Welcome to part 5 of my Olympic preview as I look at the hurdles races as well as the multi-events. Below are links to the previous 4 parts for your enjoyment.
Let’s get on with it then!
MEN’S 110 METRE HURDLES
It’s been a big year for Omar McLeod as he became the first man to go sub 13 in the 110 hurdles and sub 10 in the 100 metres. He has 5 of the top 7 times in the world this year and has been consistently running low 13’s all year with the one low point being when he crashed out in Monaco. He will be many people’s favourites but the sprint hurdles is an event where strange things can happen (as we will see when analysing the women’s event). It was just announced yesterday that Hansle Parchment will not be in Rio and has been replaced by Andrew Riley and Parchment would have been a medal threat so Jamaica’s hope will lay largely with McLeod.
If you asked who the 3 Americans would be going into Rio, I suspect they would not be the 3 they are sending. No Aries Merritt, Jason Richardson or David Oliver means opportunities for Jeff Porter, Ronnie Ash and Devon Allen. Ronnie Ash and Jeff Porter have been knocking on the door for a while but 21 year old Devon Allen has made a big breakthrough and is actually ranked 2nd in the world when he ran 13.03 when winning the US trials.
I think Orlando Ortega is cleared to compete in Rio after his change of allegiance to Spain although I think the IAAF thought differently. Assuming he is able to compete, he is certainly one of the main contenders and I think the biggest challenge to McLeod. In the aforementioned race in Monaco, it was Ortega who took advantage of McLeod’s bad day when winning in 13.04 which puts him 3rd in the world behind Allen in 2016.
France have become very strong in this event with several high class hurdlers. Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (13.17) has taken a bit of time to get going this year but his last few races have been much better but he hasn’t been as good as one would expect. He has a bit of a tendency to not run his best in finals so I wouldn’t be very confident in picking him for a medal. European Champion Dimitri Bascou (13.12) looks to be France’s best hope running multiple times under 13.20. The third Frenchman Wilhem Belocian (13.28) won a bronze at the Europeans but may need to find a little bit of time if he wants a medal.
Britain’s Andy Pozzi (13.18) has been picked as a bit of a sleeper pick for a medal and has looked very good in most of his races this year including that new PB her ran in London. The worry is whether his body will let run all the rounds. He was a DNS in the European final and only ran once at the Anniversary Games although precaution was the sensible option. If his body allows him, he could certainly be lining up in the final.
PREDICTIONS: GOLD: Omar McLeod (Jam); SILVER: Orlando Ortega (Esp); BRONZE: Dimitri Bascou (Fra)
WOMEN’S 100 METRE HURDLES
When people criticise the US selection policy, they will use this event and Kendra Harrison in their argument. For what it is worth, I think the policy is fine as American has so many Olympic standard athletes that to separate some of them by opinions is difficult to say the least. On the other hand how on earth can you leave the WORLD RECORD HOLDER AT HOME??!! Well they can because America has so many potential medallists that they can still sweep the medals. They have the top 7 in the world this year so America will still likely do well which is a unique situation for a country to be in.
So no Kendra Harrison, but Brianna Rollins (who in 2013 looked like she could break the previous WR) was close to her best when she won the trials in 12.34 and is the highest ranked hurdler who will compete in Rio. She is joined by Kristi Castlin (12.50) and Nia Ali (12.55) who seems to always make sure she is in the right place when she needs to be. Rollins is the favourite of the 3 but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that one of her teammates could cross the line first. See Lolo Jones and Dawn Harper-Nelson in 2008.
Europe’s top 3 in Amsterdam look to be the best contenders to the Americans with Cindy Roleder (12.62) and Alina Talay (12.63) both improving after winning ‘surprise’ silver and bronze medallists at the World Championships last year. It wouldn’t be a big surprise to me if a time in the 12.6’s led to a medal in Rio and they are the most in-form to do it at the moment. Britain’s Tiffany Porter has had incredible consistency since the 2012 making finals and winning medals (and probably should have got a medal in Beijing if not the gold) but her 2016 hasn’t quite been what she would have wanted. Her 12.72 in winning the bronze at the Europeans was a decent step forward and looked ok in that world record race. Making the final seems more than possible for her but she will need to find a bit more if she is to complete her ‘grand slam’ of podiums. Germany also has Nadine Hildebrand (12.64) and Belgium have a very good young talent in Anne Zagre (12.78) along Britain’s Cindy Ofili (12.66) are possible contenders to make the final.
So what of last year’s World Champion Danielle Williams of Jamaica? She has been a bit low-key this year with her best of 12.77 only ranking her 20th in the world this year (which admittedly does include 12 Americans) but if the phrase ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ is indeed true then she could yet peak in Rio and cause another surprise. I don’t think we will see the ‘reverse clean sweep’ we saw the Americans have in Beijing when not one of the 4 they sent ended up with a medal.
PREDICTIONS: GOLD: Brianna Rollins (USA); SILVER: Nia Ali (USA); BRONZE: Cindy Roleder (Ger)
MEN’S 400 METRE HURDLES
This event has recently gained for having a bit of a reputation for always having someone new win at each successive major Championships. Take last year as a perfect example. No one was expecting Kenya’s Nicholas Bett to win a medal let alone win the gold in an event where Kenya have not been particular successful. Since the start of the qualifying period, Bett has been the only man to run under 48 seconds (47.79 when winning in Beijing) but a year later you can find him ranked =43rd with a best of 49.31. I don’t know what happened to him (last year or this!) but it would perhaps be an even bigger surprise if he came back and won again.
Not for the first time, the number 1 ranked athlete in this event won’t be in Rio as Johnny Dutch who was only 5th in the US trials. The quickest entrant therefore falls to his US teammate in two-time World Champion Kerron Clement (48.40). He ran that time in London which gives him a lot of momentum to win his first Olympic title after getting silver back in 2008. He is joined by Michael Tinsley (48.74) and Byron Robinson (48.79) who could well feature in an event that feels wide open.
European Champion Yasmani Copello looked very impressive on course to winning that title, especially his semi-final run in 48.42 which only Kerron Clement has run faster than out of those going to Rio. It was one of several sub 49 second runs and it puts him in a very good position to do well at the Olympics.
I am always surprised when I look at Javier Culson and see that he has not yet won a major global title. He was 3rd in 2012 and has two silvers from World Championships (2009 and 2011) so it seems time for him to finally win the big one. His 48.63 this year puts him 3rd out of all the entrants and if Felix Sanchez can come back to win after a few years where he struggled to find his best form then I don’t see why Culson can’t either.
Bahama’s Jeffrey Gibson ran very quick last year (48.17 when winning bronze at the World Championships) but his best this year but his 48.96 only just puts him in the world’s top 20 in 2016. You also have the likes of Kariem Hussein (48.87), L.J van Zyl (48.67) and Jamaica’s Annsert Whyte (48.66) capable of at least making the final and others as well to be honest but I would be here all day if I listed them all!
It has been great to see Britain’s Jack Green return to good form and back under 49 seconds after his big breakthrough in London 4 years ago and if he can find a little bit more, a final place is not impossible and there always seems to be one or two big causalities in the qualifying rounds.
PREDICTIONS: GOLD: Javier Culson (Pur); SILVER: Kerron Clement (USA); Bronze: Yasmani Copello (Tur)
WOMEN’S 400 METRE HURDLES
Similar to the women’s 100 metre hurdles this is another American dominant event although not quite as dominant as in the shorter discipline. They claim 11 of the world’s top 20 this year but the 3 per country rule certainly gives more athletes the chance to make the final and to compete for medals.
The favourite will likely be Dalilah Muhammad after that incredible 52.88 time she recorded at the US trials which is well over a second quicker than anyone else (including herself) has run this year. I don’t think she will run that fast in Rio but it certainly was a massive eye opener and her win in London still looked very good despite being a second slower (53.90). Shamier Little found herself not even in the US final and instead will be Ashely Spencer (54.02) and 16 year old Sydney McLaughlin (54.15) who turns 17 just after the Olympics start.
The biggest threat from Jamaica is Jeneive Russell who has won in Rome and Rabat with 53.96 her best time and is competing at her first Olympic games after coming 5th at the World Championships last year.
Britain’s Elidh Doyle is in the form of her life after wins in Doha and Monaco and ran a new PB of 54.09 whilst winning Monaco. She is ranked 4th of the entrants going into Rio and her run in London was very good until she stuttered over the last hurdle and lost all her momentum. If she sorts that last hurdle out a medal and sub 54 is right there for her.
The wildcard seems to be World Champion Zuzana Hejnová who has only run 55.69 this year and has been battling injuries but has run some low key races in the build up to Rio. If she can find her form of the last few years, she is a definite contender but time is running out for her and we may have to wait to see how she lines up in the heats to determine what her chances are.
Sara Petterson of Denmark is the other big European threat and she was second in that race in London with 54.33 and has gone under 54 seconds in the past. The battle for medals is pretty wide open again. Look out for Bahrain’s Oluwakemi Adekoya who goes in both the 400 hurdles as well as the flat 400 and has run 54.12 in the hurdles previously as well as South Africa’s Wanda Nel (54.47) who regularly competes in the diamond leagues and was 3rd in London.
PREDICTIONS: GOLD: Dalilah Muhammad (USA); SILVER: Jeneive Russel (Jam); BRONZE: Elidh Doyle (GBR)
Once again Ashton Eaton starts a major championship as the overwhelming favourite. He is the reigning Olympic champion, World champion and current world record holder and quite frankly no one is really even that close. I don’t think he will break the world record again but he doesn’t need to either. The thing about the multi-events though is that there is always a chance that disaster can strike on anybody, but it hasn’t happened to him so far. I wouldn’t rule out either of the other 2 Americans getting on the podium with Jeremy Taiwo (8425) and Zach Ziemek (8413) as well.
Eaton’s most likely challenger is Canada’s Damian Warner. He won Gotzis this year in the absence of Eaton and his score of 8523 puts him 3rd in the world although his 8695 from Beijing last year is much more impressive. If he can replicate that he is surely nailed on for the silver especially that Trey Hardee is not one of the 3 Americans competing.
The main threats from Europe look to be between the German trio of Arthur Abele (8605), Rico Freimuth (8561) and Kai Kazmirek (8462) and France’s Kevin Mayer (8446). Abele’s recent win in Ratingen put him 2nd behind Ashton Eaton going into Rio and seems to be the most in-form of the 3 Germans.
Granada’s Lindon Victor is a less well-known name but his score of 8466 puts him 4th in the world and maybe could sneak onto the podium but there is little doubt in nearly everyone’s mind that Ashton Eaton will surely (barring a disaster or injury) win another Olympic title.
PREDICTOINS: GOLD: Ashton Eaton (USA); SILVER: Damian Warner (Can); BRONZE: Arthur Abele (Ger)
I would argue that no one is a better position going into Rio in this event than Jessica Ennis-Hill. No matter what expectations are on her (with most in Britain calling her the favourite) she will not even come close to the pressure and expectations that were on her going into 2012. Since then she was injured then she had a baby and then she came back to win the World Championships last year. Now she is in the best form since 2012 and she doesn’t have much to prove except to try and win again. Her 6733 score in Ratingen recently and her return to sub 13 hurdles suggests that she is in shape to win and her experience could prove a massive advantage over everyone else.
Her main competition Brianne Theisen-Eaton and Katarina Johnson-Thompson have both got the pressure of not having won a major heptathlon title before. Theisen-Eaton has won silver at the last two World Championships (the first one in 2013 was a weird one when so many of the top 10 from London weren’t in Moscow) while KJT has had many expectations since she was very young and especially after she won in Gotzis in 2014.
Theisen-Eaton has done very well in Gotzis the last two years with the highest heptathlon scores seen since the London Olympics. However in Beijing last year she made a few fatal errors with the high jump being a bit of a disaster. She of course has a world record holder in the decathlon to support her but you suspect this is her big chance to win an Olympic gold and if she can replicate her Gotzis form, she will be very hard to beat.
KJT has had some questions about her fitness and form going into the Anniversary Games but a 1.95 high jump (an outdoor PB) and 6.84 long jump suggests that she is nearly back to her best form. Her jumps are her big strength and she is an excellent 200 and 800 metre runner. The question may well be her throws and any mental issues after what happened in the long jump last year. She did throw a new shot put PB of over 13 metres but then was under 12 in Gotzis so that will be a big event for her.
The Dutch provide a strong challenge and European Champion Anouk Vetter (6626) who could prove a strong contender for the medals along with Nadine Visser (6467) and Nadine Broerson (6531) and not forgetting last year’s surprise world bronze medallist Laura Ikauniece-Admidina (6622) who could take advantage if others falter. Caroline Schafer’s 2016 best of 6557 probably won’t be enough for a medal but an extra 100 points or so and it could be enough.
For the likes of Barbara Nwaba and Claudia Rath, they will need to add 150-200 points to contend while youngsters like Nafissatou Thiam, Kendell Williams and Akela Jones will be interesting to see how they do as they could all potential be amongst the medals by the time we get to Tokyo. This looks like it will be the best heptathlon since 2012 and with any luck we will have an epic 800 metre conclusion.
PREDICTIONS: GOLD: Jessica Ennis-Hill (GBR); SILVER: Brianne Theisen-Eaton (Can); BRONZE: Katarina Johnson-Thompson (GBR)
Just one more preview to go then before this series comes to an end. Tomorrow’s post will focus on the remaining distance events including the marathons and the race walks so please join me again tomorrow for the final part. Until then!