Berlin 2009 - Expected highlights / DAILY PREVIEW - Day One, 15 Aug

08/14/2009 - 14:30

02_berlin-logosmall.gifFrom IAAF- Berlin, Germany - The 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics begin on Saturday morning (15th) with a bang. Literally, with the crack of the starting device, and metaphorically, because one of the first events on the track, the men’s 100m promises to be THE event of the championships.

There are two principal reasons, and lots of subsidiary ones. The first principal is triple Olympic champion and World record holder, and athletic messiah, Usain Bolt of Jamaica; the second is the reigning champion, who has shot back to top form this year, Tyson Gay of the USA.

Bolt vs. Gay gets underway!

The subsidiary ones are four time World record breaker Asafa Powell of Jamaica, new US champion Michael Rodgers, and assorted luminaries of the fast start and finish, such as Olympic silver medallist Richard Thompson of Trinidad & Tobago, fastest improver this year, the Antiguan Daniel Bailey, the former champion Kim Collins of St Kitts & Nevis, and Churandy Martina of Netherlands Antilles.

Where a championships will always score over a one-day event is in the tension that builds up during successive rounds. None more so in an event as eagerly awaited as this 100m, where close to 100 men will go to the blocks in 12 heats in the late morning.

With three to progress from each heat (plus four fastest losers) to Saturday evening’s second round, Powell looks to have a relatively easy passage from heat three, while Bailey’s principal opponent in heat five should be Jayasuma Saidy Ndure of Norway. Bolt could stroll heat nine and still go through, while Thompson’s closest challenger should be Aziz Zakari of Ghana. And Gay and Collins contest heat 11.

Majewski takes on the American fearsome foursome

If the track events provide the bang, then the very first event of the morning supplies the thump – of the men’s shot hitting the turf. Tomasz Majewski of Poland added a lifetime best of 21.95m just two weeks ago to the Olympic title he won last year. And is likely to be challenged by the same men who finished behind him in Beijing, 2003 champion, Andrei Mikhnevitch of Belarus and Christian Cantwell of the USA. But there are three more formidable Americans to rebuff, defending champion, Reese Hoffa, former champ Adam Nelson, and Dan Taylor, who has made a big improvement this year, to 21.78m. It’s a big day for the big men, the heats open proceedings at 10:05, and the final is at 20:15.

Search for Dibaba’s 10,000m successor begins

The late withdrawal through injury of double Olympic distance champion and twice world champs winner of both 5000 and 10,000m, Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia has thrown the longer distance wide open for the final on Saturday evening. But it’s almost certain that there will still be an Ethiopian winner, since Meselech Melkamu and 2004 Olympic 5000m champ Meseret Defar have both broken 30 minutes this year, to increase that select band of sub-30 women to five (three Ethiopians, including Dibaba, and a former Ethiopian, Elvan Abeylegesse) behind leader Wang Junxia. Beijing silver and bronze medallists, Abeylegesse of Turkey and Shalane Flanagan of the US will have to run well above any form they have shown so far this season if they want to repeat those feats. But Linet Masai of Kenya is the most likely to challenge her Ethiopian neighbours to the medals.

In 20Km Walk, momentum on Borchin’s side

The first final of the championships, the men’s 20Km Race Walk at 13:00 looks tailored for another Olympic champion, Valery Borchin of Russia, the more so with the retirement of triple World champ Jefferson Perez of Ecuador, who won silver in Beijing. The Russian, at 22 the youngest ever to win the Olympic crown (displacing Perez) has won the three major events of 2009, the Russian Winter Challenge (in a personal best 1:17:38), the Race Walk Challenge in Wuxi, China, and the 10k in Krakow, where he set another personal best of 38:11. His countrymen, Andrey Krivov and Pyotr Trofimov may prove to be his biggest rivals, but Jared Tallent of Australia has proved a man for the big occasion, as evidenced by his Olympic bronze in Beijing.

Ennis and Dobrynska the favourites to succeed Kluft

The contest for a new Heptathlon champion begins after the men’s shot qualifying, since three-time winner Carolina Kluft has renounced the event (for the time being) in favour of the Long Jump. Absent from Beijing through injury, Britain’s Jessica Ennis has been improving personal bests and confidence throughout this season, but Olympic champion Natalya Dobrynska of Ukraine will not relinquish her top spot without a long struggle over the weekend.

Elsewhere - Isinbayeva, Richards, Ohuruogu and Kiprop journeys begin

In qualifications, queen of the infield, Yelena Isinbayeva begins her charge towards yet another title in the pole vault, while in the 400m heats, Sanya Richards of the US tries yet again to win a major title to go with her three years’ domination of the events. But though she has been as quiet as usual in early season, Christine Ohuruogu of Britain has not won the Commonwealth, World and Olympic titles in the last three years without getting something right.

Although Kip Keino and Noah Ngeny have won Olympic titles, the Kenyans have never really dominated 1500m proceedings as much as statistics suggest they should. But with Asbel Kiprop, Haron Keitany and Augustine Choge contesting the heats early Saturday evening, they have a chance of a sweep. But of course, former compatriot and defending champ Bernard Lagat, now of the US, and Dream Mile winner, Deresse Mekonnen of Ethiopia, and twice Euro champ, Mehdi Baala of France (coming back into form) may have considerable input on that score.

Pat Butcher for the IAAF

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