Welcome to part 2 of my Olympic preview series with today’s post focusing on the middle distance events (I’ve included the steeplechase as middle distance although some might argue otherwise). I’ll be providing links to all my previous posts with my first post, focusing on the sprints, linked below.
I’m aiming to post every day this week so remember to check back to see if the latest post is up or if you follow me on twitter, you will see my announcements when they have been posted. On to today’s preview!
MEN’S 800 METRES
4 years ago David Rudisha put on one of the greatest performances in Olympic history when he won gold whilst breaking his own world record. While I don’t think we will see a repeat of that performance he is still the guy to beat in the event and the difficulty in picking the medal winners is that there are a lot of potential people to choose from which makes picking out individuals to mention particularly difficult. Rudisha does (just about) have the world lead although with the strength of the Kenyan team, the 2nd and 3rd ranked athletes in the world this year did not make the team with Ferguson Rotich and Alfred Kipketer joining Rudisha.
The European challenge seems decently strong with Adam Kszczot dominant in winning the Europeans and Pierre-Ambroise Bosse going 6th in this year’s rankings in winning the London Anniversary Games. In that same race, there was a great run from Brandon McBride of Canada who I did not know that much about but looked very impressive coming 2nd in 1.43.95 and could be more of a ‘surprise’ name to win a medal. Then there is the case of Amel Tuka who was a big surprise last year when he won in Monaco in a WL time and eventually won a medal at the World Championships but has not looked the same this year only running 1.45.23 putting him =32nd this year.
The brutal US trials lead to a bit of the shock in the 800 with Boris Berian the most likely bet to contend for a medal who will be joined by Clayton Murphy and Charles Jock (who did not have a good day in London) so sadly no Donovan Brazier but he is still very young and has a lot of time.
Nigel Amos won silver as a 19 year old in London and was World Champion in 2013 but it hasn’t quite gone his way since after not making the final in Beijing last year and hasn’t run particularly quick this year (1.44.66) but he can’t be counted out. There is also the likes of Makhloufi who has the experience and has running quick times. Basically anything could happen!
PREDICTION: GOLD: David Rudisha (Ken); SILVER: Adam Kszczot (Pol); BRONZE: Boris Berian (USA)
WOMEN’S 800 METRES
Caster Semenya. I could just leave it at that to be honest, she runs 1.55 likes it a walk in the park with a light jog to finish it off. If I’m not totally sure what to expect of her in the 400, I feel very confident in what to expect in the two-lap race. She will go with whatever pace is set by someone, ease along for 600 metres and then pull away all the way to the line. That has been the pattern of her races this year and it seems a good method for her in the Olympics so I can’t see why she should change it.
Francine Niyonsaba has however run twice under 1.57 and seems to be the best of the rest, certainly in terms of times although has lost to Semenya every time they have raced this year. Ranked 3rd this year is Melissa Bishop who has also been very consistent with multiple sub 1.59 runs which should give her a lot of confidence.
Strange how things can change from a year ago when Eunice Sum was the big favourite to become World Champion in Beijing only to be beaten by Arzamasova who hasn’t set the world alight this year although she has gone under 2 minutes. Sum is currently ranked 4th with a 1.57.47 in Monaco and will surely contend again in Rio.
For a surprise I actually think the two Brits Lynsey Sharp and Sheylana Oskan-Clarke who have both performed well for the most part with Oskan-Clarke again timing her run well having won in London going under 2 minutes in doing so. Molly Ludlow of the USA is another possibility who was just edged out by the two Brits in London but her run in Monaco (which has a lot of the fastest times this year) as is Ajee Wilson although she is not having a good a year as she was last year but her potential is clear to see so you never know. Also look out for France’s Renelle Lamote and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui.
PREDICTIONS: GOLD: Caster Semenya (SA); SILVER: Francine Niyonsaba (BDI); BRONZE: Melissa Bishop (Can)
MEN’S 1500 METRES
Up until the Monaco Diamond League, Asbel Kiprop looked fairly unstoppable which included a dominant win in Birmingham running under 3.30 for the world lead. Just for once the fastest time of the year was not done in Monaco which is where Kiprop was not able to maintain the incredible strong pace that he has done in the past and ended up 6th. That race in Monaco saw his Kenyan teammates Ronald Kwemoi and Elijah Manangoi in the top 2 and all 3 are realistic medal contenders.
Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi, Morocco’s Abdalaati Iguider and Dijbouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman are also in that group and I like last year’s World bronze medallist and bronze medallist from London Iguider to medal here again as he is always there or thereabouts.
Perhaps a sentimental favourite will be New Zealand’s Nick Willis, the silver medallist from Beijing who is still performing at a high level and is certainly one of the most experienced. However the less familiar name of Australian Ryan Gregson whose run at Monaco ranks him 8th in the world this year perhaps makes him a more likely contender.
Europe’s best hopes lie with the two Brits Chris O’Hare and Beijing finalist Charlie Grice, Czech Republic’s Jakub Holusa and Norway’s Filip Ingebrigtsen who along with his brothers is becoming Norway’s answer to the Borlee brothers!
I think the likely medallists however do lie with the likely suspects and I think Kiprop assuming his fitness is fine by Rio will add a second Olympic title to his win in 2008.
PREDICTION: GOLD: Asbel Kiporp (Ken); SILVER: Abdalatti Iguider (Mor); BRONZE: Ronald Kwemoi (Ken)
WOMEN’S 1500 METRES
So what is happening with Genzebe Dibaba? Still some issues and big questions surrounding her coach (and therefore herself as well) and she hasn’t raced since the beginning of July due to injury where she had to be carried off. Therefore judging her current form is difficult, of course if based on last year she would be favourite by a huge margin though if she is close to that by Rio I think she may well win in Rio still but I won’t be able to tell until the heats. In her absence Faith Kipyegon has taken on the mantle of number one for 2016 with the 2 fastest times this year winning in Eugene, Shanghai and Oslo and on current form is the definite favourite.
Britain’s Laura Muir meanwhile continues to go from strength to strength breaking Kelly Holmes British record in London (which Kelly set when winning Olympic gold in 2004) and has been both consistent and impressive for the last couple of years including a credible 5th in a loaded World Championship final last year. Her last lap of the run in London gives me belief that she can win a medal although there is no doubt the Olympic final (whoever reaches it) will be a cagier affair.
Sifan Hassan despite being well beaten by Muir in London still ran just outside 4 minutes coming back from injury but she will likely be there or thereabouts come Rio. Then you have the rest of the Ethiopian contingent including the talented Dawit Seyaum (ranked 3rd this year) and you can definitely not count out the Americans with 2011 World Champion Jenny Simpson and American record holder Shannon Rowbury who are both capable of going under 4 minutes although have not do so as of yet. While perhaps not as hot an event as it was last year for various different reasons, the Olympic final should still be one of a very high quality.
PREDICTIONS: GOLD: Genzebe Dibaba (ETH); SILVER: Faith Kipyegon (Ken); BRONZE: Laura Muir (GBR)
MEN’S 3000 METRES STEEPLECHASE
Kenya’s domination in this event is similar to that of the US women over the 100 metre hurdles. Kenyan athletes make up 9 of the top 11 in this year’s world rankings and one of those 2 non-Kenyans was a Kenyan originally. At the World Championships last year there was a Kenyan 1-2-3 with Ezekiel Kemboi winning with a ridiculous change of speed to lead of the two Kipruto’s in pursuit. Kenya have the same 3 athletes in Rio this year and I see a repeat of Beijing with the only question being the order they will finish. Conseslus Kipruto has 5 of the fastest 6 times this year and Kemboi isn’t quite in the form of a year ago so I will go with Conseslus to take the gold in Rio.
America’s Evan Jager had a great year last year but struggled in the final stages against the Kenyans in Beijing and I wouldn’t rule him out preventing a Kenyan 1-2-3. Morocco’s Soufiane Elbakkali was 4th in Monaco and is the only non-Kenyan born athlete in this year’s top 10. John Kibet Koech now representing Bahrain had a good run in Doha at the beginning of the outdoor season and is the highest ranked non-Kenyan this year and could also feature but I can’t see anything beyond the 3 Kenyans.
PREDICTION: GOLD: Conseslus Kipruto (Ken); SILVER: Ezekiel Kemboi (Ken); BRONZE: Brimin Kipruto (Ken)
WOMEN’S 3000 METRES STEEPLECHASE
Unlike the Men, this event is a bit more spread out in terms of nationalities with 5 different nations represented in this year’s top 10 rankings.
The top 5 performances this year are shared between Kenya’s 2015 World Champion Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi and Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet with Jebet holding the world lead after beating Jepkemoi in Eugene. Jebet just sneaked under 9 minutes there with Jepkemoi just a few hundredths outside that barrier. That race put those two 2nd and 3rd on the all-time list with Galkin’s World Record just a second ahead of Jebet’s time. Those two look likely to contest the gold. I’ll favour Jepkemoi due to her winning the World Championships last year as well as being very consistent but Jebet’s win in Eugene does perhaps give a psychological advantage going into Rio. Should be a good race between those two.
However don’t write of Emma Coburn. 5th at the World Championships last year, Coburn has been one of the most consistent runners in the world for a few years now and her 3rd place in that race in Eugene was extremely encouraging for her medal chances and I think this is her year to get on the podium.
Europe actually won a medals in this event in Beijing last year with Germany’s Gesa Krause picking up the bronze and is in the top 8 this year so with that experience last year could find herself contending for a medal again and has further confidence from winning the European’s this year.
The silver last year was won by Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi and her win in London just before setting of to Rio puts her in a good place and even though Kenyan is not quite as dominant in the women’s side of this event, they still have a very strong trio with Beatrice Chepkoech and Lydia Rotich likely to provide strong competition as well.
PREDICTION: GOLD: Hyvin Jepkemoi (Ken); SILVER: Ruth Jebet (Brn); BRONZE: Emma Coburn (USA)
That’s it for today, come back tomorrow for part 3 of my Olympic preview series where I will focus on the jumping events!