With two weeks to go before the start of the IAAF World Athletic Championships in Daegu, South Korea, some recent developments have served to make the men’s 100-metre dash perhaps the most interesting it has been in the past few years.Since 2004 only four men have dominated the short dash – former world record holder Asafa Powell, World and Olympic Champion Justin Gatlin, World Champion Tyson Gay and World and Olympic champion and world record holder Usain Bolt.

Since 2008 though, it has been all Bolt. The lanky sprinter from Trelawny has captured the hearts of fans of the sport across the world setting seemingly unbreakable world records 9.58 and 19.19 in the 100 and 200 metres respectively while capturing World and Olympic titles. In that time Bolt has only lost two races in the 100 metres, once to Powell and the other to Gay. Both defeats occurred in Stockholm, Sweden. So far this year in six outings in both 100 and 200 metres Bolt is again unbeaten but he has not been as dominant. A back injury that he sustained in 2010, which was partially responsible for his loss to Gay, seemed to have rendered Bolt human. No longer is he winning races by unheard of margins, no longer are the outcomes quite as certain.

It is that uncertainty that has added the intrigue to the men’s 100m. Since the start of the year, Asafa Powell 9.78, Tyson Gay 9.79, Steve Mullings 9.80, Mike Rodgers 9.85, and ┬áRichard Thompson 9.85 have all run faster than Bolt’s season best 9.88. As defending champion Bolt doesn’t look quite a strong contender to repeat. So far some things have worked in Bolt’s favour. Gay, Mullings and Rodgers are most likely out of the championships. Gay because of hip surgery and Mullings and Rodgers because of failed doping tests within days of each other. That leaves Powell and Thompson as potential candidates to knock Bolt off his throne. Add to that the irreverent American Walter Dix, who feels he has as good a shot as any to defeat Bolt, as well as upcoming phenom Yohan Blake and the talented Nesta Carter, who last year ran a personal best 9.78s in Rieti, Italy. It was the joint fastest time in the world in 2010.

Before word came this week of the failed dope tests, there was a growing belief that Jamaica’s men were going to take the top four places in the men’s sprint. Considering how impressive Jamaica’s men have been this season, especially Powell and Mullings, the notion was not in the least far-fetched. Blake, too, with a slightly wind-aided run of 9.80 in early May and a fast 9.95s run into a heavy -1.6m/s headwind has put his hand up as a strong medal contender.

Word is that Bolt is looking great in training but he has yet -largely because of his own very high standards – to wow the world with his times. 9.91, 9.91 and 9.88 are fast times, it’s just that you expect 9.7s and 9.6s from Bolt. As defending champion though he has to be beaten before you can write him off and if there is one thing anyone knows for certain its that Bolt knows how to win. He will find whatever speed is necessary to get ahead and stay there, even if it comes just before the finish line.

Carter, who will come into replace Mullings is only the fourth fastest Jamaican this season with 9.90 seconds but he came within inches of beating Bolt earlier this season, so too Powell and with them coming within sniffing distance of beating the great men, it could give them the confidence they need to get it done in Korea. It would give the others watching too the feeling that there is just a small crack in the door that they can kick open to defeat the reigning world champion.

On the women’s side Carmelita Jeter is the woman to beat but Veronica Campbell Brown will be looking to claim her second 100 metre sprint title in four years while Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce, who has not had a good season after coming off a drug suspension in January, will be seeking to successfully defend the title she claimed for the first time in Berlin in ’09.

Others, too, will be seeking to make a claim. Marshavet Myers and Kelli Ann Baptiste from Trinidad plan to make this a five-horse race and hope to upset the odds and claim titles. As of this moment, the race seems to be between Jeter (10.70) and VCB (10.76), the two fastest women in the world this year. Their times are closer than you think considering that the former’s time was run at the maximum allowable wind of 2m/s while VCB’s was run at 1.1m/s. The difference in the wind makes both times roughly equal. VCB has the better start now and the experience in winning at the highest level. There is always a first time for everything though so we will see what Jeter has up her sleeve. After all, she is the only woman in the field who has run under 10.70 and she did that twice.

While quite ordinary on the circuit, Fraser Pryce is a championship performer and now that she is reportedly the healthiest she has been all season, makes her a real threat to VCB and Jeter. And who knows what Kerron Stewart is going to bring as she makes her way back from a bad hamstring injury last season. She has been slightly off so far this season but there is still time for her to get it all together in time for the first few days of the championships when clearly fireworks are expected to be the order of the day.

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levyl Posted by: levyl August 14, 2011 at 7:16 am