100m Men (Heats)
All the world was curious to see USAIN BOLT after his defeat in Jamaican Championships. The final answer is : BOLT IS BACK, in his top fitness, and very close the best shape of his life. Winning his heat, he didn’t run, but had a normal “stride” like in warm-up. I never saw anybody running 10”09 …. without running !
Under this point of view, Usain was the sprinter giving me the best feeling of shape. There were other good times, and 2 athletes ran under 10”00 : RYAN BAILEY of US was the fastest, with his PB of 9”88, like was able to run in 20120 in Rieti. Yet young (born 13.04.89), very powerful (188 x 82 kg), Bailey runs with very good technique, and has room of improvement if the tension doesn’t bring him to run without the right relaxation.
About the other “tops”, I saw YOHAN BLAKE very easy in 10”00, JUSTIN GATLIN after a very good start controlling without pushing too much in 9”97, TYSON GAY against wind after a slow start in 10”08 in full control, ASAFA POWELL very fast between 20m and 70m before relaxing in 10”0, and a DWAIN CHAMBERS better than the expectation winning his heat in 10”02.
We saw the new English sensation ADAM GEMILI, 18y old, running with high frequency for his 2nd position behind Powell in 10”11, and of course he can improve in the semifinal, but doesn’t have chances for reaching the final. Instead, I had a bad impression from BLEDMAN : 10”13 using only strength, never relaxed. But may be this is for the pressure of his debut in Olympics.
400m Men (Heats)
The most important fact is that the defending champion LASHAWN MERRITT had to pull out for the injury he had during the last Diamond League. This, of course, can give more chances to the other top athletes, that in the heats had a different behavior.
KIRANI JAMES, the World Champion of Daegu, 20 years old, ran for 350m only, completely relaxing during the last 50m, almost like a jogger. His time of 45”23 run in this way makes me thinking possible to run very close 44” flat, and in my opinion he’s the logic favorite.
But another athlete preferred to push till the end, also in full control : JONATHAN BORLEE, one of the two Belgian twins that we can consider the best European specialists. He, born 22.02.88, more powerful than his twin KEVIN (180 x 67 kg vs. 180 x 62 kg), bettered the National Record of his brother running 44”43 (from 44”56). Jonathan this year worked for improving his speed, and ran his new PB in 200m with 20”31 on 5th May in Lubbock (TX). But he worked on his specific endurance, too, and ran a fast 31”87 winning the not official distance of 300m one month ago (5th July) in Liege.
Jonathan ran the first time under 45” in 2009 (44”78), and after had great seasonal continuity around these times : 44”71 (2010), 44”78 again (2011), now 44”43. After the Olympic heats, he has an average of 44”791 for his best 10 competitions.
His twin KEVIN seems a little less fast, and a little more resistant. That’s the reason because there is a plan for trying 800m, too, from next year. He ran 8 times under 45”, and improved his PB this year, during the National Championships, with 44”56. Two years ago, during the European Championships, he became the winner while everybody looked at Jonathan, with 45”08. Today Kevin was the winner of his heat with 45”14, more controlled than his brother in the last furlong.
Another athlete that can look for a medal is the World Junior Champion from Dominican Republic, LIGUELIN SANTOS, born on 12.11.93, very easy in his heat won with 45”04, that represents his 5th best performance (his PB is 44”45). Santos runs using very high frequencies, and normally is able to finish very fast, so is very dangerous in the last 100m.
Another interested athlete is PAVEL MASLAK of Czech Republic, able running the new National Record going for the first time under 45” (44”91 behind Jonathan Borlèe). Born on 21.02.91, sprinter of 100m when junior, at the end of 2010 had a PB of 46”89. Only last year he decided to move to 400m, and of course is in continuous improvement. Before today, his PB was 45”17, run in Torino on 8th June during the Primo Nebiolo meeting.
The other athlete under 45” is DEMETRIUS PINDER of Bahamas, with 44”92. Pinder is one of the athletes of the new generation (born 13.05.89) with the right morphology (183 x 79 kg), and has a good speed (20”23 in 200m), basically important for his PB in 400 (44”77). Today he was in 2nd lane, his effort didn’t seem maximal, and the sensation is he can run in 44”60.
I was not impressed by the athletes of US, that can be in trouble for winning the Relay, too.
TONY McQUAY (16.04.90, 178 x 64 kg), winner of Trials with 44”49, showed good potential, but his interpretation of the heat was too much superficial, and at the end he was not able to close the gap with the leader. BRYSHON NELLUM (1.05.89, 183 x 79 kg) never gave me the idea to be a big champion : heavy in his way of running, probably has the talent of a medium class specialist.
The last impressing me is the Australian junior STEVEN SOLOMON, born 16.05.93. He won the 6th heat with good personality, improving his PB till 45”18. No chances at the moment, but good future ahead.
3000m Steeple Women (Semifinals)
The 3 semifinals produced 2 big surprises : the elimination of the Turkish MINGIR, European Champion having a PB of 9’13”, running a shameful 9’43” (that can authorize people to think of something strange, especially if the same thing can happen in the heat of 1500m with the other European Champion CAKIR), and of the Kenyan LYDIA ROTICH, who this year never was able to repeat the same shape of last year.
But also I saw a GULNARA GALKINA, world record holder, not able to improve her shape during the last month after running 9’24” in the Russian Championships one month ago, and a MILCAH CHEMOS struggling for an injury she suffered during last month, that didn’t allow her to go in full training.
In the first semi, the winner was the German GESA-FELICITAS KRAUSE, very young (born 3.08.92), moving her PB from 9’32”74 to 9’24”91. She defeated the new Ethiopian ETENESH DIRO (officially born on 10.05.91), that can be interesting in the final being aggressive and loving to push the pace.
In the second semi, the Ethiopian SOFIA ASSEFA, already expert, won easy in 9’25”42 a race leaded by EMMA COBURN of US, but the impression was that the Tunisian HABIBA GHRIBI, 2nd in 9’27”42, could have a lot of energy in case of necessity at the end. Habiba had last year a bad surgery, now is coming back and probably her shape is not very far from when she won a medal in WCh ’09.
In the third semi, the third Ethiopian, HIWOT AYALEW, won easy. This athlete is very young (6.03.90), tall and with good technique, being Ethiopian. She was a specialist of 5000m (14’49” in 2011), and only this season prepared the specialism of steeple full time. Till now, she ran the event 9 times only, with a PB of 9’09”61 behind Sonia Assefa and Milcah Chemos.
However, I think nobody can defeat the Russian YULIYA ZARIPOVA-ZARUDNEVA, in her full maturity. Born on 26 April 86, with a PB of 9’07”03 and a seasonal best of 9’09”99, she is the World Champion 2011 after winning silver in 2009, and is the European Champion 2010.
Also if the African runners look more one another speaking about medals (so for Kenyans only Ethiopians exist, and for Ethiopians only Kenyans), the reality is that Russians specialists (from Samitova-Galkina to Volkova to Zaripova) have a superior technique in overtaking the barriers and specifically the water-jump, and many times are also faster running the flat distances, so there is no way to defeat them, when in shape) are able to peak when they need, and are practically unbeatable in the top Championships
The last thing is that the event, very advanced in 2009, every year seems to become weaker.
POLE VAULT Women (Qualification)
Two big surprises . the elimination of the World Champion, FABIANA MURER of Brasil (only 4.50 with 3 errors at 4.55) and of the Russian FEOFANOVA (no marks).
On the other side, a very focused ISINBAYEVA, a good Cuban YARISLEY SILVA, an easy JENN SUHR and a strong SILKE SPIEGELBURG (also if she needed her 2nd attempt at 4.55).
Yelena Isinbayeva seemed very “clean” in her technique, other times we say her very aggressive, but with technical problems on the bar. If she remains in this shape, no chances for anybody else.
After Long Jump and Javelin Throw, we have two answers already : JESSICA ENNIS becomes Olympic Champion and can attack the limit of 7000 points, and the defending champion DOBRYNSKA is out for her 3 faults in long jump.
But we have still to live a big fight for the medals behind Jessica.
At the moment, the situation is as follows :
ENNIS (UK) 5971p (6.48 LJ – 47.49 JT)
SKUJYTE (LAT) 5783p (6.25 LJ – 51.13 JT)
YOSYPENKO (UKR) 5701p (6.31 LJ – 49.63 JT)
NANA DJIMA (FRA) 5696p (6.13 LJ – 55.87 JT)
SCHWARZKOPF (GER) 5692p (6.30 LJ – 51.73 JT)
CHERNOVA (RUS) 5657p (6.54 LJ – 46.29 JT)
The competition of Javelin was technically very good, with the most part of the athletes bettering their PB or in any case going very close it.
Looking at the value of the athletes when only 800m remain, I can suppose the medals are a matter between Chernova, Schwarzkopf and Yosypenko. Skujte has a good gap, but can run about 2’20” only, and this is not enough for maintaining the advantage if Chernova runs 2’08”. Schwarzkopf and Yosypenko usually runs around 2’13”, while the European Champion Nana Djima can’t do better than 2’17”, and at the end probably will be number 6.