Women's Olympic 200-Meter Dash 2012: Previewing Favorites and Dark-Horse Runners
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Jamaican track team almost completely dominated the medal podium in the short-distance sprints, winning gold in the all of the men's and women's 100- and 200-meter races, in addition to two silvers and a bronze.
This year's women's 200-meter race promises to be a more diverse field. Though the Jamaicans are still represented by defending champion Veronica Campbell-Brown and defending 100-meter champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the American trio of Allyson Felix, Carmelita Jeter and Sanya Richards-Ross, as well as a few other international competitors, hope to knock the Jamaicans off the medal stand.
The 200-meter semifinal will be run on Tuesday, Aug. 7, at 3:25 p.m. EDT, with the final on Wednesday, Aug. 8, at 4 p.m. EDT.
Here is a look at the four favorites to win medals in the 200 meters, as well as three dark horses who could find their way onto the medal podium.
Favorite: Veronica Campbell-Brown
Veronica Campbell-Brown is the defending world champion and two-time defending Olympic champion in the 200 meters, so despite her less than overwhelming performance in the qualifiers, she is the favorite to repeat in London.
Campbell-Brown doesn't like to lose heats, finishing first in both her qualifying and semifinal heats at the 2008 Olympics and the 2011 World Championships, so her third-place finish in her heat on Monday behind two inferior runners could be cause for concern.
She is 30 years old, three years older than Sanya Richards-Ross, and it is possible that age is starting to take its toll on the Jamaican sprinting legend.
Still, Campbell-Brown has finished with either a gold or silver medal in the 200 at every World Championship since 2007 and is the proud owner of six Olympic medals. Though she faces tough competition from the trio of American sprinters, she is the presumptive favorite.
Favorite: Sanya Richards-Ross
Sanya Richards-Ross is still beaming after her gold medal-winning performance in the 400 meters, her specialty event, and she has her sights set on another gold medal in the 200. Though she posted the best time in the 200 meters in the qualifying heats, Richards-Ross will likely have to settle for contending for a silver or bronze in the event.
Of the American trio of Richards-Ross, Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter, Richards-Ross is the third-best 200-meter sprinter in the group. She finished third behind Felix and Jeter at the Olympic trials, earning the right to run in the event by only 0.12 seconds. She is also the only one of the trio not to earn a medal in the event at the 2011 World Championships.
Richards-Ross is proving that she's a talent not to be dismissed in any event she runs in, and her 22.48 second qualifying time would have earned her a fourth-place finish at the 2011 World Championships.
Still, she will have to face off against Felix and Jeter, and Richards-Ross just can't quite keep up with them at the shorter distance of 200 meters.
Favorite: Allyson Felix
Veronica Campbell-Brown may be the favorite to win the 200 meters due to her dominance of the event for nearly the past decade, but Allyson Felix is ready to take the crown.
Felix finished first at the Olympic trials with a time of 21.69 seconds, her personal best. She was only slightly slower at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with a time of 21.93 seconds, good enough for a silver medal behind Campbell-Brown.
Jeter pulled ahead of Felix at the 2011 World Championships with a time of 22.37 seconds to Felix's 22.42 seconds, but Felix is still the superior 200-meter runner. Felix won gold in the event at the 2005, 2007 and 2009 World Championships and has a silver medal in the event from Athens to complement her Beijing silver.
Favorite: Carmelita Jeter
Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix seem to take turns winning 200-meter races. Though Felix was faster at the Olympic trials by 0.42 seconds, Jeter bested Felix at the 2011 World Championships by .05 seconds to win the silver medal.
Jeter won her qualifying heat in 22.65 seconds, a hair faster than Felix's time of 22.71 seconds, though both were able to let up significantly at the ends of their heats.
As outstanding as Jeter is in the 200, she is even better in the 100, while Felix is a 200-meter specialist. Felix's additional focus on the event will likely earn her the edge over Jeter, but that is far from a foregone conclusion. Expect Jeter to contend for the silver medal, and she is the likely favorite to win the bronze.
Dark Horse: Murielle Ahoure
It came as a surprise to no one that Sanya Richards-Ross posted the best time in the qualifying heats at 22.48 seconds.
What was surprising was that the second-best time of 22.55 seconds wasn't posted by any of the trio of favored Americans, nor the defending Olympic gold medalist and world champion, but instead by the Ivory Coast's Murielle Ahoure, who didn't even compete in the 2011 World Championships.
Ahoure is not widely known outside the track and field world, but she has impressive credentials. She won the 2009 NCAA Indoor Championship in the 200 while a student at the University of Miami and has improved her personal best outdoor time from 22.78 seconds in 2009 to 22.42 seconds in 2012, a time that would have been good enough to tie for the bronze at the 2011 World Championships and finish seventh at the 2008 Olympics.
Ahoure has the advantage of excellent reflexes; her reaction time in the qualifiers of 0.155 seconds was the best of anyone who won her heat.
Ahoure has run the 200 meters far less in elite international competition than her top competitors, and she is very much an unproven entity. Still, she has proven that with a good start, she has the necessary speed to compete for a medal and is a strong dark horse to finish with the bronze medal.
Dark Horse: Mariya Ryemen
Mariya Ryemen of Ukraine won her heat in the qualifying round, an impressive feat made all the more impressive by the fact that she beat defending world and Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown, who finished in third place, by 0.17 seconds.
Ryemen's time of 22.58 seconds was third-best in the qualifying heats, trailing only Sanya Richards-Ross and Murielle Ahoure.
Ryemen is best known for the 100 meters, but lately she has found much more success at the longer distance of 200. She won gold in the event at the 2012 European Championships in Helsinki with a time of 23.05 seconds, finishing ahead of fellow Ukranian Hrystyna Stuy, who finished seventh at last year's World Championships.
Ryemen just missed out on qualifying for the finals at the 2011 World Championships, posting a time of 22.94 in the semifinal, just .06 seconds below the cutoff. She is already running faster in London and expects not to fall short this time.
Dark Horse: Aleksandra Fedoriva
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Russia's Aleksandra Fedoriva missed qualifying for the final 200-meter race when she finished last in her semifinal group, posting a time of 23.22 seconds.
With her time of 22.61 seconds in Monday's qualifying heat, Fedoriva looks like a whole new runner compared to the 19-year-old she was in Beijing.
Fedoriva runs a variety of short distances, winning gold in 2008 as part of Russia's 4x100 relay team, earning a silver and a bronze at the 2012 World Indoor Championships in the 400 and 4x400 relay and winning gold in the 2009 European U-23 Championships.
Fedoriva ran in the weakest of the groups in the opening heats, but her time, which put her in second place in her heat, would have earned her the top spot in three of the five other groups.
Fedoriva is unlikely to medal given the strong field she is running against, but a good start could keep her close to the front of the pack.