MonteCarloThe third edition of the IAAF World Athletics Final takes place in Monaco on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 September, while the Hammer Throw competitions, will be held in Szombathely, Hungary this Saturday (3 Sep), due to technical constraints within the Stade Louis II. In the penultimate event category preview, we now focus on the middle and long DISTANCE running events.
The start-list of the World Athletics Final is decided according to the IAAF World Rankings, with athletes who are in the top 7 positions (11 positions for the races of 1500m and over) in each event automatically qualifying.
The date upon which the IAAF Rankings are calculated with respect to the World Athletics Final, is after the final TDK Golden League meeting of the season in Berlin on Sunday 4 September.
Consequently, our previews are as accurate as possible given that no one can predict the results which might occur during the course of this week or if an athlete will be available or fit enough to compete.
With no one collecting more than a few major wins this season, the men’s 800m will be one of the most wide-open events of the World Athletics Final.
After losing more than a week’s worth of training following the death of his grandmother last month, Olympic champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy fought his way to a silver medal finish at the World Championships, and followed up with another runner-up finish in Zurich before claiming his first major win of the season in Brussels.
After early and mid-season injury setbacks, Kenyan Wilfred Bungei, the fastest in the world the previous two seasons and the winner here in 2003, became the first this year to finally dip under 1:44 with his 1:43.70 win in Rieti. Showing that he’s finally rounding into form, Bungei had earlier dispatched a strong field to successfully defend his Zurich title as well.
Bungei’s training partner Youssef Saad Kamel was also hampered by minor injuries the past two months, failing to qualify for the Helsinki final. But Kamel, the former Kenyan Gregory Konchellah, has found some momentum since. With a pair of runner-up finishes in Zurich and Brussels, the defending World Athyletics Final winner turned in an impressive 1:43.96 win in Rovereto on Wednesday, only the second sub-1:44 of the season, and his first victory of the year.
William Yiampoy, at 31 the year’s elder statesman in the event, displayed the wisdom he’s attained over his career with a strong homestretch charge in Helsinki to capture the bronze. The winner at the Paris TDK Golden League meeting, he followed up Helsinki with third and fourth place finishes in Zurich and Brussels respectively
Others presumably in the mix include South African Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, who won the Helsinki Grand Prix in 1:44.08, and Canadian Gary Reed. Just 23, Reed lowered the national record three times this season: first to 1:44.82 in Eugene where he upset Borzakovskiy and finally to 1:44.33 in his Helsinki semi-final. The runner-up in Zurich, he was third in Brussels.
While double World champion Rashid Ramzi tops the field in the 1500, the race, like the 800, is very much up for grabs, with several men coming to Monaco with something to prove.
Ramzi’s historic feat in Helsinki has been much reported, but as the young Moroccan-born Bahraini said, “I have to look ahead.” Tired from his six races in Helsinki, Ramzi was a distant second in the Brussels 1500, and chose to sit out last weekend’s Rieti 800 to rest for Berlin’s ISTAF and Monaco. After his double win, coupled with a 3:30.00 season’s best, Ramzi has shown this year that any race - whether very fast or a more tactical one - suits him just fine. In Monaco, he’ll be out to show that Helsinki was no fluke.
Daniel Kipchirchir Komen, who won TDK Golden League contests in Paris, Zurich and Brussels, and with his 3:30.01 personal best, the third fastest of the season, has his own demons to conquer. A favourite heading into the World Championships, the 20-year-old Kenyan couldn’t advance from the first round in Helsinki.
Another man with something to prove is Bernard Lagat, who last week burst to the quickest time of the year, a national and North American record 3:29.30 in Rieti. Due to his change of citizenship from Kenya to the United States last year, Lagat was unable to compete in Helsinki, thus in a sense, Monaco will be the two-time Olympic silver medallist’s World championship. A fierce competitor, Lagat has won four of his 12 1500/mile races, and never finished farther back than third.
Defending champion Ivan Heshko of Ukraine hasn’t been as fast as in previous years, but he has collected four wins this year, and was fourth in Helsinki. Other contenders include Kenyan Alex Kipchirchir, who has a 3:30.82 to his credit, and Rui Silva of Portugal, who again displayed his big race ferocity with his bronze medal finish in Helsinki.
Whether or not Kenenisa Bekele recovers in time from his recent 10,000 metre World record performance in Brussels, a strong Ethiopian presence will nonetheless be on hand in Monaco to take on their perennial rivals from Kenya. Just as last year, 12 of the top 15 ranked distance runners are from the two east African nations, guaranteeing hotly contested team battles in both the 3000 and 5000.
Ethiopia has double Helsinki silver medallist Sileshi Sihine; Kenya comes armed with recently-minted 5000m World champion Benjamin Limo and 10,000 bronze medallist Moses Mosop.
Eliud Kipchoge, fourth in Helsinki but who has 7:28.56 and 12:50.22 clockings to his credit this season - the former a world leader the latter the second fastest of the season - provides strong back up for Kenya, along with Augustine Choge, who comes armed with a 7:28.78 World Junior record and a 12:53.66 personal best.
For Ethiopia, there’s also 21-year-old Abebe Dinkesa, who’s turned in 12:55.58 and 26:30.74 personal bests this season, and Gebre Gebremariam, who’s run 12:52.80.
But there will be others outside of the big-two countries vying for top honors as well. Since winning the 2002 World Cup 3000m, Australian Craig Mottram has spent much of the past three seasons gradually chipping away at the myth of east African distance dominance, most recently displayed with his bronze medal winning performance in the World championships 5000m. Racing at all distances from the 1500m to the 10,000m this year, Mottram has produced a notable range, from his PB 3:34.80 to his 12:56.13 in Sheffield.
Not to be outdone, young Ugandan Boniface Kiprop has fast credentials this year as well: 12:58.43 and a sizzling 26:39.77, both national records.
Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
After coming up just a little short during his assault on his own 3000m Steeplechase World record in Brussels, Saif Saaeed Shaheen suggested that he might try again in Monte Carlo. With the way he’s dominated and indeed demoralised his competition this year, it would appear that anything short of a World record would be a disappointment for the 22-year-old Kenyan-born Qatari as he sets out for his third consecutive win in Monaco – and his 20th straight in the event overall, a win streak that stretches back to 25 May 2003.
As they have all season, Kenyans Ezekiel Kemboi and Brimin Kipruto, second and third in Helsinki, will be chasing Shaheen, as will former World record holder Brahim Boulami.
Like many other events, the women’s 800m will bring together the top three from Helsinki - Cuban Zulia Calatayud, Hasna Benhassi of Morocco, and Russian Tatyana Andrianova - promising a compelling rematch with lots of pride on the line.
With seven wins in 10 competitions, the 25-year-old Cuban finally achieved the consistency she displayed three years ago when she ran her personal best of 1:56.09 on the same Monaco track where she arrives as a marginal favourite. Underscoring her Helsinki triumph, Calatayud scored an impressive win in Zurich as well.
After opening the season with six wins in seven races, Benhassi, second at last year’s Olympic Games, began a streak of four straight runner-up finishes. After a disappointing sixth place finish in Brussels, the 27-year-old Moroccan is aiming to return that competitive tide.
World leader Tatyana Andrianova (1:56.07) followed up her Helsinki podium finish with a runner-up showing in Brussels. After strong wins in Stockholm and Oslo, the 25-year-old Russian has shown that she can run fast and win key match-ups.
Others in the mix include Russians Svetlana Cherkasova and Larisa Chzhao; Spain’s Mayte Martinez, the Brussels winner; and U.S. champion Hazel Clark.
After being hospitalized following the huge pile-up in the Eugene 1500m, Tatyana Tomashova bounced back in a big way by successfully defending her World title in Helsinki. While she competed sparingly, she’s exhibited strong late-season form with her world-leading 2:34.91 win over 1000 metres in Linz and her 3:59.05 third place showing in Rieti.
That Rieti race was won Maryam Yusuf Jamal in a stunning 3:56.79, a world-leading effort for the year’s biggest middle distance discovery. Jamal, an Ethiopian-born refugee who now competes for Bahrain, won four of her five races over the distance this year. Her only setback came in Helsinki where she was impeded on the backstretch of the final lap and eventually finished fifth. Displaying phenomenal range, the 20-year-old produced 1:59.69 (800m), 8:28.87 (3000m), and 14:51.68 (5000m) clockings as well this year, all national records.
Helsinki silver medallist Olga Yegorova has turned in yet another strong season, with wins in Paris and Madrid and a personal best 3:59.47 to her credit. Bouchra Ghezielle, the bronze medallist in Helsinki, ran a 4:01.90 French national record in mid-June, and could also be a threat.
Like the men’s events, the women’s distance programme in Monaco will be a parade of Ethiopian and Kenyan talent; but this year, it’s been the Ethiopian contingent that’s reigned supreme.
Tirunesh Dibaba, Berhane Adere and Ejegayehu Dibaba opened the World Championships with a sweep of the 10,000m. Seven days later, the Dibaba sisters, this time with Meseret Defar between the two, swept the 5000m as well. Underscoring their dominance, Ethiopians own eight of the 10 fastest performances this year in the 5000m and the six fastest in the 10,000m. Regardless of which athlete contests which event in Monte Carlo, the Ethiopian “machine” will provide a daunting collective opponent.
Kenyan fortunes rest on the petite shoulders of Isabella Ochichi and Edith Masai. Ochichi, the Olympic silver medallist at 5000 metres, opened 2005 with three wins in her first four contests, but couldn’t manage better than eighth in Helsinki’s 5000m. But Ochichi displayed good late-season form with a personal best 14:38.21 in Brussels. Despite celebrating her 38th birthday this year, Masai has gotten faster. At Rome's Golden Gala, she set a Kenyan record 14:37.20, and followed up with a 30:30.26 in Helsinki where she finished fifth, yet another national record. However, she was a well adrift 13th in Zurich over 3000m when suffering from blisters to her feet.
Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
Undefeated in five competitions this year, World champion Dorcus Inzikuru is the odds on favourite to capture the first World Athletics Final womne’s 3000m Steeplechase title. With six of the year’s nine fastest performances, including the four fastest, the 21-year-old Ugandan has clearly emerged as the dominant force of the young event.
Other likely chasers include Romanian Cristina Casandra and Kenyans Jeruto Kiptum and Salome Chepchumba.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF