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Saturday, August 15, 2009

IAAF World Champs Day 1

World Champs Day 1: Women's 10,000m and 100m heats

I'm writing this while watching the first round of the men's 100m, a sign that the IAAF World Championships are well and truly underway. I had planned a post previewing all the track races, and giving my medal picks, but time ran away from me, and besides, you'd get better and more comprehensive news from LetsRun's dedicated World Champs site. What I will do is preview events as they come, and hopefully do some post-race reports. There's no swimsuit science or doping and climbing power output to discuss, but a lot to say nonetheless!

Women's 10,000m - no Dibaba, but Ethiopia to dominate anyway

In the women's 10,000m, Tirunesh Dibaba, the defending champion and the Olympic champ over 5 and 10k was forced to pull out earlier this week with an injury. It's an injury which has hampered her all year, and the truth is she was not really the favourite to win this race anyway. That honour probably went to Meseret Defar, even with Dibaba in the race. Her withdrawal means that Defar assumes the outright favourite tag.

The only opposition is likely to come from Ethiopians - one wearing the vest of Turkey (Elvan Abeylegesse) and the others representing Ethiopia. Abeylegesse has been the perennial silver medalist at major championships - Osaka 2007, Beijing 10,000m and Beijing 5,000m. Her 2009 form is nothing special, but she rarely seems to race in Europe, but has featured strongly at championships. There's no reason to think she won't be in similar shape in Berlin. Her "achilles heel" in the past has been finishing speed, and she's fallen victim to Dibaba's finishing kick in all three of those races mentioned above. She may provide the sparks tonight, because it is likely that she will instigate the major surges in the second half of the race in attempt to burn off the Ethiopian speed.

With Dibaba out, Abeylegesse's challenge doesn't get any easier, because Defar has speed to burn as well, and so she's likely to assume Dibaba's role perfectly. Look for the race to be conservative to halfway, then for Abeylegesse to push on, but for Defar to sit in third or fourth all race and then win it in the final 300m. Defar also has the 5th fastest time in history at 29:59, in what was her first ever 10,000m race, and so she has what it takes to run fast, slow with a kick and it's difficult to see how she may be beaten.

Perhaps Meselech Melkamu can produce a surprise - she ran 29:53 earlier this year, the second best of all time (and maybe fastest "clean" time), and so she is the fastest in the field. However, in a championship race, minus the pacemakers, its difficult to see her matching Defar. She may split Defar and Abeylegesse, depending on form, but I think I'd bank on Defar to win ahead of Abeylegesse, with Melkamu in third.

Men's 100m - heats

The big showpiece event of the week's athletics is the 100m showdown between Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay, both men having moved safelty through to the quarter-finals, which take place this evening. Bolt jogged pretty much the last 70m of the race and qualified comfortably, while Gay registered the fastest time (10.16s, so it's hardly telling us anything) looking a little more tense, but that is largely down to the different form of the two men.

The only drama in the first round was provided by Asafa Powell, who either wound his race down to perfection, or found himself with a smaller margin than he expected, and finished third in his heat, only just getting through to the quarter-finals. Two-hundredths of a second slower would have seen him finish fourth, and watching the quarterfinals from the stands tonight.

I'll do a proper pre-race preview once the semi-finallists are known, but at this stage, it's difficult to see Bolt losing and difficult to see anyone but Gay coming close. It's certainly not a sure thing for Bolt, because Gay is good enough when healthy to force Bolt into running close to his best, but seems to just be that critical distance back of the Jamaican. Time will tell, but I'd predict Bolt ahead of Gay, Daniel Bailey in third.

Overall favourites

Finally, if you want to get an indication of general sentiment regarding each event, the best place to get it is Letsrun.com's prediction contest: You can enter and win some good money, but it's a tough ask. However, it makes for really interesting reading if you look at the event by event averages.

It shows that the biggest favourite of the week is Kenenisa Bekele, who 98% of entrants have picked to win the 10,000m. On the women's side, it's Yelena Isinbayeva in the pole-vault.

The "tightest" event is the men's 800m, where it's almost a deadheat between Kaki and Kiprop (though it is a two-horse race). The marathon is most widely spread. It's always interesting to take the average of the predictions, and see how they pan out.

We'll be doing our best to see how everything pans out ourselves, and there is more to follow, so join us again soon!



Anonymous said...

Watched the final of the women's 10,000m. What an epic race. I never thought a 10,000m race would be so exciting to watch. Masai's winning stride was totally unexpected. Defar focused on beating melkamu started celebrating before crossing the finish line having no sight of Masai blazing past her. That race will go down in history on how not to finish a distance race.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Anonymous

It was fantastic. For 9950m it really did look as though it would be another Ethiopian 1-2-3, and then Masia upset the apple cart. Fantastic run.

Any my prediction could not have been more incorrect! But great result for Masai, I don't know what happened to Defar, she seemed to seize up with 30m to go and maybe cramped in the left hamstring. I have no idea, but it wasn't what was expected, that's for sure!

My latest post is my race recap by the way!


Frans Rutten said...

Until recent a 10K was newland for Defar. Still she could have won, with a not present superfit Dibaba, if Masai hadn't forced so strongly from 7K on. The following kilometres in rather difficult conditions were at a 10K pace of resp. 29:20; 29:41 and ultimately 28:50. Last 3K at a 10K pace of 29:17. Last lap in 63,14s. Defar never really got away and apart from collisions which might have affected her, it seemed to me, that she completely ran out of gas. In cycling the ultimate goal in a 1K time trial it's to run or rather ride out of gas once you pass the finish line. Due to remaining saved kinetic energy the bike to a certain extent will still move effectively forward in the finish stage. But that's not the case with the human body. But apart from the fact Defar maybe did miscalculate her condition (she would have kept waiting)we will never know if this would have resulted in winning.

Not until I looked up some figures of the ominous 10K World Record of 29.31.78 run by Wang Junxia, I saw the immediate ressemblance with the 10K race of Berlin 2009. This World Record Race began relatively spoken rather slow (5k 15:05.8), but Wang Junxia advanced just like Lineret Masai from 7K on.

But mind you from 3:04.3 to 2:45.6 (fastest 1K split up till then) and yet followed by another fastest split in 2:44.9. No wonder that her last 1K was in a "modest" 2:47.0. Her last 3K were (8:17.47)well inside the current WR, which she later on set to 8:06.11 (last K in a stunning 2:36.4). Performance-wise she proved thus the 3K finish in the 10K. Wang Junxia's 2nd half also was sub current WR.

tim newman said...

its official..UIsain Bolt ran 10m in 0.80 seconds...Berlin sports study shows 1.61 s for 20m interval..granted that could mean 2x 10m intervals of 0.805...

Gay achieved 1.63 for 20m in the same race.