Where Your Dreams Become Reality
LRC: The Week That Was July 21-27, 2008
With no Golden League competitions taking place this week, the action was somewhat less hectic than in the previous week; nonetheless, there were many noteworthy performances on the track, in the field and on the road. We summarize the week's highlights with our "Top 10 Athletes" feature.
LRC Top 10 Athletes Of The Week
1. Meseret Defar: At the DN Galan in Stockholm, the 2004 Olympic gold medallist from Ethiopia gave a stouthearted, largely solo attempt to reclaim the 5,000m world record she had set twice in her stellar career. Defar's countrywoman and bitter rival Tirunesh Dibaba had upgraded the mark by over 5 seconds to 14:11.15 in Oslo on June 6th, prompting Defar to enlist her personal rabbit Olga Komyagina to assist in taking back the record. The reliable Komyagina masterfully clicked off five of the requisite 68-second laps with Defar locked in a stride behind, then stepped off to watch the great champion battle the stopwatch alone. Within another two laps, the solitary struggle was taking its toll and Defar had slipped 3 seconds behind record pace, laboring in the red zone but still hammering out a tempo that kept the record within sight. Defar fought valiantly but slipped further off target pace during the next few laps and by the bell was in want of a 58.6 final circuit for success. The Ethiopian superstar has closed that fast in championship races, but running unaccompanied at near-record pace, it was not to be. She clawed out a courageous 60.4 to stop the clock at 14:12.88, #2 all-time. Finishing over 250 meters behind, utterly vanquished, were world-class runners Zakia Mohamed, Jo Pavey and Kim Smith, all top-six finishers in Olympic or World Championships events.
Robles Sizzles2. Dayron Robles: Last week, Robles earned our top spot with a surreal 12.88 obliteration of a world-class 110m hurdles field in Paris. This week in Stockholm, the world record holder lined up against undefeated American rival David Oliver, who had served the Cuban a narrow (0.01) loss in June. In Sweden, Robles struck a punishing counterblow, warp-driving from the blocks into an early lead, sailing elegantly over the hurdles to an insurmountable margin and controlling his advantage to the finish, dusting the US Champion by a comfortable 0.13 seconds and churning out another breathtaking near-WR mark of 12.91. Also among the carnage that was the main field was 2-time Olympic silver medallist Terrence Trammell. If Robles can continue to find his recent magic, only a healthy Liu Xiang could be a claim jumper to his gold prospects. Since Liu has reportedly been hampered by a hamstring injury, Robles is surely the man with the bull's-eye on his back.
3. Usain Bolt: The Jamaican meteor continued his unmitigated tyranny of the half lap with a 19.76 into a 0.4 m/s headwind in London (video of this race in the London video highlights in the middle of this article). His previous 200m stunner, a 19.67 (#5 all-time) in Athens on July 13th, was run into a 0.5 m/s wind. Given the maximum allowable tailwind, Bolt may actually threaten Michael Johnson's once-thought-unassailable mark of 19.32. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Bolt's London performance was how easily he routed 2007 World Championships bronze medallist Wallace Spearmon, who stands at #4 all-time with a 19.65 PR from 2006. After a perplexing loss to compatriot Asafa Powell in the 100m in Stockholm, in which he played catchup for 99m only to finish in a resigned fashion by neglecting to lean at the line, Bolt left no doubt who was in charge this time, powering away from Spearmon to win by a jaw-dropping margin of 0.51 seconds - even while easing up slightly during the final 20 meters.
4. Abubaker Kaki: It is frightening to realize Kaki became the World Indoor Champion at 800m and ran a world-leading 1:42.69 outdoors before his 19th birthday. The precocious Sudanese luminary seems to be addicted to winning with eye-popping times. In the uncommonly-raced 1,000m event in Stockholm, Kaki followed a ripping pace set by the rabbits, leaving behind a crack field, and ran unchallenged over the final 300m to stop the clock at 2:13.93, (video highlight in Stockholm highlights below in article) becoming the #6 all-time performer, establishing a world junior record and taking the scalps of two chief 800m rivals - Yusuf Kamel and Yuriy Borzakovskiy. Kamel, the son of World Championships 800m record holder Billy Konchellah, captured the bronze medal in the 2008 World Indoor meet that Kaki won, and boasts a lifetime best of 1:43.11. Borzakovskiy is the defending Olympic Champion and ranks 6th on the all-time list with a PR of 1:42.47. Since taking the gold medal indoors, Kaki has continued his winning ways throughout his outdoor campaign and heads to China as a marginal favorite to seize the Olympic title.
5. Andrey Silnov: The 2006 European Champion in the high jump, Silnov has finished first or second in 13 of his 15 competitions in 2008. Alas, his two lower finishes came in national championship meets and resulted in his not being named to the Russian teams, as he was 3rd indoors (with two qualifying for Worlds) and wound up 4th on the countback in the outdoor nationals in Kazan, with only three headed to Beijing. So what did Silnov do for consolation after his disappointment in Kazan? He merely uncorked a 2.38m (7'9.75") jump in London, unseating Olympic favorite Stefan Holm as the 2008 world leader and tying for 10th on the all-time outdoor performer list.
6. USA "Red" 4 x 100m (Rodney Martin, Travis Padgett, Shawn Crawford, Darvis Patton): (race highlight in video player below) The American sprint stars, all in the relay pool for the Olympic Games, teamed up for valuable meet experience and produced a scorching world leader in London. The time of 37.80 is very impressive for a unit that most likely will not be the foursome used for the Olympic final (assuming the preliminary US squads avoid a miscue in the rounds and advance to the final). Trinidad and Tobago set a national record of 38.00 in 2nd and tied Cuba as the 8th fastest nation in history. But everyone needs to watch out for Jamaica, which will field a team with the two fastest 100m men of all time and a capable, world-class supporting cast. Provided they can smoothly get the stick around the track, they have the personnel that many aficionados think could beat the USA for the gold medal and possibly set a world record. But the performance by the Americans in London with only half of their "A" team does show that if their top sprinters are all healthy, it will be difficult for even the Jamaicans to beat them.
7. Yelena Isinbayeva: Training to compete against Isinbayeva must seem like a sisyphean task for the rest of the world's pole vaulters, as the incomparable Russian continues to scale whatever height is necessary to remain just beyond the reach of her ever-improving rivals. The seemingly indomitable world record holder finally had a 2008 outdoor matchup in London with American record holder Jenn Stuczynski, who had pulled out of their planned showdown in Stockholm (where Isinbayeva took a ho-hum victory). The pole vault is a quirky event with plenty of opportunities for upsets, but the form chart gods were appeased this time, as the Olympic gold medallist soared over 4.93m to outdo Stuczynski's 2nd-place jump of 4.81m (see London video highlights below). Her final attempt at upping her world record by a centimeter to 5.04m resulted in a brush so slight that the bar teetered at the edge of the uprights for a short delay before dropping to the mat. The winning height of 4.93m has only been exceeded six times, all of them by Isinbayeva, who has not lost in a global championship since 2003 and who remains the overwhelming favorite for the gold medal in Beijing.
5. Phyllis Francis: The 15-year-old 800m sensation from Queens set a Junior Olympics record in the Intermediate Girls division with an eye-opening 2:04.83, winning her race by nearly 4 seconds. The mark is noteworthy as it is a national-level performance even for a collegian, and it demolished the division record of 2:06.64 set by Chanelle Price in 2006.
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