How will 2004 defending Champions Fare? EME News survey by Alfons Juck, Commentary by Larry Eder

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Alfons Juck did an fascinating survey: See who the defending medalists are from 2004 and see where they are in their careers. Will they defend, will they find the fitness to reach the level again?

1972 Olympic gold medalist Frank Shorter (76 silver medalist) once said, that after one reaches the pinnacle, it is very hard to muster the focus to come back. It makes alot of sense. How often can one go to the well?

The level of performance in our sport continues to improve. With teams from 204 countries, there is always going to be that unknown quantity who will surprise and rise to the occasion.

With one hundred days to go before Beijing, here is how the defending champions' chances look!

EME NEWS (APR 30, 2008) SPECIAL

OLYMPIC GAMES - 100 DAYS TO GO !



Survey of 2004 Olympic champions and their current status. Three-four names are looking like clear favorites to defend their titles after four years (Wariner, Isinbayeva, Bekele, Defar etc.). Three big winners retired since then (El Guerrouj, Korzeniowski, Holmes) and question mark remains over Tonique Williams-Darling. Only Justin Gatlin will not be able to compete due to doping problem, Russian discus thrower Natalya Sadova will achieve the deadline providing she will have the shape to qualify. Carolina Kluft wants compete in totally different events and women steeple will debut at the games. But the man under biggest pressure will be Liu Xiang.


MEN

100 m: Justin Gatlin is waiting for his hearing at CAS and looks like will not be able to try to defend his title after being involved in doping case since 2006.

200 m: Shawn Crawford did not had in past years the same shape as in 2004 and did not compete yet this year. However will reportedly try to qualify for the games, at last years US Champs was seventh.

400 m: Jeremy Wariner improved since 2004 to be the clear ruler in this event with two world titles and the fact that he is getting closer and closer to his mentor´s world record. Clear favorite to retain his Olympic gold.

800 m: Yuriy Borzakovskiy of Russia won after his Olympic title medals at next two world championships and showed pretty solid shape during this indoor season (lost only one race) and is a contender for the podium with his usual fast finish.

1500 m and 5000 m: Morrocan double winner Hicham El Guerrouj officially retired in 2006 and no one from past winners is going to compete. That means in this two events the place opens for new name in the Olympic winner rosters.

10 000 m: Kenenisa Bekele is similar like Wariner the king of this event, won both world championships between Olympics and is one of the top names to became again Olympic winner.

Marathon: Italian Stefano Baldini with minor injury wants to run in Beijing, but will have it tough against strong runners from Kenya, Morroco and others. The picture is changing, the best ones want to compete also at Olympic Games as the race is part of World Marathon Majors series.

Steeple: Kenyan Ezekiel Kemboi won silver last year in Osaka, but first must qualify at home. And that is very tough. Additionally, if healthy world record holder Saif Saeed Shaheen will be allowed to compete at Olympics for Qatar for the first time and try for that missing gold in his career.

110 m Hurdles: The man under pressure. Liu Xiang wants to defend his title at home as millions will watch him. Not easy, but he can do it.

400 m Hurdles: Felix Sanchez after injury troubles in 2005-2006 achieved in Osaka very important silver medal. Wants to be ready to defend his gold medal.

High Jump: Stefan Holm from Sweden is on best way to defend the title and thinks about possible retirement after that. Won world indoor gold in March.

Pole Vault: Tim Mack was struggling with injuries in recent time, but still could be ready. The main task will be to qualify at US Olympic Trials.

Long Jump: Dwight Phillips won after Olympics also the next World Championships in Helsinki. He is the contender, but emerging new names headed by Irving Saladino will make it tough for him. Already jumped 824 this year.

Triple Jump: Christian Olsson of Sweden missed due to injuries both world championships between Olympic games, but won the Europeans in 2006 at home soil. He is in preparation for summer, but his health status is very fragile.

Shot Put: Ukrainian Yuri Belonog did not win any medal since 2004 and also did not achieve 21+ mark since then. Nevertheless wants to compete and try to defend.

Discus Throw: Lithuanian Virgilijus Alekna is the only one from Sydney individual male winners who can seriously attack third gold after winning in Athens too. He already started the year with 68+ mark and the goal is clear:

to beat Gerd Kanter, the world champion.

Javelin Throw: Norwegian Andreas Thorkildsen was European Champion 2006 and twice World silver medalist after his olympic win and is together with world champion Tero Pitkamäki of Finland the main favorite.

Hammer Throw: Although defending champion Koji Murofushi had injury problems in past and also present he will be the man to watch. Belarus Ivan Tikhon won all the titles inbetween.

Decathlon: Czech Roman Sebrle is currently injured but hopes to be ready to defend his title. In the meantime he also won the world championships gold so his mission is completed.

20 km walk: Italian Ivano Brugnetti did not had his best years after 2004 (only one major podium place at European Cup 2007) but wants to be in top shape to defend his title.

50 km walk: Poland´s great Robert Korzeniowski retired after 2004 and now helps as coach and organizer the walking scene.


WOMEN

100 m: Belarus Yulia Nesterenko was in the finals of 2005 Worlds and 2006 Europeans but was not competing at all in 2007 due to health problems. She also did not return to sub 11 shape of 2004. Currently again fit after some minor competitions this indoor and hopes to run at high level in summer.

200 m: Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown established her position at world scene and won the global title at 100 m last year. She is the name to watch in China.

400 m: Tonique Williams-Darling of Bahamas since 2006 virtually disappeared from track, possibly retired. But it is not confirmed.

800 m and 1500 m: Dame Kelly Holmes retired in 2005 and is currently active in different projects related to running and sports in general.

5000 m: Meseret Defar grew in four years to one of the most popular women of track and field. She broke several world records, won world titles and was voted Athlete of the Year 2007. Belongs to small group of clear gold favorites.

10 000 m: Chinese Xing Huina will be at home, but first she must definitely qualify. She was in US camp for preparation. The selection procedure in China is not clearly known and with many other top runners aiming for the same it will be tough for her to retain.

Marathon: Japanese Mizuki Noguchi qualified after last November Tokyo win and could be the first female marathon winner with second Olympic gold. Previous six Olympic women marathons had all different winners.

Steeple: This event will debut at Olympic stage. Will it be a Russian? Or some surprise from Africa? Or Alesya Turova will appear in form and healthy? Or some high quality flat runner will surprise?

100 m Hurdles: Joanna Hayes struggled in last two years and might find it tough to qualify in Eugene. The only major participation she had after Olympic win was at World Championships 2005.

400 m Hurdles: Greece Fani Halkia had her biggest post-Olympic moment at European Championships 2006 getting the silver. Last year in Osaka she did not make it to finals and generally had difficulties with injuries, mainly her back. For example in 2005 did not compete at all.

High Jump: Russian Yelena Slesarenko won indoor world medals, but outdoors could not succeed. She also did not come to her 204 results from 2004 but achieved very good two meters level anyway. However with Blanka Vlasic it might be difficult for her to retain.

Pole Vault: Yelena Isinbayeva since her Olympic win won everything and broke the magical five meters. In all that time she lost only two competitions with result and in another two she did not made the opening height (but in one case due to bad weather). Clear name for bookmakers concerning the first place.

Long Jump: Another Russian Tatyana Lebedeva had a surgery on her Achilles last autumn, but is back in training and should open end of May. Could be the second in the history after Heike Drechsler with two long jump Olympic golds. She also won last year in Osaka.

Triple Jump: Cameroon surprise winner Francoise Mbango did not compete at any big championships since her Olympic title and made only few meetings in 2005. Now she is back and reportedly achieved at home 14.50. Again ready for surprise?

Shot Put: The 33 years old Cuban Yumileidi Cumba (came to Olympic gold after doping disqualification of other athlete) did not better her best marks since 2004. She might be a good finalist, but to repeat the win looks after her recent results as virtually impossible. At last two World Championships she was 6th and 12th.

Discus Throw: Title defender Natalya Sadova is coming out of two years doping ban and should be ready to compete in July with enough time to qualify for the games. She will be 36 at that time.

Hammer Throw: Russian Olga Kuzenkova was only the second Olympic female hammer winner and in 2005 also got the world title. Nevertheless then had maternity break and after returning last year did not made it into finals in Osaka. In the wake of Russian hammer doping cases she can easily qualify and try to defend her title.

Javelin Throw: Cuban Osleidis Menendez after Olympic win got also world title in 2005 and with still valid world record. But after that injury problems relegated her and although she won last year Pan Am Games she was unable to compete in Osaka. She is in full preparation currently.

Heptathlon: Swedens star Carolina Kluft won everything after 2004 and decided she wants to try something different and will not defend her title in this event. Her priorities will be in Long Jump and Triple Jump. The event will be so one of the most open in Beijing.

20 km walk: Surprise 2004 winner Athanasia Tsoumeleka of Greece returned after maternity break last year and this March was already fourth at IAAF Challenge event in Rio Maior, Portugal. The World Cup in May in Russia will show the abilities of the medal candidates.


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EME NEWS is news service relating to the sport of athletics. It is published on daily basis with additional updates, as required. Copyright is held by Alfons Juck, Perinvest SK, a.s., Krikova 10, 82107 Bratislava, Slovakia. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. The redistribution and/or direct reproduction of material from EME NEWS is prohibited unless permission is given by c Perinvest SK (such as being included in a subscription agreement).Email to respond: [email protected]


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