Preview Osaka, Japan

Osaka 2007 - DAILY PREVIEW - Day Nine, 2 Sep

Jeremy Wariner - 43.45 in Osaka (Getty Images)Jeremy Wariner - 43.45 in Osaka (Getty Images) © Copyright

The final day! And it’s all finals – no more heats, quarter-finals, semifinals or qualifying rounds – just FINALS.

Local attention turns to women’s Marathon

It all starts at 7 a.m. when the gun is fired to get the women’s Marathon under way. Only two entrants have run under 2:20 – Catherine Ndereba of Kenya (2:18:47) and China’s Zhou Chunxiu (2:19:51), but others with fast PBs include Galina Bogomolova of Russia (2:20:47), and Madai Perez of Mexico (2:22:59).  And  since Japan has won eight out of the 30 women’s medals in the history of the Worlds, the thousands of Osakans lining the course will be cheering for local heroine Reiko Tosa  (PB 2:22:46), who missed winning the gold medal in Edmonton by a mere five seconds.

There’ll be a race-within-the-race going on, too. Ndereba, Zhou, Bogolomova, Perez and Tosa are all in race for the World Marathon Majors $500,000 winner-take-all annual jackpot, and there’s nothing quite like big money like that to keep you motivated.

Lagat chasing historic 1500/5000m double

While we’re on distance running, the men’s 5,000 metres will give Bernard Lagat an opportunity to join the ranks of a very small club – those who have won Olympic or World Championships gold medals in both the 1,500 and 5,000 in the same year. Only Paavo Nurmi (1924 Olympics) and Hicham El Guerrouj (2004 Olympics) have done it.

Standing in the way will be Tariku Bekele (ETH), younger brother of 10,000m winner Kenenisa on Monday, and 2003 World champion Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya. These three may well be sprinting down the homestretch over the final 100m for the medals. And with them may well be Australian Craig Mottram, who is one of the few non-Africans who has shown he can run with them.

The men’s 800 should be equally close, with fast-finishing Yuri Borzakovsky of Russia almost certain to be in at the finish, along with Gary Reed of Canada, Wilfred Bungei and Alfred Yego of Kenya, Amine Laalou of Morocco and Mblaeni Mulaudzi of South Africa. But seven of the eight finalists have run under 1:44. My prediction: it should be close – and fast!

In women’s 1500, the battle to succeed Tomashova

The women’s 1500m will be the last individual race of the championships. With two-time champion Tatyana Tomashova of Russia out with an injury,  Russia’s 2005 second and fourth placers, Olga Yegorova and Yelena Soboleva, look ready to move up. And Helsinki fifth placer Maryam Jamal looked impressive sprinting to win her semifinal from the third Russian, Nataliya Panteleeva, with the other semi being won by Iryna Lischynska of Ukraine in a closie over Soboleva.

4x400m Relays cap the Championships

The last two races of the day – and the championships – will be the men’s and women’s 4x400m relays.

The women’s race figures to be a two-nation affair. Both Russian and the U.S. were 15 or more metres ahead of their competitors, and both will be far faster in the final, when at least two faster runners – with an extra days’ rest -- will be running for each team.

In the men’s 4x400, the U.S. will go in as a strong favorite, especially since 400m individual champion Jeremy Wariner will substitute for one of the Americans, but also because the other three will run a lot faster. But they will get an argument from the Bahamas (which had the fastest qualifying time, 3:00.37), Jamaica, Russia and Great Britain.

The men’s Javelin Throw brings together four 90-metres-plus throwers – Norway’s Andreas Thorkildsen (19.59m), Finland’s Tero Pitamaki (91.53), Breaux Greer (91.29) of the U.S., and Latvia’s Vadims Vasilevskis (90.73). Seems like there’s nothing more to say – except that at least one of them won’t win a medal.

Is Vlasic ready for first major senior title?

The women’s Olympic High Jump in Athens was won by Russian Yelena Slesarenko, who had a clean sheet all the way through her winning height of 2.06m. In 2005, Kajsa Bergqvist of Sweden won at the Helsinki Worlds with 2.02. This year, though, the event has been dominated by 23-year-old Blanka Vlasic, who has won 11 of her 12 2006 competitions, and has raised her personal best (and Croatian national
record) to 2.07.

These three could easily corral all the medals, but if they don’t, the leading candidates are Italy’s Antoinetta DiMartino (2.03), Slesarenko’s Russian compatriot Anna Chicherova, 2.01 this year, and perhaps Amy Acuff (2.01) of the United States.

James Dunaway for the IAAF