Bolt vs Gay (and Bailey)
Expect fireworks in the World Champs 100m showdown
BERLIN: All eyes will be on the heats for the men’s 100m when the World Athletics Championships gets under way here today.
There are three finals today, with the weather forecast to be a sunny 30C: the men’s 20km walk in the morning session, with the men’s shot-put and women’s 10,000m in the evening session.
There are also heats for the women in the 3000m steeplechase, triple jump and 400m, along with pole vault qualification and the first four disciplines of the heptathlon – the 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200m.
Beside the 100m, male athletes will be contesting qualification in the hammer throw, and heats in the 1,500m and 400m hurdles.
But it will be in the quarterfinals later in the day when interest will peak, when the run-in to the expected final duel between Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay, triple Olympic and triple world sprint champions respectively, finally kicks off.
Rarely has there been a more eagerly anticipated race-off between two sprinters who are the world’s current leaders over the blue riband event, the final of which is run on Sunday night.
There are four other athletes with sub-10sec credentials this season, all with good chances for a podium finish.
Daniel Bailey of Antigua has been the season’s breakout performer, clocking 9.91 in rainy and cold conditions at the Paris Golden League meet behind Bolt.
For mer world record holder Asafa Powell, who took bronze in Osaka, has been struggling with lingering injuries, while Churandy Martina of the Dutch Antilles, fourth in Beijing, has a season’s best of 9.97.
Unfortunately for the Ethiopian team, defending world and Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba has been ruled out of the women’s 10,000m. But all is not lost as the Ethiopians have dominated the event for the past decade at the worlds, and there’s little to indicate that their streak will not continue in Berlin given the strength of the remaining three runners.
Dibaba’s long-time rival, Meseret Defar, the reigning world 5000m champion, will have her first test over the distance in a major championship with her eye also on a double, although compatriot Meselech Melkamu might have something to say about that.
In the men’s shot-put, the US team boast a powerful quartet as they seek to secure this title for a sixth time in the last seven editions.
Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski could be the man to stop them, the 27-year-old Pole having shot to the top of the world lists with a new national record of 21.95m in Stockholm, where he beat many of those he is likely to face in Berlin.
Reigning world champion Reese Hoffa leads the US assault as he bids to become the third man to mount a successful defence of this title. His season’s best mark of 21.89m was achieved back in Eugene in June and he has not won a competition since.
US champion and Olympic silver medallist Christian Cantwell is also expected to pose a serious gold medal challenge.
The 20km walk sees reigning Olympic champion Valeriy Borchin of Russia as firm favourite in the German capital.
Borchin has the world leading 1:17:38 mark from February and is unbeaten in his three races this season.
Olympic bronze medallist Jared Tallent of Australia and fourth place finisher Wang Hao of China are the best picks to challenge the Russian. – Sapa-AFP
FULL SPEED: Daniel Bailey, Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake burn up the track in the London Grand Prix last month