We don’t write on this space at all, at least not yet anyway. However, we were short on time on the podcast this week so I did a quick preview of Thursday’s Diamond League Meet in Lausanne. I didn’t cover all the events; rather I focused on a couple of the interesting themes and storylines.
Several of the United States’ top performers from this past weekend’s USA Championships are making the trip across 9 time zones from Eugene, Oregon to Lausanne, Switzerland. Kellie Wells (W100H) posted the fastest time of the year on Sunday (12.50) and is now firmly cemented as the favorite in that event. She will be challenged Thursday by a strong field that includes 5 of the top 9 performers this year. Also short on rest are recent US champions Brittney Reese (WLJ) and Morgan Uceny (W1500), as well as runner-up Bershawn Jackson (M400H).
Reese is the clear favorite after her world-leading jump on Sunday (23-7 ¼) and will more than likely win, as long as she avoids the foul bug. On Sunday, she only had two legal jumps, which happened to the best two of the competition.
Uceny ran down front-running Christin Wurth-Thomas on Saturday to win in her fastest time of the year (4:03.91). She faces a tough field featuring Maryam Jamal, Anna Mischenko and defending 800m world champion Caster Semenya. Semenya’s best in the event is a relatively modest 4:08, but she should be capable of faster if her 800m training is progressing adequately.
Jackson looks to get his first Diamond League victory of 2011 in the 400m hurdles, but faces stiff competition from Javier Culson and Kerron Clement. Culson beat Jackson in a wet and windy race in New York earlier in the season. Clement wasn’t required to race in Eugene and has turned in underwhelming performances thus far in the Diamond League, but with 2 months until Daegu it is much too early to cast him off.
Another intriguing plot line to follow is how those that didn’t qualify for their national teams will respond. Lolo Jones (W100) failed to make the finals in Eugene and has struggled all year with injuries and inconsistent performances. In 2009, she missed making the US team and eventually ended up posting her second fastest time ever that summer. With the pressure alleviated, at least for the time being, will Jones be able to string together some solid performances that will set her up well for 2012?
The men’s 100 will also feature athletes looking to recover from the disappointment of missing their national teams. Jamaican’s Nesta Carter and Michael Frater were the victims of an incredibly deep pool of Jamaican men this year that has left them on the outside. Although they may be called to Daegu to serve some relay duty, they definitely have to be upset that their sub-10 second season bests can’t even get them through trials. On Thursday, they both get their first shot at redemption when they match-up with their countryman, Asafa Powell.
Powell’s opportunity to seize control of the 100 has never been greater. Tyson Gay went down with an injury on Friday and Usain Bolt has looked solid, but not spectacular. Powell can go a long way toward gaining the psychological edge that he needs by getting a victory over Carter, Frater and France’s Christophe Lemaitre, on Thursday. Then again, those that know Powell’s history know that nothing is really proven until he does it in a championship final.
In the women’s 400, Sanya Richards-Ross has yet to come within 2 seconds of her personal best this year, and has not won a Diamond League meet. She will face Botswana’s Amantle Montsho, who has beaten Richards-Ross twice this year already. Montsho has run under 51 seconds four times this season and has only finished behind Allyson Felix. Richards-Ross’ hope of a 200/400 double evaporated on Sunday when she didn’t make the US team for 200, so perhaps her singular focus will elicit better performances in the 400.
It is somewhat silly to place 800m world record holder David Rudisha in this category, especially after he turned in a world-leading 1:43.46 in his first race back from injury last weekend in France. However, the competition will be much tougher on Thursday and 1:43 is a long way from his breath taking 1:41 performances of 2010. He will be accompanied in Lausanne by his trusty sidekick, and pacemaker, Sammy Tangui, so the indication is that the race will be fast. This would appear to be the “field’s” best chance against Rudisha this season. If he can get a dominating win after a 3-month absence from injury, there is not much hope of catching him in 2011.