Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt has won the past three world titles at this distance, but this time he comes to Beijing from a different angle compared to Berlin, Daegu and Moscow.
In 2009 he had run 19.59 before his 19.19 world record win. In 2011 he headed to Daegu with a 19.86 season’s best before winning in 19.40, and in 2013 he recorded 19.73 earlier in the season and then went on to win in Moscow in 19.66.
But during this season, the 28-year-old has only clocked 20.13, 0.56 seconds slower than Justin Gatlin’s world-leading 19.57 from the US Championships. Including heats, the 33-year-old US sprinter has clocked four straight sub-20-second races, following his wind-assisted 20.10 season opener in April.
It will be a much harder task this time for Bolt to win his fourth consecutive title, but he did show good progress in London in July, running 9.87 twice in the 100m in poor conditions.
Gatlin has previously won one title in the 200m in Helsinki 2005, where he also won the 100m. Bolt on the other hand has won six Olympic titles and eight world titles in the five-year span between 2008 and 2013.
In addition to Gatlin, there are only two other entrants who have run faster than 20 seconds this year: USA’s Isiah Young and Panama’s Alonso Edward.
World silver medallist back in 2009, Edward placed third at the recent Pan American Games, but the first two there do not start in Beijing. Winner Andre De Grasse is only running the 100m and 4x100m, while Jamaica’s silver medallist Rasheed Dwyer placed only fifth at the National Trials and didn’t make the team.
The Pan-American Games final was the best race of the season in the 200m until now. Roberto Skyers set a Cuban record 20.02 for fourth place there and USA’s Wallace Spearmon, the 2005 world 200m silver medallist behind Gatlin, was fifth in 20.03. The 30-year-old has a PB of 19.65 from 2006 and has broken the 20-second barrier on 26 occasions, three of them windy, with the last of them coming in the 2012 Olympic final in London where he finished fourth in 19.90.
South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk clocked a national record of 19.94 in Lucerne in July, but is one of the favourites in the 400m and is not taking part in this event in Beijing.
Others worth mentioning include South Africa’s Olympic finalist Anaso Jobodwana and Britain’s Zharnel Hughes, who recently ran an impressive 20.05 PB in cold conditions and against a strong headwind in London in July.
The rest of the three Jamaicans are Julian Forte, Nickel Ashmeade and Warren Weir, the 2013 world silver medallist, who has been far behind his best form this season. Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre has also overcome his injury problems and is competing in Beijing; he won the bronze medal in this event in 2011.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF