We live in a superstar-driven sports culture.
Check the advertising for any game in any sport. It's not the Bulls versus the Suns; it's "Derrick Rose and the Bulls" against "Steve Nash and the Suns." It's not Colts versus Eagles; it's "Peyton Manning's Colts" facing "Michael Vick's Eagles." Pro golf tournaments don't get nearly as much coverage if Tiger Woods isn't playing (even better if he's winning), while tennis tournaments suffer whenever Roger Federer or Serena Williams isn't on the marquee.
Track and field is no different.
Any kind of major track meet—be it the Olympics, World Championships, NCAA championships or the Diamond League—becomes that much more memorable when one athlete (or two) becomes the anchor story of the proceedings.
The 2008 Olympics and '09 World Championships unquestionably belonged to Usain Bolt. The 1984 Olympics were defined by Carl Lewis' rise to superstardom, while the '96 Olympics were memorable for both Lewis' swan song and Michael Johnson's ascent. We know the 2000 Olympics for Marion Jones (before the scandal), and the 1988 Olympics for Florence Griffith-Joyner.
Approximately 50 athletes will leave this year's Track & Field World Championships with gold medals in their possession, but only one—and maybe two—will be able to say that 2011 was the year they owned the World Championships. And that's not even a certainty.
Midway through the competition, here's a breakdown of the top 10 "MVP" candidates and their odds of being the transcendent athlete whose name we will always associate with these World Championships: