Two topics have dominated the buildup to the Athletics World Championships: Russia’s anti-gay laws and doping.
It’s inevitable that questions will continue to be asked of athletes as the sport recovers from the recent doping revelations, whilst attention will also be fixed on Russia to see whether it welcomes athletes and fans alike regardless of their sexuality.
With the event almost upon us, let’s take a look at some of the World Championships' unmissable events.
Men’s 100 Metres
Heats: Saturday August 10 at 5:15 p.m. (BST)/ 12:15 p.m. (ET)
Semi-finals: Sunday August 11 at 4:05 p.m. (BST)/ 11:05 a.m. (ET)
Final: Sunday August 11 at 6:50 p.m. (BST)/ 1:50 p.m. (ET)
A few weeks ago the men’s 100 metres was shaping up to be the closest in years.
But the recent failed drug tests of Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, and reigning champion Yohan Blake pulling out injured, means they might as well hand the gold medal to Usain Bolt now.
Not that it matters. Bolt is still one of sport’s most recognisable faces and will draw in an audience whether he’s expected to be tested or not.
Fellow Jamaican Nesta Carter and American Justin Gatlin will be the likely contenders for the other spots on the podium. James Dasaolu leads British hopes after his stunning 9.91 seconds at the UK Trials, but has been troubled by minor physical problems since.
Before we crown Bolt, one small thought. Remember Daegu 2011 and Bolt’s false start? If the world record holder’s focus isn’t perfect on Sunday night, there may yet be a twist in the tale.
Women’s 400m Metres
Heats: Saturday August 10 at 3:15 p.m. (BST)/ 10:15 a.m. (ET)
Semi-finals: Sunday August 11 at 5:05 p.m. (BST)/ 12:05 p.m. (ET)
Final: Monday August 12 at 6:15 p.m. (BST)/ 1:15 p.m. (ET)
Botswana’s Amantle Montsho heads a cluster of seven or eight athletes who can realistically have medal prospects in Moscow.
Montsho is seeking back-to-back world titles over 400 metres and has enjoyed an impressive 2013 that’s seen her clock a new personal best of 49.33 seconds.
But she will have to overcome home favourite Antonina Krivoshapka whilst Britain’s Olympic silver medallist in London, Christine Ohuruogu, has the odd ability to only run fast at championships.
This field of athletes lacks a standout name capable of breaking the 49-second barrier, with the withdrawal of American Sanya Richards-Ross a huge blow for the event, though that does leave it tantalisingly open.
Men’s 10,000 Metres
Final: Saturday August 10 at 3:15 p.m. (BST)/ 10:15 a.m. (ET)
Before Mo Farah annihilates the field to reclaim his 5,000-metre title, he must first to try to fend off his African rivals for a maiden World Championships gold over 25 laps of the Moscow track.
Two years ago Farah, as his legs threatened to give way, was overtaken by Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeilan. Yet his kick has since improved considerably, leaving the field with little option but to run a hard race.
Ethiopian duo Dejen Gebremeskel and Abera Kuma, the fastest men in 2013, stand between Farah and gold this time around.
Whilst the race will inevitably take time to get going, once the runners go through with four or five laps to go it should really heat up.
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