Ten Olympic Trials Questions, Answers Will Emerge When Trials Resume by Dave Hunter, note by Larry Eder

Dave Hunter, being the Zen master that he is, came  up with Ten questions that will be answered over the next few days of the Olympic Trials. I liked them, just one caveat, on our friend, Christian Taylor. CT does not even train for the long jump anymore, that the guy came in fourth, he should have been pretty impressed.

The Trials have been a huge success so far. The overwhelming success, the WR of Ashton Eaton, the Wild Duck Cafe parties each night, where even Princes are welcome, have just added to the OT celebration.

Here is David Hunter's column on Ten Olympic Trials questions....Enjoy....

Jeter-MadisonR-OlyT12.JPGWomen's 100 meter, 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials
Photo by PhotoRun.net

A Daily Journal From The 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials / Track & Field

Highlights From Hayward


By Dave Hunter

EUGENE, Oregon
June 26, 2012

As the Olympic Trials goes on break for two days of rest, it is the perfect time to consider ten key questions which will be answered as the Trials resume on Thursday.

How will the selection of the third Olympic team member in the women's 100 ultimately be handled in light of the Felix/Tarmoh third place tie in the 100?

Without question, this is the number one topic that dominates every OT conversation.  Nearly all agree that USATF has done a disappointing job in its clumsy and lumbering handling of this critical and highly-visible situation.  The newly-rejuvenated administration at USATF fumbled an early opportunity to demonstrate its competence through thoughtful and decisive leadership by promptly presenting a fair, equitable, and timely framework for dispute resolution here.  Instead, their inexplicable delay once again cast renewed doubt on the ability of the governing body to perform its primary function: to govern.  The two impacted athletes and their coaches - caught in the time warp of USATF inaction - hopefully will bring clear thinking to this situation, shun the wholly unacceptable coin toss option, and solve this quandary in the only manner that is sincere to the sport:  on the track in a match race.  A reliable source, an official who wishes to remain anonymous, has confided that a covert deal among the parties has been struck:  If Felix makes the team in the 200 on Saturday, she will withdraw her name from consideration in the 100; if she does not, Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh will settle the matter once and for all in a 100 meter match race on Sunday.

photo_finish.jpgPhoto finish: Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix, 100 meters
2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, Photo by PhotoRun.net

How ageless is Bernard Lagat?

Many American middle distance runners have attempted to craft a race strategy that would propel them to victory over the seemingly-ageless Bernard Lagat.  Very few runners have been successful.  With the notable exception of Alan Webb's surprise win over Lagat in the 2007 outdoor national championships, the "sit and kick" tactic has proved to be largely ineffective.  It is true that, at some point, the aging process simply has to begin to rob Lagat of his lethal finishing speed.  But given Lagat's clearly-dominating win over his heir-apparent Galen Rupp in the 3000 in this year's indoor national championship meet followed by his gold medal performance in the 3000 at the World Indoor Championships, it does not appear that any noticeable erosion of Lagat's finishing kick has yet begun.

Lagat_BernardFV-Worldi12.jpgBernard Lagat for the win, 2012 World Indoor Championships, Istanbul
Photo by PhotoRun.net 

Can Christian Taylor regain his mojo?

Christian Taylor appeared listless and without focus in Sunday's long jump final.  While his better event is clearly the triple jump, Taylor's performance in the long jump lacked a certain competitive spark.  But Taylor is a gamer who is expected to come back strong in his specialty event.  He will need to bring his "A" game in order to prevail over a formidable field that will include Will Claye and the always-dangerous Walter Davis. To secure his spot on the USA Olympic team, the man who last year who pulled off a sort of "Triple Jump Triple Crown" by winning the triple jump titles at the NCAA championships, the outdoor national championships, and the World Championships will need to display some fire in the belly when the Trials resume.

Is Jill Camarena-Williams poised for a break through performance?

Jill Camarena-Williams transformed a good 2011 outdoor season into a memorable one by capturing the bronze medal in the shot put at the World Championships in Daegu.  Hey, she's getting that spin technique down!  Her trip to the podium in the Korea promoted speculation that Camarena-Williams might be ready to take it to yet a higher level in this Olympic year.  In winning the USA indoor title this past winner, she threw 65' 3¼" - a heave that remains the year's top American mark.  The shot put final at the Trials should prove to be another epic battle between Camarena-Williams and Michelle Carter.  Their rivalry - a respectful one between two great competitors - always seems to bring out the best in both of these athletes.

Camarena_JillianQ-World11.JPGJill Camarena-Williams, 2011 World Championships in Daegu
Photo by PhotoRun.net

Did Robby Andrews and Andrew Wheating make the right choice?

More than a few eyebrows were raised at Hayward Field when the heat sheet for the 800 revealed that neither Robby Andrews nor Andrew Wheating would be competing in the two-lapper.  What prompted these two accomplished stars - both of whom have run in the 1:44's - to forsake the 800 for the 1500?  Andrews, who recently left the University of Virginia to turn professional, showed he is ready for the 1500 with a stunning 3:34.78 performance at the Oxy High Performance Meet earlier this spring.  And Wheating also has impressive 1500 credentials, having run 3:30.90 in Europe in 2010.  By side-stepping the 800, this duo bypassed Nick Symmonds and other strong 800 runners.  But making it through the rounds and finishing the final of the 1500 in the top three against the likes of Russell Brown, Lopez Lomong, and Matthew Centrowitz will be no picnic.

Centrowitz_MattQ1-World12.jpgMatt Centrowitz, 2012 World Indoor Championships, Istanbul
Photo by PhotoRun.net

How will interlopers in the men's 5000 influence the final?

After the opening rounds of the 5000, it has become clear that the usual suspects who customarily compete in the 5000 will have to pay attention to and deal with some new competitors who are migrating to the event from other distances.  The invaders are experiencing mixed results.  Some are moving up from the 1500: such as Lagat [the favorite whose transition from the 1500 is now complete] and Alan Webb [it is one and done for the American record-holder in the mile who looked woeful in the opening round].  Others are moving down from the 10,000: such as Rupp [looking sharp and clearly benefitting from a steady diet of earlier under-distance racing as prescribed by Dr. Salazar] and Matt Tegenkamp [DNS after getting his London ticket punched in the 10,000].  Lagat and Rupp look to be the class of the final, but keep an eye on Ben True and Andrew Bumbalough.

Lagat_BernardQ-OlyTr12.jpgMen's 5,000m Qualifying Round, 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials
Photo by PhotoRun.net

Will there be a changing of the guard in the men's 110 hurdles?

2012 to date has proved to be a challenging year for David Oliver.  Oliver, who turned 30 earlier this year, will need to recapture something near the form he exhibited in 2010 when he was undefeated outdoors and set the American record of 12.89.  Waiting to challenge him are several emerging young stars:  26 year old Jason Richardson, the 2011 world championship hurdles gold medalist who has run 13.04; 26 year old Aries Merritt, who has run 13.03 this year; and the young, talented, but erratic Dexter Faulk.  Terrence Trammell has a career record that few can match and he knows what it takes to make the Olympic team.  But as he approaches his 34th birthday, you have to wonder how much gas he has left in the tank.

Can Walter Dix re-group for 200?

In the semi-final of the 100, it was clear that Walter Dix was experiencing distress over the final 10 meters.  His supporting cast worked on him over the intervening two hours and did get him to the finals starting line.  His heroic - but perhaps unwise - last place performance in the 100 final suggested that his earlier struggle was something more serious than cramping or dehydration.  While details of his condition have not yet been made public, the likelihood that a healthy Dix can compete in the 200 is unknown.  The pre-Trials form sheets projected him making the USA team in one or both of the sprints and anchoring the USA's 4 x 100 relay team.  We are not likely to know Dix's status with certainty until Friday's opening rounds of the 200.  The loss of this two-time Olympic sprint medalist would be a serious blow to the USA's sprint fortunes.

Dix_Walter100Q1-OlyT12.JPGWalter Dix, 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials
Photo by PhotoRun.net

Can Lowe go high?

Chaunte Lowe is America's reigning high jump queen.  The two-time Olympian is a multiple-time national champion, has won world championship medals, and has the nation's leading high jump mark this year at 6' 7 ½".  It is expected that she will win - maybe even dominate - the high jump final at these Olympic Trials.  To prepare herself for the big stage in London and to establish herself as a legitimate medal contender capable of competing against the likes of Russia's Anna Chicherova, Lowe needs to clear some high bars this coming week.  Ever the entertainer and always a crowd pleaser, Lowe will have the crowd behind her if she can get it going in Saturday's high jump final.

Lowe_Chaunte1-Worldi12.jpgChaunte Lowe, 2012 World Indoor Championships, Istanbul
Photo by PhotoRun.net

Who can ride the Oregon home field advantage to London?

It is universally acknowledged that competing in Hayward Field and feeding off the unconditional support of the knowledgeable Oregon fans provides an intangible but nonetheless distinct advantage to those athletes who have original or transplanted connections to Eugene or the University of Oregon.  The enthusiastic crowd support clearly lifted Ashton Eaton, Rupp, Tegenkamp, Dathan Ritzenhein, Becky Holliday, Ryan Bailey, Sam Crouser, and Geena Gall.  But the home field advantage proved insufficient to give that extra boost to Elijah Greer or English Gardner.  Keep your eyes open in the second half to see if that old Hayward magic can provide that special something to the likes of Andrew Wheating, Matthew Centrowitz, Russell Brown, Bridget Franek, and other home town athletes.

 Dave Hunter

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