Can anyone stop Allyson Felix landing her fourth World 200m crown?
Felix, the reigning Olympic champion, owned this title from 2005 to 2009, before having to settle for the bronze medal at the last edition in Daegu.
Now armed with the London 2012 Olympic Games title, few would back heavily against the 2012 World Athlete of the Year reigning supreme again. However, the Californian has shown rare fragility this season, winning only two out of her four 200m finals and sitting an unfamiliar seventh on the 2013 world lists.
The big surprise came at the US Championships in June when Felix had to settle for second to the unheralded Kimberlyn Duncan. However, in her final pre-Moscow outing normal service was resumed as she gained a morale-boosting victory at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London.
If not Felix, then who?
Duncan certainly caused a huge surprise to triumph in Des Moines. The three-time outdoor 200m US collegiate (NCAA) champion obviously has great potential but the 22-year-old sprinter is inexperienced on the European circuit, placing only third and fourth in her final two pre-Moscow 200m outings at Diamond League meetings in Lausanne and Monaco, respectively.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce took the 200m silver behind Felix at the Olympics and yet again the two-time Olympic 100m champion will be a formidable opponent.
The diminutive Jamaican has put more emphasis on the 200m in the last two seasons and after running a 22.13 world-leading time at her National Championships, she is very much in the gold medal picture.
The Ivory Coast has never won a medal in the history of the World Championships but hopes will be high that Murielle Ahoure can end that 30-year drought.
The US-based Ahoure has enjoyed an outstanding year and served notice of her rich vein of form by leading the 60m world list during the indoor season.
She is unbeaten in her three races over 200m this season and her Diamond League wins in Rome and Monaco have seen her lower her national record twice, which now stands at 22.24.
Multi-talented Blessing Okagbare has been in blistering form this season, setting an African record of 10.79 in the 100m and posting a 7.00m personal best in the Long Jump. Besides those two events, she is also entered in the 200m and, boasting an unbeaten record from her three races over the distance this year, the 24-year-old Nigerian, who this season has set a lifetime best of 22.31, must be considered a genuine danger should she decide to compete.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Kelly-Ann Baptiste, the 2011 World 100m bronze medallist, is better known for her accomplishments over the shorter distance but a national record of 22.36 set on home soil in Port of Spain earlier this year puts her very much in the 200m picture as well.
The 2012 World Junior Championships gold medallist Anthonique Strachan is another noted entrant. The Bahamian set a personal best 22.32 in Nassau in June and in her most recent outing placed a promising third in London behind Felix.
Her compatriot and fellow teenager Shaunae Miller, with a best of 22.45, should also be in with a shout of a final place.
Joining Fraser-Pryce on the Jamaican team are 2009 World Championships fifth-place finisher Anneisha McLaughlin and the 30-year-old Patricia Hall, the latter having set a lifetime best of 22.51 in Sao Paulo in May.
The remaining two members of the US 200m team are 2008 World junior 100m champion Jeneba Tarmoh, who placed third at the US Championships in a windy 22.15, and the 2012 Diamond Race winner Charonda Williams.
Watch out also for Ukraine’s 2012 European champion Mariya Ryemyen and Brazil’s South American champion Ana Claudia Silva.
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Steve Landells for the IAAF