Preview of Women's Distance Races at 2010 Commonwealth Games
by: Steven Mills
October 5, 2010
Editor's Note: Steven Mills at Athletics Weekly sent us these men's previews of the Commonwealth Games distance action. If you're not familiar with Athletics Weekly, it's the only weekly track and field magazine in the world. We remember seeing it for the first time in the 1990s in England and being awestruck. Now thanks to the internet, a digital edition and an iphone app for Athletics Weekly are available for people in the US.
The women's distance action starts Thursday with the women's 1500m featuring Olympic champ Nancy Langat.
Women's 800m: Wide Open Without Semenya and Jepkosgei
TWO weeks ago, this event looked among the strongest of the Games but a slew of withdrawals, including those of world champion Caster Semenya from South Africa and reigning champion Janeth Jepkosgei from Kenya, has taken the shine off this event, although a weakened field is good news for the home-nation, as Tintu Luka starts as the arguable pre-race favourite.
The 21-year-old was a semi-finalist at the World Junior Championships in 2008 but since then, Luka has made substantial strides forward. On her debut on the European tour, Luka improved from 2:01.24 to 2:00.79 in Brussels, before finishing fifth at the Continental Cup in a national record of 1:59.17.
Luka is a noted front-runner and the former Asian junior silver medallist could set an honest pace in the final.
Despite Jepkosgei's absence, Kenyan teenagers Cherono Koech (17) and Winny Chebet (19) could make an impression on the direction of the medals. Koech was a silver medallist at this year's World Junior Championships and recently improved her PB to 2:00.40 while Chebet, who was the runner-up to Koech at the trials, will be looking for her first senior medal after a stellar career in the junior ranks.
Former silver medallist Diane Cummins from Canada set her fastest time in over three years of 2:00.08 in August and the former two-time world finalist boasts a wealth of experience at this level.
Also watch out for Melbourne finalist Neisha Bernard-Thomas from Grenada and Nikki Hamblin from New Zealand, who have both ducked under the two-minute barrier this summer.
Reigning champion Janeth Jepkosgei (KEN)
Commonwealth record-holder Pamela Jelimo (KEN) 1:54.01
Games record-holder Maria de Lurdes Mutola (MOZ) 1:57.35
World champion Caster Semenya from South Africa has pulled out of the Games with a back injury. The 19-year-old has won four of her six races since being cleared to compete and would have started as the pre-race favourite having recently won in Milan in a season's best of 1:58.16.
Janeth Jepkosgei from Kenya has opted to miss the Games in New Delhi as the reigning champion doesn't want to aggravate existing hip and tendon injuries.
Melbourne silver medallist Kenia Sinclair from Jamaica failed to confirm her participation and was left off the final team.
Leading English competitors Jenny Meadows and Jemma Simpson have both decided to miss the Games in order to focus on the 2011 season.
Women's 1500m: Olympic Champ Langat Headlines
NANCY LANGAT'S confidence must have taken a bit of a knock after conceding victory at the Continental Cup in Split but the Kenyan still starts as the pre-race favourite to add the Commonwealth title to her Olympic crown.
Langat has won nine of her eleven races in 2010, including a fine victory on home-soil at the African Championships, which proves the 29-year-old is dependable in non-paced races. Langat also boasts a good turn of pace, which can be illustrated by a 1:57.75 800m PB this summer.
Langat is joined on the Kenyan team by Melbourne finalist Viola Kibiwott and former world junior champion Irene Jelagat, who won the trials.
Former NCAA champion Hannah England, who represents England, was a disappointing tenth at the European Championships but the UK champion has responded with two promising road-mile performances.
England won the Great North City Games and took fourth at the Fifth Avenue Mile. The UK champion possesses a potent sprint finish and could be a threat if she runs with confidence.
Helen Clitheroe is another medal prospect in her fourth appearance at the Games. The UK steeplechase record-holder, who is renowned as a good tactician, set a UK over-35 1500m record of 4:06.04 in Gateshead in July which was her fastest clocking since 2006.
Representing Scotland, Stephanie Twell is another medal favourite, although the former world junior 1500m champion is perhaps questionable in a slow-run race. However, the 21-year-old is prominent in the Commonwealth rankings with a PB of 4:02.54 from Zurich.
Former Brit Nikki Hamblin now runs for New Zealand and the 22-year-old is rounding into her best form. Hamblin finished seventh in the Continental Cup over 800m in a PB of 1:59.66 and was sixth in the 1500m. Hamblin also set a national record at this distance of 4:05.93.
A strong Canadian contingent, led by Continental Cup runner-up Nicole Edwards should also be in the fray.
Reigning champion Lisa Dobriskey (ENG)
Commonwealth record-holder Jackline Maranga (KEN) 3:57.41
Games record-holder Jackline Maranga (KEN) 4:05.27
Reigning champion Lisa Dobriskey was intending to contest the 800m and 1500m but hasn't recovered from a ligament injury, which she picked up at the Diamond League in Zurich.
Women's 5000m: World Champ Vivian Cheruiyot and Silver Medallist Sylvia Kibet to Battle
VIVIAN CHERUIYOT starts as the prime candidate to add the Commonwealth Games title to the world title she won in Berlin last year.
The top Kenyan runners are giving this event their due regard and Cheruiyot will be flanked by Sylvia Kibet, who took the silver medal behind Cheruiyot in Berlin, and Iness Chenonge, who took a bronze medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
Cheruiyot has won five of her six races at this distance in 2010 and such dominance meant the 26-year-old won the Samsung Diamond League series at 5000m.
Cheruiyot took a well-received victory on home-soil at the African Championships in July, won maximum points for Africa at the Continental Cup in Split and the London-based runner also holds the world-lead at 14:27.41.
Her compatriots will probably offer the sternest resistance, although it would be a shock if Cheruiyot was headed. Kibet and Chenonge have lowered their PBs to 14:31.91 and 14:39.19 respectively this year but Cheruiyot holds a 14-2 head-to-head over Kibet and 13-2 over Chenonge at 5000m.
Stephanie Twell has made huge strides in recent weeks and the former world junior 1500m champion looks set to make an impact in her first major appearance in a Scottish vest.
The 21-year-old improved her PB from 15:18.47 to 14:54.08 in Brussels, which was backed up by a 3000m PB of 8:42.75 in Watford.
Outsiders include world finalist Zakia Mrisho from Tanzania, Eloise Wellings from Australia, who was fourth in Melbourne and Olympic finalist Megan Wright from Canada.
Reigning champion Isabella Ochichi (KEN)
Commonwealth record-holder Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) 14:22.51
Games record-holder Paula Radcliffe (ENG) 14:31.42
Melbourne silver medallist Jo Pavey sustained a toe injury just before the European Championships and opted to miss the rest of the track season.
WORLD fourth placer Grace Momanyi from Kenya has been left as the pre-race favourite in the absence of world champion Linet Masai.
Momanyi hasn't competed on the track in 2010 but the 28-year-old, who carried the flag for Kenya at the 2008 Olympic Games opening ceremony, posted a 10km mark of 31:34 in March which should stand her in good stead for her track debut.
Compatriot Doris Changeiywo has also competed more frequently on the roads in 2010 but the 25-year-old finished third at the Kenyan Championships and fifth at the African Championships. Changeiywo also finished fourth at the 2008 World Cross Country Championships to further outline her credentials.
Eloise Wellings from Australia won the 10,000m at the Zatopek Classic last December in Melbourne in 32:19.08 and will be a threat if she can reproduce such form.
19-year-old Charlotte Purdue, who is a training partner of Stephanie Twell, set a UK junior 10,000m record to 32:36.75 and poses a medal threat along with Hayley Yelling-Higham, who provides the maturity of the English duo at the age of 36.
Yelling-Higham won the European cross-country title in December and holds a season's best of 32:49.07.
Reigning champion Lucy Wangui (KEN)
Commonwealth record-holder Paula Radcliffe (ENG) 30:01.09
Games record-holder Salina Kosgei (KEN) 31:27.83
World champion Linet Masai has pulled out of the Kenyan team with a bout of malaria while world No.2 Pauline Korikwiang wasn't selected.
THE Kenyans are fielding a strong trio, including Caroline Kilel. The 29-year-old might not be a particularly familiar name but Kilel achieved the fastest time by a Kenyan athlete in 2009 of 2:25:24, which, needless to say, is a feat not to be sniffed at.
The 29-year-old hasnt contested a major championship marathon yet but Kilel boasts a fine pedigree at the half-marathon distance, finishing fourth at the World Half-Marathon Championships last year in a PB of 68:16.
Kilel has retained optimum form, finishing third in the Seoul Marathon this year in 2:26:58 and the Kenyan warmed up for the Commonwealth Games with victory at the Great Scottish Half-Marathon in Glasgow in 69:11.
Irene Jerotich won the Nairobi Marathon last year and achieved a very fast time of 2:28:57 at altitude. The Kenyan No.2 on paper hasnt contested a marathon since but Jerotich finished second in the Rotterdam Half-Marathon this spring in 71:17.
Rose Kerubo finished 14th in Melbourne but since then, the oldest of the trio has lowered her PB to 2:29:22.
The Australians have been the dominant force with five gold medals since the inaugural staging in 1986 and Lisa Weightman has the best chance of maintaining this tradition. The 31-year-old has improved markedly in the past two seasons and Weightman took her first career win in Nagano in April, setting a PB of 2:28:48.
Beata Naigambo from Namibia finished third in Hamburg this year in 2:33:00 and might sneak a medal in her third Commonwealth Games appearance.
Reigning champion Kerryn McCann (AUS)
Commonwealth record-holder Paula Radcliffe (ENG) 2:15:25
Games record-holder Maria de Lurdes Mutola (MOZ) 1:57.35
An event such as the Commonwealth Games no longer attracts particularly deep fields and many of the world's best, such as Mara Yamauchi (England) and Kim Smith (New Zealand), are focusing on autumn big-city marathons.
Women's 3000m steeplechas: No Kenyans Running
THE 3000m steeplechase in Melbourne produced an event of great quality, won by Uganda's Dorcus Inzikuru (9:19.51) from Melissa Rollison (9:24.29) and Donna MacFarlane (9:25.05) but with virtually all of the leading Commonwealth contenders absent from New Delhi, a performance outside ten-minutes could suffice for a medal.
According to press releases, the Kenyans, very surprisingly, haven't named any participants for this event which means this race will be wide open as the Rift Valley nation dominates the Commonwealth rankings.
Former UK record-holder Tina Brown and Lennie Waite will both be in contention for the title along with Tebogo Masehla, who's also broken the ten-minute barrier this year.
Orchatteri Jaisha and Sudha Singh are medal hopes for the home nation in a fledgling event.
Reigning champion Dorcus Inzikuru (UGA)
Commonwealth record-holder Eunice Jepkorir (KEN) 9:07.41
Games record-holder Dorcus Inzikuru (UGA) 9:19.51
The Kenyans haven't fielded any representatives for this discipline which means the contest will be devoid of African champion and world No.1 Milcah Chemos and world No.2 Gladys Kipkemoi.
European fourth placer Hatti Dean and UK champion Barbara Parker from England didn't make themselves available for selection.
Jamaica's Korene Hinds, who's posted 9:32.20 this year, will also be absent.
Reigning champion Dorcus Inzikuru hasn't been selected. Even though the former world champion hasn't come close to replicating the form she showed in 2005-06, the Ugandan recently posted a season's best of 9:53.02.