In a superb column last week on the new record holders in the 100 meters and the 110 meter hurdles, Pat Butcher (http://www.globerunner.org/blog/?p=45),
opened the floodgates on Beijing prognostications-and I have not even begun to irritate readers with my Olympic Trials predictions! So, here we go, gentle reader:
In Butcher's column, he alludes to the sprint wars and sprint hurdle wars as being much like American Western movies. I will take that one, Mr. Butcher, but we will go one step farther.
Most film buffs know that American Westerns of the modern ilk were partly decended from the movies like the Seven Samurai, the fifties films from Japan about the great
Samurai traditions, first seen in the US as college cult films, and now respected for
being a genre all it itself.
In the 100 meters, we have, fighting for world domination, the quiet and focused Tyson Gay, three time Osaka medalist, a man who has taken the race on August 16 to heart, and who takes nothing for granted. Then we have the former world record holder, Asafa Powell, who has run a rainy 9.96 this weekend, and is on the road to health. Powell has not shown me the mental strength to beat the big guys in the tough races. Not to say he can not do this, but the pressure seems to work on him differently than his fellow competitors. Then, there is the new world record holder, Usain Bolt, a gigantuan sprinter, a man built for the 400 meters, who, showed unseen speed in his New York race, putting everyone else in another race. If Bolt shows up at the starting line in Beijing with that type of speed, God help the others. In my mind, all three can be beat, and two of them know it. I will allow you to consider who the two are.
In the 200 meters, I believe that this will be the race between Gay and Bolt. In my mind, both are much better over this distance than the 100 meters. In this race, the turn will play a key role and Gay and Bolt could have a blistering race.
On the hurdle side, Dayron Robles of Cuba is one of six men who could take the gold, but that does not change the role that LIu Xiang of China is now in. He is the best competitor over the distance at this time. That does not mean that a very fit Terrance Trammel, a focused David Oliver, or a surprise could come and take Xiang down over the most important race of his life.
I am convinced now that Liu Xiang purposely false started at Nike Pre. It actually takes much pressure off him, and Liu Xiang will have a few races to get his timing on before Beijing. The big IF is what is the nature of his injury. That is the ace in the hole that Liu Xiang has.
Remember Haile Gebreselassie in the 10,000 meters in Edmonton? The guy almost pulled off his 10,000 meter victory, after a short build up due to achilles injuries-and it was in fact that he was short of racing that cost him the race over the last 200 meters to Charles Kamathi.
In this shoot out over the hurdles, Liu Xiang does not seem like the guy who gets influenced by fast times or world records. Xiang is a hurdler who can control his speed, and hurdling like no contemporary. Xiang also has the ability to focus and cut everyone else out of the race. The problem is that Dayron Robles and Trammel should be there, providing for a close battle. It will be a race worth the hype and ticket price.
So, how have the two world records affected Beijing? They give us something to speak about so that, two months from now, we can relish the buildup and the exciting races we will see in the 100 meters and the 110 meter hurdles.