I’ve listed the names of athletes that I consider to be the main medal contenders in the sprint events at this year’s World Championships in Athletics. The event is going to be held at London’s Olympic Stadium from 4th to 13th of August.
I’ve picked six athletes per discipline, including my favourites for gold.
It’s an unpredictable sport, so it’s not a given that all of these athletes will reach the final, let alone win a medal, but I’m very confident that the winner — even if I didn’t pick the right one — of each discipline is already among the selected names.
WR 9.58 (+0.9) Usain Bolt (JAM), Berlin, 16 Aug 2009 CR 9.58 (+0.9) Usain Bolt (JAM), Berlin, 16 Aug 2009 WL 9.82 (+1.3) Christian Coleman (USA), Eugene, 7 Jun 2017
In years to come the blue ribbon event of these World Championships will probably be best remembered as being Usain Bolt’s final individual race on the biggest stage. This is his farewell season and London will be his last opportunity to add to his outstanding legacy and legendary status. Alternatively, this will be one last chance for his rivals to attempt to take his scalp and there is no shortage of athletes lining up to do so.
Akani Simbine (South Africa)
The young South African was 5th in Rio, just 3 one-hundreds of a second shy of bronze. The success of his compatriot and friend Wayde van Niekerk might inspire him to take another step forward.
He’s a good competitor and his form this season reaffirms my belief that he should reach the final. I don’t know whether he can challenge for a medal if everyone else is at their best (Gatlin has been consistently beating him this year for example, albeit by a small margin), but people often choke up on big occasions and Simbine doesn’t look like that type of guy to me. He is solid in every part of the race and is definitely one to watch.
Christian Coleman (USA)
America is a factory of sprinting talent and Christian Coleman, aged 21, is one of their most promising young athletes. His season’s best and world leading time of 9.82 already makes him the 9th fastest man in history, which will undoubtedly give him a lot of confidence going forward. But as with all youngsters, it is unknown whether he can handle the pressure of the biggest stage. He was expected to win at the US Championships, but it was the veteran Justin Gatlin who snatched the crown once more.
Coleman is a fantastic starter and will surely be a challenger for top places if he gets out well in the final; that is if he even gets there of course. The NCAA season is long and he might just run out of gas by the time he gets to London.
Yohan Blake (Jamaica)
Formerly known as the “Beast,” but he dropped the nickname after suffering two hamstring injuries that kept him sidelined from 2013 to 2015. His big comeback finally came in 2016 when he managed to qualify for the Rio Olympics. He even made it to the final where he finished 4th with 9.93, just 2 one-hundreds of a second behind De Grasse.
I think it’s unlikely that Blake will ever rediscover his fitness from 2011/12 that saw him become the 2nd fastest man in history with 9.69, but he doesn’t need to because I’m sure that none of his biggest rivals will be anywhere near those types of times this year. He is still making progress after his return and has already registered a faster time than in the whole of last season by winning at the Jamaican Championships in 9.90. This is at or near the medal territory, so I rate him as a clear candidate for the top three places, especially as he tends to be at his best when it matters most.
There’s a slight problem on the horizon though. A groin niggle made him pull out of the Diamond League meet in Rabat on 16 July, so it’s still unknown whether he will be fully healthy in London.
Andre De Grasse (Canada)
He’s kinda like the reverse of Asafa Powell, which pains me to say as Powell is such a great sprinter, but he always seemed to have a mental block that prevented him from winning more international medals in individual races. Powell is an incredible starter, but a terrible finisher under pressure. De Grasse, on the other hand, is a relatively poor starter and a fantastic finisher. He has managed to pick up a medal in every event he’s competed in at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing and at the 2016 Olympics. His personal best of 9.91 is not spectacular by the standards of ‘Bolt era,’ but it’s surely just a matter of time before he drops into the 9.8 territory.
He has clocked an incredible wind-assisted 9.69 back in June, but other than that he has looked rather flat this season. Perhaps he is having some problems with his technique. If you watch his pre-2017 races you will notice that he was always fully extending his right arm at the elbow, and now he is trying to hold it at a constant 90 degree angle. Anyway, I’m fully confident that Andre will brush-up in time and be in shape for top 3.
Justin Gatlin (USA)
The American that’s been chasing and giving Bolt so much trouble since 2013 has often been regarded as the villain of their rivalry for reasons that aren’t relevant anymore as far as I’m concerned. Gatlin’s presence has given us some of the most exciting head-to-heads we’ve ever seen over 100 metres.
He is still going strong at 35 years of age and his experience probably had a lot to do with his win over the (this year much faster) youngster Coleman at the US Championships. His start continues to be one of the best in the world, but I think he might be losing some of his raw speed. I have no doubt, however, in his ability to reach the final and be in contention for a medal.
Usain Bolt (Jamaica)
His achievements put a big target on his back and everyone will be out to get him because no one has had the bragging rights of beating Bolt on the biggest stage in nearly a decade. Barring any surprises, this will be Bolt’s 16th appearance in a final of an individual event at the World Championships and the Olympics. He has won 13 golds and 1 silver, the latter in 2007 at the World Championships in Osaka when he lost out to Tyson Gay in the 200m. And he only has himself to blame for being left empty-handed at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu after being disqualified for a false start.
He has looked a bit sluggish this year, but we’ve seen time and time again that he pulls one out of the bag when it really matters. But will this year finally be different? Is the motivation still there after being on top for so long? He has also missed some training after the fatal motorcycle accident of his close friend Germaine Mason. Will he be ready in time?
There are a lot of unknowns, especially with his fitness, and they will only come to light once he steps out on to the track in London. He’s my pick for gold only because of his history of proving doubters wrong.
WR 19.19 (-0.3) Usain Bolt (JAM), Berlin, 20 Aug 2009 CR 19.19 (-0.3) Usain Bolt (JAM), Berlin, 20 Aug 2009 WL 19.77 ( 0.0) Isaac Makwala (BOT), Madrid, 14 Jul 2017
Bolt will not compete in the 200m, making it a very difficult event to predict this year. I was somewhat surprised that he picked the 100m over 200m because I firmly believe that the latter is his best event — even if I think that his 100m world record is superior. But his decision is understandable as he really doesn’t have anything left to prove and any chance of a sub-19 second run is long gone. He has stated that he wants to make amends for losing out on the 100m gold in 2011.
Anyway, Bolt’s absence will create quite a void and it will effectively push everyone up by one position due to his absolute dominance since 2008. The battle for his crown promises to be a very close one and it’s incredible that we are going to see a new world champion for the first time since 2007.
Noah Lyles, the young American who was so impressive with his 19.90 clocking at the Shanghai Diamond League earlier in the season, is sadly not included due to a slight niggle which prematurely ended his season.
Adam Gemili, one of my favourite athletes, has also been struggling with an injury and he hasn’t been picked to represent the British team.
Akani Simbine (South Africa)
I decided to include Simbine despite my belief that he has much better chances in the 100m. My reasoning is that he can take advantage of the situation in which a lot of the 200m athletes are injured or not in form.
With a season’s best of 19.95 he is currently the third fastest among the men who will compete in London. I don’t think he has the proper speed endurance to challenge for gold, but he might spring a surprise and reach the podium.
Ameer Webb (USA)
The newly crowned American champion has also been winning a number of major European meetings, so his season is looking pretty good so far. It’s true that he hasn’t yet broken 20 seconds this year, but he looks to be in just as good a shape as he was last year when he set his personal best of 19.85. He usually runs a good bend and is very strong in the finish, so he is definitely one to watch in my books.
Isaac Makwala (Botswana)
It’s safe to say that he surprised just about everyone by posting a world-leading mark of 19.77 in Madrid on 15th of July. I wouldn’t have included him otherwise because he’s a 400m specialist, but he has expressed an interest in doing the half lap event if his body permits it, and frankly, with that sort of speed he could be a threat.
Makwala is almost at the twilight of his career, but his times this season have been phenomenal. He is definitely one to watch if he does indeed decide to do the 200/400 double.
Yohan Blake (Jamaica)
In addition to the 100m, Blake has also made a lot of progress in the longer sprint event compared to last season. He was out in the semifinals at the Rio Olympics with 20.13 seconds, but this year I fully expect him to make the final as he is currently one of only five athletes who have run under 20 seconds this year. Two of those men will not be in London, which effectively makes Blake the third fastest man of 2017 so far.
His season’s best is 19.97 and if he replicates this time at the Championships, it might be good enough for the podium.
The only unknown is, as mentioned above, his health. The 200m is very taxing on the body, so I’m not sure whether he can put together consistent performances after his groin problems in Rabat.
Andre De Grasse (Canada)
He is one of those rare athletes who are equally great in both the 100m and the 200m, but he will go up against Wayde van Niekerk — an even rarer breed of athlete who is great in the 200m and 400m.
One thing which will work in Andre’s favour is that he will have more rest days than Wayde. This might just prove decisive when there’s fierce competition and a tight schedule.
But why am I even talking about De Grasse as this big favourite when his best time this season is 20.01, only 7th in the world rankings? Well, because he’s a lot like Bolt when it comes to major championships — mentally strong and always runs his best times when the pressure is on.
Wayde van Niekerk (South Africa)
The phenomenon from South Africa has boldly decided to take on the 200m & 400m double. Only the great Michael Johnson managed to win both at the same championships: first at the 1995 World Championships in Göteborg and then at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. It’s an incredibly difficult task, but Wayde has set his mind to it and so far he has been very successful in making his dreams come true (he goes by the nickname of ‘WaydeDreamer’ on social media after all).
The buzz in some track & field circles is that he can even threaten Usain Bolt’s world record. He definitely has a better speed endurance than Bolt, but I don’t see him having the raw speed required to run 19.19. However, I don’t doubt that he has more in the tank to significantly lower his PB of 19.84.
Wayde is still relatively unproven in the half lap event, but a lot of people rate him as a favourite, with Andre De Grasse as his main rival. I am of the same opinion because they are both great competitors who know exactly when to pull the trigger. It’s almost 50/50 between them in my books, but I will put my faith into the South African. He is my pick for gold.
WR 43.03 Wayde van Niekerk (RSA), Rio de Janeiro, 14 August 2016 CR 43.18 Michael Johnson (USA), Seville, 26 Aug 1999 WL 43.62 Wayde van Niekerk (RSA), Lausanne, 6 Jul 2017
The event is more competitive than ever and we are definitely watching the best assortment of 400m sprinters in history. For these reasons it is also one of the few events at these Championships that — if the conditions allow it — holds realistic prospects of a new world record.
But I have to admit that I really struggled with picking only six athletes because I had to leave out quite a few very fast men.
By far the most notable absentee is Kirani James who is reportedly still recovering from a respiratory infection and will sadly not be ready in time. This really bummed me out because he’s such a great competitor and one of my favourite personalities on and off the track. I hope he makes a speedy recovery and comes back stronger than ever.
I would also liked to have included Karabo Sibanda, the young Botswanan who was 5th in Rio, but he unfortunately got injured earlier in the season and I’m not sure if he’ll make an appearance in London. But even if he does, I seriously doubt he could reach the final.
Baboloki Thebe (Botswana)
I’ve kept a close eye on this 20-year-old youngster for about a year now and I’m glad that my attention hasn’t been misplaced. He has already improved his personal best from 44.22 to 44.02 this season, so he’s on the verge of becoming just the 16th man in history to run under 44 seconds. If he peaks at the right time, the magical barrier will almost certainly be broken.
He is not yet firmly established on the world stage, but he has performed really well in strongest meetings across Europe. An athlete with his sort of speed has to be considered as a candidate for reaching the final and maybe even getting among the medals.
LaShawn Merritt (USA)
The veteran has won a medal at the last 5 World Championships (3 silvers and 2 golds in an alternating fashion*), so I won’t bet against someone with this much experience and big-game mentality, but there’s no doubt in my mind that this will be his toughest year in terms of reaching the podium.
He has been America’s number one for close to a decade and I feel like his time at the top is finally coming to an end. If he wins a medal, it is most likely going to be bronze because I simply don’t see him running faster than van Niekerk and Kerley. Even so, Merritt is traditionally strong in every part of the race, so don’t count him out.
*If the cycle continues, he is in line to win gold this year :).
Steven Gardiner (Bahamas)
The Bahamas have a rich history in the 400m and Steven Gardiner (he will turn 22 in September) is their latest and greatest talent. He doesn’t have the outright speed of some of his rivals, but his lanky (1.95m tall) physique is perfect for the one lap event. He covered the distance in just 161.2 strides – the fewest I’ve personally seen – when he posted a new personal best of 44.26 earlier in the season in Grenada.
Getting to the final in London should be a realistic goal, but he will probably have to get closer to 44 flat if he wants to get among the medals. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does because he has looked seriously impressive in pretty much every race I’ve seen him run in this season.
Isaac Makwala (Botswana)
Botswana has some great young talents in the 400m, but their fastest man over all the sprint distances remains the 30-year-old Isaac Makwala. His personal best of 43.72 from 2014 makes him the 8th fastest man in history. Up until this year it was his only performance under 44 seconds.
He never managed to win a medal on the global stage because he is one of those guys that never seems to peak at the right time, but a season’s best of 43.92 (and a blistering 19.77 WL in the 200m) places him on the right track to compensate in what must surely be one of his last opportunities to do so. The other reason for his lack of silverware might also be his apparent inability to properly handle running multiple rounds in successive days, so he rarely even makes the final.
He is a regular in Diamond League and other big meetings, so his strategy is fairly easy to figure out. He almost always goes out very strongly in the first 200-300m and then slowly fades towards the finish, but something about him this year makes me think that he has what it takes to finally challenge for a medal.
Fred Kerley (USA)
After more than 10 years of waiting, the Americans have finally produced a new sub-44 second sprinter in the form of a 22-year-old student from the Texas A&M University. He has been steadily progressing for the last few years, and in 2017 he announced himself onto the global scene by running some very easy-looking 44-second runs and then shocking the world by becoming the 7th fastest man in history when he produced a ridiculously fast time of 43.70 (which is the 19th fastest time ever) at the NCAA West Regional meet on May 26 (he covered the distance in 172 strides).
His running style is somewhat choppy and not very elegant, but he has immense strength that helps him power through the race, especially in the last 100m. It’s a bit of an unknown as to how he will perform on the biggest stage, but he looks like a man on a mission, not afraid of anything or anyone. There’s also no telling as to what his potential might be, but I’m sure that this man is the real deal and that he will get a medal in London. He is still unbeaten in the 400m this season and he just oozes an aura of invincibility, so I simply can’t wait to see him line-up against the world’s best athletes.
Wayde van Niekerk (South Africa)
The defending World champion, the reigning Olympic champion and a world record holder. This year he even became the fastest man ever over 300m and then there is also a distinct possibility of him running under 43 seconds. It’s an almost unfathomable mark, but it would be quite fitting for him to break it when his motivational song is titled Break Every Chain.
What more needs to be said about the soft-spoken South African? Well, in my opinion he is basically unbeatable if he manages to put his race together, which is easier said than done of course, especially with the added luggage of trying to do the longer sprint double. It’s gonna take something special, but he is a proper racer and I will once more pick him as my favourite for gold.
WR 10.49 ( 0.0) Florence Griffith-Joyner (USA), Indianapolis, 16 Jul 1988 CR 10.70 (-0.1) Marion Jones (USA), Seville, 22 Aug 1999 WL 10.71 (+0.8) Elaine Thompson (JAM), Kingston, 23 Jun 2017
Five of the women that I picked were also in the final of the 2016 Olympics, so I very much expect a very similar lineup in London. I simply haven’t observed any new faces that could have a shot at disrupting the following list of athletes. In any case, Elaine Thompson is so utterly dominant that I see this event as being effectively a tussle for the minor medals.
Murielle Ahouré (Côte d’Ivoire)
She is a very versatile and consistent athlete, which is the main reason why I included her in this list. I have to admit that I struggled with picking six athletes, but I figured she’s a good choice because of her experience as a World silver medalist from 2013 in Moscow. Her season’s best of 10.83 is also promising, even though it was achieved a bit early (10th of June), so there’s a slight possibility that she peaked too soon. She’s a candidate for the final and a remote candidate for a medal.
Michelle-Lee Ahye (Trinidad and Tobago)
The 25-year-old Trinidadian has run under 11 seconds for 5 straight seasons. This year she has lowered her personal best down to 10.82, making her the second fastest woman of the field. She is very consistent, placing 5th two years ago in Beijing and 6th at the Rio Olympics, but apparently lacks that something extra to reach the podium. Maybe this is her year to do so.
Dafne Schippers (Netherlands)
The Dutch champion was in the form of her life two years ago in Beijing when she secured a silver medal with a national record of 10.81. She unfortunately didn’t look quite so superb in Rio where she finished back in 5th place with 10.90. It’s still a fantastic time, but all the other women really stepped up to the plate.
Her season’s best is 10.95 and she will almost certainly have to reach the 10.8 territory if she wants to get back into the medal positions. It’s going to be a tall order with the quality of her competition, but I’m sure she can do it. I’ll be rooting for her because she’s probably the only European with realistic chances to reach the top three places.
Marie-Josée Ta Lou (Côte d’Ivoire)
She was 4th last year in Rio, registering 10.86 — the exact same time as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce — but agonizingly missed out on bronze after the photo finish. Shelly-Ann will not be in London due to pregnancy, so Ta Lou will face only two women that were faster than her at the Olympics.
Her season’s best is 10.90 from 17th of July when she ran against some great competition at the Diamond League meet in Rabat. She was second only to Elaine Thompson and she really impressed me with her speed. Her form indicates that she is gearing nicely towards the climax of the year.
Tori Bowie (USA)
She’s a bronze medalist from the 2015 World Championships and an Olympic silver medalist from Rio. She is also the reigning American champion and probably the main threat to Elaine Thompson.
The decision to ditch the 200m might be a plus because she will be able to dedicate all her efforts towards running the best possible 100m race. Her greatest strength is speed endurance, but I don’t think she has enough raw speed to get ahead of the fastest Jamaican.
Elaine Thompson (Jamaica)
The reigning World and Olympic champion has been unbeaten in the 100m for about two years and it still doesn’t look like anyone can match her. She holds the world leading time of 10.71, more than a tenth faster than her closest rivals and she might even be on track to become the first woman since Carmelita Jeter in 2009 to dip below 10.70.
Her sprinting form is marvelous and she is one of the most elegant sprinters I’ve ever seen. I expect her to dominate, especially because she won’t run in the 200m, but will focus only on this event. She is my favourite for gold.
WR 21.34 (+1.3) Florence Griffith-Joyner (USA), Seoul, 29 Sep 1988 CR 21.63 (+0.2) Dafne Schippers (NED), Beijing, 28 Aug 2015 WL 21.77 (+1.5) Tori Bowie (USA), Eugene, 27 May 2017
It’s very interesting that we might have already seen the best race of 2017 back in May when we saw an assembly of one of the finest fields ever at a Diamond League meet in Eugene, Oregon. It featured (ordered from first to last place) Tori Bowie, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Elaine Thompson, Dafne Schippers, Allyson Felix, Marie-Josee Ta Lou, Jenna Prandini and Ivet Lalova-Collio. It’s unfortunate that not all of them will contest the 200m in London.
One of those is Elaine Thompson, the reigning Olympic champion. Her coach has for some reason decided that she will only compete in the 100m this year. It’s the same situation with Tori Bowie, the fastest woman of the season. Allyson Felix, on the other hand, will only focus on the 400m.
This makes the event open for surprises with opportunity for a lot of ladies to become first-time medalists.
Dina Asher-Smith (Great Britain)
The young British star has managed to return from a broken foot injury just in time to prove her fitness and be picked for team GB despite finishing in only 6th place at the British Championships. The selectors obviously believe that their fastest lady of all time will reach proper competitive form by August. I’m personally not so confident about that, but if she does, then she will definitely be in contention for top places.
I don’t believe she’ll make the final, but if I’m honest, I have to say that I couldn’t really come up with anyone else that would take her spot. Maybe one of the Jamaicans (Shashalee Forbe, Simone Facey).
Michelle-Lee Ahye (Trinidad and Tobago)
I’m not sure if she will even compete in the 200m, but I decided to include her because of her 6th place from the Rio Olympics and her continued good form into this season. Her speed endurance isn’t quite up to par with the best, but she has great speed, so I don’t know if she has what it takes to reach the podium. Even so, I’m sure she has more than enough quality to reach the final.
Deajah Stevens (USA)
She won the US Championships with a time of 22.30 seconds, running into quite a strong headwind of -2.5 m/s. Her season’s and personal best is 22.09, which means that, of all the women who will be competing in London, only Miller-Uibo has run faster this season. Stevens is a 22-year-old student that only turned pro in July, but she already has the valuable experience of running in an Olympic final where she was 7th. The additional year of progress and maturity makes her a very plausible candidate for a medal.
Marie-Josée Ta Lou (Côte d’Ivoire)
She was probably one of the unluckiest athletes of the Rio Olympics where she was 4th in both the 100m and the 200m. At 28 years of age, she is still without a major international medal outside of the African Championships, despite being one of the fastest women in the world for a couple of years now.
She’s also a familiar face to anyone following the Diamond League meetings where she has been superb throughout this season, improving her 200m personal best to 22.16. Only Schippers and Miller have run faster this season, so I believe that Ta Lou will rather fancy her chances in London.
Dafne Schippers (Netherlands)
She’s the defending champion from two years ago in Beijing where she became the third fastest woman ever with 21.63. It was a perfectly judged, perfectly executed race, so it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise when I say that it doesn’t look like she could replicate that sort of performance anytime soon.
Her season’s best is 22.10 and I have no doubt that she will be in sub-22 shape by the time we get to London. She’s very strong in the second half of the race, which is why this is probably her better event, but so far she hasn’t done enough this season to convince me that she will be able to live with Miller’s superior speed endurance. I think Schippers’s best bet for victory is in the case of Miller being too drained and weakened from running the 400m.
Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas)
The 400m specialist has stated that she will still mainly be focusing on the one lap event and that the 200m will be just for fun. But since she is one of only three women to have gone under 22 seconds this season, and that both of the other two — Bowie & Thompson — will not be threatening her, it definitely pushes her into a category of outstanding favourites.
Her main rival in London is very likely to be Dafne Schippers, but Miller has already beaten her once this season. She has terrific speed and probably the best speed endurance among the women that she will be up against. This formidable combination makes me believe that she’s the woman to beat, so I have to pick her as my favourite for gold.
WR 47.60 Marita Koch (GDR), Canberra, 6 Oct 1985 CR 47.99 Jarmila Kratochvílová (TCH), Helsinki, 10 Aug 1983 WL 49.65 Allyson Felix (USA), London, 9 Jul 2017
Last year I correctly predicted that this was going to be a two-horse race between Miller and Felix. The situation hasn’t changed, which is why this was the toughest discipline for me to assemble six athletes as I effectively had to pick four women who I believe will battle for bronze.
I was also a bit lucky last year when I backed Miller to take gold because she won in the most dramatic fashion imaginable. They still seem to be perfectly matched and I honestly think that it’s 50-50 between the two of them.
Kendall Ellis (USA)
The 21-year-old is by far the least experienced of the women that I’ve listed, but her season’s best of 50.00 is enough for a 5th place in the 2017’s world rankings. She is still a student, so I hope she will be well rested after a long NCAA season. I don’t actually believe that she has any reasonable chances of taking a medal this year already, but an appearance in the final would be a great achievement.
Phyllis Francis (USA)
She was 7th at the previous World Championships and 5th at the Olympics, so she is getting closer and closer to the podium. With a season’s best of 49.96 she is one of only four women who have gone under 50 seconds this season. She is also an integral part of the US 4x400m team, so I think she should now have plenty of confidence to reach for the top.
Quanera Hayes (USA)
I must admit that I was not familiar with her beforehand, but anyone who wins the US Championships with 49.72 almost automatically becomes a medal candidate.
Her 2016 indoor season was pretty successful as she picked up bronze in the individual event and was part of a winning 4x400m relay team. She then failed to qualify for the Olympics after finishing in last place at the final of the 2016 US Trials. But apparently this is her first year of being fully healthy after six years of suffering through various pains and injuries.
I hope her days of misfortune are gone and that she manages to produce another sub-50 performance in London.
Shericka Jackson (Jamaica)
The best of the rest these last couple of years. She was 3rd at the 2015 World Championships and also at the 2016 Olympics — both times behind Felix and Miller, and both times running under 50 seconds. Her season’s best is 50.05, so she is in shape to challenge for a medal once more.
Allyson Felix (USA)
The defending World champion from 2015 will be going into these Championships with a world leading time of 49.65, which was, incidentally, set in London at a Diamond League meet. She looks to be in awesome form this season, making the almost inevitable duel with Miller even more captivating.
At 31 years of age, experience is on her side as this will be her 7th appearance at the sport’s biggest biennial event. She will be well rested because of not having to compete at the US Championships.
Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas)
She was unfairly vilified after last year’s Olympic final for what was nothing more than a plunge for the line after she literally lost her footing due to exhaustion and a misjudged lean. Whoever said that it was an unsportsmanlike dive must have never tried running the 400m or doesn’t know that this stuff happens every year at every level and that it’s never advantageous. Luckily we can look forward to another duel coming up this year, which will hopefully put to rest this annoying conversation.
Shaunae has been running splendidly this season, already registering three sub-50 times, the best of which was 49.77, with hints of much more to come. Her and Felix only met once this year: in late May at a Diamond League meet in Eugene over 200m. Miller was 2nd with 21.91 and Felix was 5th with 22.33, indicating that the Bahamian has a slight edge when it comes to speed. It’s such a tough race to call, but I will pick Shaunae as my favourite for gold.
Other events …
I’m interested in other events as well, but I’m most knowledgeable about the sprints and — to a certain extent — the middle distances. Besides, it’s impossible for me to closely follow and name 6 medal contenders in every single discipline.
I will definitely closely follow my Slovenian compatriots, but medals are probably out of reach for our country right now. The veteran Martina Ratej (women’s javelin) is our best bet, though it’s no secret that I’m most interested in the youngsters from my own generation.
The most promising one is Luka Janežič, the 2017 European U23 Champion in the men’s 400m. He recently set a new personal best of 44.84 at a Diamond League meet in Monaco. He will have an incredibly tough job, but he always produces his best performances in big races, so I can see him reaching the semi-finals. He’s our best sprinter since Matic Osovnikar who famously finished 7th in the 100m final of the 2007 World Championships in Osaka.
Agata Zupin and Anita Horvat are also two of our great young talents, and it was quite a pleasant surprise when they qualified for the women’s 200m and 400m, respectively. It should be a great learning experience for both of them.
Our Croatian neighbours have two reigning Olympic champions: Sara Kolak in the women’s javelin and Sandra Perković in the women’s discus. They will be in the hunt for gold with very realistic chances of success.
I expect Mo Farah to win the men’s 5,000m and 10,000m in what is his last season on the track. He will then transition to road racing.
Kendra Harrison already ran 12.28 in the women’s 100mH this season, just 0.08 seconds shy of her world record, which was incidentally set last year on the very track she will be competing on in London. She’s a big favourite, but hurdles can be very chaotic, so nothing is guaranteed. America has so much depth in this event that their women could easily sweep the podium — like they did in Rio.
The men’s 110mH is looking a bit more unpredictable, but Omar McLeod is probably still the most likely candidate for gold.
American women are also dominant in the 400mH, so it’s another event where they could take all the medals.
In the combined events I’m backing the Olympic champion Nafissatou Thiam to take gold in the women’s heptathlon, especially after she launched to 3rd in the all time rankings with 7,013 points at a traditional meet in Götzis.
Men’s decathlon promises a good competition after the retirement of Ashton Eaton and I think Kévin Mayer can claim his throne.
Caster Semenya looks unbeatable in the women’s 800m. Her main rivals are Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui.
Conversely, the men’s 800m is completely up in the air and I’m not sure if David Rudisha will be able to defend his title. There are plenty of challengers and it promises to be a real brawl for top 3 places. Emmanuel Korir is the fastest man of the season and I believe he might challenge for gold. Nijel Amos is also looking sharp.
Christian Taylor is looking supreme in the men’s triple jump and he’s still knocking on world record’s doors. His main rival will probably be Pedro Pablo Pichardo.
Žiga P. Škraba