400m HS Men (Heats)
Two men seem stronger than the others : the seasonal leader JAVIER CULSON, from Portorico, able running in 48”38 slowing down in the last 40m, arguably in the best shape of his life, and the World Champion from UK David Greene.  In my opinion, it’s difficult for everybody else to defeat these two.  The athletes uf US, KERRON CLEMENT, MIKE TINSEY and ANGELO TAYLOR, didn’t push too much, and can be in contention for a medal.  Very good the Cuban  OMAR CISNEROS, at his PB with 48”63, but the impression is that is very close to his real limit.  The 35y old FELIX SANCHEZ, after a long career and a very hard surgery, showed the best shape of the last 6 years. The semifinals can give us some more info.

3000m Steeple Men (Semifinals)
We were very much impressed by  EVAN JAGER, that can have some chances of medal.  He has a very good running technique, and also can be considered a “natural” hurdler, and really we see only two men better than him at the moment : BRIMIN KIPRUTO and EZEKIEL KEMBOI, the most expert competitors in the full field.  There were no surprises in the 3 semifinals, apart the non qualification of the Ethiopian BIRHAN GETAHUN in the second, and of the Spanish VICTOR GARCIA in the third, in both the cases because of a fall in one barrier.  
In the first, as normal, the Ugandan BENJAMIN KIPLAGAT went in front pushing the pace, and of course the best times come from that heat. Evan Jager took the head with about 2 laps to go, and seemed very easy and able to increase the speed, if he needed.  We were not impressed too much by the European Champion, the French MEKHISSI-BENABBAD, winner because Jager preferred to relax in the last 40 meters. BENJAMIN KIPLAGAT fell down after the water jump with 500m to go, and was still able to come back in 5th position, going to the final because of one of the best times.  ABEL MUTAI was not particularly easy, and can find strong opposition in the final in his attempt to win a medal.
In the second, it was the Ugandan JACOB ARAPTANY to go in front, but never the pace was very high.  At the end, in the weakest of the heats, BRIMIN KIPRUTO won without pushing too much, but second was the Italian YURI FLORIANI, a 31 year old specialist at the best result of his career.
In the third, the behavior of EZEKIEL KEMBOI was very strange.  He started very slow, remaining for two laps in the last position, with a gap of about 30 meters from the last athlete of the group, lead by DON CABRAL of US.  Cabral was in front both in the first and second km (2’46”00 and 5’36”40), and at the end was able to qualify with his 4th position.  EZEKIEL closed the gap in very easy way, and in the last lap showed to be the strongest of the field, leaving the victory to the Ethiopian ROBE GARI, and finishing the race in the 7th lane…
Some consideration  :  

  1. Kenyans are still the best, but the gap with US is now very little, because JAGER is not far from their value
  2. 3000 Steeple is at the moment a specialism not able to produce new names in the World, apart young Kenyans.  For that reason, there is room for results in top 8 (final) for runners of medium level, in the big Championships, when only 3 Kenyans can compete.  Thinking of this opportunity, I don’t understand why many Countries don’t try to develop specialists in this event, that can produce better results than the other long distances, where the opposition of African runners is more deep.

TRIPLE  JUMP  Women  (Qualification)
It seems this event is crossing a very poor period of talents.  Nobody could suppose, two years ago, that for qualifying for an Olympic final a jump of 14.16 could be enough…
Only two athletes were able to overtake the qualifying limit in their first attempt : the Jamaican KIMBERLEY WILLIAMS with 14.53 and the 40y old YARMILA ALDAMA, now competing for UK, with 14.45.  The best in his season, OLGA SALADUHA of Ukraine, struggled with 14.35 in her 2nd attempt, and OLGA RYPAKOVA of Kazakistan had to wait her 3rd jump for qualifying with the best performance of the day (14.79) after risking to be out.  Good impression from the Colombian CATERINE IBARGUEN (14.42), while TATYANA LEBEDEVA (14.30) and the Cuban SAVIGNE (14.28), also if qualified, seem to face physical problems limiting their possibilities.

400m Women (Heats)
The Russian ANTONINA KRIVOSHAPKA produced me the best impression, winning her heat in 50”75 stopping completely running in the last 50m.  She is clearly in the same shape showed during Russian National Championships, when she ran the best seasonal time in the World (49”16).  Also the two other big favorite, SANYA RICHARDS-ROSS and AMANTLE MONTSHO, didn’t push, giving impression of relaxation and easy effort.  Sanya ran with very good technique, while Amantle, more powerful, went easy for her last 20m, running in any case 50”10, that is the best time of the day.
I think the defending champion from UK, CHRISTINE OHURUOGU, is not out of the possibilities of a medal. We know her as a very strong fighter in the top competitions, and her performance (50”80 easy) can indicate she’s able to run under 50” (during OG in Beijing, she ran in the heat 51”00).
Another athlete in good shape seems the Jamaican NOVLENE WILLIAMS-MILLS, winning her heat in 50”88. Instead, the Russian YULIYA GUSCHINA seemed to struggle with her 51”54, really not easy.
In my opinion, we can have a possible surprise in the Nigerian (with US Passport, too) REGINA GEORGE.  Only 21 (she’s born in 1991), won the last heat in 51”24.  The only problem can be the great number of competitions she already ran in the season : 8 times 200m, 19 times 400m, 1 time 500m, 8 times relay 4x100, 2 times relay 4x200 and 12 times relay 4x400m, with a total of 50 competitions !

Renato Canova

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