The Non-Track Fan’s Guide to the Olympics

The Non-Track Fan’s Guide is back with the sole purpose of getting the most casual of fans up to speed so they can enjoy the ten days of track and field from London.  With each event we included names to know, chance of an American medal, possibility of a world record (thanks swimming), why you should watch and some smart things you can say.  All times listed are PST for event finals.

Men’s 100: Sunday, August 5th 1:50 p.m.

Names to know: Usain Bolt (Jamaica), Yohan Blake (Jamaica), Asafa Powell (Jamaica), Tyson Gay (US), Justin Gatlin (US)

Chance of American medal:  65%

World record?:  Would be cool, but not this time

Why you should watch:  Bolt, Blake, Powell and Gay are the four fastest men in history and all have at least a slight chance to win.  Blake is a fashionable pick after upsetting Bolt twice at the Jamaican trials.

Some smart things to say:

Before: If all four of the aforementioned fastest men in history make the final, then: “The four fastest men in history are all in this final.”

If three of the four make the final, then: “Three of four fastest men in history are in this final.”

If two of the four make the final, then: “Two of the four fastest men in history are in this final.”

If one, or zero, makes the final, then immediately find out the whereabouts of any close friends that like track and field.

During: “That was a quick gun.”  It will assuredly be a quick gun to prevent another Bolt false start fiasco.

After:  If Bolt loses: “All that partying caught up to him/That false start in Daegu really affected him.”

If Bolt wins: “Bolt is now the first man to cross the line first* in two Olympic 100 meter races.”  *Important distinction about crossing the line first versus winning.  Carl Lewis won in 1984 and 1988, but finished behind Ben Johnson in 1988.

Women’s 100: Saturday, August 4th 1:55 p.m.

Names to know: Carmelita Jeter (US), Allyson Felix (US), Tianna Madison (US), Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica), Veronica Campbell-Brown (Jamaica)

Chance of American medal:  90%

World record?:  No

Why you should watch:  If this season is any indication, this race could boil down to a showdown between Jeter and Fraser-Pryce.  Campbell-Brown is a veteran with gold medals and Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare is on a hot streak.  Also, this will be a good chance to see Felix’s form before she runs her better event, the 200, later in the week.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “There is no run off in the Olympics.  They will just give an extra medal if there is a tie.”

During:  “FRASER-PRYCE!”  You are covered here regardless of what she does because she will either have a great start like she did in Beijing or she will, literally, almost fall on her face.

After:  “Patience….. have we learned nothing from Eugene?  Those results on the board are unofficial.”

Men’s 200: Thursday, August, 9th 12:55 p.m.

Names to know: Usain Bolt (Jamaica), Yohan Blake (Jamaica), Wallace Spearmon (US), Christophe Lemaitre (France), Churandy Martina (Netherlands)

Chance of American medal: 50%

World record?:  Probably not

Why you should watch:  Depending on the result on the 100, this race could go a long way toward determining the “legacy” of Bolt.  Blake’s personal best in this event is actually closer to Bolt’s than it is in the 100.  Spearmon lost his medal in 2008 when he was disqualified for stepping out of his lane.  Legacy and redemption implications in the same event?  Get ready for a killer Costas intro!

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “Did you know that Blake is the first world-class runner to run the second 100 of a race faster than the first 100?”

During:  “Has Blake learned how to run a turn?”

After:  Depending on the results of the 100:  “Redemption (if he wins the 200 after losing the 100) /disaster (if he loses them both) /greatness (if he wins them both) for Bolt!”

Women’s 200: Wednesday, August 8th 1:00 p.m.

Names to know: Allyson Felix (US), Carmelita Jeter (US), Sanya Richards-Ross (US), Veronica Campbell-Brown (Jamaica), Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica)

Chance of American medal:  99%

World record?:  No

Why you should watch:  Assuming she doesn’t pull a huge upset in the 100, Felix will be seeking her first individual gold medal in the 200.  She was second in 2004 and 2008 to Campbell-Brown.  Felix will be the favorite this time, but we have been here before.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “Nobody is catching Felix if she has a lead off the curve.”

During:  “Someone needs to be in front of Felix after this first 100 or it’s over.”

After:  If Felix wins(in a dramatic voice), “After 8 years and 3 Olympics, finally…..individual gold for Allyson Felix.”

If Felix loses, “She should have run the 400.”

Men’s 400:  Monday, August 6th 1:30 p.m.

Names to know: Lashawn Merritt (US), Tony McQuay (US), Bryshon Nellum (US), Kirani James (Grenada), Luguelin Santos (Dominican Republic)

Chance of American medal:  90%

World record?:  Michael Johnson would be insulted you even asked

Why you should watch:  A race that looked to be heads-up dual between Merritt and James is now wide open.  Merritt was hurt and did not finish in his final tune-up race and James has been beatable.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  Oscar Pistorius probably won’t make the final but if he does, the conversation in your house will probably go something like this.

Person 1: He shouldn’t be running, those springy things give him an advantage.

Person 2: Would you like to trade places with him?

To avoid this, and other tiresome arguments, you can tell tales of Nellum’s comeback or Merritt’s doping ban.

During:  “McQuay got away well.”

After:  “Pretty slow winning time for an Olympic final.”

Women’s 400: Sunday, August 5th 1:10 p.m.

Names to know: Sanya Richards-Ross (US), Amantle Montsho (Botswana), Novelene Williams-Mills (Jamaica), Antonina Krivoshapka (Russia), Christine Ohuruogu (Great Britain)

Chance of American medal:  90%

World record?:  Have you looked at the women’s sprint records?

Why you should watch:  At least five countries will have a finalist and all of them have a chance to medal.  Richards-Ross has been all over your television screen the last few months and, like Felix, will be aiming for her first individual gold.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “I see five women that could win this.”

During:  During the last 100- “Can she get……her……….not……quite.”

After:  “Felix should have been in this race.”

Men’s 800: Thursday, August 9th 12:00 p.m.

Names to know: David Rudisha (Kenya), Mohammed Aman (Ethiopia), Nijel Amos (Botswana), Adam Kszczot (Poland), Nick Symmonds (US), Abubaker Kaki (Sudan)

Chance of American medal:  45%

Chance of a world record:  Maybe, depends on how ambitious Rudisha gets

Why you should watch:  Rudisha, Rudisha, Rudisha.  He holds the world-record and for 1:42 just marvel at his excellence.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  During the opening ceremonies, the broadcasters mentioned that Rudisha would be the first member of the Masai ethnic group to win gold.  While impressive, it might be more relatable to your friends at home to mention that he would also be the first person to win gold while wearing a Garmin.

During:  “This is not fair.”

After:  “Who got second?  I wasn’t even paying attention because they were barely in the same shot.”

Women’s 800:  Saturday, August 11th 12:00 p.m.

Names to know: Pamela Jelimo (Kenya), Fantu Magiso (Ethiopia), Alysia Montano (US), Caster Semenya (South Africa), Mariya Savinova (Russia)

Chance of American medal:  40%

World record?:  No

Why you should watch:  Races that involving Rudisha excluded, the 800 is the most exciting event in track and field. A diverse group of countries are always represented and in two thrilling minutes and it blends speed, endurance, contact and tactics.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “Can Montano win by leading from the gun?”

During:  “_______(whoever is in fourth after the first lap) is lurking.”

After:  “And that is why you don’t want to take the lead until the last 100.”

Men’s 1500: Tuesday, August 7th 1:15 p.m.

Names to know: Asbel Kiprop (Kenya), Silas Kiplagat (Kenya), Nixon Chepseba (Kenya), Nick Willis (New Zealand), Amine Laalou (Morocco), Matt Centrowitz (US)

Chance of American medal:  25%

World record?:  No

Why you should watch:  The trio on Kenyans could sweep this event, but Centrowitz did win a surprise bronze medal at the world championships last year.  Can he do it again?  Probably not, but in the 1500 nothing is for certain.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “Asbel Kiprop, he can beat you with a kick, he can beat you by running from the front, you have to pick your poison.”

During:  “It’s really tactical now.”  Disclaimer: It is always tactical in the 1500 (slow beginning, fast finish)

After:  “Pretty predictable result for an event that is usually unpredictable.”

Women’s 1500:  Friday, August 10th 12:55 p.m.

Names to know: Abebe Aregawi (Ethiopia), Genzebe Dibaba (Ethiopia), Asil Cakir (Turkey), Jenny Simpson (US), Morgan Uceny (US), Hellen Obiri (Kenya)

Chance of American medal:  40%

World record?:  No

Why you should watch:  There have been some really cracking (British accent) times this year.  So cracking that the woman with the fastest time was busted for doping.  The US should get all three of their runners to the final.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “I’ve really like how _______(pick someone) has run the preliminary rounds.”

During:  “If Uceny stays on her feet, maybe she can grab bronze.”

After:  “Hard to believe that just last year, the US had two gold medal threats.”

Men’s 3000 Steeplechase: Sunday, August 5th 1:25 p.m.

Names to know: Ezekiel Kemboi (Kenya), Brimin Kipruto (Kenya), Abel Mutai (Kenya), Evan Jager (US), Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad (France)

Chance of American medal:  20%

World record?:  Small chance

Why you should watch:  Sure Kenya is poised for another sweep, but there is also an upstart American with irrepressible hair and an unlikeable French runner who has an affinity for mascot abuse.  What more could America want?

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “Could an American really break the Kenyan stranglehold in this event?”

During:   “It is pronounced J-Gurr, with a hard J.”

After:  “Their hurdling isn’t pretty, but man are the Kenyans efficient.”

Women’s 3000 Steeplechase: Monday, August 6th 1:05 p.m.

Names to know: Milcah Chemos (Kenya), Yuliya Zaripova (Russia), Sofia Assefa (Ethiopia), Hiwot Ayalew (Ethiopia), Emma Coburn (US)

Chance of American medal:  5%

World record?:  Small chance

Why you should watch:  For some reason, they did not have women’s steeplechase in the Olympics prior to 2008.  Will Russia build on  their one gold medal-winning streak?  Can Kenya rebound from only claiming silver in 2008?  These questions will be answered.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “Did you know that this only the second Olympics with the women’s steeplechase?”

During:  “Looks like this is coming down to a good old-fashioned Russian-Kenyan-Ethiopian battle.”

After:  “Milcah, why can’t you be more clutch?”

Men’s 5000: Saturday, August 11th 11:30 a.m.

Names to know: Mo Farah (Great Britain), Galen Rupp (US), Bernard Lagat (US), Lopez Lomong (US), Isiah Koech (Kenya), Dejen Gebremeskel (Ethiopia), Hagos Gebrhiwet (Ethiopia)

Chance of American medal:  33%

World record?:  No

Why you should watch:  The Americans haven’t medalled in the 5,000 since 1964 and Great Britain’s medal drought extends back to 1972.  Ethiopia is sending three runners that have run faster than 12:50 this year, but the real story is the depth of the Americans.  And Farah.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “Yep, you are looking at that right.  A Brit and an American could both medal in a distance race.”

During:  “This is where team tactics might come into play.”

After:  Start your watch when they reach the last lap so you can tell everyone how fast the final 400 was.

Women’s 5000: Friday, August 10th 12:05 p.m.

Names to know: Vivian Cheruiyot (Kenya), Viola Kibiwot (Kenya), Meseret Defar (Ethiopia), Gelete Burka (Ethiopia), Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia)

Chance of American medal:  0%

World record:  Only if Ye Shiwen shows up

Why you should watch:  If Dibaba runs, she is listed as an alternate in the 5,000, it should shake out as another head-to-head battle with Cheruiyot.  We aren’t exaggerating with our 0% figure; American medal chances are very bleak.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “Dibaba and Cheruiyot, round 2!”

During:  With three laps to go: “They are really starting to wind it up now.”

After:  “Score another one for Ethiopia/Kenya.”

Men’s 10,000: Saturday, August 4th 1:15 p.m.

Names to know: Mo Farah (Great Britain), Galen Rupp (US), Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia), Wilson Kiprop (Kenya), Moses Masai (Kenya)

Chance of American medal:  15%

World record?:  World records don’t happen in distance races in the Olympics

Why you should watch:  Bekele will be racing for his third consecutive 10,000 gold, but will have to go through the Farah, who has been the best distance runner the last two years.  This is Rupp’s best chance for a medal.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “The hopes of 62 million rest on the slender shoulders of Mo Farah.”

During:  “They aren’t from the same country, but Farah and Rupp are training partners.  Maybe they are working together!?!”

After:  “After getting outkicked in Daegu, that has to feel good for Farah.”

Women’s 10,000: Friday, August 3rd 1:25 p.m.

Names to know: Vivian Cheruiyot (Kenya), Sally Kipyego (Kenya), Joyce Chepkirui (Kenya) Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia)

Chance of American medal:  1%

World record?:  No

Why you should watch:  Dibaba and Cheruiyot haven’t race over the last two years.  This is partly because of Dibaba’s injuries, but certainly also due to some gamesmanship.  Their performances this year have been building to an Olympic apex, but it is track so it probably will end up fizzling.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “Forget Lochte/Phelps, Cheruiyot and Dibaba is the best Olympic rivalry.”

During:  Around the 8 minute mark: “The Kenyans and Ethiopians have really separated.”

After: “6.2 miles and they still have energy to run a lap with the flag.  Amazing”

Men’s 110 Hurdles: Wednesday, August 8th 1:15 p.m.

Names to know: Liu Xiang (China), Dayron Robles (Cuba), Aries Merritt (US), Jason Richardson (US), Sergey Shubenkov (Russia)

Chance of American medal:  98%

World record?:  Possibly

Why you should watch:  Two Americans with gold medal chances, a mysterious Cuban, the pride of China and the world record is in play.   Also, there are obstacles.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “Aries Merritt switching to a seven-step approach really took him to another level.”

During:   “He is finding his rhythm.”

After:  “An American medal!” – They have medaled in the 110 hurdles in every Olympics they have participated in, so you can say this before the event starts.

Women’s 100 Hurdles: Tuesday, August 7th 1:00 p.m.

Names to know: Sally Pearson (Australia), Dawn Harper (US), Kellie Wells (US), Lolo Jones (US), Tiffany Porter (Great Britain), Brigitte Foster-Hylton (Jamaica)

Chance of American medal:  98%

World record?:  Small chance

Why you should watch:  Other than Rudisha, nobody has dominated their event like Pearson has over the past two years.  The US should get two into the finals and one might be Lolo.  And once you’re in the finals…….

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “Is Pearson racing the clock, or her competition?”

During:  “She’s racing the clock now!!!!”

After:  “I know Lolo is supposed to be the comeback story, but Pearson went from silver in Beijing to absolutely unstoppable.”

Men’s 400 Hurdles: Monday, August 6th 12:45 p.m.

Names to know: Javier Culson (Puerto Rico), Dai Greene (Great Britain), Angelo Taylor (US), Kerron Clement (US), Michael Tinsley (US)

Chance of American medal:  90%

World record:  No

Why you should watch:  No US sweep like there was in 2008.  Greene will get the crowd excited and Culson’s headband game is strong.

Some smart things to say:

Before: “No, there is no penalty for hitting into the hurdles.”

During:  “…you can’t run under them either.”

After:  “What happened to the US?  Four years ago a sweep and now…..???”

Women’s 400 Hurdles: Wednesday, August 8th 12:45 p.m.

Names to know: Lashinda Demus (US), Perri Shakes-Drayton (Great Britain), Melaine Walker (Jamaica), Kaliese Spencer (Jamaica), Natalya Antyukh (Russia)

Chance of American medal:  90%

World record?:  Actually, maybe. Demus was only off by .13 last year

Why you should watch:  Did you know, the US has never won a gold medal in the 400 hurdles?  Demus might change that.  Because of this season’s results, this race has about seven co-favorites.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “Speed, endurance and technique…this may be the most difficult event in track and field.”

During:  “How do you tell who is winning?  Look at who is getting to their hurdles first.”

After:  If world record is broken: “With so many women’s sprint records out of reach, this one is special.”

Men’s 4 x 100 Relay: Saturday, August 11th 1:00 p.m.

Teams to know: Jamaica, US, France, Trinidad and Tobago, Germany

Chance of American medal:  80%

World record?: Likely

Why you should watch: If  you go in with the expectation that the something will cause the US to get disqualified, it really isn’t that painful.  Also, if Bolt, Blake and Powell are healthy, Jamaican probably takes the world record under 37 seconds.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “Interesting choice to have Bolt run the _______ leg.”

During:  “The second leg is technically the longest…”

After:  If US finishes: “At least the US got the stick around.”

If the US doesn’t finish:  “It would be funny if it, wasn’t so sad.”

Women’s 4 x 100 Relay: Friday, August 10th 12:40 p.m.

Teams to know: US, Jamaica, Germany, Nigeria, Ukraine, Trinidad and Tobago

Chance of American medal:  85%

World record?:  No

Why you should watch: If Jeneba Tarmoh is on the relay, and if she is passing the baton to Allyson Felix, there will be endless speculation about the manner in which she does it.  Jamaica should give the US a very good race.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “If Jeter gets the stick ahead, it is over.”

During:  “She is moving on the backstretch.”

After:  “_________ got bronze?  That’s a surprise.”

Men’s 4 x 400 Relay: Friday, August 10th 1:20 p.m.

Teams to know: US, Belgium, South Africa, Jamaica, Poland, Bahamas

Chance of American medal:  99%

World record?:  No

Why you should watch:  The dream scenario of Bolt, Rudisha, Dai Greene, Lashawn Merritt and Oscar Pistorius all on the track at the same time is far fetched, but would be phenomenal to watch.  Merritt saved the American team last year with a clutch anchor leg to win in Daegu.  With their depth lacking this year, he might need more of the same to get gold.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “They haven’t looked as good as they normally do, but I’m still picking the US.  They don’t lose this event.  EVER.”

During:  “________ beat him to the inside!”

After:  “I guess we’ll have to wait until 2016 to see Bolt on that anchor leg.”

Women’s 4 x 400 Relay: Saturday, August 11th 12:25 p.m.

Teams to know: US, Russia, Jamaica, Great Britain, Ukraine

Chance of American medal:  99%

World record?: Very small chance

Why you should watch:  Always great to end on a win.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “Felix and Richards-Ross have a lot of races in their legs.”

During:  “In a three-turn stagger, the second runner really does need to get out fast on the first curve.”

After:  “No strategy here, just plain speed for the US.”

Men’s Marathon: Sunday, August 12th 3:00 a.m.

Names to know: Wilson Kipsang (Kenya), Abel Kirui (Kenya), Emmanuel Mutai (Kenya), Ayele Abshero (Ethiopia), Ryan Hall (US), Meb Keflezighi (US)

Chance of American medal:  10%

World record?:  No

Why you should watch:  These may not be the best teams that Kenya and Ethiopia could have sent.  As a result Hall (Keflezighi reportedly is on the mend or else you could include him) is just a debilitating cramp or massive dehydration away from the podium.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “If it gets much hotter/windier/wetter, it could start to affect them.”

During:  When the cutaway to the runner from a tiny country running way behind is shown. “That is what the Olympics are all about.”

After:  “It is interesting to think how different this race would have been if Kenya selected Patrick Makau and Geoffrey Mutai.”

Women’s Marathon: Sunday, August 5th 3:00 a.m.

Names to know: Mary Keitany(Kenya), Edna Kiplagat (Kenya), Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia), Liliya Shobukhova (Russia), Shalane Flanagan (US), Kara Goucher (US)

Chance of American medal:  45%

World record?:  No

Why you should watch:  Keitany has a habit of going out fast in races and either turning in phenomenal performances or self-combusting.   This is only Flanagan’s third marathon and has beaten Keitany in the past.  Shobukhova plays the role of shadowy Russian very well.

Some smart things to say:

Before:  “US distance gets criticized an awful lot, but Flanagan could be looking at two consecutive Olympic medals.”

During:  If Keitany starts the race conservatively: “Looks like she learned from New York.”  If Keitany starts quickly: “Uh-oh, this could be trouble.”

After:  “I agree, they should be finishing in the stadium.”

Enjoy the track!

2 responses to “The Non-Track Fan’s Guide to the Olympics

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