Bolt’s 2011 200m debut the focus in Oslo - PREVIEW - Samsung Diamond League
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF
Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Oslo, Norway - Over the years spectators in the Bislett Stadium have had their evenings rounded off by the Dream Mile – but that event, despite promising to be one of the swiftest ever, will serve as a precursor to the climactic event of the 2011 Samsung Diamond League meeting in Oslo, the 200m, which will mark the first appearance in Norway by the World and Olympic champion Usain Bolt.
The 24-year-old Jamaican, who took almost 20 minutes getting through a media mob on his way from the airport to the express train which brought him into the city centre on Monday, will bring a buzz to the Exxon MobilBislett Games as he takes part in what will be his third major race of the season so far, having run two 100m in times of 9.91sec at the Samsung Diamond League meeting in Rome and the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Ostrava.
Local observers have suggested that the weather may present Bolt with his biggest challenge, given that it is forecast to rain, but he will need to maintain concentration to head off a field which includes Norway’s Jaysuma Ndure, who finished second to Walter Dix in Sunday’s Diamond League meeting at Eugene in a season’s best of 20.26.
Ndure is the only runner in the field apart from Bolt with a personal best of under 20 seconds – 19.89 – but there is a wealth of experience in the challenging pack in the form of Kim Collins, the 2003 World 100m champion, and Britain’s Christian Malcolm, who has already run 20.95 this season. Bolt’s compatriot Mario Forsythe should also feature, having run a personal best of 20.43 this season.
World lead assault in Dream Mile
The Exxon Mobil Dream Mile is likely to produce a time to challenge the world-leading effort of 3:49.09 which Haron Keitany produced in Eugene to hold off the challenge of his fellow Kenyans Silas Kiplagat, who finished in a personal best of 3:49.39, and Olympic 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop, who was third in 3:49.55.
Kiplagat, 21, emerged to world prominence with a sub-3:30 victory in last year’s Monaco Samsung Diamond League meeting on his European debut, and subsequently won the Commonwealth 1500m title in Delhi. He will be keen to maintain his upward mobility with a view to adding another medal this season in the IAAF World Championships in Daegu.
Kiprop, who began his Diamond League season with second place in the 800m in Doha, was beaten into second place in Shanghai by another Kenyan, Nixon Chepseba, who will also be in the mix in Oslo. Aged 20, Chepseba is the youngest in the field – but he could yet produce another winning performance. And on Wednesday night a fifth top Kenyan joined the field – Augustine Choge, whose personal best stands at 3:50.14.
Among those attempting to disrupt the Kenyan dominance will be Mekonnen Gebremdhin of Ethiopia, who was fourth in Eugene in a personal best of 3:49.70, and Britain’s Andy Baddeley, whose CV, which includes a First Class degree in Engineering from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, was further adorned in 2008 with a Bislett Dream Mile victory in 3:49.38, which remains his personal best. Baddeley has not managed to reproduce that form recently, but a return should not be ruled out.
Semenya, Savinova and Jepkosgei lead strong women’s 800m
The women’s 800m also promises a rich and competitive race given the stellar field it has attracted. Caster Semenya, South Africa’s World champion, offered early evidence that she is capable of retaining her title this year as she won against a top class field in Eugene in a time of 1:58.88, despite running a poor tactical race and having to spend time in lane two as she approached the finish.
Semenya said in Oslo this week that running fast here is more important to her than winning, adding “I want to remain below 1:58, maybe 1:57.” She will not be the only one chasing a fast time as the field also includes Kenya’s 2007 World champion Janeth Jepkosgei, sixth in Eugene in 1:59.15, Russia’s European champion Mariya Savinova, and the woman who ran her so close in the European final in Barcelona, Yvonne Hak of the Netherlands.
Savinova’s fellow Russians Svetlana Klyuka and Ekaterina Kostetskaya, both with sub-1:57 personal bests, will also challenge, along with Britain’s Jenny Meadows, winner in Shanghai last month.
Home spectators will also be keeping a special eye on Ingvill Makestad will be targeting her Norwegian record of 1:59.82.
Defar returns to 5000m World record setting
Ethiopia’s former World and Olympic 5000m champion Meseret Defar will return to the scene of one of her finest performances – the occasion in 2007 when she knocked eight seconds off the world record to clock 14:16.63, which remains the third best of all time.
While Kenya’s World champion Vivian Cheruiyot, the Diamond League leader after victories in Shanghai and Eugene, is absent, Defar will have strong opposition from fellow Ethiopians Sentayehu Ejigu, currently third in the Diamond Race, and Genzebe Dibaba, the younger sister of Tirunesh, whose 2008 Oslo victory in 14: 11.15 stands as the World record.
And Turkey’s Ethiopian-born Alemitu Bekele, with a personal best of 14:36.79 will also provide formidable opposition.
Men’s Javelin a toss up!
With local hero Andreas Thorkildsen, the World and Olympic Javelin champion, still recovering from the injury to his groin which forced him to pull up while competing at last month’s Samsung Diamond League meeting in Shanghai, the spotlight is likely to fall on the man who won that particular event in China, Tero Pitkamaki.
After Thorkildsen, who had a disappointing performance in the opening Samsung Diamond League meeting in Doha, had earlier produced a season’s best of 85.12m, the Finn responded in his next throw with the winning effort of 85.33m and will be keen to extend his winning run on Thorkildsen’s home patch, where we was a winner in 2009.
But if Thorkildsen’s absence will make that task easier, the presence of Petr Frydrych will make it harder. The Czech thrower, coached by three-times Olympic champion Jan Zelezny, won the opening Samsung Diamond League event in Doha, where Pitkamaki finished third, and returns to the series in Oslo. The 23-year-old has thrown 85.32m this season.
And South Africa’s Robert Oosthuizen, currently third in the Diamond Race standings, has shown impressive consistency so far this season, finishing second in Doha and third in Shanghai, with a season’s best of 84.38m.
Matthias De Zordo of Germany indicated his huge potential once again by throwing 85.38m to come second in Ostrava on 31 May, but the whole field will be watching out carefully for Latvia’s hugely experienced Vadims Vasilevskis, who produced the world-leading throw of 88.22m in Estonia on 28 May and has a personal best of 90.73m. At 29, the 2004 Olympic silver medallist is the oldest in the field – but he also has the capability of throwing the furthest.
Kenya’s world and Olympic Brimin Kipruto has never run a sub-8 minute race in the 3000m Steeplechase, but the field assembled here might cause him to do so. Among his competitors is Kenyan teammate Paul Kipsiele Koech, who has broken that barrier eight times and won an Olympic silver medal in the process.
Others likely to push the pace include Kenyan colleagues Patrick Langat, with a personal best this season of 8:08.59, Silas Kitum, who has run 8:12.17 this season, and Hillary Yego, who has an 8:07.71 to his credit this year.
Benjamin Kiplagat of Uganda is also a lurking danger with a best this year of 8:12.87 and a personal best of 8:03.81, as is France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi, who has a personal best of 8:02.52 and is targeting the European record of 8:01.13.
Montsho rides strong 400m momentum to Oslo
With Allyson Felix otherwise engaged over 200m in New York on Sunday, Botswana’s Amantle Montsho, second in the Diamond Race, has the opportunity to strengthen her position in the 400m. That said, there are two women in the field who have run faster than her personal best of 49.83 – Jamaica’s Novlene Williams-Mills, with a PB of 49.63, and Russia’s Antonina Krivoshapka, who has recorded 49.29.
Not to discount the estimable presence of Krivoshapka’s fellow Russian Tatyana Firova, the European champion, with a best of 49.89.
Opportunity for Rutherford to rise in Long Jump
Britain’s Greg Rutherford has the chance to do himself a bit of good in the Long Jump Diamond Race in the absence of the Australian with whom he shares the lead, Mitchell Watt.
Rutherford missed setting a British record in the long jump by 0.1metres per second in Eugene. The former European silver medallist’s winning effort of 8.32m was two centimetres further than he had achieved at the 2009 World Championships, but a following wind marginally over the allowable limit of two metres per second annulled his effort for record purposes.
However, the Briton has only the sixth longest personal best in a high class field which includes Australia’s Fabrice Lapierre (pb 8.40m), Ghana’s Ignisious Gaisah (8.43m), South Africa’s Olympic silver medallist Godfrey Mokoena (8.50m), Christian Reif of Germany (8.47m) and Louis Tsatoumas of Greece (8.66m). Not forgetting his British rival Chris Tomlinson, whose British record of 8.29m he beat by one centimetre.
Russia’s European champion Natalya Antyukh will be favourite to win the 400m Hurdles, with the Czech Republic’s Zuzana Hejnova, who has run 54.26 this year, and Britain’s Perri Shakes-Drayton, who has a 2011 timing of 55.36, likely challengers.
Jesse Williams of the United States will seek to extend his Diamond Race lead in the High Jump, having won in Doha and finished third in Eugene, but he could come under pressure from Russia’s Ivan Ukhov, whose 2.32m clearance in Ostrava last month indicated that he is en route for regaining the heights he reached during the indoor season, when he cleared 2.38m on three occasions.
There will be a strong challenge from Russia given the presence of Uhkov’s colleagues Yaroslav Rybakov, with a PB of 2.35, Alexander Shustov, who has cleared 2.33m, and Andrey Silnov, who has a 2.38m to his credit and has cleared 2.32m this season.
Donald Thomas of the Bahamas, with a 2.35m to his credit, and Kyriakos Ioannou of Cyprus, who has a season’s best of 2.33m, will also figure.
Again, Ostpachuk vs Adams in the Shot
Nadezhda Ostpachuk of Belarus, last year’s runaway winner of the Diamond Race in the Shot Put, announced her arrival this season with victory in Eugene with a world-leading 20.59m, but New Zealand’s Olympic and Commonwealth champion Valerie Adams, runner up to her last year, will be making sure she needs to produce her best to secure another victory. Adams has a 20.55m effort to her credit this year.
Anna Rogowska of Poland, a winner in Eugene, jointly leads the Pole Vault Diamond Race with Germany’s Silke Spiegelberg, winner in Shanghai. But in the absence of the German, Rogowska is likely to be challenged most strongly by Brazil’s 2010 Diamond Race winner and world indoor champion Fabiana Murer, whose 2011 best of 4.70 is two centimetres beyond that of the Pole.
Cuba’s World Triple Jump champion Yargelis Savigne shares the Diamond Race lead with Russia’s Olha Saladukha, whose world-leading effort of 14.98m at Eugene is three centimetres better than the Cuban’s 2011 best.
Savigne’s Cuban team mate Mabel Gay, the world silver medallist, will also be in the mix, as will Russia’s World Indoor champion Olga Rypakova, who has the longest PB in the field – 15.25m.
Gerd Kanter, Estonia’s world and Olympic Discus champion, will seek to establish himself further in the Diamond Race where he is currently joint leader with Germany’s Robert Harting, who is not competing in Oslo. But Kanter will still face strong opposition for Harting’s compatriot Martin Wierig, who has thrown 67.21m this season, and the old campaigner Virgilijus Alekna of Lithuania, who has a 67.19 to his credit this year. Kanter’s winning throw of 67.49m in Doha makes him the second best so far this year behind Harting, whose 2011 best is 68.99m.
Is Lalova on the comeback trail?
With many of the world’s leading female 100m runners preparing across the Atlantic for the 200m in Saturday’s Samsung Diamond League meeting in New York, Ivet Lalova has a good opportunity to earn Diamond League points in the short sprint. The Bulgarian is the only woman in the field to have broken 11 seconds – her personal best stands at 10.77 – and she has already run 11.08 this season.
But she will need to operate at her best to stay ahead of Stephanie Durst of the United States, who has run 11.09, and Germany’s Verena Sailer, who set her best of 11.10 in winning last year’s European title in Barcelona.
Merritt vs Wilson in the Highs
The spoils in the 110m Hurdles, which features five Americans, look like being shared between Aries Merritt of the United States and Jamaica’s Dwight Thomas, both of whom have run 13.18sec this season. But Merritt’s fellow American Ryan Wilson, the fastest entrant with a PB of 13.02, has the pedigree to win. Meanwhile Britain’s European and Commonwealth champion Andy Turner will be seeking to get even closer to his personal best of 13.27, having come within one hundredth of a second of it already this year.