From the Marathon at 1530 local time to the 200m final at 2010, Saturday’s action on the eighth day of the IAAF World Championships in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium looks to be a quality affair all the way through.
Let’s get the big one out of the way right up front: Usain Bolt is running.
The 200m final will be the final event of Saturday evening, and though Bolt cruised through qualifying on Friday with the slowest first round win and then leading home the slowest semifinal, he’s been the man to beat in this race ever since he won at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
USA’s Curtis Mitchell and British teenager Adam Gemili were impressive in qualifying, running 19.97 and 19.98 respectively, but none looked as relaxed and untroubled in advancing as Bolt. In fact, both Mitchell and Gemili’s marks were personal bests.
With ‘only’ a 9.77 in the 100m, few expect a record from Bolt at twice that distance, but a third World Championships gold at 200m, let alone a third consecutive, would be unprecedented. Nobody has ever won more than two.
Australia’s defending champion Sally Pearson dominated her qualifying heat of the 100m Hurdles, and clearly is ready to race.
However, she may face a strong challenge from the only athlete to run faster than her in the heats, USA’s Brianna Rollins, who delivered a scorching 12.55 performance three heats after Pearson.
Rollins has been one of the fastest hurdlers this year, but has also had a longer season, so the face-off between the two may make one of the more intriguing races of the event.
Defar’s path open
With Tirunesh Dibaba’s victory in the 10,000m, some thought the Ethiopian federation might enter her in the 5000m. Instead the path is open for 2007 World champion Meseret Defar to regain her title, which has for four years been the property of Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot.
Defar’s best competition may come from two athletes who advanced from the other qualifying heat from hers, Kenya’s Mercy Cherono and Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana.
Kicking off the afternoon with a 1530 start, the men’s Marathon will use the same riverside loop course that the women did.
Expect the Kenya-Ethiopia rivalry to be on full display.
Ethiopia’s big names include the 2013 London Marathon champion and 2008 Olympic Games medalist Tsegay Kebede and young star Lelisa Desisa, while Kenya brings sub-2:06 fire power with Bernard Koech and Peter Some.
Chicherova out to hit the heights
Defending women’s High Jump champion Anna Chicherova looks to be in good position to retain that title from the dozen other women hoping to challenge in that final.
What’s more, Chicherova may be able to lead an unprecedented sweep of the medals by Russia, as the Olympic champion is accompanied by the highly rated London bronze medallist Svetlana Shkolina and their team mate Irina Gordeeva.
The challenge is most likely to come from US champion and 2012 Olympic Games silver medallist Brigetta Barrett, who cleared a 2013 world-leading 2.04m when winning her national title in June; but Barrett has had a long season and struggled in qualifying.
Three athletes topping the competition is a tall order but if the Russians can pull it off, it will be a historic feat.
The USA team won their qualifying heat in the women’s 4x400m Relay heats, but the excitement came in heat three, where Russia and Jamaica staged what amounted to a duel to the death.
Russia won in 3:23.51, over a second-and-a-half faster than the USA’s qualifier, while Jamaica were ultimately disqualified for a lane violation, so the final now appears to be a battle between the USA, Russia, and the quartet from Great Britain which won with relative ease in the second heat.
Tarabin the local Javelin favorite
The men’s Javelin has a strong local interest in Dmitri Tarabin, the 2013 world leader with the 88.84m that he threw to win at the Russian championships last month.
Among those hoping to challenge Tarabin are Czech Republic’s Viteslav Vesely and Finland’s Tero Pitkamaki.
An Interesting finalist but not expected to challenge for a medal is Julius Yego, the first Kenyan finalist in this event, but then how many people expected Keshorn Walcott - who crashed out in Thursday’s qualifiers - to win the Olympic title for Trinidad and Tobago 12 months ago?
Russian favorites in the throws have drawn strong fan response in previous sessions, so the Javelin is likely to be as loud as the High Jump.
Parker Morse for the IAAF