Osaka Sprints Preview

Monday, 20 August 2007
Expected Highlights in Osaka - SPRINTS Related News Related Multimedia Finally in this short series of expected event highlights, we turn our attention to the sprints, which promise some of the most eagerly anticipated face-offs of the 11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Osaka, Japan (25 Aug to 2 Sep).


In the battle for the title of ‘World’s Fastest Man,’ Osaka will feature the first meeting of the year between the world’s two fastest: World record holder Asafa Powell of Jamaica and the current top American, Tyson Gay. Each is undefeated in five 100m races this season and each is chasing a first World title.

While Powell was clearly the faster of the two last year, Gay quickly picked up where he left off last season. Bar none, Gay was the hottest sprinter of the season’s first half, taking the sprint double at the notoriously difficult U.S. championships, both with world-leading 9.84/19.62 performances, and threatened the World record with a wind-assisted 9.76 (+2.2) in New York. For his part, Powell hasn’t been quite as fast (9.90 SB), but has dipped under 10 seconds in three of his five races.

Most of the chase pack has been well back this year; the closest being rising Bahamian star Derrick Atkins. The 23-year-old joined the sub-10 club in the spring, has improved since to 9.95, and in his most recent race, was beaten by Powell by the narrowest of margins. In Stockholm.

With a significant revision of the all-time world last season, the 200m has again become one of the premiere events. Here again Gay tops the field with his 19.62 from the U.S. championships, but he’ll have some fast company here as well. Training partner Wallace Spearmon, Jr., has run 19.82 (19.65 last year) while World junior record holder Usain Bolt, who lowered the Jamaican record to 19.75, has emerged much more focused this year.

In Stockholm earlier this month, World and Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner underscored his total domination of the 400m with a career best 43.50 to move up to the No. 3 spot all-time. Behind him, Americans Nos. 2 and 3 - Angelo Taylor (44.05) and LaShawn Merritt (44.06) - are so far ahead of the rest of world at the moment that a first-time podium sweep is hardly out of the question. On paper, the closest is African record holder Gary Kikaya, who clocked 44.60 at altitude in the spring.


For bragging rights as the ‘World’s Fastest Woman’, two names emerge from the list of challengers: U.S. champion Torri Edwards (10.90), undefeated in six straight races; and Olympic bronze medallist Veronica Campbell, the world leader (10.89) with three sub-11 performances to her credit.

In the 200m, attention will focus on a brewing rivalry between defending champion Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards, the world’s top 400m runner. Falling short at the U.S. trials, Richards shifted the Osaka focus of her season on the half-lap, and has since performed admirably (22.43 and a recent 11.05 PB). Felix though is the season’s fastest at 22.18, and has produced impressive 11.01 and 49.70 career bests this summer; with the latter she illustrated her pre-Osaka strength with a surprise victory over Richards in the Stockholm 400.

Here too, Olympic champion Campbell will play a leading role. The 25-year-old has clocked 22.39.

With Richards absent from the 400m, the race for the title becomes a very open affair. Dee Dee Trotter is the next fastest but hasn’t been near the 49.64 form which brought her the U.S. title; Natasha Hastings, the U.S. runner-up in 49.84, has been running reasonably well after a long collegiate season, while Jamaican Novlene Williams (50.10) and Russian Natalya Antyukh (50.10) have been rounding into form.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF