It is late Friday night, and your favorite blogger has just invaded the air space of New York City. A walk back from dinner with friends was very comfortable, low humidity and near perfect weather. It is the night before the Reebok Grand Prix, and the event is looking to be pretty amazing, from the opportunity for Jenn Stuczynski to improve her American record in the pole vault, to a truly stacked women’s sprint field, to a tremendous showdown between Usain Bolt, fastest in world in 2008 and Tyson Gay, Osaka three time gold medalist and the sprinter of the hour.
But, dear friends, the day AFTER Reebok GP NYC is the DKB-ISTAF Berlin meeting, which is the start of the IAAF Golden League for 2008. What is the first lesson about track and field, dear readers? It is all about the competition!
In Berlin, the men’s 400 meters may overshadow all, as La Shawn Merritt and Angelo Taylor, the silver and bronze medalist at Osaka, will join Jeremy Wariner, the gold medalist in that race in Oskaka-the 400 meters.
In my mind, Jeremy Wariner is as dominant at 400 meters as Tyson Gay is over 100 meters and 200 meters. Wariner is so dominant, that he will truly have to screw up everything, like five things, to loose the 400 meters. Now, it can be done-but Wariner is that dominant. Two weeks ago, with a sore hamstring, the guy ran 44.42.
La Shawn Merritt is very tough, and so is Angelo Taylor. Word on the street is that La Shawn is very fit, and Angelo has run 20.5 and 45.05, but they will need 44 or UNDER to get at Wariner.
So this weekend will tell us something about the battle on the road to Beijing-who will be the dominant short and long sprinters for 2008?
TRACK PROFILE Report #758
MEN’S OSAKA 400m PODIUM REUNION SET FOR BERLIN
By Bob Ramsak
(c) 2008 TRACK PROFILE Report, all rights reserved
BERLIN â€“- When the Ã…F Golden League series kicks off at Sundayâ€™s DKB-ISTAF Berlin meeting at the city’s Olympic Stadium, among the most eagerly anticipated races will be the menâ€™s 400m where the American trio that swept the podium in Osaka last summer, Jeremy Wariner, Lashawn Merritt and Angelo Taylor, will be reunited. And each have their eyes firmly focused on both the run to a share of the $1 million Jackpot as well as the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games.
But all three, beginning with Wariner, the reigning Olympic and two-time World champion, are taking a step-by-step approach to both goals as well as passing another grueling test, next monthâ€™s U.S. Olympic Trials.
â€œMy goal is really just to take it one meet at a time,â€ said Wariner, who shared a piece of Golden League pie after a perfect six-for-six showing in 2006. â€œI canâ€™t really get ahead of myself. I want to win the Golden League and win a share of the jackpot but Iâ€™ve got to take it one meet at a time, beginning with this race here in Berlin. My goal here is to just go out and run my race like I have in the past, and hopefully come out with a victory and may be the fastest time in the world this year.â€
Indeed, Wariner isnâ€™t currently the fastest in the world. That standard was set by Merritt, the Osaka silver medallist, who got off to his fastest start ever with his 44.34 victory in Baie Mahault on 1 May.
â€œI really want to put in a good performance and get a good race in before the U.S. Olympic Trials,â€ said Merritt, who at 22 is two years Warinerâ€™s junior. Yet despite his young age, Merritt knows that the task ahead of him is a daunting one.
â€œThe 400 metres the past couple years has been loaded. Itâ€™s the Golden League this year so every Golden League meet is going to be a tough race. All of my competitors in this race Iâ€™ve raced against and all of them are great athletes.â€
For Taylor, the 2000 Olympic champion in the 400m Hurdles and the bronze medallist over 400m in Osaka last year, Berlin, where heâ€™ll also contest the full lap hurdles, has an added dimension, equally as difficult as the hunt for the Jackpot.
â€œIn Berlin Iâ€™m trying to duplicate what Iâ€™m going to do at the Olympic Trials,â€ Taylor explained, â€œwhere Iâ€™ll have two rounds in one day: the 400m Hurdles final and the first round of the 400, about 25 minutes later. So thatâ€™s what I plan to do here this weekend. Just to see what itâ€™s going to feel like so I can ready for the Olympic Trials.â€
Taylor said his experience in both events will be part of his key to success.
â€œIn the schedule at the trials the 400 metre Hurdles is first so and Iâ€™m confident in my training,â€ Taylor said. â€œI have the experience. This will be my third Olympic trials. I know the events, I know the athletes, so Iâ€™m really confident in meeting the goal that I set, and achieving the goal Iâ€™ve set. I just focus on training and getting ready.
For all three, the Ã…F Golden League is central to their season.
â€œThe way the Golden League is set up this year,â€ Wariner said, â€œwe have two big competitions before the trials, and two before the Olympic Games. Those are great races for me to see where Iâ€™m at and get a feel for my competition.â€
â€œWhen I sat down with Michael (Johnson) and coach Ford,â€ Wariner continued, â€œwe discussed the pros and cons of running the Golden League before the U.S. trials. And we felt that this would be a great time for me to get good competition in. Thereâ€™s not too many 400s before our trials in the States. So coming out to Europe and getting two Golden League meets in with really good competition is going to help me out at Trials, to prepare me mentally and physically.â€
For Merritt, itâ€™ll simply be a matter of picking up where he left off last year when he joined the still-exclusive sub-44 club with his 43.96 in Osaka.
â€œLast year I had a great year,â€ he said. â€œI still feel it was like a learning process. Running 43 at the World Championships gave me a lot of confidence for this year, going into the Olympic Games. I got a feel of what it was like, it was my first time on the world stage as a professional athlete, going through rounds.â€
â€œThe 43 gave me quite a bit of confidence for this year and I pretty much wanted to start this year where I left off last year,â€ Merritt said. â€œIâ€™m planning to have a great year and planning to run fast.â€
While heâ€™s been the eventâ€™s dominant force since taking the Olympic title four years ago, Wariner insists heâ€™s not taking anything for granted.
â€œMy competitors are going be great competition,â€ Wariner said. â€œI know Merritâ€™s going to run well, heâ€™s run really fast every time heâ€™s run this year. I know heâ€™s going to go out there and run his race and drop a time. Iâ€™m just going to keep doing what Iâ€™ve done in the past, just run my race, and not worry about anyone else. And hopefully run a pretty good time for early in the season.â€
For his part, Merritt concurred.
â€œMy plans are to make the Olympic team and win. I train to win and thatâ€™s what I plan on doing.â€
To see a story of similar nature, please click on: [http://www.iaaf.org/GLE08/news/newsid=45085.html ]
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