Osaka, JapanSix titles will be up for grabs on the day Seven programme at Nagai Stadium, including some of the most eagerly anticipated contests.
Women’s 20Km Race Walk begins the day
Once again the race walkers will be starting early to avoid the hottest part of the day. This time it’s the ladies who’ll have to be up before dawn to start their 20km road walk at 8 a.m.
Race walkers, like discus throwers, have long careers. Four of the first five finishers from Helsinki in 2005 – Olimpiada Ivanova (RUS), Susana Feitor (POR), Maria Vasco (ESP) and Barbara Dibelkova (CZE) -- are here. So are five of the six 2000 and 2004 Olympic medallists, which include Ivanova and Vasco as well as Kiersti Platzer of Norway, 2004 gold medallist Athanasia Tsoumeleka (GRE) and Australian Jane Saville, who became famous at the Sydney Olympics not for winning, but for being disqualified as she was about to win (on worldwide television, yet); and who came back to win Olympic bronze in 2004 in Athens.
Ivanova, whose winning 1:25:41 in Helsinki is the World record, also won the 2001 Worlds, and dropped out while leading in 2003 with a bad hamstring. She has no known mark in 2007, but she’s entered here, which automatically makes her one of the favourites – along with all those mentioned above. I guess you’d say she is prima inter pares among women walkers. Besides the already named, I’ll add another Russian, Olga Kaniskina, as one to watch.
If you’re up early yourself to watch the walkers finish in Nagai Stadium, stay to get the bonus of watching the men’s javelin qualifying round. There is nothing in athletics more graceful than the sight of a 80-plus metres javelin throw arching across the sky.
Decathlon competition gets underway
Perhaps an even more compelling reason to watch the day’s morning events is to see the first day of the men’s Decathlon, which begins at 10 a.m. with the 100m and continues through the 400m nearly 12 hours later. You never know for sure which decathletes are in perfect health and which are more or less banged up, but we do know that among those present are former World champions Tomas Dvorak (CZE -1997, 1999, 2001), Tom Pappas (USA - 2003), and Bryan Clay (USA – 2005), along with 2004 Olympic gold medalist Roman Sebrle (CZE), whose 2001 score of 9026 points is still the only 9000-plus tally ever recorded.
All have PBs above 8700 points, and so does Dmitriy Karpov of Kazakhstan. Leading the 2007 year list is the 32-year-old Sebrle, with 8697, closely followed by a 21-year-old newcomer, Andrei Krauchanka (BLR) at 8617. Look for performers who improve their PBs in the first two events, the 100m and the Long Jump. That’s a good indication that those athletes are sharp.
Xiang, Trammell and Robles head the men’s high hurdles final, but don’t forget Payne
Thursday's men's 110m Hurdles semifinals set up an apparent showdown tonight between World record holder and Olympic champion Liu Xiang of China and two-time Olympic silver medalist Terrence Trammell of the U.S. But Dayron Robles of Cuba, who beat Liu Xiang in his semifinal, 13.21 to 13.25 (although Liu loafed the last 10 metres) might like a piece of the action.
And then there's the David Payne story. On Thursday evening, less than 48 hours after he jetted in from the Unites States to replace the injured Dominique Arnold, Payne raced his way into the finals, winning his heat in the fastest time of the three semis, 13.19.
Lebedeva chasing historic double
The women’s Triple Jump has been dominated the last few years by Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia, who won in 2001 and 2003, was injured in 2005 and is jumping well again this year. Her 15.36m is second on the all-time list, and she leads the 2007 world list at 15.14m. Close behind her this year are Cuban Yargelis Savigne and Greece’s 2004 Olympic silver medalist, Hrysopiyi Dvetzi, both at 15.09, and Slovenian Marija Sestak, at 14.92. Note that Devetzi did her 15.09 here, in Wednesday’s qualifying round, so we know that she’s ready.
Can anyone catch Felix? Women’s 200m
The women’s 200m final was figured to be a three-way contest for the gold medal among newly crowned 100m champion Veronica Campbell of Jamaica, attempting to complete the classic sprint double, and Americans Allyson Felix (the 2005 World champion) and Sanya Richards, the 2006 Woman Athlete of the Year and winner of the 2006 IAAF World Cup. The most compelling is Richards, the early favorite in the 400ms here, who surprisingly finished fourth in the American championships, and thus did not make the American team for the individual 400m. Her only chance for an individual medal here is in the 200, and she intends it to be gold - but she’ll have to run the race of her young life to pull it off. Felix put away Campbell definitively in her semi-final, winning by two metres in 22.21, while Richards ran well to win her semi, but in 22.50. That's a pretty big hill to climb.
Can anyone stop Wariner?
The men’s 400 has one of the Championships’ hottest favorites – defending champion and 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner, who further cemented his favorite’s role by running 43.50 in Stockholm three weeks ago. That’s equal No. 3 on the all-time list. Ranked behind him are two other Americans, Angelo Taylor and LaShawn Merritt, who finished 1-2 in the U.S. championships in June, clocking 44.05 and 44.06. Probably the biggest obstacles to a U.S. sweep of the medals are Chris Brown of the Bahamas, fast-finishing Leslie Djhone of France and Tyler Christopher of Canada.
Also on for Friday evening are the heats of the men's 4x100 relay (when Americans collectively hold their breaths), and the guaranteed-to-be exciting semifinals of the men's 800m and women's 1500.
What a day to look forward to!
James Dunaway for the IAAF