G-League sprints preview


Thursday, 29 May 2008 Sprints PREVIEW - ÅF Golden League

Monte-Carlo - With the start of the ÅF Golden League only a few days away we continue our Jackpot event previews, with a summary of who to look out for in the three sprint events which are applicable for the $1 Million ÅF Golden League Jackpot in 2008.

NOTE. As with all competitions there are likely to be changes to the start list in the final days before this year’s ÅF Golden League commences at the DKB-ISTAF Berlin meeting on Sunday 1 June, and therefore these event category previews are correct as of information available at the time of publication.

Men’s 400m

When he took an overwhelming victory at the DKB-ISTAF meeting two years ago, Jeremy Wariner secured a share of the $1 million ÅF Golden League Jackpot. On Sunday the Olympic and two-time World 400m champion will be back for more and again, the xx-year-old Texan will a strong contender when the chase begins in the German capital on Sunday.

Wariner has been virtually unstoppable since his Olympic triumph four years ago. In 2007 he continued to gradually work his way up the list of history’s all-time fastest, topping out 43.45 with his dominating performance in Osaka, to become third fastest ever. Only World record holders Michael Johnson and Butch Reynolds have run faster.

In all, he produced six of the world’s eight quickest performances last year, and dipped under 44 seconds twice. He’s made three outings over his preferred distance this year, most recently a 44.42 victory in Carson. He’ll bring a nine-race winning streak to Berlin.

But Wariner won’t be arriving at Olympic Stadium as the world leader. That honour belongs to compatriot Lashawn Merritt, who, two years Wariner’s junior, is gradually narrowing the gap. Merritt, not yet 22, is off to his fastest start ever after a 44.34 performance in Martinique earlier this month.
Merritt was second to Wariner in Osaka in 43.96, his first venture into sub-44 territory. He capped his season with a win at the World Athletics Final and earlier in the season captured victories at the Paris and Rome legs of the Golden League. Merritt has also displayed superior speed in the 200m, having run a wind-aided 19.80 this season, and boasting a PB of 19.98.

Angelo Taylor, who finished the U.S. podium sweep in Osaka, will also toe the line. The U.S. national champion last year – Wariner did not compete in the event – who also has the 2000 Olympic title in the 400m Hurdles to his credit this season, focused more heavily on the flat event last season, and with his 44.05 career best, is also poised for entry into the sub-44 club.

Looking to break the traditional U.S. stranglehold on the event are Bahamian Chris Brown, who was fourth in Osaka, African record holder Gary Kikaya (44.10), and Swede Johan Wissman, also an Osaka finalist.

Men’s 100m

One year ago, Derrick Atkins was a relatively new name in the sprint scene, who raised a few eyebrows with his out-of-the blue early season 9.98 Bahamian national record. But Atkins, now 24, was hardly a one-hit wonder and will start as favourite when the gun sounds in Berlin.

He held strong form through the summer last year, collecting victories in Athens, Paris and Lausanne, until his silver medal-winning dash in Osaka where he beat, among others, his distant cousin Asafa Powell, the World record holder. He also improved to 9.91 in that final, ending the season as the third fastest in the world.

Another new name to emerge late last summer was that of Swede Jaysuma Saidy Ndure, who stormed to the sprint forefront with an impressive two days at the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart. A day after lowering his national record to 10.06, the Gambian-born sprinter powered to a 19.89 performance in the 200m.

Others to watch include 2003 World champion Kim Collins from St. Kitts & Nevis, who’s developed a knack for performing well when it matters most; Churandy Martina of Dutch Antilles, who has already clocked 10.00 this season; and Jamaican Michael Frater, the 2005 World silver medallist.

Women’s 200m

One of the sprinters who is on the verge of a major breakthrough this year is 24-year-old Jamaican Kerron Stewart. The former NCAA standout will arrive in Berlin with a pair of career bests under her belt already this year, a 10.96 victory from the Jamaica Invitational on 3 May, and a 22.35 in the 200m from early April.

European eyes will be on the continent’s reigning double dash champion, Kim Gevaert. The Belgian is off to one of her finest ever starts after an 11.05 opener a few weeks ago and most recently beat a strong field and an even stronger headwind in Hengelo.

Two years ago, another Jamaican, Sherone Simpson was on a tear, leading the world in both the 100m (10.82) and the 200m (22.00), but injury cut her 2007 campaign short, but returns to action fully fit this year. She clocked 11.09 in Doha.

Others in the field include Bahamian Debbie Ferguson and Susan Jayasinghe of Sri Lanka.

      Athletics’ biggest yearly payday - ÅF Golden League Jackpot

                                      The prize - $1 Million

                               The requirement - ‘6 out of 6’

In 2008, there are TEN ÅF Golden League event disciplines designated to the Jackpot, six events for men and four for women, as follows:
Men: 100m, 400m, 1500m, 400m Hurdles, Long Jump, Javelin Throw
Women: 200m, 800m, 100m Hurdles, High Jump

Athletes are required to win at all six meetings to acquire at least a share of athletics’ biggest yearly payday.

The possibility of a secondary prize also exists as it did in 2007:

To sustain the active participation in the Jackpot of as many athletes as possible through to the culmination of the series, should NO athlete manage to attain six wins and claim the $1 Million, then anyone with five victories will share half the original prize - $500,000.

NOTE. this secondary prize is only on offer should nobody win his or her event at all six meetings.

Cities and Dates for 2008 - ÅF Golden League

Berlin, GER – Sunday 1 June
Oslo, NOR – Friday 6 June
Rome, ITA – Friday 11 July
Paris, FRA – Friday 18 July
Zürich, SUI – Friday 29 August
Brussels, BEL – Friday 5 September

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF