Stuttgart, GermanyWelcome to the two day World Championships in Athletics! 20 days after the closing ceremony of the nine day global championships in Osaka a fascinating athletics programme will begin in Stuttgart at the IAAF / VTB Bank World Athletics Final today (22).
In a number of events the fields look like a true World Championships’ Final. Obviously some events will be weaker since some athletes have withdrawn from competition earlier this season due to the enormously challenging circumstances of a long summer and a World championship campaign. But a few events look even better than the Osaka finals. So what do we have today? Athletics fans in Stuttgart, truly knowledgable athletics supporters, will get a perfect start.
The men’s Discus Throw will have it all: The surprise World Champion Gerd Kanter (Estonia) meets Virgilijus Alekna. The Lithuanian had been the big favourite for the gold in Osaka, but then had to settle for a surprising fourth before revealing that he suffered a calf injury. Kanter later stated that in his eyes Alekna is the best ever discus thrower – and he had lost 44 out of 45 competitions against him prior to Osaka.
German fans will see Robert Harting in the event, who after his surprise silver medal from Osaka said that he does not like being compared with Lars Riedel (“I am not Lars Riedel, I am Robert Harting!”). If fully recovered 35-year-old Alekna will be keen on restoring the ‘normal’ rank order prior to the Olympic season.
Among those too tired to compete after Osaka is triple World Champion Tyson Gay (USA), who decided to go back home after competing only in the relay in Zurich, “I can fully understand that he is tired given his programme from Osaka”, Wilfried Meert had said, when he was questioned on why there was no duel with Asafa Powell in Brussels a week ago.
For Powell running without the enormous pressure of a duel with Tyson Gay can release an even better performance. He proved that when he improved the 100m World record in Rieti to 9.74 seconds. He then won Brussels, clocking 9.84 with a slight head wind. Stuttgart’s green track is a fast lane so you should hold your breath today at 15.15hrs when Powell will be as big a favourite as Yelena Isinbayeva in the Pole Vault (which starts at 13.35hrs). But what time will he run?
While the 100m is not an Osaka revenge contest the 400m Hurdles are. The top four from the World Championships will run in Stuttgart: Gold medallist Kerron Clement (USA) will clash with Felix Sanchez (Dominican Republic/2nd in Osaka), Marek Plawgo (Poland/3rd) and James Carter (USA/4th). It was Plawgo who last Sunday beat Carter and Sanchez in Berlin. Can he also get past Clement?
Nelson Evora had never won a medal in a major championship before taking the Triple Jump gold in Osaka. The new Portuguese athletics star could now add a second major win in Stuttgart. He did not succeed in one of the three IAAF Golden League meetings after Japan, placing second in Zurich, third in Brussels and second again in Berlin. But he showed consistency.
The men’s Shot Put is one of those events, where competition looks even stronger in comparison to the top eight from Osaka. The top four from the World Championships will meet in Stuttgart again – Reese Hoffa, Adam Nelson (both USA), Andrey Mikhnevich (Belorussia), Rutger Smith (the Netherlands) – plus three more US athletes. Most prominent additions in comparisson to Osaka are US heavyweights Christian Cantwell (number two this season behind Hoffa with 21.96) and Daniel Taylor.
While the men start with the discus the first women’s event will be the Pole Vault. The first five from Osaka will be in it plus Yulyia Golubchikova (Russia), who had shared sixth place at the worlds with Stuttgart absentee Fabiana Murer. But taking the dominance of Yelena Isinbayeva it will certainly not be a real revenge match. The Russian World Champion, World record holder, Olympic Champion and so on… should achieve a hat-trick in Stuttgart by taking her third World Athletics Final win in a row. The question will less likely be if she can win but instead if she can break her World record. In the Brussels and Berlin Golden League Meetings she had already five jumps at 5.02 m.
Blanka Vlasic this season showed similar supremecy in the High Jump as did Yelena Isinbayeva in the Pole Vault. It would be quite a surprise today if she was not be able to add a World Athletics Final win to the gold she won in Osaka. Again it might be more the question if she has enough strength left to finally break that 2.10 barrier. She had six attempts at it in Zurich and Brussels and at least her second in the Ivo van Damme Memorial was close and showed that it is possible even this season.
As in the High Jump there will be the top four from the World Championships in the Javelin Throw as well. This should become the highlight for the German fans on day one. European record holder Christina Obergföll (70.20 m) and Steffi Nerius will both be keen to show top performances on home soil. So it will be a hard one to win for Barbora Spotakova (Czech Republic), who surprisingly beaten Obergföll for the gold in Osaka. It was the only competition this season the German did not win.
But there are no bad feelings among the three women who took the medals at the World Championships. “I was very happy with my bronze medal. So looking ahead to Stuttgart there is no reason to see this as a revenge”, says Steffi Nerius.
The 1500 m will see another clash between Russia’s Yelena Soboleva and Bahrain’s Maryam Yusuf Jamal. Soboleva had probably been the slight favourite before Osaka’s final, but she could not get passed Jamal, who showed a great finish. It is likely that this will be another thrilling duel.
The unofficial women’s long distance runner of the year will run the 5000m in Stuttgart today: Meseret Defar. In Brussels the 23-year-old set her fourth world best of the season eight days ago, when clocking 8:58.58 minutes for Two Miles. Two days later the 5000 m World Champion took a 5k women’s race in London. Now she returns to Stuttgart, where she had run her first World record of the year (8:23.72 minutes for indoor 3000m).
While Defar will not attempt the double at the World Athletics Final another runner will do so: Vivian Cheruiyot (Kenya), silver medal winner from Osaka’s 5000 m final, will also compete in the 3000 m on Sunday. “I kind of relaxed today because of my two races in Stuttgart next weekend”, said Vivian Cheruiyot after having won the 5000 m at the DKB-ISTAF Berlin meeting last Sunday in 14:50.78 minutes. If that time was ‘relaxing’ there is something to come from her this weekend.
Jörg Wenig for the IAAF
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