World Final: sprints preview


Sprints preview - World Athletics Final
Friday 8 September 2006

Stuttgart, Germany - The fourth edition of the IAAF World Athletics Final takes place in Stuttgart, Germany, on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 September. We continue our Event Category Previews with the SPRINTS.

The entry list of the IAAF World Athletics Final (WAF) is decided according to the World Athletics Tour (WAT) Standings. The top 7 athletes with the greatest number of points from their five best results (4 for throws) will qualify for each event of the WAF. For races of 1500m and over, 11 athletes will be qualified.

Jeremy Wariner in the 400m - London
(Getty Images)

After the last qualifying meeting, the IAAF Golden League meeting in Berlin (Sunday 3 September), the process began to contact all the athletes concerned to ascertain that they are fit and willing to compete. Not until those answers are received, wild card entries are decided, and the usual technical meeting is held on the day before the World Athletics Final, can the final start list be made available. Consequently, our previews are as accurate as possible before that time.

Click here for the final World Athletics Tour Standings 2006


Sherone Simpson dominates in Brussels
(Getty Images)


Asafa Powell has taken on the best the world could offer this year, and emerged unbeaten in 15 races. Twice the 23-year-old Jamaican has equalled the 9.77 World record he shares, produced 11 sub-10 second performances, a record for a single season, and claimed a big chunk of the Golden League Jackpot. “Dominant” is not at all too strong a term to describe Powell’s 2006 season.

The good news for those in pursuit? Powell decided against attempting to repeat his double dash win from 2004.

Sanya Richards in Oslo
(Getty Images)

In the latter part of the season, Only American Tyson Gay has come relatively close. In Zurich, the 24-year-old chased - or perhaps pushed? - Powell to his second 9.77 of the season, claiming a 9.84 career best of his own. In Berlin, a similar scenario played itself out.

Leonard Scott, the World Indoor 60m champion, has produced a consistent season, with third place showings in Zurich, Brussels and Berlin, with a 9.97 season’s best, and is expected to be in the mix here for a podium finish. European champion Francis Obikwelu and Marcus Brunson have each dipped under 10 seconds this season as well.


Tyson Gay returns to defend his World Athletics title over the half lap, but 12 months later, he’ll be returning at an entirely different level. Since he finished second to Xavier Carter’s 19.62 in Lausanne with a 19.70 PB, Gay has claimed the 200 as his own, with strong follow-up victories in London (19.84) and Brussels (19.79).

Carter, the 20-year-old phenom who initially intended to end his season after his historic quadruple win at the NCAA championships, chose to decline his invitation to Stuttgart, choosing instead to focus on his studies at Louisiana State University.

In his absence, the main challengers to Gay will be fellow American Wallace Spearmon and Jamaican Usain Bolt. Spearmon, the World championships silver medallist, hasn’t duplicated his 2005 season, but has a pair of 19.90 performances to his credit, one with which he took the U.S. title. Bolt, the World junior record holder who finally turned 20 this year, ran a season’s best and personal best of 19.88 in Lausanne. Along with Gay, European double dash champion Francis Obikwelu will also contest the double over the weekend.


Like Powell, World and Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner has proven himself to be unbeatable in his specialty this year. Undefeated in 10 races this year with the world’s nine fastest performances including a career best 43.62 in Rome, the 22-year-old Texan is also, for the moment, at another level.

The closest of the chase pack in recent weeks has been African Champion Gary Kikaya, who has quietly lowered his Congolese record twice over the past 12 days, first to 44.46 with his win in Rieti and again last weekend in Berlin, where he significantly narrowed the gap on Wariner with his 44.43. “Nobody is invincible,” he said in Brussels, where he also finished second to the American.

Also in hot pursuit lately has been Lashawn Merritt, the 20-year-old American who lowered his PB to 44.34 in his runner-up finish in Zurich, to make him this year’s second fastest. He followed up with a win in Monaco, and third place finishes in Brussels in Berlin.

U.S. Champion Andrew Rock (44.45), Jamaican-born Bahraini Brandon Simpson (44.64) and Alleyne Francique (44.64) of Grenada fill out the chase pack.



The lead cast in the women’s sprints hasn’t been any less dominant that the main players in the men’s.

Jamaican Sherone Simpson has firmly cast herself into the favourite’s role in the 100 and will also be taking a stab at repeating her compatriot Veronica Campbell’s double dash win from 2004. The 22-year-old has won nine of her 11 races since this year, and she owns five of the year’s nine sub-11 second clockings, including her world-leading 10.82 and a 10.87 from Rome. With a six-race win streak coming into Stuttgart, she’ll be difficult to beat.

In the season’s second half, World Indoor 60m champion Me’Lisa Barber has been closest. After her 11.03 PB in Lausanne, she’s produced runner-up finishes in Zurich, Brussels and Berlin, though she was considerably behind Simpson.

Also doubling will be European double sprint champion Kim Gevaert of Belgium, who lowered her national record to 11.04 this year. American Torri Edwards, the 2003 World champion, has a season’s best of 11.06 from her win at Gateshead, while another American, Lolo Jones, will also double, contesting the short dash along with her specialty, the 100m hurdles.


Simpson is also the world leader in the half lap, twice running 22.00, first to win her national title in Kingston in late June, and again a month later in Stockholm, where she took home a diamond for her stadium record. The Commonwealth champion, she’s unbeaten in five races over the distance.

World champion Allyson Felix returns to defend her title. Slowed by injury and illness in the season’s first half, she signaled a return to form at the Three Nations match in Birmingham last month, winning in 22.19, the year’s second fastest behind Simpson.

Adding more drama to the event is the entry of 400m ace Sanya Richards, who earlier this season lowered her personal best to 22.25 to win in Gateshead, the year’s fifth fastest.

Kim Gevaert, the European champion, has the world’s third fastest time (22.20), and should be in the mix, along with Olympic bronze medallist Debbie Ferguson, who is also doubling.


Like her training partner and fellow Golden League Jackpot winner Jeremy Wariner, Sanya Richards has been unstoppable in 11 contests over the distance this summer. With the season’s three fastest performances, topped by her 49.05 to win the U.S. title, she’s nearly half a second faster than the rest of the world.

Leading the chase most of the summer has been 22-year-old Bulgarian Vanya Stambolova, the European champion who’s lowered the Bulgarian national record five times this season, most recently to 49.53 in Rieti. Second to Richards in Paris, Rome and Zurich, her long season, which included a silver medal at the World Indoor Championships, may be catching up with her. She was third in Brussels and fourth in Berlin, each time needing more than 51 seconds to reach the line.

Jamaican Novlene Williams has produced a notable season of her own. The Commonwealth bronze medallist, she joined the sub-50 club in Rome, finishing second in 49.65, and followed up with a 49.64 in Rieti less than two weeks ago. In her most recent outing, she was third in Berlin (51.03).

Jamaican Shericka Williams (50.24) and American DeeDee Trotter (50.40) could be factors as well.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF