re: "best medaling prospect America has had since 1987"
1. Perhaps you are right, but if you are talking 'prospect'; I thought Webb was a 1500 medal prospect in the '04 Olympics and 2 World Champs.
2. I thought Dan Lincoln was a prospect in the '07 WC SC.
3. I thought Krum was a prospect in the 800 in the '03 WC.
4. I thought KK was a prospect in the marathon in the 2000 Olympics and '01 WC.
5.) 4. I thought Ryan Hall was a prospect in the marathon in the '08 Olympics.
6. I thought Kennedy was was a prospect in the 5K in the '96 Olympics.
7. I thought Holman was prospect in the 1500 in the '97 WC.
8. I thought Johnny Johnson was was a prospect in the 800 in the '04 Olympics.
9. Johnny Gray in the '88 and '92 Olympics.
It is debatable how much of a prospect these athletes were or perhaps it was wishful thinking on my part back then. Granted, it hasn't worked out too well, but it not that Wheating is the only medal prospect we've had since '87. The fact is we have won a few medals, e.g, Kenah, Gray, Meb.
Regarding your list of 9, what makes Wheating much more of a medal threat, or a more probable medal threat is all the factors taken into account. And by all factors:
1)Current Fitness Level/PR's
2)Potential Upside (Very strong)
3)Ability to "get it done when it matters". This means everything from handling pressure to rising to the occassion. Wheating is pretty much an ace on this, he was amazing while in the NCAA, but seems to have actually jumped it up a couple levels on the international level because he has raised his expectations and confidence.
4)Ability/skills to get thru rounds - With his prs and kicking ability, and ability to double at regionals and "jog" 1:46 and 3:37 and NCAAs while getting the double victory bodes very well. He just breezed thru all of it.
5) The ability/skills to win/medal in a championship style race. Again his PR's are plenty fast to win most finals, even while taking into account the affect of rounds. Also his kick is among the top in the world in the 800 and 1500 currently.
Just speaking on probability Wheating seems more probable to win a medal than any current runner present or since '87 save perhaps Lagat and Gray. While that no way guarantees anything, it is certainly exciting. Obviously imho.