Women’s 100m Hurdles
Sally Pearson is the overwhelming favorite for Olympic gold. The Australian is one of the best – if not, the best – hurdling technicians of all time. More importantly, she possesses the necessary flat out speed to sprint over the barriers quickly. This combination of fine hurdling technique and brute sprinting power makes Pearson a difficult hurdler to beat.
Her loss to Kelly Wells at the Aviva Grand Prix was surprising indeed. However, when an athlete is in the midst of 30 race winning streak, she is bound to lose one way or another. The bad British weather made Pearson a little worse and Wells a little better. In times like these, the race could go both ways.
True enough, women can get away with deficient hurdling form in light of the considerably lower barriers in the ladies’ races. All things being equal, a technician has a definite edge over an untidy hurdler. Lolo Jones is an excellent example. The 2008 Olympic Gold was hers to lose (Dawn Harper and Sally Pearson won gold and silver, respectively). Her less-than-ideal hurdling conked out when it mattered the most.
Read: “Lolo Jones vs. Susanna Kallur”
Read: “Sally Pearson vs. Susanna Kallur”
Although Wells is a top class hurdler in her own right, Pearson’s better technique over the barriers gives the latter the consistency to win race-after-race, including those that matter the most. The difference in technique is minute: Wells’ trailing arm tends to flail in flight, compared to Pearson’s efficient up and down movement.
Wells (L) and Harper (R). (Photos from Daylife/Getty Images and Erik van Leeuwen)
The 2011 World Champion is owns the fastest time of 12.40s this season. Pearson is the only athlete to have run sub-12.50 in 2012. The evergreen Brigitte Foster-Hylton (12.51s) and Wells (12.54s) trail the Australian. Britain’s best bet in the sprint hurdles, the American-born Tiffany Porter, is tied with the defending Olympic champion Dawn Harper at 12.56s.
The Canadians have a formidable trio in Jessica Zelinka (12.68s), Phylicia George (12.72s), and Nikkita Holder (12.80s). Zelinka will do double duty in the heptathlon and the 100m hurdles. She is surprisingly triumphed over a stellar cast of specialist hurdlers in the Canadian Olympic Trials. George and Holder are experienced competitors, being finalists in the Daegu World Championships.
Crowd favorite Lolo Jones has a season’s best of 12.74s, way outside the top 10 performances this season.
In terms of lifetime bests, Pearson is ahead of the pack thanks to her impressive series in Daegu: 12.36s in the semis and 12.28s in the final. Only the world record holder Yordanka Donkova (12.21s), Ginka Zagorcheva (12.25s), and Ludmila Engquist (12.26s) have run faster times than the Aussie. Jones, recently recovered from an injury, has a four-year old personal best of 12.43s from the Beijing Olympics. Foster-Hylton (12.45s), Harper (12.47s), and Wells (12.50s) round up the next three.
Barring any unforseen hitches or hurdle crashes, Pearson is my top choice for hurdles gold. Wells, Harper, and Foster-Hylton are medal contenders as well, but the cool Aussie has my vote because she is every inch the refined hurdling technician.
Top Three Predictions:
Gold: Sally Pearson
Silver: Dawn Harper/Kelly Wells
Bronze: Brigitte Foster-Hylton
Men’s 110m Hurdles
With three men under 13 seconds this season, the 110m hurdles finals is guaranteed to be a nail-biter.
Liu (L), Merritt (C), and Richardson(R). (Photos from Brackenheim [Liu], Paalso Paal Sørensen [Merritt], and Erik van Leeuwen [Richardson])
Aries Merritt, the 2012 World Indoor Champion, is the world leader with two clockings of 12.93s. The comebacking 2004 Athens Olympic Champion, Liu Xiang 刘翔, has a season’s best of 12.97s. Liu actually drew level with Dayron Robles’ world record of 12.87s in Eugene last month, but the wind was over the allowable limit. Jason Richardon, the 2011 World Champion, ran 12.98s in the semifinals of the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Read: “Daegu 110m Hurdles Final – Controversial”
Merritt is the revelation of the 2012 season. The former U.S. collegiate champion has been around the circuit for quite some time, having been part of numerous major championship finals. The humble hurdler’s breakthrough came in Istanbul, where he won over Liu in the 60m hurdles. Merritt’s twin 12.93s performances is a strong statement that he’s out to win nothing less than gold.
Merritt is now the eighth-fastest hurdler of all-time, tied with the great Renaldo Nehemiah.
The world record holder and defending Olympic champion has been bedeviled by injury. Robles has a relatively modest season’s best of 13.18s, in a defeat against young compatriot Orlando Ortega (13.09s). He has competed sparingly this season.
The third American, Jeff Porter, is fourth with 13.08s. The newly-crowned European Champion, Sergey Shubenkov, is one-hundredths of second slower than Porter at 13.09s. France’s Garfield Darien (13.15s) and Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment (13.18s) could secure places in the Olympic final, judging by their season’s bests.
Save for a back niggle that forced him to pull out from the Aviva Grand Prix in London, Liu is my top pick for Olympic gold. He limped out of the Bird’s Nest in pain four years ago. Now fully recovered, Liu is running faster than ever, as shown by his emphatic performances in Shanghai and Eugene against the best hurdlers in the world.
Merritt, Richardson, and a healthy Robles are Liu’s strongest challengers.
Amongst the big four hurdlers, Liu’s technique is a cut above the rest. In an event where the margins of error are small, the finer things – the hurdling nuances – could spell the difference between Olympic glory or ignominy.
Read: “Liu Xiang vs. Dayron Robles”
Read: “Liu Xiang vs. Colin Jackson”
The youthfully exuberant Shubenkov could eke out a surprise. He is a technically sound hurdler who is capable of running below 13 seconds in the near future.
Top Three Predictions
Gold: Liu Xiang
Silver: Aries Merritt
Bronze: Jason Richardson/Sergey Shubenkov