Category Archives: Justin Gatlin

London Olympics Preview: The 4x100m Relay

The team aspect makes the 4x100m relay exciting. Since the athletes are going at full speed, the margin for error in terms of baton passing is small. Teams, especially the hastily formed ones, are susceptible to passing lapses. In the 4x100m relay, the squads with inferior aggregate flat out speeds can draw level or, at times, triumph over the highly touted teams.

Read: “The 4x100m Relay – Where Underdogs Thrive”

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

Ironically, a larger country such as the U.S. could get disadvantaged because of its depth of talent. Having a large pool, with the uncertainty of the U.S. Olympic Trials providing the suspense, do not exactly provide ample time for teams to prepare. The smaller countries have, more or less, determined its relay lineups months before a major competition.

Women’s 4x100m Relay

The Americans have run two of the fastest 4x100m relay times this season (42.19s, 42.24s), followed by the Germans (42.51s – Leena Günther, Anne Cibis, Tatjana Pinto, Verena Sailer) and the Ukrainians (42.61s –  Nataliya Pohrebnyak Наталія Погребняк, Mariya Ryemyen, Olesya Povh Олеся Повх, Viktorya Pyatachenko). Netherlands (42.80s – Kadene Vassell, Dafne Schippers, Eva Lubbers, Jamile Samuel), Poland (43.06s – Marika Popowicz, Daria Korczynska, Marta Jeschke, Ewelina Ptak), and France (43.12s – Carima Louami, Ayodelé Ikuesan, Jennifer Galais, Christine Arron) are the next fastest countries. The Jamaicans are few rungs lower with a season’s best of 43.31s.

In terms of the Olympic qualifying period, which stretched from January 2011 to July 2012, the Carribean sprinting power is second on the list (average of 41.97s) behind the Americans (41.75s). Ukraine (42.57s average), France (42.65s average), Germany (42.77s average), and Nigeria (42.84s) round up the next four.

Screenshot from the IAAF

The defending Olympic Champion, Russia (Evgeniya Polyakova Евгения  Полякова, Ekaterina Kuzina, Ekaterina Voronenkova, Olga Belkina), is eight on the list with an average time of 42.86s.

On paper, the lead U.S. and Jamaica are the strongest contenders for gold. Its respective lineups are peppered with a multitude of individual sprinting talent in the likes of Carmelita Jeter, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Allyson Felix, and Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce.

Read: “London Olympics Preview – The 100m Dash”

Read: “London Olympics Preview – The 200m Dash”

Jamaica has won Olympic gold only once, in 2004. The Jamaican women lost out on a potential gold in Beijing when they failed to finish the race. The Americans are historically the dominant force in the event, winning nine gold medals since the 1928 Paris Olympics. However, their last Olympic title came in 1996. Like the Jamaicans, the Americans have been bedeviled by erratic baton passing in the last two editions of the Games.

The Americans are the reigning World Champions, while the Jamaicans are the victors from Berlin.

Once Jamaica and the United States get their acts together, and pass their respective batons efficiently and with minimal loss of speed, these two countries are unbeatable.

If the two sprinting powerhouses commit lapses, Ukraine and Germany are the most likely to capitalize. The Ukrainians have world class sprinters in Olesya Povh and Mariya Ryemyen, while the Germans are led by the comebacking Verena Sailer. The Ukrainian and German teams have the benefit of competing at a relatively recent major championships, whereas the Jamaicans and Americans  last big meet was the World Championships in Daegu. The confidence level of the Germans, in particular, are at record-highs in light of their smashing win in Helsinki.

Top Three Predictions:

Gold: United States

Silver: Jamaica

Bronze: Germany/Ukraine

Men’s 4x100m Relay

In the men’s division, the Jamaican gap over the Americans is glaring. The Jamaicans have an average time of 37.54s to the Americans’ 37.85s. Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, and Yohan Blake are all set to compete in London. Barring any unforseen hitches, Jamaica looks poised to win back-to-back Olympic golds.

The Americans have dominated this event, having triumphed 15 times in the last 22 Olympic Games. Their record in major championships of late has not been as immaculate. The error-prone Americans narrowly missed the gold in Athens to an inspired British team. In Beijing, the American quartet crashed out of the preliminary rounds. They crashed out of the Berlin World Championships, disqualified for an illegal baton exchange. Daegu could have been a lot better, had it not been for the unfortunate collision between Briton Harry Aikenes-Aryeetey and American Doc Patton.

Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin will banner the American challenge. Gay and Gatlin, both former World titlists and the latter an Olympic Champion, will bring maturity and experience into the squad.

France (38.29s average –  Teddy Tinmar, Christophe Lemaitre, Yannick Lesourd, Jimmy Vicaut) Olympic hosts Great Britain (38.32s average), Trinidad and Tobago (38.40s average –  Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, Aaron Armstrong, Richard Thompson), and Brazil (38.41s average – Ailson Feitosa, Sandro Viana, Nilson Andrè, Bruno de Barros) are the next fastest countries. Interestingly, the 10th ranked Hong Kong relay team (38.59s average – Tang Yik Chun, Lai Chun Ho 黎振浩, Ng Ka Fung, Tsui Chi Ho) is ahead of Canada (38.64s – Ian Warner, Oluseyi Smith, Jared Connaughton, Justyn Warner), Italy (38..65s average – Simone Collio, Jacques Riparelli, Davide Manenti, Fabio Cerutti), and the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Japan (38.68s average – Masashi Eriguchi, Ryota Yamagata 山縣 亮太, Shinji Takahira, Kenji Fujimitsu).

Read: “Japan’s Olympic Bronze”

Screenshot from the IAAF

Outside the top two countries, France is the standout talent. The French are led by the duo of Christophe Lemaitre and Jimmy Vicaut, both 100m dash finalists in Daegu. Lemaitre is a World Championships 200m dash bronze medalist.

The Olympic hosts will also send an experienced team, with Mark Lewis-Francis and Dwain Chambers leading the charge. Lewis-Francis is the only holdover from the gold medal winning squad in Athens. The talented youngster Adam Gemili will be around to give much-needed firepower.

As much as I would love to see Britain win gold again or the Americans break their Olympic drought, the Jamaicans are much too dominant.

Top Three Predictions:

Gold: Jamaica

Silver: United States

Bronze: France

Sources:

IAAF – Olympic Relay Lineups

Wikipedia

IAAF

London Olympics Preview: The 100m Dash

The Blue Riband event is the centerpiece of the Olympics. The athlete who wins the gold is dubbed as the world’s fastest man or woman.

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

Women’s 100m Dash

Until the Jamaican Olympic trials last June, Carmelita Jeter has been comfortably perched as the 2012 world leader. Jeter ran 10.81s at the same blue track in Kingston where the Jamaican trials were held.

A month later, the defending Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce demolished the American’s erstwhile 2012 standard. Fraser-Pryce ran a personal best, as she stopped the clock at 10.70s. Veronica Campbell-Brown came second at 10.82s.

 

Fraser-Pryce (L) and Jeter (R). Photos from Erik van Leeuwen and André Zehetbauer

Trinidadian Kelly-Ann Baptiste (10.86s) and Allyson Felix (10.92s) trails Campbell-Brown. Kerron Stewart (10.94s), Tianna Madison (10.96s), Murielle Ahoure (11.00s), and Blessing Okagbare (11.01s) occupy prominent positions in the top list.

The European challenge will be top billed by the comebacking Ivet Lalova Ивет Лалова (11.06s SB) and the mercurial Olesya Povh Олеся Повх (11.08s), who finished 1-2 at the European Championships in Helsinki.

   

Felix (L), Baptiste (C), and Stewart (R). Photos from Erik van Leeuwen

With the London Games barely two weeks away, the Jamaicans and the Americans are sure to figure in tough battle for gold.

The 25-year old Fraser-Pryce, fresh from setting lifetime bests in the 100m and the 200m, is at her prime. Jeter is six years older than the Jamaican Olympic Champion, but is coming into the Games as the reigning World Champion. the powerful American has a personal best of 10.64s from 2009. the second fastest behind Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 10.49s world record.

Stewart (10.75s, 2009), Campbell-Brown (10.76s, 2011), and Lalova (10.77s, 2004) are all sub-10.80s sprinters at their respective bests. Felix (10.92s, 2012) could figure in the fight for the podium as well, as long as she does not get left behind at the blocks.

My pick for gold is the defending champion, Fraser-Pryce. She has the momentum and she seems to be peaking just in time for London.

Top Three Predictions:

Gold: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Silver: Carmelita Jeter

Bronze: Allyson Felix

Men’s 100m Dash

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Yohan Blake and Tyson Gay are the only ones capable of beating an in-form Usain Bolt. Former World record holder Asafa Powell has the necessary speed and breakneck start, but he just does not possess the mental toughness to live up to his potential in major championships.

   

Bolt (L), Gay (C), and Blake (R). Photos from Erik van Leeuwen [Bolt and Blake] and Eckhard Pecher [Gay])

True enough, Blake has inflicted back-to-back defeats in the 100m and 200m to his training partner, both at the Jamaican Olympic Trials. Gay triumphed over Bolt at the DN Galan in Stockholm back in 2010.

The fight for gold will be three-pronged between Bolt, Blake, and Gay, should the latter be able to find the spring in his legs again. Justin Gatlin is the dark horse. Coming from his two-year doping ban, he has a lot to prove and is intent on making his comeback complete by winning Olympic gold.

Gatlin wins the 2012 World Indoor 60m Dash title. (Photo from Erik van Leeuwen)

Blake (9.75s) and Bolt (9.76s) are the two fastest this year. The 2004 Athens Olympic Champion, Justin Gatlin, is in top form as he set a personal best of 9.80s en route to topping the tough U.S. Olympic Trials. Powell (9.85s), Keston Bledman (9.86s), and Gay (9.86s) round up the next three.

Watch out for the tall and powerful Ryan Bailey. Bailey finished third at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, setting a personal best of 9.93s.

 

Collins (L) and Lemaitre (R). Photos from André Zehetbauer and Erik van Leeuwen)

I’d love to see Kim Collins (10.05s SB) replicate his podium finish in Daegu, but the 2003 World Champion has not gone below the 10-second barrier this season. The French duo of Christophe Lemaitre (10.04s SB) and Jimmy Vicaut (10.07s SB) could once again barge into the final. Britain’s new sprinting talent, Adam Gemili (10.05s PB/SB), looks poised to make a mark as well.

I’m rooting for an injury-free Gay to finally wrest the Olympic 100m dash title. As the second fastest of all-time over the distance (9.69s), he has what it takes to come out on top. The youthfully exuberant Blake has the psychological edge, in the wake of his emphatic wins over Bolt.

If the world’s greatest sprinter gets his act together in London, the rest of the field – Gay and Blake included – will be competing only for the lesser medals.

Top Three Predictions:

Gold: Usain Bolt

Silver: Tyson Gay/Yohan Blake

Bronze: Justin Gatlin

Sources:

IAAF

Wikipedia

Istanbul 2012: Top Seven Performances

Amongst the major international athletics championships, the World Indoors is the most underrated. Big name stars like Usain Bolt usually opt out of the biennial meet, especially in crucial Olympic years. Indoor athletics has a far smaller reach than its outdoor counterpart, with the smaller venues usually found in the frigid countries of the northern hemisphere.

Photo from Wikipedia

Nevertheless, it has that obscure charm. When I first saw the start lists of some events, I thought that the rest of the non-European, non-American world was underrepresented. I thought wrong. As soon as the 60m dash heats came out, a cacophony of athletes from small countries – from Mongolia in the Gobi desert to Fiji in the Pacific – competed amongst their more illustrious counterparts.

Even if I had to rely on live streaming links and my less-than-perfect internet connection to watch the World Indoors, I must say that I had a grand time. Despite the absence of most of the track & field titans, the festivities were certainly not devoid of memorable athletics moments. The three-day event has seen former World Indoor champions like Elena Isinbayeva Елена Гаджиевна Исинбаева, Justin Gatlin, and Valerie Adams re-emerge on the big stage, whilst playing host to bevy of promising talent.

One Gold, Three Silvers (Photo from Zimbio/Getty Images)

The women high jumpers deserve special mention too, as the troika of Antonietta Di Martino, Anna Chicherova Анна Владимировна Чичерова, and Ebba Jungmark shared a the second spot on the podium, behind the champion, the come-backing Chaunté Lowe (1.98m). The three athletes had equally identical sheets, with each clearing 1.95m.

The United States topped the overall standings with a staggering 18 medals, 10 of which were gold. Great Britain had 9, while African distance powerhouses Ethiopia and Kenya won 5 and 4, respectively.

The following list enumerates my favorite performances from Istanbul (aside from the 60m hurdles, of course!):

Read more of this post

Gutted: Thoughts on the Daegu 2011 Men’s 4x100m Relay

The Men’s 4x100m relay was bizarre, to say the least. At the last baton exchange, Darvis Patton (USA) clipped the elbow of the massive Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (GBR). The Doc lost his balance and fell to the track, rolling over to the adjacent lane of the Trinidad and Tobago quartet. Richard Thompson (TRI) narrowly missed running over Patton. Aikines-Aryeetey apparently went out too early. Marlon Devonish (GBR) failed to catch his compatriot, throwing the baton in frustration. The Americans also failed to finish, negating a splendid world-leading performance in the semis. The unfortunate Trinidadians were the unassuming collateral damage of the sprint relay carnage, as their quartet finished dead last.

The Usain Bolt-anchored Jamaican team was unstoppable, en route to breaking their 2008 world record. A pumped-up Bolt stopped the clock in a blistering 37.04s. The French and the quartet from Saint Kitts and Nevis emerged victorious with the minor medals. The prolific Christophe Lemaitre added a relay silver to his 200m dash bronze, whilst the evergreen Kim Collins hauled another bronze medal to his collection.

The Americans, even with a healthy Tyson Gay in the fold (and a smooth baton exchange), would have been hard-pressed to win over the Jamaicans. Nevertheless, the loss of any major championship medal was heartbreaking. Prior to these championships, I never really found the time to sympathize with these oft-brash American sprinters. But reading the Doc’s posts and tweets, I felt gutted – not just for the US team, but for the Trinidadians and British as well.

One can pillory these professional athletes for certain lapses of judgment. Before hitting the “enter” button in Twitter, Facebook or your blog, find the time to go over the words of the athletes themselves. They’re only human, after all.

Additional links:

Official results of the Men’s 4x100m relay

Mail Online article

Telegraph article

The 4x100m relay: Where Underdogs Thrive

Track & field is an individual sport. There is some measure of teamwork in the distance events, where packs of runners can stay together throughout the entire race (like Flying Finns of the olden days) or follow a designated pace maker for particular stretches. But in the end, an athlete’s result for a particular event is credited only to the effort of one. The team aspect of the relays sets it aside from the other disciplines. Passing the baton from one sprinter to the other makes for an exciting spectacle. The speed involved makes little room for error, where the slightest mistake in timing and release could spell the difference between triumph and defeat.

Perhaps that is why the relays are traditionally held at the latter parts of an athletics competition. It is a fitting finale to the showcase of speed, strength and endurance that is track & field.

It is in the explosive 4x100m relay where an underrated quartet can overcome a faster set of opponents through slick passing. Unlike its longer counterpart, the 4x400m relay, the underdog squad can overcome glaring differences in aggregate speed at the shorter race. Whereas in the longer relay, the most dominant force in the quarter-mile, the Americans, almost always reign supreme.

2008 Beijing Olympics

My favorite relay race of all is the 2008 Beijing Olympics 4x100m relay, where the indefatigable Nobuharo Asahara anchored the Japanese team to an unprecedented bronze (38.15s).

Japan has always been a consistent qualifier to the 400m relay finals (4th – 2004, 6th – 2000, 6th – 1992, 5th – 1932); it was about time the Japanese won something big on the Olympic athletics stage. This proves that Asians, with the proper combination of fortunate circumstances and great teamwork, can distinguish themselves in the elite sprinting ranks.

And yeah, need I say more about the Usain Bolt-led Jamaican relay world record?

2002 Busan Asian Games

Thailand’s 2002 Busan Asian Games 4x100m victory is another favorite. The smooth-passing of the Thais (38.82s) overcame the advantage of the Japanese team (38.90s) in terms of aggregate speed. It’s important to note that Thailand’s fastest sprinter at that time was Reeanchai “Ultraman” Seeharwong at 10.23s. The other members weren’t as impressive:

The Japanese, in contrast, had near 10-flat sprinters in Asahara (10.02) and Shingo Suetsugo (10.05s in 2002, 10.03s lifetime best). The other two members have faster personal bests than the Thais:

On paper, the Japanese squad was the favorite. However, an underrated Thai team overcame the stark differences in aggregate speed with their flawless baton exchanges.

2004 Athens Olympics

The formidable American quartet of Shawn Crawford (9.88 – 2004), Justin Gatlin (9.85s – 2004), Coby Miller (9.98s – 2002) and Maurice Greene (9.79s – 1999) lost to the British by a hair’s breadth, thanks to the former’s faulty baton passing – a fixture in American relay races. On paper, the Brits were a lot slower than the Americans.

With a generous splattering of Olympic gold medalists and former/current/future century dash record holders in the American lineup, the gold medal was theirs to lose. And they lost it by the infinitesimal of margins, with Lewis-Francis edging out the fast-finishing Greene, 38.07s to 38.08s.

Among the aforesaid underdog feats, the most impressive (Asian bias aside!) in terms of performance, glamor and glitter would have to be the Great Britain’s 2004 upset win. Whereas the 2008 Japanese relay quartet won bronze with both the American and British teams disqualified prior to the final, the 2004 British quartet overcame a loaded U.S. squad composed of 3 Olympic gold medalists and marquee names in sprinting.

A decent enough aggregate speed and slick baton passing is imperative for a world-beating relay team. Although the traditional sprinting powerhouse, the United States, is well-endowed with prolific sprinters, baton passing has been an eternal thorn since American sprinters are a diverse group of athletes, spread among a vast country. As Shawn Crawford said during an interview, practicing baton exchanges becomes a difficult in light of the varying schedules and locales.

A much smaller country like Britain, Japan and Thailand could muster more frequent training sessions. From what I’ve heard, the Thailand team practically lived together as a team. The Japanese team, similarly, are a tightly bonded lot, as exhibited by the emotional farewell they gave to their long-time ace sprinter, Asahara.

The current Philippine national record stands at 40.55s, set during the 2005 Manila Southeast Asian Games where Philippine 100m/200m dash record holder Ralph Soguilon (10.45s), Albert Salcedo, Long Jump record holder Henry Dagmil and decathlete Arnold Villarube won silver. If the Philippines can assemble a formidable array of mid- to low-10 second sprinters and perfect the baton exchange, surely, a sub-40 clocking is a possibility.

On Justin Gatlin’s comeback

The track & field wires were buzzing with news of Justin Gatlin’s first 100m race after a four-year doping suspension. Prevented by a European-wide edict discouraging meet organizers from inviting drug offenders to high-level meets, Gatlin competed at a low-key Estonian meet.

The Athens 2004 double gold medalist ran a 10.24s to top a modest field with an equally modest time.

As a track athlete myself, I abhor the use of performance-enhancing substances. It cheapens the sport and taints the achievements of the clean athletes with doubt and suspicion. Olympic-style drug testing is a stringent regimen, based on what I’ve read from athlete blogs and news features, doing much to clean the image of track & field. But then again, drug cheats will always find a way to get an illegal edge, to find other substances below the mainstream radar.

Frankly speaking, I am against the policy of excluding doping offenders from big money meets like the Diamond League, especially those who had served lengthy suspensions. Such is the case for Dwain Chambers and now, Gatlin.

In my opinion, the meet organizers should be more forgiving and realize how difficult it is for a professional athlete to endure suspensions and ostracism. Everyone deserves a second a chance, including our fallen champions.

Chambers, for instance, plays well into his new-found role of the elder statesman of European sprinting. He was magnanimous in defeat. I don’t like Chambers, but I must admit that he acted like a true sportsman when he congratulated Christophe Lemaitre after the 100m final.

I am not an apologist for drug cheating. Punish them to the fullest extent of the law. Let Gatlin and Chambers compete in the big meets! If they fail drug tests in the future, ban them for life. But please, give them a chance to prove themselves yet again, to redeem their tarnished reputations.

Photo credits:

Yahoo News

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