Friends And Family Preview Of Day 1 Of The Olympic Games Track And Field
August 2, 2012
The Olympics are the one opportunity the track and field world has every four years to expand its fan base.
With that objective in mind, each day of the Olympics, we're going to present to you an "LRC Friends and Family Guide" to the action*. It will be a quick overview of what to expect that day in track and field. Hopefully, you can share the link or print it out and hand it to your friends and family that are either casual track and field fans or not track and field fans at all.
If they know the storylines behind what they are watching, they will enjoy it a whole lot more and you won't have to drive yourself nuts by starting at square one with them.
Day 1 Friday:
Highlight: Women's 10,000m Final: Ali Vs. Frazier, Ethiopia Vs. Kenya, Tirunesh Dibaba Vs. Vivian Cheruiyot
This is one of the premier match-ups at the Olympic Games and we hope NBC gives this one some network love (Update: It looks like this will be shown live on the East Coast/Central Times Zones at 4:25 Eastern/3:25 Central. It should be on tape delay at 3:25 West coast time. To find the time it is on in your area, click here). Tirunesh Dibaba from Ethiopia, the reigning 5,000m and 10,000m Olympic champion, goes head-to-head versus the reigning 5,000m and 10,000m World Champion, Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya. Think Ali vs. Frazier or something like that. Dibaba is arguably the greatest female distance track runner ever with two Olympic golds and four World Championship golds. However, injuries have caused her to miss the last two World Championships in 2009 and 2011. In her absence, Kenya's Vivian Cheruiyot has emerged as the dominant distance runner on the planet, winning both the 5,000m and 10,000m at the Worlds last year, the 5,000m World Championship in 2009, and going undefeated on the track since August 13, 2010. Cheruiyot is the new face of global distance running.
It should be a tremendous battle for supremacy, not only between Dibaba and Cheruiyot, but between Ethiopia and Kenya. This is the first Olympics the Kenyan and Ethiopian rivalry really exists on the women's side on the track, as the emergence of the Kenyan distance female track runner is a recent phenomena. It should be a great battle.
Don't write off the "elder" Dibaba. Dibaba is healthy again this year, has never lost to Cheruiyot on the track in seven tries, and actually is almost two years younger than Cheruiyot (Dibaba just turned 27, Cheruiyot is almost 29). We call her the 'elder' Dibaba as she has a bunch of siblings who run including baby sister, Genzebe Dibaba, who at 21 is one of the top contenders in the 1,500. We also called her "elder" because it was fun to call someone who has the nickname of the "babyfaced assassin" (since she looks so young, yet is so ruthless on the track) old.
And oh, yeah - one more thing about Dibaba. She is a big, big deal in Ethiopia. She got married in 2008 to another runner and the 10-day-long festivities featured a chariot and nearly 500,000 people lined along the road to cheer her on.
A very detailed analysis of this race is available here: LRC Women's 10,000 Preview: All The Makings Of A Classic - Tirunesh Dibaba Vs. Vivian Cheruiyot
Men's Shot Put: Americans Try To Get Back On Top
The men's shot put is one of the most competitive events in track and field with multiple people having a shot at winning gold. Poland's Tomasz Majewski is the reigning Olympic champ. Last year at the World Championships, young German David Storl was the surprise winner and Canadian Dylan Armstrong got silver. Both could factor here.
Up until last year's World Championships where the Americans were shut out of the medals, the Americans have done very well of late in the shot put. All three Americans have a shot at medalling, as Americans Reese Hoffa (2007 World Champ and 2012 Olympic Trials Champion) and Christian Cantwell (2009 World Champ) try to return gold to the US, with American Ryan Whiting also having a shot (pardon the pun). Hoffa won the US Champs and has won six straight meets but Cantwell just threw the longest throw of the year before the Olympics (the Americans are ranked 1-2-3 in terms of 2012 marks). At the last three Olympics, an American has walked away with silver, can they finally return to gold here? This should be a super-competitive event.
One more thing. Whiting went to Arizona State but he trains in State College, PA and is a volunteer coach at Penn State, so a medal for him would bring some good cheer to them.
Britain's Golden Girl Jessica Ennis Starts The Heptathlon In day 1 of the two-day heptathlon (the event where you do a 7 different track and field events), one of Britain's most popular athletes, Jessica Ennis, starts her quest for gold. Ennis is a huge deal in Britain and their best hope for a track gold on the women's side. She'll battle reigning Olympic champ and pentathlon world record holder Nataliya Dobrynska of the Ukraine, plus Tatyana Chernova of Russia, who
won the Worlds last year, relegating Ennis to silver.
The British press will scrutinize everything Ennis does since she is one of the biggest athletes in Britain.
American Evan Jager Begins His Quest For A Medal In The Steeplechase: This preliminary round almost certainly won't be on NBC, but we'll give you some of the story lines in advance of the final.
LetsRun.com is first and foremost a distance running website, so we'll educate you a little to get you familiar with some of the names. In the men's steeplechase, the US has it's first medal prospect in a long time in Evan Jager. The American youngster, who in 2009 made the World Championships team at 5,000m at an unheard-of'-in-the-US 19 years of age, took up the steeplechase (think just short of 2 miles with hurdles and a water jump) this year, because he wasn't sure he could make the US Olympic team at 5,000m. Jager's success has been amazing and in his last race out, he broke the American record. The steeplechase is a Kenyan-dominated event, as they've won every Olympic steeple since 1968 except when they didn't show up in 1976 and 1980, but only three Kenyans can run the event, so sweeping the medals is hard. The last two Olympic champions Brimin Kipruto and Ezekiel Kemboi are the favorites. The colorful Kemboi, who is known for his finishline dances, was recently arrested in Kenya for stabbing a woman with a knife. Kemboi claims it was to thwart a robbery attempt and the Prime Minister's wife has written a letter supporting him. The woman claims it was in retaliation for not accepting his sexual advances. The trial is after the Olympics.
A very detailed analysis of this race is available here: LRC Men's Steeple Preview: Will Kenya's Record Streak Continue & Can Evan Jager Medal?
Men's 1,500m Can The American Hopefuls Advance?
The 1,500 is the closest thing international track has to the mile. Whatever time they run, add about 17-18 seconds and you have their mile time.
Kenyan Asbel Kiprop is the 2008 Olympic champ, last year's World Champion, and has run the fastest time in the world this year and is the favorite, although he will be challenged by fellow Kenyan Silas Kiplagat, who won silver last year at Worlds and beat Kiprop at the Kenyan Championships last year and this year. But Kiprop says that's a good thing, as whenever he wins the super-competitive Kenyan championships, he doesn't end up doing well later in the year.
If these races show up on TV, Kiprop is easy to spot as he is very lanky. Watching him run is a thing of beauty, as he looks like he was made to run - he looks so effortless when he runs fast. Kiprop is trying to join Seb Coe - who is in charge of this year's London Olympics - as the only two-time 1,500-meter champion in Olympic history. He's only 23, so if he wins here, he has a good chance for #3 in Brazil.
This is the first of three rounds and the three Americans will be aiming to advance to the semifinals. 24 of the 45 competitors make the semifinals. American Matthew Centrowitz, an NCAA 1500m champion at Oregon last year, was the surprise bronze medallist in this event at the World Championships last year, and is a savvy racer. His collegiate teammate, Andrew Wheating, has the fastest personal best of the Americans. But both of the Oregon runners have been hurt this year and haven't looked great so far this season. Former University of Texas Longhorn Leo Manzano is a great story. He came to the country illegally as a child from Mexico, and is now living the American dream. (Editor's note: A reader wrote us about the previous sentence, noting that Leo's dad came here illegally, but got legal residency in 1986 and then brought his family here. So maybe we should have said, Leo's father came to the country illegally from Mexico. This article says Leo did not get residency until 1996.) A very consistent performer at the US Championships, Manzano won his first US Championship at the Olympic Trials and has a great kick, but can be inconsistent.
That's it. Happy watching.
*We promise to give you the Friends and Family Guide on Day 1. Let us know if you like it or not, as we need to know if we should keep making it.
More In-Depth Coverage:
Friday 4:25 PM ET: LRC Women's 10,000 Preview: All The Makings Of A Classic - Tirunesh Dibaba Vs. Vivian Cheruiyot
LRC Men's Steeple Preview: Will Kenya's Record Streak Continue & Can Evan Jager Medal?
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