The 2013 IAAF World Championships are slowly drawing to a close in Moscow this week, as the world's best and brightest track and field athletes attempt to capture gold in the sport's second-most prestigious event.
Thus far, the action has not disappointed. Superstar figures in the sport like Usain Bolt, Mo Farah and others have continued their rampage through their respective events, setting up what should be an epic weekend. The nine-day event that is the World Championships, held every two years in non-Olympic times, will come to a close Sunday.
Bolt and Farah will both return to the track Friday after a couple days off for rest and relaxation. The Jamaican Bolt will try to qualify for Saturday's 200-meter final, while Farah will attempt to capture the rare double in distance running. The women's side of the event will crown gold-medal winners in the hammer throw and 200-meter sprint, along with setting up some of the weekend's biggest finales. Heats are still being held for some of these events Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, so participant lists aren't completely finalized.
But for those looking to watch track and field's last stranglehold on the mainstream consciousness for a while should be in luck. Bolt and Farah are two of the biggest names in the sport, and both have a chance to make history before a raucous crowd in Russia.
With that in mind, here is a complete breakdown of the schedule for Friday's action, highlighting some events of note.
Complete Event Schedule for Friday
Events to Watch
Men's 200-Meter (Heat and Semifinals)
Friday will be a busy day for Usain Bolt. The unquestioned championship-belt holder for World's Best Sprinter will be back in action at least once, as he tries to continue the momentum he began at the World Championships earlier this week.
Bolt ran his fastest time of the year (9.77 seconds) to win gold in the 100-meter dash Sunday, crossing the line and defeating United States runner Justin Gatlin by a solid margin. As if the legend of Bolt needed to get any stronger, the Jamaican star finished the race as a lightning bolt went crashing down to the surface, leading to what could be the most captivating sports image of 2013.
Whether Bolt will be able to continue that momentum will be something to watch. He should breeze through his competition in the morning, with his personal-best time in the 200 being a full second better than anyone else in Heat 7.
The semifinal, which will comprise the top finishers of each heat, will be where Bolt will need to turn on his jets and send a message to his competition. All likelihood is that he advances even if he takes the event at 75 percent, but there are looming giants who could give him a run for his money in Saturday's final.
Curtis Mitchell and Isiah Young are two young, promising sprinters from the United States who saw their times dip below the 20-second mark in 2013. Young, a 2012 Olympian, ran a 19.86-second sprint at this year's USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, putting him alongside the likes of Gatlin and Maurice Green among the best times in the country's history. He'll be a thorn in Bolt's side not only this week but going forward as well.
Mitchell has been a fixture on the sprint circuit these past few years and has a career-best time of 19.99. I'm still waiting on someone to start calling him "The Infomercial." But until then, he'll have to settle for being one of the best 200-meter sprinters in the world and a challenger to medal Saturday.
Heck, Bolt even has some competition coming from his own country. Warren Weir, who won the bronze in London last summer, set his own personal-best time this year at 19.79, a mere six-hundredths of a second away from his more famous countryman's best of the year.
Bolt will advance, but Friday will give us a great look at his competition.
Men's 5,000-Meter Final
Elsewhere on the track, history could be made if Mo Farah's dominance of the distance world continues Friday evening. The 30-year-old Brit got a major monkey off his back already at the World Championships, defeating Ethiopian rival Ibrahim Jeilan in a thrilling sprint to the finish in the 10,000-meter race Saturday.
A neck-and-neck battle until about the final 100 or so meters, Farah put on the jets to pull away and atone for his disappointing defeat at Jeilan's hands in 2011. Having finished fifth in his qualifying meet for the less daunting 5,000-meter final Friday night, fans in Moscow could be on hand for an unprecedented treat.
If Farah were to defeat the stout field, he'll become just the second man in history to hold the World and Olympic 5,000- and 10,000-meter golds, joining Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekel. Farah pulled off a shocking semi-upset of the field in London, defeating a bevy of runners from Ethiopia and Kenya who normally dominate the distance world.
He won't have any shortage of stout competition Friday, each of whom will be looking for some level of revenge. Kenyan Edwin Cheruiyot Soi and Ethiopian Yenew Alamirew are the likeliest challengers to Farah's throne, having run the two fastest times this year of any participant. But they are joined by an impressive, fast field of competitors. You could say as many as nine runners Friday night have a chance to win, and you'd be stretching the truth by saying Farah is the "favorite."
There are a total of seven runners (including Cheruiyot Soi and Alamirew) who have posted better times this year in the 5,000-meter event than Farah, five of whom have better career bests.
But if we've learned anything over the past year-plus, it's that Farah has a penchant for the exciting. Perhaps no runner this side of Bolt has a better combination of skills and sense of the moment than the Somali-born star.
All stats via IAAF.org.
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