With 203 countries fielding teams in Osaka, Japan, the World Championships will be one of the largest in the twenty four year history of the Worlds ( 1983-2007). This dream of many was made a reality by the late Primo Nebiolo, who capitalized on the two boycotted Olympics, 1980 and 1984, and produced, in 1983 and 1987, two profoundly strong World Championships. Osaka will be no different, with the focus on competition and the conditions challenging, how can one pick the winners? This writer gives you a few tried and true tips...
First of all, it is all about who makes the final. With the exception of the 10,000 and the marathon, just about anyone who makes a final has a chance of winning at the World Championships.
The rounds of the 100 meters, 200 and 400 meters take care of the wanna bees and pretenders to the crown. By the time one hits the semi-finals, anyone who is not on form is normally out of the event. The semi-finals are one profoundly difficult series of races, no matter what the distance.
For the majority of athletes, making it to the World Championships means that they were among the top three in their country and then made either the A or B standard, which puts them as members of the elite in their event in the world.
Watch how the sprinters line up for the semi finals, watch their concentration. At this level, nothing should matter but the race. Watch athletes who seem to be looking to be daydreaming, who seem less than preoccupied with the upcoming event. Remember Maurice Greene in Edmonton, as he willed himself into first with that close finish--it was all about the race!
In the distance events, it all comes down to about a half a dozen runners in any of the events. The other six to ten are a) over trained, b) psyched themselves out, c) will not be able to follow the fast finishing pace. At 800 meters to 1,500 meters, WC races are tactical, with a long, fast run to the finish, and a last 200 meters which brings the crowd to its feet! In 2003, El Guerrouj ran a 1.47 last 800 meters to break the field and to claim his fourth 1,500 meter title.
The 5,000 and 10,000 meters are more like chess games. The 2001 WC 10,000 meters comes to mind, as Haile Gebrselassie kept all confused as he slowly pushed up the pace but did not show his lack of a kick until 200 meters to and there was one left besides himself-Charles Kamathi.
In the throws, especially, one great throw can change the entire emotion of an event. If Breaux Greer can get off a 91 meter javelin throw, the competition will be over pretty quickly.
Then there is the hammer. If Koji Murofushi of Japan can regain his 2005 form, watch each round have longer and longer throws. The throwers can build off the emotional pitch of the fans, some better than others.
The long and triple jump are always favorites. These events, again change when the athlete is truly on. In 1995, when Jonathan Edwards of Great Britian destroyed the world triple jump record, not just once, but twice, it was hard for his competition to counter with a better jump.
How to respond? That is the name of the Game at the World Champs. Whether it is the 56 second lap with two to go in the 5,000 meters, or the surge by that unknown French marathoner, or the 88 meter javelin throw by a German thrower in round 5, taking over first, the athletes are trained to focus and respond.
A life of training, fifteen to eighteen years for many, a life of competing, and a long season all add up. How does an athlete call on the reserves? Will the World Champs be the high light or low lights of a career? I can not tell you until after I have seen the event, my friend, otherwise, I would have a Tarot card reading service.
Only four days to go..just who will win?
To see the coverage at American Track & Field, just click here: http://www.american-trackandfield.com/features/worldchamps07list.html.
To see the 32 pp History of the World Champs in the ATf Resource Guide,
click here on the digital issue: http://www.flipseekllc.com/ATFguide.html.