The IAAF’s new Rankings: Is it a good idea?

On Friday 3rd November the IAAF announced a new official rankings system that will be used as a qualification system for the 2019 World Championships in Doha and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.  The rankings system will be based on performances throughout the year where athletes will be given points using a number of factors and this will determine the rankings.  This will replace the use of qualifying standards that have basically been used forever.  This is a concept that European Athletics have spoken about a few years ago but had not actually implemented but presumably will now follow suit with the IAAF.  So is this new system and ‘fundamental change’ actually a good idea?  Only a few details are known at this time but let’s look at the possible implications.

WHY HAS IT CHANGED?

So why change this several decade old use of entry standards?  Presumably it’s to make every performance ‘mean something’ and to encourage the ‘bigger’ names to compete more often.  Before, theoretically, there wasn’t that much incentive to perform particularly often as a means to qualify for major championships as the focus would be to ‘peak’ for trials and then for the major championships.  The idea seems to be that in order to make sure you qualify for these championships, you need to compete often enough in high level meets to make sure you are eligible.

I assume that the maximum of 3 athletes per nation rule (excluding wildcards) will still be in play which makes me wonder, does it actually make much difference?  For example in 2016, Kenni Harrison was the undoubted number 1 sprint hurdler in the world.  All-athletics.com (who are working with the IAAF on this new system) had her ranked number 1 in the world that year.  Most will know that at the US Olympic trials that year she finished outside the top 3 and wasn’t at the Olympics despite being the new World record holder and there is no wildcard scenario for world record holders.  So now in this new system she could be ranked number 1, go to the US trials, come 4th and not qualify.  So exactly the same as it is now then.

You could argue that the above is only one specific example but I guess the point I am trying to make that if you continue with the 3 per nation rule (and by the way I am not arguing that this rule should no longer exist) then what’s the point of a new ranking system where in some events the vast majority of the top 20 or 30 won’t be picked because they are from a country where they have way more than 3 eligible people to pick from.  How is that any different from now?  Am I assuming that US women competing in the 100 metre hurdles will continue to dominate world lists?  Well yes but bearing in mind in numerous Diamond League meets there were at times 7 or 8 Americans in the line-up then it’s not that much of a strength but there are other examples such as American and Jamaican sprinters or Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners which has been the case for many, many years now.

HOW WOULD IT AFFECT NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

So a question that we can’t answer yet is how will this whole thing actually work?  In the last couple of years the IAAF have had entry target numbers for each event, for example the men’s 100 metres has had an entry target of 56.  So my question therefore is how high do you need to rank (or maybe how many points do you need) in order to be eligible to be selected by your national federation?  In the men’s 100 metres there would be several Americans, Jamaicans so using the 3 athlete per nation rule means that many who are ranked outside the world’s top 56 would find themselves inside and perhaps quite comfortably inside so would eligibility by ranking in this system take this into consideration?  It doesn’t seem to make sense to say be ranked in the top 56 and you are eligible bearing in mind how this can change and how some events are dominated by a few countries.

Taking British Athletics as an example, currently you go to the trials and if you have done the standard at least twice and if you finish in the top 2 you are automatically in.  Are we now saying if you are highly ranked globally enough and you finish in the top 2 you will be selected automatically?  As mentioned until the actual details are announced some time in 2018, these are all impossible to answer.

INJURIES COULD HAVE EVEN MORE IMPACT?

One thing that also springs to mind is that injuries can be even more problematic that they already are.  Take the example of Dina Asher-Smith from last year.  A broken foot in February meant that she didn’t start her outdoor season until the British Championships.  Her selection was, at the time, based on the fact that she was the reigning European Champion with Area Champions deemed to have the qualifying standard.

With the new system an injury like hers would presumably massively damage your chances of making the championships as you would not have much time to get a sufficient ranking.  Worse, it may make it more likely that athletes returning from injuries may come back sooner than they should out of fear for not qualifying and increasing the chance of further injury.  My hope is that these rankings favour quality over quantity.  Surely someone who has only competed 3 or 4 times but at a very high level is more worthy at being at an Olympics than someone who has performed ok but has competed 15 or 16 times.  Furthermore fans and the general audience would want to see the very best athletes in the most important events.

Having said all this, if the higher class meets (where reputation will obviously help get invites) give you significantly higher ranking points than other meets then maybe only a few Diamond League appearances could be enough, it depends on how all the various meets are weighted against each other.

SO IS IT A GOOD IDEA?

My initial reaction to this new system was that it was not a great idea.  The reality of all this, is that whether it is a good idea or not depends on how they actually do it.  In many ways I’m not sure it will really change things that much, as long as it comes down to National Championships (which they should) then all it might change is the eligibility to qualify which will seem to depend on regular competition and performances rather than achieving a standard on one occasion.  It is difficult to come up with a ranking system similar to what has been announced which is 100% objective if not impossible.  For example is a 9.80 seconds 100 metres in a low key meet against an uncompetitive field ‘worth’ more than a 10.00 win in a strong diamond league meet?  Should it be less?  Come the World Championships or the Olympics the 9.80 will be talked about way more than the DL victory in 10.00 seconds.  Overall, I feel this is an unnecessary change and it’s the actual structure and timing of the athletics season which needs to be addressed rather than how athletes are ranked and how the qualify for major championships.  Moreover, is this any easier to follow?  To me it sounds more complicated compared to the actually quite simple method we have now (although made more complicated by certain countries).

Having said that we have to see what the system actually is.  It will come into play in 2018 but won’t really affect anything until 2019 so we can at least see how theoretically work next year.

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ROME DIAMOND LEAGUE PREVIEW

The Diamond League makes it way to Europe where it will stay for the next several weeks as the season begins to accelerate towards London.  As we enter June and the World Championships only a couple of months away, this is the month when we will get a better idea of who the contenders will be at those Championships.  With that said, here are my top 5 events to look out for at leg four of the 2017 Diamond League series in Rome:

 

WOMEN’S 5000 METRES

 

On the Friday night at the Prefontaine Classic, Genzebe Dibaba dominated the 5k there running 14.25 which is a time only a handful (including herself) have run faster than.  In Rome however will be the one woman who has run quicker than her this year, the Olympic silver medallist from Rio, Helen Obiri.  As the reigning World Champion in the 1500 (and therefore has the wildcard entry for London), she seems to be focusing more on the 5k (in which Ayana comprehensively beat her in 2015) this year so far.  Helen Obiri meanwhile looked good in the 1500 in Eugene where she just pipped Laura Muir to the line behind the Olympic Champion Faith Kipyegon and this sets up an intriguing contest.  As per usual you have a strong Kenyan and Ethiopian contingent behind them with Letesenbet Gidey the quickest of them this year.  Yasemin Can is another to look out for and she has dominated European distance running in the last few years whilst representing Turkey.

 

MEN’S 3000 METRES STEEPLECHASE

conselsus kipruto getty

 

So I feel fairly confident in predicting that there will be a mass sprint with two to four Kenyans desperately battling to the line.  Now admittedly Kenyans make up most of the field so that’s not exactly that difficult of a prediction to make but those burn-ups can often be very entertaining!  The reigning Olympic Champion Conseslus Kipruto is in the field for his first steeplechase of the year and will probably start as favourite.  Ezekiel Kemboi who crossed the line 3rd in Rio only to be disqualified afterwards is also named although I had seen he had announced his retirement after Rio so I am not sure if he has changed his mind on retirement or whether he is here as a pacemaker but the double Olympic Champion and 4 time World Champion is the only runner along with Kipruto to have ever run under 8 minutes in the field and I suspect could still figure very highly if competitive.

The fastest this year is the Jarius Birech with an 8.10 clocking in Marseille this year with fellow Kenyan Abraham Kibiwott who was just behind him in that race.  They form the main opposition to Kipruto.  Unfortunately there is no Evan Jager here although there are 3 solid American representatives with the Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali arguably the best of the non-Kenyans.

WOMEN’S TRIPLE JUMP

 

Catherine Imbarguen has long been the dominant force in her event and had a very long unbeaten streak until last year but she remains a pretty safe bet whenever she competes.  She has yet to jump super far this year although her 14.43 best this year is still good enough for 4th in the world this year but I would be surprised if she didn’t improve on that in Rome.  Yulimar Rojas, the Venezuelan, has for the last couple of years been the upcoming challenger to Imbarguen.  She was second in Rio and has been the only other main triple jumper who can regularly challenge the 15 metre line with her PB standing at 15.02m.  She has started this year very well however with a 14.96m less than a week before this Rome meet and that is currently the world leading mark by over 50 centimetres to the next ranked athletes.  This will likely been another contest between these two but the battle for third could be interesting with the Olympic Champion from London Rypakova likely to feature as usual along with Povea (yet another decent Cuban triple jumper) who’s 14.45 this year matches Rypakova’s seasons best and is just 11 centimetres shy of her PB.

 

MEN’S 110 METRE HURDLES

 

With there being no Omar McLeod in this race, there is a really big opportunity for someone to make a fairly big statement.  With the unfortunate injury to Martinot-Lagarde, this field represents a decent majority of the likely contenders in London (although with the strength of the Americans there could be a few who could argue that).  Out of this line up I am most interested by Aries Merritt who is getting better all the time as his 13.13 from Eugene demonstrates and is looking like a serious threat once again.  Orlando Ortega has probably pushed McLeod the closest so far this year after his run in Shanghai and will start as the likely favourite and if Andy Pozzi can avoid clipping the last hurdle which hampered his races at both the Drake relays and in Eugene then he could be on for a very quick time if he can put it together.  The reigning World Champion Shubenkov is racing once again and it can only help him getting to regularly race the world’s best which he had been unable to do for close to a couple of years due to the ban.  Add in the 2013 World Champion David Oliver and another talented Frenchman in Darien, then you have a very good line up despite no Olympic Champion among them.

 

MEN’S JAVELIN

Thomas Rohler getty

 

Perhaps the moment of the 2017 season so far was the HUGE throw from Tomas Röhler in the opening Diamond League event in Doha when he became the second longest thrower in history with his effort of 93.90 metres.  It also further enhanced the strength of German javelin throwing as the current top 3 in the world are all German and are all competing in Rome with other World and Olympic Champions are struggling to keep up.

Joining Röhler are his compatriots Johannes Vetter (89.68m) and Andreas Hofmann (88.79) making a German victory look rather likely.  The biggest threats to the Germans seems to be Jakub Vadlejch who has been consistently throwing well with 3 competitions ranging between 87.21m and 87.91m and is the next highest ranked thrower on this year’s list competing in Rome.

Also in the line-up are 2012 Olympic Champion Kershorn Walcott who has thrown 84.16 so far this year but has been very inconsistent since his shock win in London.  Finally the YouTube self-taught World Champion Julius Yego who has only thrown 81.94 so far this year but we should remember he is the 4th longest thrower of all time and will be looking to throw himself into form here.

 

That’s another Diamond League preview done! Four down with just the 10(!) to go!  As we get closer to the World Championships I will of course switch my focus to that with a few more focused posts (for example I plan to do a post on the contenders in the Heptathlon to answer the question of can anyone beat Nafi Thiam?!) before I get onto my predictions for the World Championships.  For those who didn’t see my previews for the Rio Olympics or last year’s World Indoor Championships, I predict every single medallist and include a reasonably small preview for each event.  It takes quite a bit of time but it’s my favourite posts to do.

 

So thank you for taking the time to read this Rome DL preview and until next time!

PREFONTAINE CLASSIC PREVIEW 2017

After the highs of Doha we had the slightly less thrilling but still intriguing event in Shanghai and now we move on to one of the most anticipated legs of the Diamond League, the Prefontaine Classic from Eugene, Oregon.  This event usually brings out most of the world’s biggest stars and this year is no different.  From probably Mo Farah’s last appearance at this event to the STACKED women’s 1500 and 200 metre races, this should be another great event and Eugene is usually known for its quick times, particularly for the sprints.  So with that said, here are my top 5 event to look out for at this year’s Prefontaine Classic.

 

WOMEN’S 1500 METRES

 

Wow.  That’s all you can say when you look at the entry list for this race.  With the exception of Genzebe Dibaba you will see the majority of this year’s final London in London.  Olympic Champion Faith Kipyegon, Helen Obiri, Jenny Simpson, Shannon Rowbury, Laura Muir, Dawit Seyaum are all involved in one of the strongest fields this season.  Not that this is necessarily a huge surprise as a lot of these women compete against each other fairly regularly but a field with 7 sub 4 minute runners outside of a major final is a pretty amazing thing.  Furthermore, I’m not sure you can predict who will win here with any clear certainty.  Kipyegon as the reigning Olympic Champion will presumably start as favourite but you can’t discount the form of Laura Muir over the last year, certainly not the two experienced and tactically strong Americans or even one of the Ethiopians especially so early on in the season where everyone will be at different stages of their preparations.

 

WOMEN’S 200 METRES

In Doha Elaine Thompson won convincingly over the 200 (into a fairly strong headwind as well) and then did so again over the 100 in Shanghai and is without doubt the fastest women in the world right now and a big favourite for London to do another sprint double.  This could well be the toughest test before those championships however with her now perennial challenger Daphne Schippers joined by 200 metre legend Allyson Felix, Olympic bronze medallist Torie Bowie, Olympic 400 metre champion Shaunae Milller-Uibo among a truly stellar field.

The field creates a lot of interesting scenarios and questions and I wouldn’t be surprised if Shaunae Miller featured heavily in this race even though she is known for her 400 metre running and her PB of 22.05 suggests she can.  The sub-plot here is the inclusion of Felix who if she was to beaten over the half-lap event then that would be a big psychological boost for Miller although an athlete of Felix’s calibre can never ever be counted out and will be right there come London.

 

MEN’S POLE VAULT

armand duplantis getty

When it comes to the Diamond League this is an event where most of the big names usually turn up but this one has an interesting addition in a 17 year old who’s been breaking records for a while now.  Armand Duplantis (he is a Swede despite some articles I’ve read that claims him as American!) has the current WL with a huge 5.90m which is way higher than any youth or junior vaulter has ever jumped. Jumping 5.90 in the US system is one thing but doing that against the absolute best in the world is another though and I think it will be interesting to see how he performs in their company.  Olympic Champion Thiago Braz didn’t jump too well last time out but American Sam Kendricks certainly did as he got an early morale boosting win over Renaud Lavillenie.  Thrown in a couple of World Champions including Shawn Barber and you have a talented and intriguing pole vault field.

WOMEN’S 400 METRE HURDLES

dalilah muhamad getty

An event that usually takes a while to see those really impressive times (not surprising of course bearing in mind the nature of the event) but with a field which has 5 of last year’s Olympic final should mean that this event will start to come alive this year.  The top 3 for Rio are all here but it is one of the athletes who was not in that Rio final, Georganne Moline who has the WL with 54.10 and she seems in good shape to get close to her PB of 53.72.

It’s the first outing of the year for the Olympic Champion Dalilah Muhammad who exploded onto the scene last year going under 53 seconds and followed that up with the gold medal in Rio.  The silver and bronze medallists Sara Peterson and Ashley Spencer are here with the latter opening her season as is World Champion Zuzana Hejnova whose late return to form last year nearly saw her make the podium in Rio but if she can return to her previous form she will be a big threat in Rio and is the only other athlete apart from Muhammad who has ever run under 53 seconds.  One of 5 Americans in this race, Shamier Little had a disappointing 2016 not making the Olympic team after medalling at the last World Championships and with strong domestic competition (including the very talented youngster Sydney McLaughlin not here) she will a good year to get back into the US team.

As for the race, it’s pretty unpredictable especially that it is early in the season for most of the field and I wouldn’t want to predict it (stay away from it in terms of the Fantasy Diamond race by the way!) especially as there is quality throughout the whole field.

 

MEN’S 5000 METRES

Mo Farah getty

There are only a handful of track races life in Mo Farah’s career (we think!) and this has been an important race for Mo over the years and it was this event where he broke-through on the world stage setting a new British record at this event in 2011 over 10000 metres and we know what happened from there.  For the 6 years since the question has been, how do you beat Mo Farah?  This is especially for the championships where only a tactical mistake and a phenomenal finish from Jeilan has been his only major championship final defeat and that was also in 2011.  There’s always been the sense that Mo is slightly more vulnerable over the 5k which is the race being run here (sadly no 10k as there usually is) and it is a formidable field.  It’s a big field as well so to name everyone would be overkill but with the Kenyan contingent of Tanui, Ndiku and Kamworor you have 3 of Mo’s closest challengers in recent years between the 5k and 10k, the young Ethiopian Kejelcha who could be the one to take Mo’s spot at this distance combined with the many other east African talent, a reasonable strong American contingent including Olympic medallist Paul Chelimo and even the other Brit Andy Butchart after his 6th place in Rio.  Is a defeat for Farah, the beginning of the end of his dominance?  Not necessarily but as he creeps up in age it might just give a few doubts as to whether he can still win but it might take someone to get to the next level in order to truly challenge him.  Maybe we’ll see that on Saturday.

Well that concludes my preview for the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, I hope you all enjoy the event and thank you for reading.  Until next time!

SHANGHAI DIAMOND LEAGUE PREVIEW

Well Doha was quite the start to this year’s Diamond League wasn’t it?! From Thomas Rohler becoming the 2nd longest Javelin thrower in history (93.40m) to Akani Simbine stepping up at the top level over the shortest of sprints to the very quick and surprising women’s steeplechase it had a little bit of everything.  The start-lists are now up for Shanghai so here are my top 5 events to look out for in Shanghai (and maybe a hint or two for those who play the Fantasy Diamond League game!)

 

WOMEN’S 100 METRES

Coming off her dominant wind in Doha over Schippers over the half-lap distance, double Olympic Champion Elaine Thompson looks to set another marker on her competition in the 100 metres.  Schippers won’t be competing this time and reigning World Champion Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce is out after announcing her pregnancy recently, so it could fall to American Torie Bowie as Thompson’s main threat in Shanghai.  She has been the best and most consistent of the American sprinters and came away from Rio with 3 medals including silver in the 100 metres and gold in the 4×100 relay.  The Jamaicans and Americans are, as per usual, well represented with Veronica Campbell-Brown and Olympic finalist Christiana Williams from Jamaica with World and Olympic long jump champion Tianna Bartoletta joined by sub 11 second runner Morolake Akinosun from the USA.

Then there is the Ivorian threat with Rio 4th placer Ta Lou perhaps the biggest threat to Thompson along with Bowie as well as the experienced Murielle Ahoure.  To top it off, another Olympic finalist in Michelle-Lee Ahye completes the line-up.

 

MEN’S 110 METRES HURDLES

Omar Mcleod (2)

The last event of the meet and the strongest line up since the Olympic final last year has the gold medallist from Rio Omar McLeod line up in his second race after his incredible 13.04 clocking from the Drake Relays where the conditions were less than ideal.  His closest challenger in that race Andy Pozzi is not here but everyone else (except for the French) basically are, although I don’t think any will likely challenge McLeod unless he has a bad day.

However with 2013 World Champion David Oliver and 2012 Olympic Champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt involved there is no shortage of recent pedigree in this event represented.  Orlando Ortega didn’t have the best showing at the European Indoor Championships where he finished outside of the medals but he is one of the few to beat McLeod last year.

Then there is the intriguing moment of seeing Sergey Shebenkov competing internationally again.  Unable to compete at Rio due to the ban on the Russian Athletics Federation, he has been cleared to compete as a neutral athlete and as far as I am away will be the first Russian male to compete at a Diamond League event since the ban.  He is still the reigning World Champion (which I assume he can still use as a wildcard for London this year) so his performance will be very interesting to see how it goes after so long.  By the way he is down as a neutral athlete on the official start-list.

 

MEN’S POLE VAULT

The finish to the men’s Pole Vault in Rio was the moment of the 2016 Olympic Games in my opinion.  While the crowd’s support for Thiago Braz was incredible, their reaction to Renaud Lavillenie was the opposite and was a huge shame but the performance of the home town boy to win in a new Olympic record was simply staggering as he was a bit of an outsider to win.  Both men are in Shanghai as is the bronze medallist from Rio in Sam Kendricks who has already jumped an impressive 5.81 outdoors this year (although only good enough for 2nd at the moment!).

2015 World Champion Shawn Barber from Canada did not have the best Olympics and has had some headlines away from the sport and opened up with 5.50 in Texas in April and will be looking to jump much higher here and to perhaps gain some confidence as he looks to retain his World title last this year.

The rest of the field contains former World Champion Raphael Holzdeppe in his first outing of the year as well as the talented Greek Konstantinos Filippidis.

 

MEN’S HIGH JUMP

A stellar field has been assembled for the men’s high jump with 7 of the top 9 from Rio invited with Bondarenko the major name missing.  Add the two capable Chinese jumpers including the charismatic Zhang included and there won’t be many stronger fields all year.

Barshim won the opening event in Doha increasing his WL to 2.36m with Robbie Grabarz the only other athlete to jump over 2.30m.  It will see the first individual high jump competition for Olympic Champion and World Champion Derek Drouin of Canada who cleared 2.28 during a decathlon last month (the world best for a high jump in a decathlon) so seems likely to go over 2.30 here based on that.  On paper it looks like a battle between those two but with such a deep field behind them there could be a surprise from someone.

 

WOMEN’S 400 METRES

Shaune Miller

In truth, I think the result for this race is likely to go to Olympic Champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo who already looks in good form judging from her splits at the World Relays in the Bahamas where she was, of course, given a rousing reception by her home crowd.

This is the first race of the season for most of the field and out of those who have already run Morgan Mitchell is the highest ranked with 51.65, currently good enough for 11th in the world at the moment.  The target for Miller-Uibo, you would assume, would be to get under 50 seconds which would be a new world lead (it currently stands at 50.04 from American Quanera Hayes).  While not always easy to gauge with so many running the opening outdoor race, the fast starting Natasha Hastings and talented youngster Courtney Okolo look to be the main threat to the Bahamian along with the Jamaican contingent including sub 50 runners Stephanie McPherson and Novlene Williams-Mills.

 

So that’s my 5 events to look out for at the Shanghai Diamond League! Enjoy the action and until next time!

DOHA DIAMOND LEAGUE PREVIEW

The 2017 season gets into full swing with the opening leg of the 2017 Diamond League series in Doha on Friday as the Road to London 2017 truly begins!

The early entry lists are fairly strong so it looks like many are trying to get in some early markers and there are a couple of fascinating duels particularly on the women’s side.  Here are my top 5 events to look out for:

 

WOMEN’s 800 METRES

The most intriguing race for me is the women’s 800 metres.  Caster Semenya and Genzebe Dibaba in the same race for the first time is intriguing and will definitely have people talking.  It’s been discussed in the last year or so about how quick could Dibaba go at this distance and having the dominant Olympic Champion be in the race makes it all the more appealing.  I would be more than surprised if Dibaba was to beat Semenya but how close to her can she be and what kind of time can she run?  Besides those two you also have the Olympic silver and bronze medallists in Nyonsaba and Wambui making this one of the most competitive line-ups of the evening.

 

WOMEN’S 200 METRES

If Bolt vs Gatlin has been the men’s sprinting rivalry of the last few years then Schippers and Thompson has basically become that for the women especially over the longer sprint.  They line-up against each other again in Doha as the Olympic Champion takes on the World Champion with only Torie Bowie missing from the Rio medallists.  Marie-Josee Ta-Lou could potentially surprise after her 4th place finish in Rio for both the 200 and the 100 and evergreen Veronica Campbell-Brown has had a pretty good start to her year with a 22.60.  I’ll be interested to see how Desiree Henry goes in what is one of the strongest fields, if not the strongest, she would have lined up against at this distance.

 

MEN’S HIGH JUMP

Mutaz Barshim

The local interest will likely heavily feature around the men’s high jump as Mutaz Barshim competes in front of a home crowd having already jumped an early WL of 2.35m a couple of weeks ago and starts as the big favourite to take the first victory of the Diamond League series.

There are some big names beside Barshim who will be having their first competition including Rio 4th placer and European silver medallist both (indoors and outdoors) Robbie Grabarz as well as 5th and 6th placers Erik Kynard and Andriy Protsenko (who surprisingly has a 2.40 PB!).  However all the attention will likely be on Barshim and if he can improve on his world lead.

 

WOMEN’S POLE VAULT

Another competitive line-up which has the top 2 from Rio in last year in it with both showing early year form.  Olympic Champion Ekaterini Stefanidi won the European Indoors in what was for a while a tense competition with the German Lisa Ryzih (also competing in Doha) with 4.85m while Olympic silver medallist Sandi Morris just jumed 4.72m at the Drake Relays last weekend to go 3rd on the world outdoor list this year and is the highest ranked competing here.

The reigning World Champion Yarisley Silva coming off her disappointment of 6th in Rio opened with a 4.40 this year and will be looking for better here and this year in general as she looks to defend her title this year.  The field also contains last year’s 5th and 6th placers from Rio in Holly Bradshaw and Nicole Buchler who are both having their openers for this season.

 

MEN’S 100 METRES

While the women’s 110 metre hurdles may be a better overall and competitive field, the men’s 100 makes the list because of something that happened at the world relays that I found very interesting.  In the heats for the men’s 4×100 (not the final where everyone but the USA failed to get the baton round).  Andre de Grasse found himself a two metres  shy of Justin Gatlin but then, with what looked like relative ease, was able to gradually pass him and look over to him 3 times before crossing the line.

Whatever your thoughts on Gatlin there haven’t been many who have been able to glide pass him in the same way.  Now, you could argue that perhaps Gatlin wasn’t going at full speed as it was a heat but I think it shows just how good de Grasse is.  A win in Doha and it will start to seriously look like he will be the one to take over Bolt’s sprinting mantle.  On a side note is it just me that would be rather fascinated by a van Niekerk and de Grasse duel in the 200!

Outside of those two, I’ll be interested by how Simbine goes with the rise of the South African sprinters dominating the early word lists as well as Ronnie Baker who was exceptionally quick over the 60 metres indoors this year.

 

Well that’s my preview for the Doha Diamond League, the 1st event of this year’s Diamond League, I hope you all enjoy the action and until next time!

THIS WEEK IN ATHLETICS: 27TH JANUARY 2017

After a bit of a quiet week last week, there’s a bit more buzz in the athletics world with the first major meet of the year this weekend, a new task-force announced by European Athletics and a true legend losing an Olympic gold medal make up today’s edition of ‘This Week in Athletics’.

 

NESTA CARTER ADVERSE FINDING CONFIRMED AS BOLT LOSES BEIJING GOLD

 

After the announcement last year of an adverse finding belonging to Jamaican 4×100 relay team member Nesta Carter, there was always the chance that Usain Bolt (along with Asafa Powell and xxx) was going to lose one of his Olympic Gold medals and that was confirmed this week.  While a shame that we can no longer call him the ‘triple-triple’ Olympic Champion, to say he is now only an 8-time Olympic Champion shouldn’t really take any gloss of his unbelievable career.  Not just because he still has an unrivalled level of a success for a sprinter (Carl Lewis obviously had his long jump exploits to aid his tally) but also because he hasn’t lost it due to anything that he has done and so there hasn’t really been any suspicion placed on Bolt himself which is good because it would have been a massive shame had it done so.  It also reminds me that as we enter the final months of his career, there isn’t much opportunity to enjoy the big man’s talent and charisma that has made him one of the very few to transcend his sport on a truly global level.  I think it would be silly to downgrade his legacy because of this loss of this medal and thankfully it doesn’t look like it will.  It didn’t with Michael Johnson after relay gold medals he lost due to teammates failing tests due to his extraordinary individual achievements and the same will be Bolt.

 

EUROPEAN ATHLETICS SET UP TASKFORCE TO LOOK AT LEGITIMACY OF EUROPEAN RECORDS

european-athletics-logo

 

In the past there have been numerous discussions about the legitimacy of many of the World Records with either strong suspicions about individuals or indeed nations (for example East Germany in the 1980’s) or indeed certain time periods where performances were of such a high level that even the very best today can’t get close to.  UKA in its manifesto last year had also mentioned it and proposed a new set of world records to replace the previous ones with mixed reactions from those in and out of the sport.  There was also the idea of the millennium world records which in hindsight would have been the best time to do it, although instead of Flo-Jo having the women’s 100 metre world record it would have been Marion Jones at the time so it wasn’t a perfect solution.

This latest attempt by European Athletics (who say that they are working closely with the IAAF on this) is intriguing but it will be a difficult process as there will no doubt be strong opposition from some over previous records that will be deemed to not be credible after this review.  Say, for example, if Marita Koch’s 400 metre European record (which of course is also the World record) was removed this would lead to a series of interesting questions.  In her case, there is evidence of her being a big part of the doping system created by East Germany that clearly many were subjected to but ultimately as far as anyone knows never failed a drugs test, then what precedent would that set?  Common sense would suggest to many (me included) that it was highly unlikely her record was done clean as even the very best today can’t even get close to a second of it.  However what level of proof or evidence would be needed for any performance to be deemed non-credible?  I am not saying this shouldn’t be done because it will cause opposition and problems, but I do wonder how effective this attempt will be but I hope very much that it is.  Of course in this example, it would mean the IAAF would have to remove it as a world record because otherwise it would undermine what European Athletics is trying to do so hopefully they are indeed in close contact over this and therefore reviewing their own World records as well.

THE 2017 WORLD INDOOR TOUR BEGINS IN BOSTON

 

With some very early performances done we enter the first ‘big’ meet of the year with the Boston Indoor Grand Prix which is happening this weekend.  For full start lists you can find them here: http://www.nbindoorgrandprix.com/events-results/

 

Among the highlights include an intriguing battle in the women’s pole vault with Jenn Suhr and Olympic Champion Katerini Stefanidi likely to be the main contenders in what could be a very close contest.  There is also a very competitive women’s 60 metre race with English Gardner the highest profile American in a race which features just one non-American who is the Jamaican Schillonie Calvert.  The men’s 60 metres doesn’t necessarily feature the highest profile line up although it does contain an Olympic Champion with Long Jumper Jeff Henderson in action who has just been announced for the Birmingham Indoor Grand Prix in his usual event.

The highlight of the meet though lies with the middle distance races on offer.  The women’s 3000 metres features an impressive line-up with Sifan Hissan, Helen Obiri and Shannon Rowbury all announced whilst the men’s version has excellent depth with Gebremeskel the biggest African name, American represented by Olympic medallists Paul Chelimo (5000) and Clayton Murphy (800) and Garrett Heath and Britain’s Andrew Butchart who had an excellent 2016 which saw him finish 6th at the Olympics.

Another American Olympic Champion Matthew Centrowitz goes in the mile and along with Olympic bronze medallist in the 5000 Hagos Gebrhiwet.  Current women’s World 800 metre champion Marina Arzamasova is in action along with Britain’s Lynsey Sharp as well as the whistle-blower behind the various investigations and reports into Russian doping Iuliia Stepanova makes a rare appearance on the circuit.  2015 World silver medallist Fabrice Lapierre and 2016 European silver medallist Michal Torneus headline the men’s long jump.

 

There are also some rarely run 300 and 600 metre races including the young sprint sensation Candace Hill in the women’s 300 metres and the talented Donovan Brazier goes in the men’s 600 metres.  Should be an interesting start to the World Indoor Tour which for the many Americans competing will be mainly used as preparation for the outdoor season while some of the Europeans looking to get some good performances in with the European Championships in March.

 

That it’s for this week in Athletics as the indoor season gets really underway over the next few weeks with the European Championships a little over a month away.  Thanks for reading and until next time!

This Week In Athletics: 14th January 2017

Welcome to another ‘This Week in Athletics’! Still very early on in the year so not too much action to speak about with the main focus on last weekend’s Edinburgh Cross Country.

 

EDINBURGH X-COUNTRY

 

In the senior men’s race it was an expected Britain versus USA battle between Sir Mo Farah and 3 time winner Garrett Heath.  Well that expectation was half right but it ended up as a battle between rising star Callum Hawkins and Leonard Korir instead.  Hawkins took it our hard from the very start which Korir and Heath tried to follow with Farah not going with the early pace.  Mo would never really be in contention and did not look in great shape but did come through the field to finish 7th.  He has plenty of time to get up to speed before London but it is unusual to see Mo not even in contention for the win.

At the front though, it was the other favourite Garrett Heath who fell off the early pace eventually finishing in 6th but the final battle between Hawkins and Korir was exciting as Hawkins desperately tried to create a gap before the final sprint but was just beaten by the fast finishing American.  A great finish to an intriguing race and another encouraging performance for the young scot.  He’s already been picked for the marathon at the World Championships and he is picking up good momentum with plenty of preparation time already assured of his selection.

The senior women’s race won by Yasemin Can representing Europe (which I’m sure will cause many debates between the BBC commentators for months to come!) who won fairly comfortably, with Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack continuing her impressive run of finishing in the top 2 at this event.  A lot has been said about national allegiances and there is no doubt the rules need changing to at least stop the really obvious changing allegiance for money despite having no real relationship with that country.  However the rules are such that it allows many to change their allegiance for convenience so I don’t think we can blame the athletes too much but hopefully in the next few years it will be a lot stricter.

 

LAURA MUIR DOUBLING UP

 

Carrying on from last week’s post, Laura Muir has stated that not only does she want to do a 1500/3000 metre double at the European Indoor Championships in March but she is also considering a 1500/5000 double at the World Championships later this year! She is clearly a very confident athlete at the moment and possibly at the right age, both physically and in terms of experience to attempt it.  What are the logistics of attempting these doubles though?

Well for the European Indoors it would potentially mean 4 races in just 3 day.  With the 3000 metre heats in the morning session on Day 1 with the 1500 metres later on in the afternoon session.  The 1500 metre final on day 2 and the 3000 metre final on the 3rd and final day.  No matter how good you are that is still a difficult schedule!  I don’t think the worry would be the two heats on the first day however as she should be good enough to qualify for both finals anyway but with the slight challenge of doing it while using up as little energy as possible.  The issue would be whether it would affect her performances in the two finals.  So is it possible?  Well just 2 years ago, Henrik Ingebrigtsen attempted the same double at the previous European Indoor Championships.  He didn’t win two medals but he did set two national records, getting bronze in the 3000 metres but only 6th in the 1500 metres.  It may also depend on the level of competition that turns up to compete against her.  I fear it may hurt her chances of medalling in both and despite her excellent performances the last couple of years she doesn’t yet have a major championship medal, but it will be very interesting to see how she does.  Her profile has gradually risen over the last couple of years.  This could be the year she really enters the sporting mainstream.

 

That is this week in Athletics!  Thanks for reading and see you next week!

This Week In Athletics – January 6th

Hello and welcome to a new series for this blog called ‘This Week In Athletics’ where I discuss some of the news stories for the week just gone.  We are only days into 2017 but there has already been some big news.  This first edition concerns a couple of surprise retirements and an indoor British record.

THE EATON’S RETIRE

brianne theisen eaton                    ashton-eaton

 

It came as a bit of a surprise at first but Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen-Eaton both announced their retirement on the 4th January which saw them win multiple Olympic and world medals.  Ashton of course also retires as the current record holder and may well hold it for quite some time to come.

While a bit surprised as neither are that old, both have already achieved a lot and if both feel that they haven’t got any further level to get to or goals to aim for then it is probably the right decision.  Ashton finishes his career as a double Olympic Champion, a double world champion, a triple world indoor champion and world record holder for both the decathlon as well as the indoor heptathlon.  He retires as the greatest ever male multi-eventer with no real obvious to go for with the possible exception of trying to win 3 Olympic golds but to go another 4 years just for that is tough.

Brianne Theisen-Eaton finishes her career as the reigning World Indoor pentathlon champion as well as possessing two world championship silver medals and a bronze medal from the Rio Olympics.  In a way her decision surprised me more as the opportunity to be a world champion was greater after Jessica Ennis-Hill’s retirement but it seems not having the required motivation and being happy with what she achieved led to her decision.

One thing is for sure which is we are entering new eras for both male and female multi-eventers especially on the women’s side with the emergence of Nafi Thiam, Akela Jones and Katarina Johnson-Thompson all set to challenge for the next several years while there is a huge opportunity for the men for someone to take over.

 

LAURA MUIR BREAKS ANOTHER BRITISH RECORD

laura muir

In her first race of 2017 Laura Muir broke a 25 year old British record when she ran an indoor 5000 metre race (effectively a solo time trial) in 14:49:12 surpassing the lime of Liz McColgan’s previous mark set in 1992.  An event not run very often so all-time lists aren’t necessarily the best barometer (although the current world record was set by Genzebe Dibaba a couple of years ago) but it puts her 9th on the all-time global lists and was less than 2 seconds off the European record.  In terms of the all-time British list only 3 have ever run quicker outdoors which are Paula Radcliffe, Jo Pavey and Zola Budd which is very good company indeed.  It’s just another sign of her rapid improvement over the last couple of years which includes an 800 metre PB of 2:00:42, an incredible 1500 metre PB of 3:55:22 and a 3000 metre PB of 8:38:47 (which one would think could be improved upon even further).  An old coach one described her as having the endurance of Paula Radcliffe and the speed of Kelly Holmes and you can see that is starting to look very true indeed!  Can she can keep the momentum going to August though?!

IN OTHER NEWS

christophe-lemaitre

With it being VERY early into the new year there aren’t too many results and performances to analyse but Christophe Lemaitre finds himself the very early world leader after running 6.58 to replace Dwain Chambers (now 38!) 6.64.  Still early days but interestingly it’s also only 22 days until the first leg of the IAAF World Indoor Tour which starts with New Balance Indoor GP in Boston.

So that was this week in Athletics! The Great Edinburgh International XCountry is taking place January 7th which will see Mo Farah (sorry now Sir Mo Farah!) race against Garett Heath after the American’s impressive win last year.  I will also be keeping an eye out for the England Athletics Senior and U20 Combined Events Indoor Champs and Walks which is happening in Sheffield over the coming weekend (remember the name of Sam Talbot by the way) and then not long after the year really gets going again!

 

Thank you for taking the time to check this out and you can follow me on twitter using the link at the bottom of the page.  Until next time!

 

 

THE ATHLETICS APPETIZER AWARDS FOR 2016

It’s a whole new year which means a whole new season of international athletics is not too far away and I for one can’t wait to see its return!

For anyone who has read my blog before and has been wondering where I’ve been since the Olympics there’s a few reasons why I haven’t blogged or indeed tweeter much since Rio.  Obviously the main season had ended so there wasn’t much to comment on but I also started a new job shortly after so it seemed the right time to step back for a bit.  However with the start of the Indoor season and the European Indoor Championships in March along with the World Championships in London in August, there is lots to look forward to.  Plus I am sure we haven’t heard the end of doping/IAAF controversies and the story of Russian Athletics will continue to create unfortunate headlines.

So onto the first post of 2017 and let’s take one final look at 2016 with the first ever Athletics Appetizer Awards!  This is just my personal take on the best of 2016 so let’s get to it!

 

THE ATHLETICS APPETIZER AWARDS FOR 2016

2016 was quite a year for Athletics with some incredible performances on the track and numerous world records and some unforgettable moments from a unique Olympic games in Rio.  For the 1st Athletics Appetizer Awards (the AAA awards?) I have decided on 10 categories which are as follows:

  • MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
  • FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
  • MALE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
  • FEMALE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
  • MOST IMPROVED MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
  • MOST IMPROVED FEMALE ATHELTE OF THE YEAR
  • MOST PROMISING U20 MALE ATHLETE
  • MOST PROMISING U20 FEMALE ATHLETE
  • MOST MEMORABLE OLYMPIC MOMENT
  • ATHLETICS LEGACY AWARD

There is no set criteria for how I came to my decisions but I’ve tried to look at the season as a whole rather than just what happened at the Olympics but obviously that naturally played a huge part.  So onto our first award:

 

MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

 

WAYDE VAN NIEKERK

wayde-van-niekerk-rio

 

What an unbelievable rise it has been for the South African.  The first man ever to run sub 10 seconds for the 100, sub 20 seconds for the 200 and sub 44 seconds for the 400 makes him the biggest rising star in athletics.  To top off his World title from last year, he added an Olympic title and with it that incredible new World record of 43.03 seconds which despite his rapid progression surprised everyone that he took it so early in his career.

He has an interesting career ahead of him now and you feel there is more to come from him over the shorter sprints especially in the 200.  Not long ago I found myself re-watching the 400 metres final from the 2014 commonwealth games where van Niekerk burst onto the international scene and was with Kirani James for about 300 metres before fading at the end (he had run the heats of the 200 metres earlier that same day) but to see where he has gone from there to the faster quarter-miler of all time is sensational.

 

FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

 

ANITA WLODARCYZK

anita-wlodarczyk

 

Simply dominant in 2016 as she has been for several years now and just keeps extending her World record further and further out of everybody else’s reach.  Unbeaten this year and there doesn’t appear to be anyone who can stop her, the main question seems to be how much can she extend her world record?  She doesn’t get the international recognition that she should and probably largely due to the fact that the hammer is not the most well-known event but her exploits can only be hugely respected.

 

MALE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

 

WAYDE VAN NIEKERK

wayde-van-niekerk-rio

 

A moment where you simply could not believe what you were seeing but those who watched it live saw something incredibly special.  From Lane 8, van Niekerk destroyed two great runners in Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt as he smashed Michael Johnson’s 17 year old record and nearly broke the 43 second barrier which I don’t think anyone saw coming.  Some are calling him the next superstar of the sport and while he doesn’t have the charisma of Usain Bolt (who does?), he has already shown he has the ability to do what people think is not possible and that is when the greatness of the sport is revealed.

 

FEMALE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

 

ALMAZ AYANA

almaz-ayana

The women’s 10000 metres final in Rio was absolutely insane that words can’t really do it justice.  No one thought that a world record was even possible let alone likely especially that Championship races aren’t always the fastest.  However for Almaz Ayana, who had only run a handful of 10000 metre races, she decided that winning wasn’t enough.  She decided that not just breaking the world record but destroying the World Record was what she set out to achieve.  The world record of Junxia Wang has been long under suspicion as were many of the Chinese athletes and times in the 1990’s to the point that no one thought this record could be broken.  The same was said about the 1500 metre record that Genzebe Dibaba broke last year but to do it in an Olympic final is incredibly risky and while it possibly cost her Gold in the 5000 metre final a week later, she left an impression that will be remembered for some time.  If van Niekerk’s world record left you dropping your draw when he crossed the line, then Ayana’s world record had you jaw dropped for several minutes, long before she finished due to the astonishing change of pace that the rest of the world could simply not follow.

 

MOST IMPROVED MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

 

OMAR MCLEOD

omar-mcleod

McLeod became the first person to run sub 10 seconds for the 100 metres and also sub 13 seconds for the 100 metre hurdles in the same season.  It wasn’t a vintage year for the event with no one else going under 13 seconds in the year but while the focus in this event at the beginning of the year may have focused on the American’s or the French hurdlers McLeod really separated himself out of the pack to become Olympic Champion and he has a lot of years ahead of him and with his flat speed I think he has a chance of approaching that incredibly world record of 12.80 seconds from Aries Merritt in 2012.

 

MOST IMPROVED FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

 

KENDRA HARRISON

kendra-harrison

 

I very nearly went with Harrison for performance of the year and it was very close between which World Record to go for but Harrison’s world record in the Olympic stadium in London was perhaps the moment of the year.  If only the clock had been right the first time though!

In a season which she was largely dominant on the circuit which included a near world record run in Eugene she did not compete in Rio after failing to make the top 3 at the US trials.  She bounced back in incredible fashion though after she broke the world record in London.  Assuming she is in London next year it seems it’s her to lose but the slight doubt about her ability to run her best in the biggest moments will be tested and she will be very interesting to follow next year.

 

MOST PROMISING U20 MALE ATHLETE

 

KONRAD BUKOWIECKI

konrad-bukowiecki

 

Dominant at the World Junior Championships which saw him win by over a metre and set a new World Junior record of 23.34 metres.  With the senior implement he showed his potential to be one to watch as his throw of 21.14 metres meant he was ranked 12th in the world which is impressive for a 19 year old.  Of course there is no guarantee that dominance in the junior ranks will lead to similar senior success but it would be quite the surprise if he was not heavily involved at the top of men’s shot put for many years to come.

 

MOST PROMISING U20 FEMALE ATHELTE

 

CANDACE HILL

candace-hill

Still just 17 years old Candace Hill has already achieved a lot in her junior career adding a World Junior title to her name in a new Championship record of 11.07 seconds ahead of the also talented Swoboda and Khalifa St. Fort to set her up as the big sprinting talent of the future.  Of course with the talent the US has, there is no guarantee that she will be making the team for the World Championships next year or even possibly the one after that but with still so much time to develop it seems surely a matter of time before she finds herself on the biggest stage.  It’s crazy to think that she’ll be 25 at the 2024 Olympics where you would think she would be in her prime and that’s still 7 years away!

 

MOST MEMORABLE OLYMPIC MOMENT

 

USAIN BOLT COMPLETES THE TRIPLE-TRIPLE

usain-bolt-3-medals

 

As amazing as some of the other moments in the Olympics were including the aforementioned world records to Thiago Braz Da Silva’s victory in the pole vault, there was a moment after Bolt had won his 9th Olympic gold medal when you realised that we had probably seen the last of Usain on the Olympic stage.  Ultimately his presence, his personality and his performances are what a lot of people will remember from the last 3 Olympic Games.  He transcended the sport and became on the few Olympics who everyone around the world knew exactly who he was and the list of people who have done that is very short indeed.  Are there greater Olympians or even better athletes in track and field history?  Depending on who you ask you will get very different responses.  No one has carried his sport quite like Usain has though and his act will be an impossible one to follow.

 

ATHLETICS LEGACY AWARD

 

JESSICA ENNIS-HILL

jess ennis

 

At the age of 30 Jessica Ennis-Hill announced her retirement from athletics after a career that saw her win home Olympic gold (along with silver in Rio), 3 World Championships and European Champion which marks her as one the best female multi-eventers in history.  Beyond her talent and success though, what really stood out about Jess was her character and the example she has given for others to follow.  From a physical point of view she showed that you didn’t have to be the tallest or even the strongest to make it in the heptathlon which many of the best were.  She showed that you can be as graceful in defeat as you can in victory and she showed that you if you have the passion and the drive you can overcome any obstacles and challenges.  She did it all during her career and there aren’t many athletes who retire as beloved as she is.  She will be dearly missed but hopefully many will see her example as the one to follow.  An amazing career for one of the best multi-eventers of all-time.

 

So that completes the first AAA awards! Did you agree with my choices or would you have gone for something else?  There was a lot of choice for some of these awards so there is plenty of room for debate.  Let me know in the comments or tweet me using the link the bottom of the page.

 

That’s all for now and with the Indoor season not too far away next time I will set out my early indoor season preview and wishes for 2017.  Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a great 2017.

 

Until next time!

 

 

 

 

2016 Olympic Games Preview And Predictions: Long Distance

Today’s final part of my Olympic preview will focus on the long distance races including the marathons and the race walks.  I shall provide links to all the previous 5 parts of this series below and then I will get on with conclusion of my Olympic preview!

https://athleticsappetizer.com/2016/07/29/2016-olympic-games-preview-and-predictions-the-sprints/

https://athleticsappetizer.com/2016/08/01/2016-olympic-games-preview-and-predictions-middle-distance/

https://athleticsappetizer.com/2016/08/02/2016-olympic-games-preview-and-predictions-the-jumps/

https://athleticsappetizer.com/2016/08/03/2016-olympic-games-preview-and-predictions-the-throws/

https://athleticsappetizer.com/2016/08/04/2016-olympics-preview-and-predictions-hurdles-and-multi-events/

 

MEN’S 5000 METRES

Mo Farah will be going for his 5th consecutive global title and depending on what happens in the 10,000 metres another Olympic gold medal.  Farah tends to race fairly sparingly and over several distances from the 1500 in Monaco to winning bronze at the World Half-Marathon Championships in Cardiff this year.  His win in London, going sub 13 running solo for large parts of it was encouraging and it will be interesting to see what the tactics of his competitors will be as Mo can adjust to whatever way the race is run in.

His biggest threats seem to be the Ethiopians with Muktar Edris, Dejen Gebremeskel and Hagos Gebrhiwet who are 2nd, 3rd and 4th in rankings out of those athletes going in Rio behind Mo Farah.  Any one of those 3 could medal and challenge Farah with Edris being many people’s pick to do so.  Such is the strength of Ethiopia in this event there is no room for Kejelcha.

Kenya initially only named 2 athletes in this event with Caleb Ndiku and Isaiah Kiplangat Koech.  Ndiku seems to be the best chance (he was 2nd behind Farah at the World Championships last year) although he is not that high on the world list this year.  According to the road-to-rio ranking page, the third Kenyan is Charles Muneria who I wouldn’t expect to be in the medals.

The outside bets include Uganda’s Joshua Kiprui Cheptegei and you can’t rule out Morocco’s Abdalaati Iguider who goes earlier in the week in the 1500.  For a real surprise maybe Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed who was 3rd in Eugene back in May when he ran just outside 13 minutes.

PREDICTIONS: GOLD: Mo Farah (GBR); SILVER: Muktar Edris (Ethiopia); BRONZE: Hagos Gebrhiwet (Eth)

 

WOMEN’S 5000 METRES

If Farah is a favourite in the men’s event then Almaz Ayana is an absolute overwhelming favourite!  She is the 2nd quickest in history in the event and was just a second outside Tirunesh Dibaba’s World Record in Rome this year and now has 3 of the fastest 6 times in history.  She is also 17 seconds quicker than anyone else in the world this year, so it will be no surprise to know she is my pick to win gold!  Her teammate Senbere Teferi won silver in an Ethiopian 1-2-3 in Beijing last year and with Genzebe Dibaba just focusing on the 1500, the third Ethiopian will be Ababel Yeshaneh.

Kenya’s challenge to Ayana contains Vivian Cheruiyot, Hellen Obiri and Mercy Cherono.  Like Ayana Cheruiyot is going in both the 5000 and the 10000 and she is one of the quickest of all time in this event as well although she hasn’t been the fastest Kenyan this year.  In fact that was Viola Jelagat Kibiwot who was not selected so it is left to Hellen Obiri as the 2nd quickest in the field with a best of 14.32 (nearly 20 seconds slower than Ayana!)

I am pretty confident will be between the Kenyans and the Ethiopians but Yasemin Can representing Turkey looks like the most likely of anyone to break up the Kenyan-Ethiopian battle.

Britain has 3 going in this event (or should I say Scotland is!) with Steph Twell, Elish McColgan and Laura Whittle all going and I think Steph Twell can get top 10 if she can keep her form this year going.

PREDICTIONS: GOLD: Almaz Ayana (Eth); SILVER: Hellen Obiri (Ken); BRONZE: Vivian Cheruiyot (Ken)

 

MEN’S 10000 METRES

Mo Farah is going for many records in Rio.  He is looking to become the first Brit to retain an Olympic track and field title sine Sebastian Coe and Daley Thompson successfully did so in 1984 (although Jessica Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford have the chance to beat him to it).  He won his usual 10k race in Eugene which was the world lead until Ethiopia’s Yigrem Demelash beat it in Hengelo.

The main rival would appear to be Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor who was 2nd behind Farah in Beijing but did beat him in the World Half-Marathon Championships.  He hasn’t run a track 10000 metres since that race in Beijing but he has a very quick 5000 time to his name so I don’t think there should be much doubt over his form in the 25 lap race.  Most people are looking to him to set a quick and sustained pace if that tactic is to try and run the finish out of Farah.  They tried it in Beijing last year and it didn’t work so are they prepared to go out even harder?  We will have to wait and see.

Paul Tanui and Charles Yosei join him in the Kenyan team with Abadi Hadis and Tamirat Tola (who was 3rd behind Farah in Eugene) joining Demelash in the Ethiopian team.  Ibrahim Jeilan was named as the reserve for those who remember Farah’s last major championship defeat in this event.

America’s Galen Rupp is going for a rare 10000 and Marathon double and while I think a London repeat is unlikely he is nearly always there in the final stages and if he has enough he can contend in a sprint finish if that it comes down to.  Zersenay Tadese and Ali Kaya are other names to potentially to look out for.

PREDICTIONS: GOLD: Mo Farah (GBR); SILVER: Geoffrey Kamworor (Ken); BRONZE: Yigrem Demelash (Eth)

 

WOMEN’S 10000 METRES

Not only is Almaz Ayana again the favourite to take the title, Ethiopia are ridiculously strong in this event.  They have 9 of this year’s top 10 in their ranks meaning whatever 3 they picked would all be possible medallists.  With Ayana they have Gelete Burka and Tirunesh Dibaba who of course is the Olympic Champion from London.  Ayana’s win in Hengelo (which is where 9 of those top 10 times have come from this year) was again pretty dominant as she was 20 seconds ahead of her teammate Gelete Burka with Dibaba just a few hundredths behind.  They certainly look formidable.

However it was a Kenyan that won the World Championships last year, the aforementioned Vivian Cheruiyot although her best time of 31.36 will need to be improved upon although I am confident she will.  She is joined by Betsy Saina and Alice Aprot.

Again this seems another Kenyan vs Ethiopia battle with the best bet from Europe being European Champion Yasemin Can.

I expect the Japanese to set the early pace as they tend to do and it will be interesting to see how the 3 Brits do with what will be surely Jo Pavey’s final run in the Olympics as she gets ready for her 5th Olympics after qualifying at the very last minute.  She is joined by Beth Potter and surprise package Jessica Andrews.

PREDICTIONS: GOLD: Almaz Ayana (Eth); SILVER: Tirunesh Dibaba (Eth); BRONZE: Gelete Burka (Eth)

 

MEN’S 20KM WALK

Japan dominates the rankings this year with all three of their entrants in the top 3 this year going under 1 hour 19 minutes.  Eiki Takahashi, Isamu Fujisawa and Daisuke Matsunaga will compete for Japan although it should be said that the Japanese did not do very well in the World Championships with none of their three winning a medal.

The World Champion is Spain’s Miguel Ángel López but his best this year is outside 1 hour and 20 minutes but in a Championship environment it is likely to not be as quick as what the Japanese have run.  His teammate Alvaro Martin is ranked in the top 10 going into Rio.  Outside of the Spanish, Europe’s best hope appears to be Sweden’s who is 4th this year with a time just outside 1 hour and 19 minutes as did Germany’s Christopher Linke.

China have been traditionally strong in this event and Weng Zhan has the fastest time in the qualification period of 1 hour and 18 minutes flat and a repeat of that will almost certainly see him win gold.  He is joined by Chen Ding and Cai Zelin.  Mexico also have a strong contingent with their 3 ranked in the top 22 in the qualification period.

British record holder Tom Bosworth provides some home interest and while a medal seems unlikely, hopefully he can continue the interest in the event in this county particular after Callum Wilkinson’s victory in the World u20 Championships this year.

PREDICTIONS: GOLD: Weng Zhan (Chn); SILVER: Eiki Takahashi (Jap); BRONZE: Miguel Angel Lopez (Esp)

 

WOMEN’S 20KM WALK

China are even more dominant in the women’s event with 4 of this year’s top 8 and coming off a Chinese 1-2 in the World Championships.  Hong Liu and Xiuzhi Lu are again selected and their third athlete Shijie Qieyang is ranked 3rd in the world this year so China will very likely feature very heavily here again.

Maria Guadalupe González of Mexico is 2nd in the world this year and looks to be one the Chinese’s main challengers along with the Italian duo Elisa Rigaudo and Eleonora Giorgi who are only separated by a couple of seconds in their best times this year.  Italy also have Antonella Palmisano who is not too far behind.

There could be a big advantage for Brazilian Erica de Sena who should be more suited than anyone to the conditions that they will be competing in and I think that may be a factor in her breaking up the Chinese dominance.

The other European contender looks to Czech athlete Anežka Drahotová although the Portuguese could feature as well.

PREDICTIONS: GOLD: Hong Liu (Chn); SILVER: Xiuzhi Lu (Chn); BRONZE: Erica de Sena (Bra)

 

MEN’S 50KM WALK

Jarred Tallent was denied a true Olympic gold medal moment in London after Sergey Kirdyapkin’s was found to have doped years later.  He is a contender again 4 years later although he probably won’t start as the favourite.  He is however ranked 4th in the world this year (3rd if you exclude drug cheat Alex Schwazer who was caught again this year) and could certainly win another medal.

Slovakia’s Matej Tóth is by far Slovakia’s best medal chance and the favourite after beating Tallent at the World Championships last year and his best time recorded last year is over 3 minutes faster than anyone else has managed this year or last year.

France’s Yohann Diniz Leads the world rankings this year with a 3 hours 37 minutes and 48 seconds and on paper is Toth’s closest challenger as on one else has gone quicker than 3 hours and 40 minutes except for Toth and Diniz.

China are again very strong and have a good chance of at least one medal with Wang Zhendong, Han Yucheng and Yu Wei ranked 3rd, 5th, and 6th in the world this year.  Japan again could feature with Hiroki Arai and Takayuki Tanii representing their best chance with South America’s best chance being Ecuador’s Andrés Chocho.  Dominic King goes for Britain after qualifying for London 4 years ago.

 PREDICTIONS: GOLD: Matej Toth (Svk); SILVER: Yohann Diniz (Fra); BRONZE: Jarred Tallent (Aus)

 

WOMEN’S MARATHON

Again in a distance event we have to look at the Kenyans and the Ethiopians when previewing the Women’s marathon.  Ethiopia seem to have the edge over their Kenyan counterparts with World Champion Mare Dibaba (yes another one) and world leader for 2016 Tirfi Tsegaye whose win in Dubai is one of only two sub 2 hour 20 minutes run in the last couple of years.  They are joined by Tigist Tufa who was 2nd in the London Marathon this year.

Jemima Jelagat Sumgong was the winner in London and last year’s World silver medallist and looks to be Kenyan’s biggest threat with Tokyo winner Helah Kiprop and winner in Paris Visline Jepkesho providing strength in depth on the Kenyan side.

Outside of the Kenyans and the Ethiopians, there is Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa representing Bahrain.  She won Bronze at the World Championship last year who seems most likely to again prevent the Kenyans and Ethiopians sweeping the medals and Japan have a strong tradition in female marathon running Kayoko Fukushi their fastest runner and she won in Osaka in January.  Sonia Samuels and Alyson Dixon go for Britain.

PREDICTION: GOLD: Mare Dibaba (Eth); SILVER: Jemima Sumgong (Ken); BRONZE: Tirfi Tsegaye (Eth)

 

MEN’S MARATHON

The last event for me to preview is also the last event on the athletics calendar and ends just before the closing ceremony.  Championship marathons can be quite surprising sometimes bearing in mind the major city marathons can have fields that are just as strong if not stronger due to not having the 3 per country rule in place.

On paper this should be another Kenyan/Ethiopian battle with both countries dominating the world lists.  Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge came very close to breaking the world record when winning in London and will likely start as the favourite with his teammate Stanley Biwott not to far behind and they are joined by Wesley Korir.

The Ethiopian challenge is led by Tesfaye Abera who won in Dubai in January along with Competitor Lemi Berhanu and Feyisa Lelisa.

Stephen Kiprotich from Uganda has the best non Kenyan/Ethiopian time and he is joined by World Silver medallist from Beijing Solomon Mutai.  He was beaten in what was a surprising World Championship by Ghirmay Ghebreslassie who continued the success of his famous surname and is still only 19 years old when the marathon gets underway in Rio.  That race in Beijing shows that anything can happen in Marathons (as we Brits found out with Paula in 2004) and there is no knowing who will deal with the conditions best or who will just be feeling good on the day until that day arrives.  However I still see the Kenyans doing well as the times they have run would suggest they should at least be in contention.

Three brits have been selected with Derek and Callum Hawkins along with Tsegay Tewelde and while you wouldn’t expect a medal, you just never quite know in these championships marathons.

PREDICTIONS: GOLD: Eliud Kipchoge (Ken); SILVER: Stanley Biwott (Ken); BRONZE: Tesfaye Abera (Eth)

 

That completes my Olympic Preview series! It has taken quite a lot of time to put this all together and it proved a useful tool for me to get more familiar with some of the names in the events I don’t quite follow as closely so I hope it was good for all of you as well!

I would like to take a quick thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read all my posts (6 in a week!).  The numbers of views have been fantastic and I hope you all enjoyed it and got you ready for the Olympics to start which is later today (except for the football which has already started)!  Below is my final medal prediction table.  I will look to see how close I was in terms of medals, medallists and where countries were on the table once the games are over.  I will likely measure the number of medals as opposed to the position due to the fact that a couple of changes in gold medals can make quite a difference in terms of placement but it shall be interesting to see how close I am.

So once again thanks for reading and enjoy the Olympics!

Rank Country G S B Total
1 USA 13 12 7 32
2 Kenya 5 6 3 14
3 Jamaica 5 3 2 10
4 Ethiopia 4 2 5 11
5 Great Britain 3 1 5 9
6 Poland 3 1 0 4
7 China 2 1 3 6
8 South Africa 2 0 1 3
9 Germany 1 4 4 9
10 France 1 1 2 4
11 Belarus 1 1 0 2
12 New Zealand 1 0 1 2
13= Colombia 1 0 0 1
13= Croatia 1 0 0 1
13= Qatar 1 0 0 1
13= The Netherlands 1 0 0 1
13= Puerto Rico 1 0 0 1
13= Slovakia 1 0 0 1
19 Canada 0 2 2 4
20 Spain 0 2 1 3
21 Brazil 0 1 1 2
22= Bahamas 0 1 0 1
22= Bahrain 0 1 0 1
22= Burundi 0 1 0 1
22= Cuba 0 1 0 1
22= Finland 0 1 0 1
22= Morocco 0 1 0 1
22= Japan 0 1 0 1
22= Trinidad and Tobago 0 1 0 1
22= Ukraine 0 1 0 1
22= Venezuela 0 1 0 1
32 Australia 0 0 2 2
33= Belgium 0 0 1 1
33= Czech Republic 0 0 1 1
33= Granada 0 0 1 1
33= Greece 0 0 1 1
33= Kazakhstan 0 0 1 1
33= Serbia 0 0 1 1
33= Tajikistan 0 0 1 1
33= Turkey 0 0 1 1