No disrespect to this year's two remaining Diamond League meets—Sept. 8 in Switzerland and Sept. 16 in Belgium—but for most intents and purposes, the end of the IAAF World Championships this past weekend marked the end of the 2011 track and field season.
The few athletes who are still in contention for the prize money and No. 1 rankings that come with winning a Diamond League crown will stay locked in for the next couple of weeks. The rest of the best have already reset their focus on 2012 and the London Olympics. That goes for everybody from Yohan Blake (the new 100-meter world champion) to Sogelau Tuvalu (who clocked a historically glacial 15.66 seconds in the WC 100-meter prelims).
Even more eager to fast-forward the calendar to next summer, though, are the athletes who—for one reason or another—were absent during the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. Quite a few of them flew under the mainstream radar this year, but will be right in the mix to contend for medals at the Olympics in London.
Here are 12 athletes to watch in 2012 whom you didn't see at the World Championships:
Represents: United States
She's only 27 years old, but it seems like Williams has been on the scene forever. That's partially because she started out young and partially because she consistently steps up when it's time to make an Olympic or World Championship roster.
Williams had just graduated from Miami when she won a silver medal in the 100-meter dash at the '04 Olympics, and a year later won gold in the 100 and 4x100 relay at the World Championships. Between '04 and '09, she never failed to qualify for each year's biggest meet, be it the Olympics or WC or World Indoor Championships.
After taking most of 2010 off to rest her body, Williams returned this year but was understandably rusty and failed to make the cut for Daegu at the USA Championships. Next year I wouldn't bet against Williams to regain her form and find some way to make her third Olympic team.
During every single event of the World Championships, there were dozens of bitter, world-class athletes watching from home thinking they could've or should've been winning a medal at that exact moment. Teddy Tamgho is one of the few who would've been absolutely right.
The 22-year-old was the No. 1-ranked triple jumper in the world this year, but a broken ankle suffered at a meet in July ended his season before he had a chance to compete at the Worlds.
Tamgho made the third-longest jump of all-time, a 17.98-meter (58', 11.8") mark he hit outdoors last summer, around the same time he set an indoor world record at 17.90 meters while winning the World Indoor Championship gold medal. This year he won gold at the European Indoor Championships, breaking his own indoor world record at 17.92 meters (58', 9.5").
A lot was made about the incredible accomplishment of Vivian Cheruiyot (Kenya), who won gold in both the women's 5000 and 10000 meters at this year's World Championships.
Dibaba has also pulled off the 5000/10000 double at a major meet. In fact, she's done it twice. Dibaba swept the 5000 and 10000 at the '08 Olympics and the '05 World Championships. She has additional WC gold medals in the 5000 ('03) and 10000 ('07), a bronze in the 5000 from the '04 Olympics, five gold medals from the World Cross Country Championships and she owns the world record in the 5000 meters at 14:11.15.
Dibaba took most of this year off due to injuries. But she's only 25 years old and far from finished. If she's fresh for 2012, Cheruiyot knows where her toughest competition is coming from.
Before anybody was thinking about false starts, the biggest threat to Usain Bolt losing his 100-meter world title was Asafa Powell.
In the months leading up to Daegu, Powell was the fastest man on the planet. Ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100, he'd posted a season-best time of 9.78 seconds and inflated his career total of sub-10-second 100s to an incredible 70—more than Bolt and Tyson Gay combined.
A groin injury sidelined Powell for the World Championships, but at 29 years old he still has a lot of nine-point-somethings left in him for 2012.
By the time Lopes-Schliep returns to the track following her pregnancy—her baby girl is due later this month—the women's 100-meter hurdling landscape will look a lot different than it was when she left as the world's top-ranked short hurdler in 2010.
Back then, Lopes-Schliep was one of a handful of women who were a threat to win the 100-meter hurdles on any given week on the Diamond League and major-meet circuit. Next year, Lopes-Schliep will be part of the pack trying to chase down Sally Pearson (Australia), who has established herself as the event's dominant athlete.
Lopes-Schliep has a bronze medal from the '08 Olympics, a silver from the '09 World Championships and another bronze from the '10 World Indoor Championships. Once she comes back, she'll be pushed by a strong Canadian hurdling program that produced two of this year's WC finalists (Phylicia George and Nikkita Holder) as well as two-time WC medalist Perdita Felicien.
Represents: New Zealand
As some of the more high-profile names in the men's shot put lumber toward athletic old age, the future of the sport looks to be in good hands. Germany's 21-year-old standout David Storl won the WC gold medal this week, and teen phenom Jacko Gill is on the verge of becoming famous out of New Zealand.
Though he's just 16 years old, Gill has been pegged as a future star. At 15, he won gold at last year's World Junior Championships, moving ahead of Usain Bolt in the record book as the youngest-ever male junior world champ. This year he won gold at the World Youth Championships.
In April, Gill heaved a grown-up sized shot 20.01 meters (65', 7.7"), setting a national record. That would have qualified Gill for the World Championships in Daegu, but by rule he was still too young to compete in throwing events at that level.
If anybody is built to challenge 20-year-old Caster Semenya (South Africa) in the women's 800 for the foreseeable future, it's 21-year-old Jelimo. She was just 18 when she won gold at the Beijing Olympics, but was eliminated from the '09 World Championship medal chase in the semifinals.
This year, Jelimo missed the WC due to, as her manager was quoted by Reuters, a series of injuries and "other matters I cannot discuss in public."
If and when she's healthy and ready to run, Jelimo should be right there with the best in the world. Her career-best time of 1:54.01 in the 800 is faster than Semenya's PR of 1:55.45, and Jelimo has actually bested Semenya's best a handful of times in her career.
Represents: United States
Gay will be 30 years old when the London Olympics roll around, and although reigning World Championship bronze medalist Kim Collins (St. Kitts) is the latest sprinter to prove that age is just a number, Gay knows London could be his last chance at Olympic glory.
That's why Gay opted to play it safe back this past June and pull out of the USA Championships with a nagging hip injury. He eventually opted for surgery, with his focus on being ready for the 2012 season.
The second-fastest 100-meter runner of all-time (behind Usain Bolt), third-fastest in the 200 (behind Bolt and Michael Johnson), world-record holder in the straight 200 (over Tommy Smith) and the last man to beat Bolt head-to-head in a 100-meter final is expected to resume his training in the fall. If he can stay healthy next year, Gay is a threat to take down Bolt and anyone else vying for Olympic gold.
Represents: United States
Though it's technically inaccurate, in the eyes of the public, 2012 will be a make-or-break year for Lolo Jones to prove she's more than just a pretty face with above-average speed.
For all of the attention she garners at major meets, Jones' production hasn't matched up. Her two World Indoor Championship gold medals in the 60-meter hurdles notwithstanding, Jones' appearances on the bigger stage have been marked by letdowns: the famous last-hurdle stumble in the '08 Olympics and semifinal eliminations in the '09 and '11 USA Championships that caused her to miss the World Championships.
Now that she's knocking on 30 years old, and with younger, faster Sally Pearson (Australia) beginning to run away from the rest of the 100-meter hurdling field, Jones is running out of time to capitalize on the talent and potential she's always had. Next year is crucial for her.
Injuries are terrible, but rest assured that every athlete who had to miss the World Championships with a busted knee or bruised muscle would prefer their afflictions any day to the factors that sidelined Kipsiro.
The '07 WC bronze medalist in the 5000 meters and '10 Commonwealth Games gold medalist in the 5000 and 10000 was stricken with Malaria and typhoid earlier this summer. He originally cited those illnesses as the reason he couldn't run in Daegu, but on the eve of the WC he told the Daily Monitor, "I am currently fine health-wise but I am psychologically tormented. I have not left my house for three days now. I haven’t been able to go out and train."
The internal torment stems from Kipsiro's association with Yoweri Museveni, president of war-torn Uganda. Though he claimed in the article that he does not support the president or the National Resistance Movement, Kipsiro said his life is in danger and that "some people want to finish me off."
There's a possibility Kipsiro could flee Uganda and seek political asylum in another country. If he is able to compete next year and gets anywhere near his 2010 form, Kipsiro will be a contender to win the Diamond League and medal at the Olympics.
When she finished ninth in the discus at the '09 World Championships, Perkovic had a couple of good excuses. First, she was the youngest competitor in the field at 19 years old. Second, she had nearly died earlier that year from a burst appendix that also caused her to lose 30 pounds.
Fully healthy in 2010, Perkovic won a gold medal at the European Championships. In 2011, she broke her own Croatian national record with a throw of 67.96 meters (222 feet, 11.5 inches).
So why wasn't Perkovic at the World Championships? Because back in May, the 21-year-old failed two tests for banned substances. She was suspended for six months and will become eligible for international competition again in December.
Represents: United States
Though he's young (22) and just a year out of college, Dutch already has some World Championship experience under his belt and is a veteran of four USA Championship meets.
Following his freshman year at the University of South Carolina, Dutch finished fifth in the 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Trials and second at the World Junior Championships. After his sophomore year, he came in second at the USA Championships and advanced to the semifinals at the '09 WC in Berlin. As a junior, he won the NCAA crown and finished second at the USA Championships before turning pro.
This year, Dutch placed fifth in the 400 hurdles at the USA Championships, less than one second shy of earning a spot on the World Championship roster. He is ranked 12th in the world in his event.
The United States has a strong crew of long hurdlers—including Bershawn Jackson, Angelo Taylor, Kerron Clement and Dutch's college rival Jeshua Anderson—and Dutch is running neck-and-neck with the best of them.