August 9, 2013
Moscow, Russia – The 2013 IAAF World Championships start on Saturday. We thought it would be fun to rank the United States’ top medal contenders in order, one through 11, in the 800 through 10,000.
Why 11? Well those are the only 11 runners in the 800 through 10,000 that we can really intellectually argue are capable of winning a medal. We don’t want to hear, “But what about person xxx?” It isn’t happening.
Running like baseball is a sport governed by numbers and the numbers tell us that no one else has a legitimate shot. It’s much the same as everyone knowing before the season everyones that a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have had like 16 straight losing seasons, have no chance. Oh wait they are in first place.
All kidding aside. We’ll make the letsrun.com guarantee. If an American not on the list medals in the 800 through 10,000 in Moscow, we’ll give out $100 to lucky LetsRun visitor.
1) Jenny Simpson – Women’s 1500 – It was a very tough call to choose between Simpson, the defending champion, and our #2 choice Nick Symmonds. We chose Simpson because we think the odds she makes the final are near 100% where the reduction at Worlds from the semis to the final in the 800 is absolutely brutal. They always go from 24 to 8 and that makes things a bit of a crap shoot as only the top two are guaranteed to move on. If you don’t come up with a medal winning type performance in the semi-finals of the 800, you might get left out the final. If you told us with 100% certainty they’d both be in the final, we’d pick Nick Symmonds over Simpson for #1.
Simpson may have won two years ago but the level of competition was historically bad (the worse since 1977). This year, up front with Abebe Aregawi it’s historically good if you remove performance enhancing drugs. If Aregawi is on her game, we don’t think Simpson beats her. If Genzebe Dibaba is on her game as well, that would be a real stiff challenge for Simpson as well, but we think Simpson is very possibly in 3:58, maybe 3:57 shape. Even if Simpson is beaten by those two, who else beats Simpson? No one in our mind. Yes Kenya’s 19-year old Faith Kipyegon ran 3:56.98 this year, but that was in her first race of the year. She ran 4:05 and 4:07 in her last two and we’re virtually certain Simpson is getting her peak right this year under coach Mark Wetmore.
2) Nick Symmonds – Men’s 800 – If Symmonds survives the brutal 800 semifinals, he’s our #1 choice. The 29-year old has the opportunity of a lifetime in front of him this year as the top phenoms from Africa (David Rudisha and Nijel Amos), who got gold and silver last year by running 1:41.73 or faster, are out with injury. Given that’s the case, we fully expect Symmonds to medal.
Symmonds is the definition of consistency. He was fifth in 2012 and fifth in 2011 (and sixth in 2009). Well guess what, five minus two equals three the last time we checked. When is the last time this guy ran a bad race after the start of May? You have to all the way back to the 2011 Prefontaine Classic to find a May-August race where he wasn’t at least top 5.
If Symmonds makes the final, we’d almost be willing to guarantee a medal for him if we knew he’d just aim for a medal. But the final is likely to be there for anyone’s taking and we expect Symmonds to go for gold. But that can be dangerous. If you press too early or make more than about one move in an 800, your chances are often seriously jeopardized.
And while we’ve always thought the marketable Symmonds is great for the sport (even if we heard a rumor the other day that his base contract was at one point less than one sixth of Andrew Wheating’s), please understand our opinion of him isn’t some homer pick at all. In fact, it’s just the opposite if anything. It ticked Symmonds off a little bit last year when like in March we said the odds of a medal for him were stacked against him. Our analysis was spot on then and we think it’s spot on again here.
3) Duane Solomon – Men’s 800 – Solomon is the 2013 World leader. He also is the 2013 US Champion and Monaco meet winner. So why is he ranked behind Symmonds? Because Symmonds has beat him two straight races, that’s why. Also Solomon sometimes puts a few clunkers out there. He was only 6th at Pre and 8th at Rome earlier this year for example. Last year, he was eighth in Stockholm after the Olympics as well.
4) Galen Rupp – Men’s 10,000 – It was a bit hard for us to choose between four and five on our list. Alysia Montaño ended up at #5 for us but she likely would have been our #4 pick if we knew she was 100% healthy (more on that below).
In the end, we chose 2012 Olympic silver medallist Galen Rupp. Rupp’s 2013 hasn’t been nearly as good outdoors as his 2012, but that can all change with one race. Perhaps he got back on the horse too soon after his Olympic silver as he was on fire indoors?
We know one thing. We certainly don’t think Rupp is repeating his Olympic silver from last year. If Mo Farah and Dejen Gebremeskel are on their games, we don’t think Rupp stands a chance against either one. Nor do the betters as Rupp is only 10/1 for top choice if you remove Farah. In fact, paddypower.com only has Rupp as the sixth choice in the 10,000. That being said, if he’s as good as he was last year, we think he’s likely third. But that’s a big if.
But he did just run a 3:52 mile so he very well could do it.
Here’s one more thing to be worried about. It’s going to be hot by the modest Russian standards on Saturday. At race time (6:55 pm Moscow), it’s expected to be 79 with a humidity over 50%. That’s awesome weather for the fans and everyone in the stadium except for maybe the 10,000 guys. With the sun setting, that’s not hot at all but the high last August 4th when Rupp won his silver was just 69.
5) Alysia Montaño – Women’s 800 – Paddypower.com isn’t real confident in Rupp and we are nervous as well. As a result, we’d definitely pick 5-time US 800 champ Alysia Montaño as our #4 pick, except for one thing that scared us off of her big time. Montaño was having a good season but then she dropped out of her last race in Madrid. Since then a messageboard poster claims to have seen her working out well but the slightest of injuries can spell disasters for people in speed oriented events like the 800.
The facts are if healthy Montano should medal. With Niyonsaba out, one should definitely beat her except for Savinova. And there are only a few other women we can really even intellectually argue might beat Montaño if we knew 100% that Montaño would bring her ‘A’ game and one of those women is Morocco’s Malika Akkaoui who’d we’d never heard of until her last race.
6) Brenda Martinez – Women’s 800 – If Montaño falters, the US still might pick up a medal in the 800 (and even if she doesn’t they could get two) as a real strong top five choice is US runner-up Brenda Martinez. Martinez has run 1:58.1 twice this year and if she gets into the 1:57 high range, that might be good enough to snag third as the 800 seems to be down a little bit this year. It’s hard to be 100% confident in Brenda as she’s never even been to Worlds before but she doesn’t seem to be the type that would be overwhelmed by the occasion.
We’re not sure what the folks behind Paddypower.com are up to. Perhaps they’ve had one too many Guinnesses as they have Martinez as the #2 choice in the women’s 800.
7) Shalane Flanagan – Women’s 10,000 – We didn’t like Flangan’s chances for a medal at all until Meseret Defar dropped off the 10,000 time. Now there are two medals for the taking after Tirunesh Dibaba wins (not just one behind Dibaba and Defar) and there is probably a total of just four women, including Flanagan, capable of taking one of those two spots.
8) Leo Manzano – Men’s 1500 – The 2012 Olympic silver medallist is a great competitor in tactical races. However, he faces an uphill battle this year. Last year, the dominos fell perfectly for Manzano as the top three Kenyans all completely bombed the final. Well this year, he has four Kenyans to deal with and the odds of them all laying a goose-egg for the second straight year are very low. Manzano fans, the good news is Manzano bombed his last race. How is that good? Well he did the same thing last year right before the Olympics as well. The bad race is out of his system.
9) Evan Jager – Men’s Steeple – Jager is a natural for the event. While hasn’t raced a European steeple all year, he seemed to be in great form when he opened in 8:08 at Prefontaine. So why is he only #8 on our list? Because the competition is the steeple is totally stacked. Kenyans and the steeple belong together better than peanut butter and jelly and there are four Kenyans to deal with in Moscow plus France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad who is a two-time Olympic silver medallist and just set the European record. In terms of most likely to run a good race, we’d rank Jager as number three overall but the competition is so stiff we just don’t see how he medals? He’s much more likely to be top five than say Manzano but a medal is going to be tough.
10) Bernard Lagat – Men’s 5000 – The former miler still has good wheels so maybe he could steal a bronze by nipping someone late. But assuming Farah doubles back and looks good in the 10,000, then it seems if the first two medals are taken with Farah and Yenew Alamirew of Ethiopia.
Winning that one remaining medal won’t be easy for Lagat. He’s almost 39-years old. The fact we are even contemplating him medalling is nearly absurd, but the more we think about it, the more we can justify arguing it might happen. He was fourth after all just last year, and one of the guys ahead of him, silver medallist isn’t doubling back from the 10,000.
But then we remembered that in his last race Lagat dropped out in Monaco. So a near-39 year old with a possible injury? We’ll pass on that but we seriously considered moving him up to #7.
11) Matt Centrowitz – Men’s 1500 – He won bronze at the last Worlds in 2011 and was fourth in 2012. Yes, we know he’s been running poorly of late but so was Manzano heading into last year’s Olympics. And we don’t think Centrowitz is the type of guy who is going to get psyched out by poor performances.
What do you think? Agree, disagree and post your ranking in our forum: MB Rank the US Mid-d and Distance Medal Hopefuls In Order 1-11.
What do the bettors think? Well there is the ranking of our 11 Potential US Medallists in order 1-11 according to 888.com.
Odds for US Medals According to 888.com
1) Nick Symmonds 1.55
2) Jenny Simpson 1.65
3) Duane Solomon 2.00
3) Brenda Martinez 2.00
5) Alysia Montaño 2.50
6) Galen Rupp 3.50
7) Leo Manzano 5.50
8) Matt Centrowitz 7.50
8)Bernard Lagat 7.50
10) Evan Jager 9.00
10) Shalane Flanagan 9.00
Odds for US Gold According to Paddypower.com
1) Nick Symmonds 9/2
2) Brenda Martinez 11/2
3) Duane Solomon 7/1
4) Jenny Simpson 9/1
5) Alysia Montaño 12/1
6) Galen Rupp 22/1
7) Evan Jager 25/1
8) Matt Centrowitz 25/1
9) Shalane Flanagan 50/1
10) Bernard Lagat 50/1
11) Leo Manzano 66/1