, could once again return to a global championships podium.

And Lyles will have to contend with another 22-year-old talent who has succeeded De Grasse as NCAA champion over 200m: Nigeria’s Divine Oduduru, who won the collegiate 200m title in June this year in a championship record of 19.73, the third fastest recorded this year.

Oduduru finished last over 100m in Monaco when he made his IAAF Diamond League debut in July. But he has already proven himself as a championship 200m performer, having won silver at the 2014 IAAF World U20 Championships, the 2018 African Championships and this year’s African Games. One to be watched.

Others who could make a serious impact include Lyles’s US teammate Kenneth Bednarek, who has run 19.82 this year, Ecuador’s consistent performer Alex Quinonez, who has run 19.87, Miguel Francis of Britain, who has a 19.88 clocking, and China’s Xie Zhenye, who has also run 19.88.

And let’s not, of course, forget the man who has a best of 19.85 – Coleman.


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