World Athletics Championships 2007- Preview Part IV

24 08 2007

Next up on our look at the World Champs, we’ll look at the hurdles and then we’ll take a look at the Marathons. This is part 4 in a series… 1, 2, 3 published earlier.

Hurdles

Men

Liu Xiang, China’s most famous athlete, is the 110m Hurdles World record holder, reigning Olympic champion, winner of five out of six races this season, and the world leader at 12.92. Quite an impressive list, but after two tries – bronze in 2003, silver in 2005 – he’s still in search of his first World title and, one would assume, quite hungry. So is U.S. champion and serial bridesmaid Terrence Trammell (12.95 PB in June), twice Olympic silver medalist who is also seeking his first global crown. Cuban record holder Dayron Robles (13.11 SB) certainly looms as a factor too. Defending champion Ladji Doucouré of France only has a pair of sub-13.30 performances to his credit this season and looks unlikely to muster a serious defense.

Bershawn Jackson’s shoes…The 400m Hurdles have been dominated by Americans this year (and most years previously) who currently occupy positions 1-5 on the world list. U.S. champion James Carter (47.72), after a slew of bridesmaid performances over a number of years, may FINALLY take his first title. Bershawn Jackson (48.13 SB) is the defending champion and is expected to be a fierce competitor, while South African LJ van Zyl, the African champion surprised them all with his 48.24 victory at Rome’s Golden Gala last month. Olympic Champion Felix Sanchez, the diminutive Dominican, has broken 49 seconds just once this year, along with 22 other guys, and has gone from unbeatable just over 2 years ago, to near nobody in the event he dominated for some time. Young Greek runner Periklis Iakovakis is the european hope with a 48.35 seasons best to his name. Keep an eye out also for local hope Dai Tamesue, who is coming into form at the right time.

Women

Reigning World champion Michelle Perry (USA) has been the dominant force in the 100m Hurdles this year; her 12.44 World leader in Rome kept her alive in the IAAF Golden League Jackpot chase. But most recently, she was clearly beaten by European champion Susanna Kallur in Stockholm. The Swede however will have to be in career best (12.52) form to threaten for a podium spot in Osaka. US champion Ginnie Powell ran a PB 12.45 in early June, but hasn’t run since she took a tumble in Rome. The 2 canadians, Angela Whyte (12.63 sb) and Perditia Felicen (12.65 sb), will be in the mix also, as will Jamaican Delloreen Ennis-London (12.62 sb).

As with the men’s 400m sticks, Americans – Tiffany Williams (53.28) and Sheena Johnson (53.29) – lead the women’s event world list, but the momentum appears to be elsewhere as we head in to the titles. Russia’s defending champion Yuliya Pechonkina (53.61), also the World record holder, produced a pair of solid performances at home in recent weeks, while Australia’s Jana Rawlinson, ‘The Horse’ as she is affectionately known to some, the 2003 champion, has come back nicely from maternity leave, winning her last three races, including a season’s best 53.46 in Monaco. There are a host of others running 54’s at the moment, but you’d expect the winner to come from this group.

Marathon

Men

After his aggressive and successful title defence two years ago in Helsinki, Jaouad Gharib of Morocco will be aiming to cement his name among the sports’ all-time greats when the men’s 42.2Km road race kicks off the championships at 7 a.m. on Saturday. A consistent 2:07 performer for several seasons now, Gharib will be looking to break his tie with Spaniard Abel Anton who won back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1999, as the finest marathoner in World Championships history. Among the challengers are South African Hendrick Ramaala, who has a sub-2:08 to his credit this year; Kenyan Laban Kipkemboi (2:08:38 SB/PB); and Julio Rey, the silver medallist in Paris four years ago and a sub-2:07 marathoner last year, who leads the Spanish team. Home pride will be at stake in the World Marathon Cup, where host Japan will also seek their third consecutive team title. Wataru Okutani (2:08:49) and Toshinari Suwa (2:07:55) lead the squad. Marathons are taken extremely seriously in Japan, and should they manage to steal a win here there may in fact be a national holiday declared. The times these guys run is unbelieveable. To get an idea, head to your local gym, jump on a treadmill, crank it up to 20km/h, and then hang on for dear life… and imagine doing it for over 2 hours..

(NB: Gharib has just announced his withdrawl after time of writing, citing an injury sustained during the London Marathon)

Women

Defending champion Paula Radcliffe has declared she is not yet ready to compete after her return from maternity leave, so there won’t be a repeat in the women’s race, but there could still be a return winner. 2003 champion Catherine Ndereba, second two years ago in Helsinki, leads the always-formidable Kenyan squad as it aims to defend its World Marathon Cup title. Reiko TosaNo woman has won a World title twice in the Marathon. Here too tremendous home pride is at stake. Japanese women have captured four of the last five team titles, and playing a key role in recapturing the crown on home soil will be Reiko Tosa (2:22:46), the winner in Tokyo last year, and the runner-up in Edmonton 2001. Should the japanese win both mens and womens races and team events, there may in fact be several national holidays declared and free sake distributed on every street corner. Among those in Ndereba’s way also is Russian Galina Bogomolova, who has lowered the Russian national record to 2:20:47 with her 2nd place at the Chicago Marathon.

Next up we’ll look at the jumps…

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