Before Tyson Gay dramatically went down with injury in the heats of the 200 meters at the US Olympic Trials in early July, the event promised to be an enthralling duel between himself and the Jamaican marvel Usain Bolt at the Beijing Olympics.
With Gay now out of the running, the 200 meters looks to be Bolt’s for the taking. Here’s how I see the event unfolding.
Gold: Usain Bolt (Jamaica)—With the three fastest times this year including a breathtaking run of 19.67 seconds in Athens, Bolt looks far and away the standout competitor in this event. It would be a huge shock if he was to get beaten in the final.
He should be in front or very close to the lead coming into the straight and his long strides will make him impossible to catch.
Silver: Wallace Spearmon (USA)—Spearmon is the fourth fastest runner of all time in this event with a personal best of 19.65 seconds, and probably has the best closing speed of anyone in the race. However, his bend running remains a big problem.
If he is in contact with the leaders coming off the bend, Spearmon should be able to overrun everyone except Bolt and grab the silver medal, but if he is too far behind at the halfway mark, he will find it difficult to run down his compatriots Walter Dix and Shawn Crawford for the remaining podium positions.
Bronze: Walter Dix (USA)—Dix ran brilliantly at the US Trials, winning the 200 meters in 19.86 seconds. He also has a personal best time of 19.69 seconds, making him the seventh fastest man in history over 200 meters.
Dix hasn’t run since the Trials, so his form is an unknown. However, if he races up to his potential in Beijing, expect to see Dix on the podium and challenging for gold. His success will also depend on how he is able to recover after running in the 100 meters earlier in the schedule.
Fourth: Shawn Crawford (USA)—The reigning Olympic champion is back to peak form this year after a few lean seasons by his standards. At the Trials he was beaten by Dix on the line, and showed that he is still a brilliant bend runner in the 200 meters.
The other competitors can’t afford to give Crawford too much of a head start over the first half of the race, as he will be difficult to catch if given the opportunity. He should contend with the other Americans for a medal.
Fifth: Jaysuma Saidy Ndure (Norway)—Ndure put his name into serious contention for this event when he ran a blistering 19.89 seconds to win the 200 meters at the World Athletics Final at the end of last season.
He hasn’t really competed in many 200 meter races this year, so his form is somewhat unknown. However, he has had some great results of the 100 meter distance recently, indicating that Ndure is in peak form coming into Beijing and could challenge for a medal.
Sixth: Richard Thompson (Trinidad and Tobago)—While it isn’t his pet event, Thompson has performed very strongly in the 200 meters throughout this year. He finished a close second behind Dix at the NCAA Championships, and has a best time of 20.18 seconds.
If Thompson recovers well after the 100 meters, he is also capable of challenging for a medal in the 200 at Beijing.
Seventh: Brendan Christian (Antigua and Barbuda)—Christian isn’t a big name in the world of athletics at present, but he could make a name for himself with a strong showing in Beijing.
He has been performing well over 200 meters throughout this season and has a personal best time of 20.12 seconds. He may not challenge for a medal but would be happy to make it into the final.
Eighth: Churandy Martina (Netherlands Antilles)—Martina finished fifth in this event at the 2007 World Championships, so he has the credentials to make a finals berth in Beijing a reality.
He has a best time this year of 20.17, which is unlikely to challenge for a medal. However, Martina should still be in the mix if he can reach peak form in Beijing.
Francis Obikwelu (Portugal)—The veteran runner may be past his prime but is still strong enough to challenge for a place in the final.
Marvin Anderson (Jamaica)—Sixth in the final at last years World Championships. He will only make the final if he is in top form.
Brian Dzingai (Zimbabwe)—Has had great results this year and should come close to reaching the final.
Paul Hession (Ireland)—Had a great result recently, where he finished in third place behind Bolt and Spearmon at a meet in London. Could surprise and make the final.
Christian Malcolm (UK)—The British runner is always thereabouts in the major meets, however may be past his best form.
Marlon Devonish (UK)—The veteran couldn’t compete at this event at the UK Championships, but he should put up a strong performance at the Olympics.
Anastasios Gousis (Greece)—Made the final in this event at the World Championships last year but may find the competition a little harder in Beijing.
Christopher Williams (Jamaica)—His experience should see him perform well; however will have to be in peak form to make the final.