Athletics fans are in for a treat. Ostrava on Wednesday, now Gateshead this weekend, over the coming weeks the storylines will be set for this summer’s Olympic Games. Who will launch themselves into Olympic contention and will we see a changing of the guard just when the established order least want it to happen? We run our eye over Sunday evening’s action.
All times/distances are PB’s unless stated otherwise.
High Jump (Women) – 17.55pm
Gateshead will witness Mariya Lasitskene’s 2021 opener. Her lifetime best of 2.06m is two centimetres better than Yaroslava Mahuchikh, the 2019 World Silver medalist who took the European Indoor title in the Russian’s absence. She’s only 19. Home interest will be in the form of Morgan Lake (1.96), Emily Borthwick (1.88), Nikki Manson and Bethan Partridge (both 1.87).Embed from Getty Images
Long Jump (Men) – 18.09 PM
Tajay Gayle may not have quite reached the heights of his world championship winning jump in Doha (8.69m) but his 8.27m in Florida this year is still the furthest jump by any of his competitors outdoors. Thobias Montler will hope to to kick on from his Euro Indoors silver where he jumped 8.31m, with Gateshead a good indicator of his current place at world level. Reynold Banigo (7.94m) and Alex Farquharson (7.78m) represent Great Britain.
Shot Put (Womens) – 18.38 PM
In Danniel Thomas-Dodd and Christina Schwanitz Gateshead will witness the reigning world silver and bronze medallists respectively. Both will hope to add a first Olympic medal to their glittering collection come August but will face stiff competition, both there and in Gateshead from Americans Chase Ealey (19.68m) and Maggie Ewen (19.47m) and Euro Indoors champion Auriol Dongmo (19.53m). Sophie McKinna (18.61m) will aim to get over the disappointment of Torun with Amelia Strickler (17.83m) battling her to be best of the Brits.
Pole Vault (Men) – 18.40 PM
This is arguably the event of the evening as Armand Duplantis (6.15m), Sam Kendricks (6.06m) and Piotr Lisek (6.02m PB) go head-to-head for the first time outdoors this season. There’s also the younger Lavillenie (5.82m) who comes into the competition fresh into beating Lisek into European silver in Torun. For Harry Coppell (5.85m PB) it will be interesting to see where he opens up on world level and Charlie Myers (5.71m) rounds out the British interest.
100m (Womens) Heats 18.42 and 18.50 PM – Final 20.24 PM
Scrap the above, it is hard to look past the women’s 100 metres with storylines aplenty. Dina Asher Smith (10.83) will open her outdoor season over the distance but she will have to come out flying to win in Gateshead. In reigning world champ Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (10.70) and Marie-Josée Ta Lou (10.85), Dina faces familiar opposition but there’s a new entrant to the world of sprints and it isn’t necessarily one that’s gone down a storm.
Sha’Carri Richardson has had a flying start to 2021, running 10.72 for a world lead and winding up some athletics fans across the world, including her tweet below complaining about Ostrava. She has every right to believe she belongs at the top of the sport and Sunday evening will be her first test at world level.
Natasha Morrison of Jamaica has run a hugely competitive 10.87 this year, Aijla Del Ponte was imperious over 60m in Torun and both should not be discounted. Finally Desiree Henry (11.06) and Imani Lansiquot (11.09) completes the British contingent and both will want to test themselves against a world class field.
400m (Womens) – 19.03 PM
Three athletes have run under 50 seconds, world and Olympic bronze medalist Shericka Jackson (49.47), Stephenie Ann Mcpherson (49.92 – though not in recent years) and Kendall Ellis of the USA (49.99). Laviai Nielson (50.83), Lisanne De Witte (50.77) and Lieke Klaver (50.83) may all hope to be the best European. Emily Diamond will hope to return to her 51.23 best.
3,000m Steeplechase (Mens) – 19.15 PM
A good world class field is headed by Soufiane El Bakkali (7.58.15) and while he may not face quite the challenge he will come Tokyo it should be a fascinating race regardless. Five men have run sub 8.10 in Djilali Bedrani (8.08.61) of France, Leonard Kipkemoi Bett (8.08.61) and Abraham Kibiwott (8.05.72) of Kenya and the two Americans Hillary Bor (8.08.41) and Stanley Kebenei (8.08.30).Embed from Getty Images
Nevertheless for me some of the greatest interest will be in the battle of the Brits. Phil Norman’s performance in Ostrava (8.20.12) was the eight fastest of all time by a Brit but more importantly meant an Olympic standard, a fitting reward after coming oh so close to the world standard in 2019 (he ran three times within a second of the standard). He will face off against Zak Seddon (8.21.28) and Mark Pearce (8.33.61), the former hoping to return to the form that led him to a World Championship final in Doha.
Javelin (Men) 19.35pm
Keshorn Walcott has thrown the furthest in the field and is the only one to pass 90 metres (90.16m) a mark Johannes Vetter has now thrown 7 times this year. Anderson Peters of Grenada has thrown further than Walcott this year (83.39m SB. 87.31m PB) and both him and Jakub Vadlejch (89.73m) will likely challenge for the win. Britain’s Harry Hughes will hope to mix it up with some of the world’s best (80.32m)
100m Hurdles (Womens) – 19.37 PM
Two British sisters looks likely to contest for the win over the hurdles with Cindy Sember having run a lifetime best this year (12.53) and Tiffany Porter running well herself (12.62 SB, 12.51 PB). They are the fastest in the field by a small margin though Megan Tapper of Jamaica may hope to return to her best (12.61)
Triple Jump (Womens) 19.45 PM
No athlete has broken 15 metres but the Ukraininan Olha Saladukha has got might close. Aged 37 she may not be in the form that saw her win Olympic Bronze in London and will face a stiff challenge from American Keturah Orji (14.92m PB – jumped this year) and Jamaican Shanieka Ricketts (14.63m SB, 14.93m PB). Britain’s Naomi Ogeta will hope to find some form ahead of Tokyo and has only just turned 23 (14.15m).
1,500m (Men) – 19.49 PM
An interesting field will show us just what sort of form Jakob Ingebrigtsen (3.28.68) is in this Olympic year. He is the fastest in the field by a margin but will be challenged by two Australians in Stewart McSweyn (3.30.51), who looked very smooth pacing Joshua Cheptegei’s world record attempt in Ostrava and Oliver Hoare (3.33.19) who has been very impressive in a couple of significant wins over in the US. Ryan Gregson and Matt Ramsden will both challenge these two, with the Australian Olympic team looking one of the best in World Athletics (though McSweyn intends to run the 5,000). George Mills (3.36.72), Archie Davis (3.40.30) will hope to close in the Olympic Standard and Thomas Keen will build on a good indoor season (3.43.97) making his first appearance in a world class field.Embed from Getty Images
5,000m (Mens) – 20.02 PM
Forgive me for my bias but as a Brit this could be the most interesting of the evening with a number of ath;etes seeking breakout performances. Andrew Butchart is the established star (13.06.21) but he will be challenged by Jake Smith, who has already said he is likely to take out the race (13.47.91) and Jack Rowe (13.37.85) who recently ran 13.35 solo on the roads in Battersea Park. Jonathan Davies (13.23.94) and Adam Clarke (13.39.21) will both hope to stop their momentum.
In the race at the front Jimmy Gressier (13.15.77), Morgan McDonald (13.15.83) and Adel Mechaal (13.15.40) could be chasing Nicholas Kimeli (12.51.78) though Aussie David McNeill is in very impressive form (13.12.82).
200m (Mens) – 20.40 PM
Adam Gemili (19.97) will test himself in world class company with American Kenneth Bednarek already perhaps the class act on current form (19.80 PB). André De Grasse (19.80) was comfortably beaten over 100m by Fred Kerley and Justin Gatlin but on his day is one of the best in the world.
Canadian Aaran Brown (19.95) and Jamaican Julian Forte (19.97) round out a very competitive field. Tommy Ramdhan will be the second Brit and will hope to be dragged to a lifetime best (20.59).
1500m (Womens) – 20.51 PM
Last but by no means least is a stacked womens’ field. It seems Laura Muir (3.55.22) may be in a league of her own (judging from her early season form over 800m) though she may face an African challenge in the form of Rababe Arafi of Morocco (3.58.84), Axumawit Embaye of Ethiopia (3.59.02) and Winnie Nanyondo of Uganda (3.59.56).
Watch out for Eilish McColgan (4.00.97) who has impressed over 5,000 this season, Adelle Tracey (4.07.47) who has been flying over two laps and Katie Snowden who dispatched an impress field to win handsomely in Mt Sac (4.02.98). Erin Wallace rounds out the British interest (4.12.57).
Featured image “EKB53062 duplantis” by babbo1957 is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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