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IAAF Golden League Bislet Games Preview
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The IAAF Golden League meets give the world's track and field fans the best chance to see the greatest athletes face off outside of major international championships. Every meet has its own flavor, and the theme of the Bislett Games in Oslo 2009 seems to be distance and field events.
Dream Mile, Though Not A Nightmare, Could Be Better
Thanks to the likes of Seb Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram, through the years the Oslo mile has been named the Dream Mile, but the 2009 version is not very dreamy. World 1500m leader Augustine Choge is in the race and has run 3:29 this year, a sensational time. But his biggest world rivals are not present, namely fellow Kenyan Haron Keitany, former Kenyan Bernard Lagat, and the three (or four) 2008 Olympic medalists Asbel Kiprop, Nick Willis, Mehdi Baala and Rashid Ramzi who may have won the Beijing race using blood containing CERA.
Nate Brannen is in the race along with Ethiopian 1500m indoor world champion from 2008 Deresse Mekonnen. Brannen's best mile time was run at Pre this year, 3:52.49. Australia's Jeff Riseley is another interesting entrant.
Is This Meet All Bad News? Tiru Dibaba Pulls Out Of 5000m
No, it's not all bad news. One world-record holder is gone, but another is still present and so is a world all-time #2 and a Kenyan national record holder.
You have got to watch this race, particularly to learn the name Meselech Melkamu. Doesn't quite roll off the tongue like we'd like it to, but you gotta learn her name because she's the fastest non-heavily-suspected 10,000m runner of all-time. Her 29:53 run in mid-June was a stunner, a win that added a third star to the Ethiopian women's track ranks.
She'll get to face one of the old bosses Meseret Defar and also Vivian Cheruiyot of 14:22 fame from these very games back in 2007 when Tirunesh Dibaba set the world record at 14:16. Defar has the current world record of 14:12 but we don't expect it to fall with the forecast as hot and breezy as it says.
All in all there are 15 Ethiopians and Kenyans in the race plus 3 Spaniards/Portugese who are good. And there's a white Russian. Sounds like a drinking game might be in order!
Men's 5000m - Loaded Field Includes Bekele In The Jackpot Chase
There are 10 guys who have broken 13:00 in this field. It's going to be insane. World leader Ali Abdosh (yea, we'd never heard of him before he broke 13:00 this year either) from Ethiopia will be tough as will Ed Soi, Abe Chebii, "Silver" Sihine and Dejen Gebremeskel are but a few of the big names in the stacked field.
Good storylines include Britain's Mo Farah going for Dave Moorcroft's British 5k record of 13:00 and also Collis Birmingham being in the race with the big boys.
Men's 800m - Kaki Makes It Worth Watching
Abubaker Kaki of Sudan is a superstar waiting to happen. A charismatic, young, incredibly fast kid from Sudan is still gaining the experience he will need to tackle the fields over the three rounds of a major international championship. He seems to be the 800m's version of Asbel Kiprop. He'll face Yuriy Borzakovskiy who hasn't run well this year.
World Junior Record Holder and 2008 Olympic 6th-placer Ruth Bisibori from Kenya is in the race and we think she is the favorite. She is only 21 years of age and also boasts a 4th-place world championship placing in 2007 in the steeple.
Field Event Stars Should Wow Norweigan Spectators
There are only a select few field events at this meet, but they all have a bonafide star entrant. The women's pole vault, men's javelin throw and women's high jump are all events where an athlete can win a share of the jackpot with a series sweep.
Last year in the high jump, Blanka Vlasic of Croatia choked away $500,000 in the last event of the Golden League before also losing the Olympic gold. Her 40-something event win streak was snapped at a very inopportune time.
This year she lost in Berlin in the first GL event to German nemesis Arianne Friedrich who played a hand in costing Vlasic tons of money last year. You'll get the chance to see Vlasic but not Friedrich this time around as the German is focusing on championship meets and apparently exists just to torture Vlasic by winning one Golden League event every year.
Golden League promoters must have known they would be giving away the million this year because Russian Yelena Isinbaeva decided to do the pole vault series. Isinbaeva is worth it as she is one of track's biggest stars and in our opinion one of the best female athletes on the planet. She is certainly one of the most dominant athletes in the world given how rarely she loses and how often she approaches world record heights.
Men's Javelin To Ignite Oslo Crowd
Nobody in America really cares about this event, but they should because it requires a lot of skill and is absurdly dangerous. Think about it, lawn darts are illegal in some US states but the javelin event is still held on track infields around the world. We can't promise that this javelin field will throw erratically enough to perhaps graze a triple jumper or innocent bystander with their rocketed spear, but we can promise this will be the most highly-anticipated event of the meet.
Norweigan 2004 and 2008 Olympic Champion Andreas Thorkildsen will throw against his archrival Tero Pitkamaki, the 2007 world champion from Finland. Round one of the golden league event went to Pitkamaki, but this time Thorkildsen will have the stands chanting in his favor. A win by Thorkildsen may set off riots in Oslo. Just kidding, we all know that Norweigans don't riot. They don't even have a word for it*. American Chris Hill, 2009 NCAA and USA javelin champion, has earned the honor of competing in one of the world's top javelin events for the US.
*Editor's Note: We received this message from a Norweigan marathoner, "There is indeed a Norwegian word for riot. It is called "opprør". It does not occur often here, but that's the word. OK, "opprør" can only be used as a noun, so you are partly correct as there is not a particular verb for riot."
To read the IAAF preview of the "hot javelin" action, click here.
Sprinting Events - Asafa Powell, Sanya vs. Ohuruogu for big bucks at 400m, potentially loaded women's 100m, Lolo vs. Canadians vs. Jamaicans in the hurdles
Didn't the headline sum it up? The women's side of the sprinting is very strong despite several key Americans missing. The women's 100m includes the Jamaicans Sheri-Ann Brooks and Kerron Stewart plus Chandra Sturrup of the Bahamas and University of Texas grad and many-time NCAA All-American and 2009 NCAA 100m champion Alexandria Anderson of the USA. We are interested to see how Anderson stacks up with 2008 100m Oly silver medalist Stewart who recently ran 10.93 into a big headwind at the Jamaican champs. Anderson ran 11.02 in the first round of NCAA's, albeit on a perfect day including a tailwind.
The biggest rivalry in the sprints is far and away in the women's 400m. Sanya Richards and Christine Ohuruogu are true event heavyweights and Ohuruogu smacked down Richards for Olympic gold last year. Richards version 2009 looks like Richards version 2007 when she was virtually unstoppable. But Ohuruogu is tough and a win would eliminate Richards from the jackpot race after she won the first event 3 weeks ago. There are other world-beaters in the field including Botswana's super-fast Amantle Montsho and Russia's Yulia Guschina, not to mention Australia's Tamsyn Lewis in her latest event.
The women's 100m hurdles features the event's biggest star, or at least the USA's biggest star Lolo Jones. Lolo, who has had injury troubles all year, couldn't make it through the US Champs, and this race will be a whole lot tougher as the Canadian world-leading duo of Perdita Felicien and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep will set the blocks as well as Jamaican duo of Bridgitte Foster-Hilton and Delloreen Ennis-London. This section takes way too long to write thanks to everyone having three names. American Damu Cherry took the first Golden League meeting but there's no way she navigates this gauntlet perfectly in the next 5 meets, especially if Dawn Harper adds her name to the mix.
And finally to the men's 100m. Asafa Powell continues his "return to form" after his injured ankle. Usain Bolt says Powell will be dangerous once healthy. He must be getting closer as he broke 10 for the 49th time in his career into a headwind last weekend. He'll face Churandy Martina who is an olympic medalist and has cracked 10.00 once this year as well. American Mark Jelks got seeded in the slow heat. An American in the 100m slow heat with 5 Norweigans and a Brit. That stinks for him.
The other 2 sprint events stinks for some reason. See below.
Events That Are Not That Great
It's not that the men's 400m, for example, CAN'T be a great event, it's that the Bislett Games don't have a bona fide star. It must be the economy, right? We're wondering if the crowds will cheer for Sweden's star Johan Wissman.* He's Scandinavian like them, but Norweigans don't really like Swedes. That's a tough one to call.
*Editor's Note: From a Norweigan Marathoner we have received email confirmation on the Wissman question, "It can be confirmed that the Norwegian crowd will cheer for Swedish Johan Wissman. Swedish athletes are quite ok as long as there are no (good) Norwegians in the field." So that explains it.
Other not-so-hot events include the men's 110m hurdles, a golden league jackpot event (too bad Dayron Robles, Liu Xiang and David Oliver are injured/AWOL), the men's 1500m (though it does feature Ryan Gregson, Alistair Cragg and Lasse Viren's son, though it looks like he scratched), the men's 3000m, and women's 800m.