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LRC: Beijing is Here, Olympics Kick Off With Women's 10k Final, Men's Shot Final, 100m Showdown Getting Underway, Round 1 of Steeples, Men's 1,500m and Women's 800m
by: LetsRun.com
August 13, 2008

More: *IAAF Previews
*
Start lists will be here

The track and field events begin on Friday in Beijing (Thursday night in the US, detailed TV schedule for US viewers here (the marathons are live, some events are 15 hours tape delayed) at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with an exciting women's 10k final, the men's shot put final, and first round action in the Tyson Gay / Usain Bolt / Asafa Powell 100m showdown, the first rounds of the men's and women's steeple, the women's 800m, and the men's 1,500m.

LetsRun.com previews of all of the distance action from Friday with the other highlights below. We'll have more previews of this weekend's action each day.

It's not too late to enter our $1,000,000 Prediction Contest with great prizes from Brooks.

Women's 10,000m: Dibaba Goes For First Olympic Gold
Friday August 15 10:45 AM (East Coast Time)
Overview

The track and field action gets going Friday evening (Friday morning in the US, although the event will not air until Saturday morning (1 am) in the US) in Beijing with a bang - the women's 10,000m final. The event features world beater Tirunesh Dibaba going after the only thing missing on her résumé, an Olympic gold medal. Nine others will be trying to challenge for spots on the podium, including a strong American contingent led by last year's bronze medallist Kara Goucher and US 10,000m record holder Shalane Flanagan.

Operating on the premise that World Cross results are a good predictor of global championship success at 10,000m, we'll go with this year's X-C winner and runner-up to take the top two spots. It is doubtful many prognosticators are going to pick against Tirunesh Dibaba, the X-C Champion, as she is also the most accomplished track performer of the contestants (she ran an incredible 14:11.15 this year) and has a ferocious finishing kick, although she struggled with stomach cramps in the middle of the race last year. World XC runner-up and Ethiopian teammate Mestawet Tufa will likely assume the role of female equivalent of Sileshi Sihine or Paul Tergat and make a late bid to win, only to fall to Dibaba's even later kick and take the silver. An Ethiopian medal sweep is a distinct possibility, as Tirunesh's sister Ejegayehu, the 2004 silver medallist, is in the field. Despite all of Tirunesh Dibaba's accomplishments, she is only the second-most accomplished Olympian in her family, with her 5,000m bronze in 2004.

Last year's Worlds showed that an Ethiopian sweep is no sure thing. The Ethiopians were favored on paper, had four runners in the field (they can only bring three to the Olympics), and only came away with Tirunesh's gold. Ejegayehu finished 7th, Tufa dropped out after a midrace collision, and the 4th Ethiopian, Aheza Kiros, finished 18th out of 19 (results here, recap here).

Lornah Kiplagat has the fastest PR in the field, although several years removed from it, and probably is not as fast as the Ethiopians over the final lap, but showed superb fitness and ability to run in the heat to win World Cross last year, so she should be close to medal position throughout. Kenyan Lucy Kabuu delivered a dominating 14:33.49 5,000m victory in warm weather this summer and is one to watch, as is Elvan Abeylegesse, a former WR holder at 5,000m. Both have excellent chances given their top times and competitive records.

A slew of non-African-born runners could contend for the bronze medal spot. The USA's Kara Goucher showed what is possible last year with her surprise bronze medal. Goucher is running even better in 2008 than in 2007, so she will not sneak up on anyone this year. She will have to contend with Britain's Jo Pavey (4th place in Osaka), whom she outkicked for the medal last year, and the US 10,000m champ and American record holder Shalane Flanagan. (Update: Shalane Flanagan Has Food Poisoning) The question marks on Flanagan are if she can run well later in the season and can hold up in the heat. She fizzled a bit last year at Worlds but no doubt has changed her training around this year to peak in Beijing. New Zealand record holder Kim Smith also has a real chance to medal, but a few others are likely still better at their best. Goucher, Pavey, and Smith could all run better than last year and still finish in a worse position than in Osaka. Last year, the Ethiopians had an off day and the Kenyan women were just starting to emerge as an international factor. A 4th to 6th place finish for either Flanagan, Smith, Goucher or Pavey is a strong showing in this field.

Picks
Ethiopian Sweep: 1.) T. Dibaba 2.) Tufa 3.) E. Dibaba

Major Contenders

(From the LetsRun.com Prediction Contest)
Who will win the
Women's 10,000m?

Tirunesh Dibaba 57.3%
Shalane Flanagan 15.3%
Mestawet Tufa 15%
Other (includes Lucy Kabuu, Jo Pavey) 5.1%
Kim Smith 4%
Lornah Kiplagat 1.9%
Kara Goucher 0.6%
Inga Abitova 0.5%
Elvan Abeylegesse 0.2%
Penninah Arusei 0.2%
Kayoko Fukushi 0.1%
Hilda Kibet 0.1%

Shalane Flanagan (USA) 2008 Best: 30:34.49 (American record) Global Championship Highlights: No prior appearances in 10,000m, 8th in 5,000m in 2007 World Championships

Kim Smith (New Zealand) 2008 Best: 30:35.54 Global Championship Highlights: 5th in 2007 World Championships, 15th in 2005 World Championships

Inga Abitova (Russia) 2008 Best: 30:46.70 Lifetime Best: 30:31.42 (2006) Global Championship Highlights: 12th in 2007 World Championships

Mestawet Tufa (Ethiopia) 2008 Best: 30:38.33 Global Championship Highlights: No prior appearances in 10,000m, 2nd in 2008 World Cross-Country

Hilda Kibet (Netherlands) 2008 Best: 30:58.48 Global Championship Highlights: No prior appearances in 10,000m, 5th in 2008 World Cross-Country

Mariya Konovalova (Russia) 2008 Best: 30:59.35 Global Championship Highlights: No prior appearances in 10,000m, 11th in 2007 World Cross-Country

Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia) 2008 Best: 31:03.37 Lifetime Best: 30:15.67 (#9 all-time) (2005) Global Championship Highlights: 2005 and 2007 10,000m World Champion, 2005 5,000m World Champion, 2008 World Cross-Country Champion

Lornah Kiplagat (Netherlands) 2008 Best: 31:04.04 Lifetime Best: 30:12.53 (#6 all-time) (2003) Global Championship Highlights: 4th in 2003 World Championships, 5th in 2004 Olympics, 2007 World Cross-Country Champion, 2007 World Half Marathon Champion, 2006 World Road 20k Champion

Ejegayehu Dibaba (Ethiopia) 2008 Best: 31:04.05 Lifetime Best: 30:18.39 Global Championship Highlights: Silver medal in 2004 Olympics, 7th in 2007 World Championships

Yoko Shibui (Japan) 2008 Best: 31:15.07 Lifetime Best: 30:48.89 (2002) Global Championship Highlights: 14th in 10,000m in 2003 World Championships, 4th in 2001 World Championships Marathon (PR of 2:19:41 is #6 all-time)

Kayoko Fukushi (Japan) 2008 Best: 31:18.79 Lifetime Best: 30:51.81 (2002) Global Championship Highlights: 10th in 2007 World Championships, 11th in 2003 and 2005 World Championships, 26th in 2004 Olympics 6th in 2006 World Cross-Country long course, 6th in 2006 World Road 20k Championships, appearances in 5,000m in 2003, 2005, 2007 World Championships

Kara Goucher (USA) 2008 Best: 31:26.48 Lifetime Best: 31:17.12 (2006) Global Championship Highlights: Bronze medal in 2007 World Championships

Elvan Abeylegesse (Turkey) 2008 Best: 31:36.33 Lifetime Best: 30:21.67 (2006) Global Championship Highlights: Silver medal in 2007 World Championships

Amy Begley (USA) 2008 Best: 31:43.60 Global Championship Highlights: No prior appearances

Jo Pavey (Great Britain) 2008 Best: 31:56.90 Lifetime Best: 31:26.94 (2007) Global Championship Highlights: 4th in 2007 World Championships, 9th in 5,000m in 2007 World Championships

Lucy Kabuu (Kenya) 2008 Best: 32:18.6h (5,450 ft. altitude) Lifetime Best: 31:05.90 (2004) Global Championship Highlights: 9th in 2004 Olympics, 5th in 2005 World Cross-Country short race

Women's 800m: Jelimo vs. Herself?
Thursday, August 14, 11:10 PM (East Coast Time)

Overview

Who will win the
Women's 800m?
Pamela Jelimo 90.9%
Hasna Benhassi 2.3%
Tatyana Andrianova 1.6%
Janeth Jepkosgei 1.5%
Svetlana Kluka 0.9%
Maria Mutola 0.7%
Alice Schmidt 0.7%
Hazel Clark-Riley 0.5%
Alysia Johnson 0.4%
Hazel Clark 0.2%
Other 0.2%

Janeth Jepkosgei was last year's sensation and grabbed gold at Worlds but has had to take a back seat this year to the even more sensational Pamela Jelimo.With the world leader, Russian Yelena Soboleva, suspended for a doping violation, it seems only a fall might prevent the undefeated Jelimo from romping to victory. The only possible knock on Jelimo is that she has no global championship experience, which means no familiarity with conserving energy through the rounds or facing different types of tactics. Running in an Olympic-quality field without a rabbit could also conceivably rattle the greenhorn, but she has been so dominant this season that no strategy her opponents muster is liable to prevent her from simply frontrunning to the gold medal.

The Russian contingent, even minus Soboleva, still poses a formidable threat in the race for the other medals, as all three entrants are over a second ahead of the remaining contenders on the stopwatch this season and both Tatyana Andrianova and Svetlana Kluka have made finals in World or Olympic competition. Behind the Russians, a plethora of athletes appear on the yearly list with times within a second of each other. Jepkosgei has been consistently about 2.5 seconds slower than her world-beating form of a year ago, but surely cannot be overlooked and will not give away a medal without a battle. Ukrainian Tetiana Petlyuk claimed the silver at this year's World Indoors in a slow race but has run under 1:58 in the past and is capable in any type of race. Hasna Benhassi always seems to bring her A game to global championships and finds a way to be in medal contention, handling rounds well and executing masterful race tactics. She owns three silvers and one bronze in global competition. Meanwhile, Cuban Zulia Catalayud is looking for the magic she found to win a surprise gold in the 2005 Worlds, while the gritty and wily Maria Mutola, one of the most decorated track athletes in history, might still sneak into the medal hunt in her 6th Olympic Games.


Jelimo in Oslo

On paper, Jelimo is the class of the field and should win the gold barring a misfortune or a blatant tactical mistake. At least one of the Russians (though having never run stellar times outside of Russia, surprise, surprise) seems likely to medal, and we'll go with Andrianova, the fastest and most globally-tested of the bunch, for the silver. The other Russians are less seasoned in competitions of this nature and magnitude than many of the runners behind them on the 2008 list, so it seems reasonable to consider the more experienced athletes as equally likely to medal. The competition will be fierce between the runners whose yearly marks are in the 1:58s, and the outcome is a virtual tossup. Jepkosgei, Petlyuk, Marilyn Okoro, Lucia Klocová and Benhassi are all within 0.16 seconds of each other this season. Unless the World Champion, 1:56.04 PR runner Jepkosgei, has been sandbagging so far this year, the tight pack may mean superior experience and tactics will prevail. Thus, we'll pick the highly-accomplished and consistent Benhassi to slip through to a bronze.

Picks

1.) Jelimo 2.) Andrianova 3.) Benhassi

Major Contenders

Pamela Jelimo (Kenya) 2008 Best: 1:54.97 (#7 all-time, world junior record) Global Championship Highlights: No prior appearances

Tatyana Andrianova (Russia) 2008 Best: 1:56.00 Global Championship Highlights: Bronze medal in 2005 World Championships, 5th in 2004 Olympics

Svetlana Kluka (Russia) 2008 Best: 1:56.64 Global Championship Highlights: 7th in 2007 World Championships

Ekaterina Kostetskaya (Russia) 2008 best: 1:56.67 Global Championship Highlights: No prior appearances

Tetiana Petlyuk (Ukraine) 2008 Best: 1:58.38 Lifetime Best: 1:57.34 (2006) Global Championship Highlights: Silver medal in 2008 World Indoors, semifinalist in 2004 Olympics and several other recent global championships

Marilyn Okoro (Great Britain) 2008 Best: 1:58.45 Global Championship Highlights: Semifinalist in 2007 World Championships

Lucia Klocová (Slovakia) 2008 Best: 1:58.51 Global Championship Highlights: Semifinalist in the last 4 outdoor global championships

Janeth Jepkosgei (Kenya) 2008 Best: 1:58.52 Lifetime Best: 1:56.04 (2007) Global Championship Highlights: 2007 World Champion

Hasna Benhassi (Morocco) 2008 Best: 1:58.54 Lifetime Best: 1:56.43 (2004) Global Championship Highlights: Silver medal in 2004 Olympics, silver medals in 2005 and 2007 World Championships, bronze medal in 2006 World Indoors, 5th in 1999 World Indoors, 8th in 2000 Olympics, 2001 World Indoor 1,500m Champion

Zulia Catalayud (Cuba) 2008 Best: 1:59.18 Lifetime Best: 1:56.09 (2002) Global Championship Highlights: 2005 World Champion, 6th in 2000 Olympics, 8th in 2004 Olympics, semifinalist in 2007 World Championships

Maria Mutola (Mozambique) 2008 Best: 1:59.24 Lifetime Best: 1:55.19 (= #9 all-time) (1994) Global Championship Highlights: 2000 Olympic Champion, 2001 and 2003 World Champion, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006 World Indoor Champion, silver medal in 1999 World Championships, silver medal in 1999 World Indoors, bronze medal in 1996 Olympics, bronze medal in 1997 World Championships, bronze medal in 2008 World Indoors, numerous additional top-5 finishes in global championships, competed in first Olympics in 1988

Mayte Martínez (Spain) 2008 Best: No outdoor mark Lifetime Best: 1:57.62 (2007) Global Championship Highlights: Bronze medal in 2007 World Championships, bronze medal in 2003 World Indoors, semifinalist in 2000 and 2004 Olympics.

Hazel Clark (USA) 2008 Best: 1:59.82 Lifetime Best: 1:57.99 (2005) Global Championship Highlights: 7th in 2000 Olympics, 8th in 2005 World Championships, semifinalist in 2007 World Championships, eliminated in first round of 2001 World Championships and 2004 Olympics 8th in Athens

Alice Schmidt (USA) 2008 Best: 2:00.01 Lifetime Best: 1:58.75 (2007) Global Championship Highlights: Semifinalist in 2005 World Championships, eliminated in first round of 2007 World Championships

Nicole Teter (USA) 2008 Best: 2:01.07 Lifetime Best: 1:57.97 (2002) Global Championship Highlights: Semifinalist in 2004 Olympics, semifinalist in 2008 World Indoors


Men's 1,500m: Lagat Chases History
Friday, August 15, 7:10 AM (East Coast Time)
Overview

Who will win the
Men's 1500?
Bernard Lagat 72.7%
Augustine Choge 11.5%
Asbel Kiprop 8.4%
Rashid Ramzi 2.7%
Nicholas Kemboi 1.2%
Alex Kipchirchir 0.9%
Mehdi Baala 0.6%
Tarek Boukensa 0.5%
Abdalaati Iguider 0.5%
Andrew Baddeley 0.4%
Alan Webb 0.2%
Juan Carlos Higuero 0.2%
Other 0.2%
Belal Mansoor Ali 0.1%
Mohamed Moustaoui 0.1%

When the men's 1,500m heats kick off, all eyes will be on 2007 World Champion Bernard Lagat, who occupied the silver medal position behind "King of the Mile" Hicham El Guerrouj in the last Olympic Games. Lagat, who had moved up from the bronze medal position in Sydney, was representing his native Kenya in Athens, but scored gold medals in both the 1,500m and 5,000m in the Osaka Worlds for his adopted country, the USA. In attempting the same double in the Olympics, one El Guerrouj successfully completed in Athens, Lagat will simultaneously aim to become the first man to claim 1,500m bronze, silver and gold in successive Olympics. The World Champion has only one blemish on his seasonal record, a 3rd-place finish in London in which he allowed himself to get uncharacteristically trapped in the tight field. Lagat's marks have been modest by world-class standards, but the same was true prior to Worlds a year ago, and no one will be lulled into writing off the most accomplished currently-competing 1,500m runner in the world.

Finding a clear leader to Lagat's challengers is nigh impossible, as the principal players either have blotches on their records or have not contested the 1,500m distance this year. Augustine Choge has one of the strongest competitive records this year, including big wins in Berlin and Paris, and is also the yearly leader on the stopwatch, but he was beaten back to 3rd in Oslo's Dream Mile by Britain's Andy Baddeley and Ethiopia's Deresse Mekonnen, who have also had fine overall seasons but have come far short of perfection. Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, last year's exciting young find, has the talent to win the gold, but perhaps not the patience and savvy tactics of the veterans. Morocco's Abdalaati Iguider has been remarkably consistent, with four sub-3:33 performances in 2008, and figures to factor heavily into the mix. The third Kenyan, teenager Nicholas Kemboi, is untested on the largest stage but is a wellspring of talent, having run 3:33.72 at age 16 in 2006. The biggest question mark in the field is 2005 World Champion Rashid Ramzi, who has yet to race at 1,500m this season but has moved up to the 2 mile and 5,000m with solid results. Ramzi made history in 2005 when he won both the 800m and 1,500m at Worlds, becoming the first man to accomplish the double at a World Championships and the first to win both events at any global championship since Peter Snell managed the feat in the 1964 Olympics.

Picks

1.) Lagat  2.) Choge  3.) Kiprop

Major Contenders

Augustine Choge (Kenya)  2008 Best: 3:31.57  Global Championship Highlights: Eliminated in first round of 2005 World Championships, has wins in lesser championships at other distances

Asbel Kiprop (Kenya)  2008 Best: 3:31.64  Global Championship Highlights: 4th in 2007 World Championships

Abdalaati Iguider (Morocco)  2008 Best: 3:31.88  Global Championship Highlights: Eliminated in first round of 2007 World Championships

Tarek Boukensa (Algeria)  2008 Best: 3:31.98  Lifetime Best: 3:30.92 (2007)  Global Championship Highlights: 5th in 2007 World Championships, 8th in 2005 World Championships

Mehdi Baala (France)  2008 Best: 3:32.00  Lifetime Best: 3:28.98 (#6 all-time) (2003)  Global Championship Highlights: Silver medal in 2003 World Championships, 4th in 2000 Olympics, finalist in 2001 World Championships

Mohamed Moustaoui (Morocco)  2008 Best: 3:32.06  Global Championship Highlights: Semifinalist in 2007 World Championships

Juan Carlos Higuero (Spain)  2008 Best: 3:32.57  Lifetime Best: 3:31.57 (2006)  Global Championship Highlights: Bronze medal in 2008 World Indoors, 6th in 2005 World Championships, 8th in 2000 Olympics, 8th in 2003 World Indoors, semifinalist in 2004 Olympics

Deresse Mekonnen (Ethiopia)  2008 Best: 3:49.72 mile  Global Championship Highlights: 2008 World Indoor Champion, eliminated in first round of 2007 World Championships

Belal Mansoor Ali (Bahrain)  2008 Best: 3:33.12  Lifetime Best: 3:31.49 (2007)  Global Championship Highlights: Finalist in 2007 World Championships

Arturo Casado (Spain)  2008 Best: 3:33.14  Global Championship Highlights: 4th in 2008 World Indoors, 5th in 2005 World Championships, 7th in 2007 World Championships

Nick Willis (New Zealand)  2008 Best: 3:33.51  Lifetime Best: 3:32.17 (2006)  Global Championship Highlights: Semifinalist in 2004 Olympics 

Nicholas Kemboi (Kenya)  2008 Best: 3:50.83 mile  Lifetime Best: 3:33.72 (2006)  Global Championship Highlights: No prior appearances 

Bernard Lagat (USA)  2008 Best: 3:35.14  Lifetime Best: 3:26.34 (#2 all-time) (2001)  Global Championship Highlights: 2007 World Champion, silver medal in 2004 Olympic Games, silver medal in 2003 World Indoors, silver medal in 2001 World Championships, bronze medal in 2000 Olympics, 2007 5,000m World Champion

Lopez Lomong (USA)  2008 Best: 3:36.36  Global Championship Highlights: No prior appearances

Leonel Manzano (USA)  2008 Best: 3:40.90  Lifetime Best: 3:35.29 (2007)  Global Championship Highlights: Eliminated in first round of 2007 World Championships

Rashid Ramzi (Bahrain)  2008 Best: No mark  Lifetime Best: 3:29.14 (#8 all-time) (2006)  Global Championship Highlights: 2005 World Champion, silver medal in 2007 World Championships, 5th in 2008 World Indoors, 2005 800m World Champion

Rui Silva (Portugal)  2008 Best: No mark  Lifetime Best: 3:30.07 (2002)  Global Championship Highlights: 2001 World Indoor Champion, Bronze medals in 2004 Olympics and 2005 World Championships, 5th in 2003 World Championships and 1999 World Indoors, 7th in 2001 World Championships

Men's Steeplechase: Koech the Favorite if He Runs
Friday, August 15, 9:20 PM (East Coast Time)

Overview

Who will win the
Men's Steeplechase?
Paul Kipsiele Koech 68.7%
Ezekiel Kemboi 11.2%
Richard Mateelong 7.8%
Brimin Kipruto 7.3%
Anthony Famiglietti 3.7%
Steve Slattery 0.3%
Kyle Alcorn 0.2%
Other 0.2%
Tareq Taher 0.2%
Mustafa Mohamed 0.2%
Benjamin Kiplagat 0.1%
Josh McAdams 0.1%

It is no secret that the men's steeple is Kenya's signature Olympic event. In the eight Olympic Games they have attended since 1968, Kenyan steeplers have taken all eight gold medals, seven silvers and have swept the medals twice, including in the last Games in Athens. This year's festivities shape up to result in another Kenyan trio putting the broom to the field. World leader Paul Kipsiele Koech has done everything right this season except finish in the top three at the Kenyan Trials, where a tangle and subsequent wipeout on the last water barrier submerged his automatic qualifying chances. The sub-8:00 runner is currently tabbed as an alternate but may yet get the opportunity to improve on his bronze medal from Athens, as the Kenyan squad remains unfinalized. Koech's would-be teammates, Ezekiel Kemboi and Brimin Kipruto, were the two steeplers ahead of him in the 2004 Games, with Kemboi spearheading the Kenyan sweep by grabbing gold. Sans Koech, the Kenyans are still likely to hog the medals, as Richard Mateelong has the year's second-best time and a bronze medal of his own from Osaka last year.

Assuming the Kenyan trio dictates the race, the gold medal will probably go to the athlete who does the least of the leading. The usual Kenyan strategy is to take control at the front within a lap or two and spread out across the first two lanes as they approach the barriers, which gives them a clear view of the obstacles, reduces the risk of a pile-up if the leader goes down, and forces the field to stay behind with less say in the proceedings. If anyone is to disrupt a Kenyan sweep, it might be Mustafa Mohamed of Sweden, who was 4th in Osaka a year ago and owns a PR in Kenyan territory, or perhaps Bouabdellah "Bob" Tahri of France, one of the most experienced steeplers in the game, having made six global finals with three top-5 finishes but no medals yet. Tareq Taher of Bahrain (Kenyan-born) claimed a coveted Golden League victory in Paris with the year's third-best time and, while lacking the international championship credentials of the others, is a runner to watch.

Picks

Kenyan Sweep: 1.) Koech 2.) Kemboi 3.) Kipruto (revise order to Kemboi, Kipruto, Mateelong if Kenya does not declare Koech)

Major Contenders


Koech in NY

Paul Kipsiele Koech (Kenya) 2008 Best: 8:00.57 Lifetime Best: 7:56.37 (#5 all-time) (2005) Global Championship Highlights: Bronze medal in 2004 Olympics, 7th in 2005 World Championships

Richard Mateelong (Kenya) 2008 Best: 8:07.64 Lifetime Best: 8:05.96 (2004) Global Championship Highlights: Bronze medal in 2007 World Championships

Tareq Taher (Bahrain) 2008 Best: 8:08.53 Lifetime Best: 8:07.21 (2007) Global Championship Highlights: 8th in 2007 World Championships

Ezekiel Kemboi (Kenya) 2008 Best: 8:09.25 Lifetime Best: 8:02.49 (#9 all-time) (2003) Global Championship Highlights: 2004 Olympic Champion, silver medals in 2005, 2005 and 2007 World Championships

Mustafa Mohamed (Sweden) 2008 Best: 8:11.10 Lifetime Best: 8:05.75 (2007) Global Championship Highlights: 4th in 2007 World Championships, finalist in 2004 Olympics, finalist in 2005 World Championships

Bouabdellah Tahri (France) 2008 Best: 8:12.72 Lifetime Best: 8:06.91 (2003) Global Championship Highlights: 4th in 2003 World Championships, 5th in 2001 and 2007 World Championships, 7th in 2004 Olympics, 8th in 2005 World Championships, finalist in 1999 World Championships

Hamid Ezzine (Morocco) 2008 Best: 8:13.20 Lifetime Best: 8:09.72 (2007) Global Championship Highlights: Eliminated in first round of 2005 World Championships

Brimin Kipruto (Kenya) 2008 Best: 8:13.60 (5,450 ft. altitude) Lifetime Best: 8:02.89 (#10 all-time) (2007) Global Championship Highlights: 2007 World Champion, silver medal in 2004 Olympics, bronze medal in 2005 World Championships

Benjamin Kiplagat (Uganda) 2008 Best: 8:14.29 Global Championship Highlights: Eliminated in first round of 2007 World Championships

Brahim Taleb (Morocco) 2008 Best: 8:14.32 Lifetime Best: 8:07.02 (2007) Global Championship Highlights: Eliminated in first round of 2007 World Championships

Anthony Famiglietti (USA) 2008 Best: 8:20.24 Lifetime Best: 8:17.91 (2004) Global Championship Highlights: Eliminated in first rounds of 2004 Olympics and 2001 and 2005 World Championships

Billy Nelson (USA) 2008 Best: 8:21.47 Global Championship Highlights: No prior appearances

Josh McAdams (USA) 2008 Best: 8:21.99 Lifetime Best: 8:21.36 (2007) Global Championship Highlights: Eliminated in first round of 2007 World Championships

Women's Steeplechase: The First Olympic Gold
Friday, August 15, 8:25 AM (East Coast Time)
Overview

Who will win the
Women's Steeplechase?
Gulnara Samitova-Galkina 62.9%
Eunice Jepkorir 25.5%
Yekaterina Volkova 5.6%
Tatyana Petrova 2.1%
Jenny Barringer 2%
Anna Willard 0.8%
Jennifer Barringer 0.5%
Other 0.2%
Ruth Nyangau 0.2%
Donna MacFarlance 0.2%

The inaugural Olympic women's steeple provides three Russian athletes the chance to begin a dynasty analogous to Kenya's dominance of the men's event. Russians occupy the top three spots on the all-time list, and all three will toe the line in Beijing. Gulnara Samitova-Galkina is the world record holder, but teammates Yekaterina Volkova and Tatyana Petrova routed the field at last year's Worlds, taking the top two spots by a 60m margin over 3rd place and posting the #2 and #3 times in history, while Samitova-Galkina struggled home a disappointing 7th. But with a victory at the Russian Trials, perhaps as tough a women's steeple competition as the Olympics themselves, the WR holder appears ready to lead the way in Beijing.

Leading the potential Russian party crashers are two Kenyans. Eunice Jepkorir, the bronze medal winner from last year's Worlds, recently raced to the #4 all-time performance and has experience breaking up the Russian juggernaut. Compatriot Ruth Bisibori Nyangau, the world junior record holder, was 4th at Worlds and looks to be on the upswing. Spain's Marta Domínguez, a 3-time Spanish Athlete of the Year, is a relative newcomer to the event but owns silver medals at the global level in the 5,000m and the flat 3,000m and has quickly adapted to the steeple. She must be considered dangerous, as is the rapidly-improving American tandem of Jenny Barringer and Anna Willard, who have traded wins and the American record in their meetings this season.

Picks
1.) Samitova-Galkina 2.) Volkova 3.) Jepkorir

Major Contenders

Gulnara Samitova-Galkina (Russia) 2008 Best: 9:08.21 Lifetime Best: 9:01.59 (world record) (2004) Global Championship Highlights: 7th in steeple in 2007 World Championships, bronze medal in 1,500m in 2004 World Indoors, 6th in 5,000m in 2004 Olympics

Eunice Jepkorir (Kenya) 2008 Best: 9:11.18 (#4 all-time) Global Championship Highlights: Bronze medal in 2007 World Championships

Tatyana Petrova (Russia) 2008 Best: 9:15.84 Lifetime Best: 9:09.19 (#3 all-time) (2007) Global Championship Highlights: Silver medal in 2007 World Championships

Yekaterina Volkova (Russia) 2008 Best: 9:18.24 Lifetime Best: 9:06.57 (#2 all-time) (2007) Global Championship Highlights: 2007 World Champion, silver medal in 2005 World Championships

Donna MacFarlance (Australia) 2008 Best: 9:18.35 Global Championship Highlights: No prior appearance

Ruth Bisibori Nyangau (Kenya) 2008 Best: 9:18.43 Global Championship Highlights: 4th in 2007 World Championships Won Kenyan Trials, world junior record holder

Mekdes Bekele (Ethiopia) 2008 Best: 9:20.23 Global Championship Highlights: Eliminated in first round of 2007 World Championships

Marta Domínguez (Spain) 2008 Best: 9:21.76 Global Championship Highlights: No prior appearances in steeple, silver medal in 5,000m in 2003 World Championships, silver medal in 3,000m in 2003 World Indoors, four other top-6 finishes in 3,000m in World Indoors

Jennifer Barringer (USA) 2008 Best: 9:22.73 (American record) Global Championship Highlights: Eliminated in first round of 2007 World Championships

Anna Willard (USA) 2008 Best: 9:22.76 Global Championship Highlights: Eliminated in first round of 2007 World Championships

Wioletta Frankiewicz (Poland) 2008 Best: 9:25.20 Lifetime Best: 9:17.15 (2006) Global Championship Highlights: Finalist in 2005 World Championships

Lindsey Anderson (USA) 2008 Best: 9:30.75 Global Championship Highlights: Eliminated in first round of 2007 World Championships

Men's 100m: The Showdown is Here Thursday, August 14, 9:45 PM (East Coast Time)

Overview

Who will win the
Men's 100m?
Usain Bolt 53.4%
Tyson Gay 36.5%
Asafa Powell 10.1%

As in the sprint relay, the open 100m promises to be a Jamaica vs. USA face-off, with the island nation boasting the two fastest men of all time and the USA sporting last year's World Champion and enough depth to win a medal in the relay with its B team. Former WR holder Asafa Powell held off recent record setter Usain Bolt in their only matchup of the season in Sweden, but lost the big one to Tyson Gay last year at Worlds. Powell looks to rinse away that bitter taste with the greatest title in athletics, that of Olympic Champion. Will the favorite mantle unnerve Bolt at these Games or can he live up to the pressure of being the fastest man to ever run 100 meters?

An even more pressing question concerns the status of Gay, who flew to victory at Worlds last year, relegating Powell to the bronze. The hamstring injury that felled him in the 200m rounds at the US Trials has prevented him from racing since and fans have to wonder if he will be at the top of his game. (Note: Gay says he's 100% healthy as does his coach Jon Drummond and they even had Gay do a workout in front of journalists to show he's 100% ready) If he is, a world record may be required to win the race. Gay was left in Bolt's dust when the towering Jamaican blitzed his 9.72 record in May, but he seemed ready to defeat any challenge by the time of the US Trials, where he smoked an American record 9.77 in the quarterfinals before rocketing to a wind-aided 9.68 in the final, marking the fastest 100m ever run. Aficionados and casual fans alike can only hope the American lines up against both his Jamaican rivals at full strength, as this scenario is likely to result in the greatest sprint race of all time.

If anyone can play spoiler to the Big Three (not a single person in the LetsRun.com Prediction Contest had picked anyone besides these three at the time of writing this piece), it might be Walter Dix, who was runner-up in the 100m at the US Trials and won the 200m to come away with the top sprint double of the meet. Derrick Atkins of the Bahamas has not broken 10 seconds this season, but he took the silver medal ahead of Powell at Worlds and another minor medal in the Olympics would not be an enormous shocker. The oddsmakers will pick Bolt, Gay and Powell to take the hardware in some order; if another sprinter is to butt in, one of those three will probably have to falter.

Picks

1.) Bolt  2.) Gay  3.) Powell

Major Contenders

Usain Bolt (Jamaica)  2008 Best: 9.72 (world record)  Global Championship Highlights: Silver medal in 200m in 2007 World Championships

Tyson Gay (USA)  2008 Best: 9.77 (#3 all-time, AR)  Global Championship Highlights: 2007 World Champion in 100m and 200m

Asafa Powell (Jamaica)  2008 Best: 9.82  Lifetime Best: 9.74 (#2 all-time) (2007)  Global Championship Highlights: Bronze medal in 2007 World Championships, 5th in 2004 Olympics

Darvis Patton (USA)  2008 Best: 9.89  Global Championship Highlights: No prior global appearances in 100m, silver medal in 200m in 2003 World Championships

Travis Padgett (USA)  2008 Best: 9.89  Global Championship Highlights: No prior global appearances in 100m, listed as an alternate

Richard Thompson (Trinidad and Tobago)  2008 Best: 9.93  Global Championship Highlights: Quarterfinalist in 2007 World Championships

Walter Dix (USA)  2008 Best: 9.96  Global Championship Highlights: No prior appearances

Marc Burns (Trinidad and Tobago)  2008 Best: 9.97  Lifetime Best: 9.96 (2005)  Global Championship Highlights: 7th in 2005 World Championships, 8th in 2007 World Championships

Nesta Carter (Jamaica)  2008 Best: 9.98  Global Championship Highlights: Semifinalist in 2007 World Championships

Derrick Atkins (Bahamas)  2008 Best: 10.02  Lifetime Best: 9.91 (2007)  Global Championship Highlights: Silver medal in 2007 World Championships

Kim Collins (Saint Kitts and Nevis)  2008 Best: 10.07  Lifetime Best: 9.98 (2002)  Global Championship Highlights: 2003 World Champion, bronze medal in 2005 World Championships, 5th in 2001 World Championships, 6th in 2004 Olympics, 7th in 2000 Olympics, silver medals in 60m in 2003 and 2008 World Indoors, bronze medal in 200m in 2001 World Championships

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