Athletics needed a lift after the depressing revelations surrounding Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson. Last night at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games, it got exactly that.
Unsurprisingly, Usain Bolt was the standout performer at London’s Olympic Stadium, as he finished strongly to take the 100m in a season’s best 9.85 seconds, but there were strong performances across the programme.
Ukrainian Bohdan Bondarenko almost smashed one of athletics’ oldest world records when he agonisingly clipped the high jump bar while attempting a leap of 2.47 metres and Cuba’s Yarisley Silva set a new Diamond League best in the pole vault.
With plenty of quality action yet to unfold, let’s take a look at the must-see events for Day 2.
Women’s 100 Metre Hurdles
Arguably the hardest race to predict of the whole event. Any one of five women could win, with American Kellie Wells being the slight favourite despite running slower than compatriot Nia Ali this season.
Sally Pearson has struggled for form since obliterating the Olympic record to win gold at London 2012, but is firmly proven on the big stage. If she’s in contention around hurdle eight than her experience can carry her across the line in first.
But the two outsiders for success are home favourites Tiffany Porter and Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill. Porter has consistently run within two tenths of her personal best in 2013 and, on a fast track, will be desperate to make up for the disappointment of missing out on the Olympic final last year.
Ennis-Hill might be a multi-eventer but she is lightning over the hurdles. She clocked 12.54 seconds over the barriers in London 2012 during the heptathlon, a time that would have got her fourth in the actual 100m hurdles final—just six hundredths off an Olympic medal.
Injury has plagued her in 2013 though, and this race might be treated as a sighter ahead of the World Championships in Moscow.
Men’s 3000 Metres
David Moorcroft’s British record of seven minutes 32 seconds is under serious threat. Mo Farah returns to the track where he asserted himself as an endurance great by winning double Olympic gold and will now attempt to immortalise himself further by beating Moorcroft’s time from 31 years ago.
Farah proved in Monaco that he has the speed to deliver quick times after smashing Steve Cram’s 1500m UK record last week. He now holds the British records for 1500m, 5000m, 10,000m and the half-marathon. The 3000m is surely next, before he attempts the gruelling 26.2 mile marathon in London next year.
Don’t expect the Brit to have it all his own way though. He’ll face stiff competition from Ethiopian Tariku Bekele, brother of long-distance legend Kenenisa, who finished third behind Farah in the 10,000m at London 2012.
Bekele is the fastest man in the field on paper, but he’s barely raced in 2013 and it’s therefore very hard to judge what sort of shape he’s in.
If the race starts at a sluggish tempo, expect middle-distance specialist Ismael Kipngetich Kombich to be in the mix. The Kenyan has a lightning finish but whether it’ll rival Farah’s remains to be seen.
Men’s 400 Metre Hurdles
Javier Culson dominated the build-up to London 2012 and the gold medal looked set to hang from the Puerto Rican’s shoulders. But he could only muster bronze when it mattered as Dominican Republic’s Felix Sanchez and America’s Michael Tinsley claimed the podium’s top two spots.
Culson is reunited with the pair who crushed his Olympic dreams over the hurdles and will be looking for a small dose of retribution at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games.
World leader Tinsley is probably favourite, but the margins are going to be so fine that whoever can clear the final hurdle smoothly will run through to take victory.
American duo Johnny Dutch and Bershawn Jackson are also quality hurdlers more than capable of winning this race, so picking a winner is no easy task.