Sunday 17 December 2017

On your marks for feast of sport

Eamonn Sweeney

Chances are that many sports fans will be tempted to lose interest in the world athletics championships after Usain Bolt does his thing in nine and a bit seconds at a quarter to one today. But there's a lot more going on in Daegu than the 100m and here are eight races worth adjusting your lunch-break to see over the coming week.


1.05: Women's 400m. Should Allyson Felix win the 200/400 double, and perhaps follow up with golds in the 4x100m and 4x400m replay, it will undoubtedly be the achievement of the championships. The triple world 200m champion has never run a 400m in the worlds but she is the reigning Diamond League champion. However, she faces a battle for the ages against reigning world champion Sanya Richards-Ross and Botswana's Amantle Montsho who's dominated the Grand Prix circuit this year. Expect this to be very fast, very close and very exciting.

1.25: Men's 100m Hurdles. It's three years since Liu Xiang went into the Beijing Olympics as World and Olympic champion and the great hope of the home crowd. Since his withdrawal from the heats due to injury, he's been a forgotten man. But this year he's bounced back, winning on the Diamond League circuit, and is a major threat to Dayron Robles of Cuba, the man who replaced him as world record holder, and David Oliver of the USA, the fastest man in the world this year.


1.45: Men's 400m. Classic good v evil battle here. America's LaShawn Merritt shouldn't be here at all to defend his world title but his two-year ban for steroid use was reduced by three months so he could make it to Daegu. The task of preventing this cheat from making a mockery of the championships falls to 18-year-old Kirani James, from the little island of Grenada, the fastest man in the world this year who may be the Bolt of the one-lap race. Go Kirani.


1.30: Men's 400m hurdles. Maybe the most open event of the championships with a field full of quality. Olympic champ Angelo Taylor has been in terrific form this year but so has his fellow countryman 2005 world champion Bershawn Jackson. In fact, the Americans are so strong in this event that reigning champ Kerron Clement only finished fifth in their championships. But they won't have it all their own way, South Africa's Louis van Zyl is the fastest man in the world this year, 2009 silver medallist Javier Culson of Puerto Rico had impressive Grand Prix victories in London and New York and reigning European and Commonwealth Games champ, Welshman David Greene, will be up there too.


12.55: Women's 200m. Allyson Felix will be going for a fourth world title in a row. But how much will her 400m efforts have taken out of her? And how much should we read into her Monaco defeat by Carmelita Jeter who'll probably go into this race seeking a sprint double? The presence of 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion Veronica Campbell Brown of Jamaica, who has upset Felix on the big day in the past, makes this an intriguing three-way battle.


1.0: Women's 100m hurdles: Derval O'Rourke might be in this final but it's unlikely. Which is what I said two years ago when she finished a whisker away from a medal. Otherwise, Australia's Sally Pearson wins unless she falls over.

1.20: Men's 200m. Basically a stroll for Bolt as this remains his strongest event. But if he goes under 9.7 in the 100m today, there might be something special in store here. And he's always worth watching, particularly if you have kids. They love the man.


12.15: Women's 800m. Is it a bird? Is it a bloke? No, it's Caster Semenya. So far this season the South African hasn't shown the same awesome form as she did when winning the last World Championships. This may because (a) she wants to take the bad look off things or (b) because the IAAF are making her take female hormones which are slowing her down. But there is going to be a lot of interest in whether she can retain her title against world indoor champion and fastest woman in the world this year Mariya Savinova and surprise package Halima Hachlaf of Morocco who's come from nowhere to beat the big two this year.

Happy viewing.

Sunday Indo Sport

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