WRITTEN FOR ATHLETICS WEEKLY MAGAZINE (ON 21/9/10)
Open Race in One-Lap
With the Jamaican duo of Germaine Gonzales and Ricardo Chambers not named in their unusually-weak national squad, a trio of young pretenders look set to take advantage of this open event.
Australia’s Ben Offereins has been in fine form this year, storming to 44.86 in February and holding his speed right through the season to finish sixth in Split. Ranked fourteenth in the World, the 24-year-old is closely matched to Demetrius Pinder from the Bahamas.
Pinder, 21-years-old and with a impressive 44.93 to his name from May, will be one to watch but the most intriguing participant in the one-lap will Grenada’s World junior champion Kirani James.
The 18-year-old sped to a 45.01 clocking this summer and with a global championship title already under his belt, will certainly be hungry for more.
Leading the way for the English will be European semi-finalist Conrad Williams. The 28-year-old from Kent has a personal best of 45.45 from June and with a World indoor bronze and European silver medal in the relays, will be determined to show what he can do on his own.
World semi-finalist Rob Tobin ran 45.56 in Gateshead in July and contributed to the continental relay silverware. The 26-year-old from Basingstoke and Mid Hants also reached the semi-final of the Games four years ago and will be looking to make the final this time around.
n Predictions: 1 Offereins, 2 Pinder, 3 James
n Reigning champion: John Steffensen (AUS) 44.73
n Commonwealth record-holder: Innocent Egbunike (NGR) 44.17
n Games record-holder: Iwan Thomas (WAL) 44.52
n Home Countries: England – Rob Tobin, Conrad Williams
n Did you know? British pair Michael Bingham and Martyn Rooney are ranked fourth and sixth in the Commonwealth but are taking a break after their medal-winning exploits at the European’s in Barcelona
Gold no.2 for Turner?
Nearing the end of the season of his life, England’s Andy Turner is seeking gold medal number two in India. Ranked second in the Commonwealth courtesy of his speedy 13.28 when collecting victory in Spain, Turner will be hoping to improve on his bronze from Melbourne.
The 30-year-old Sale Harrier, who is sat just inside the World’s top ten for the year, recently won the Bupa Great Manchester CityGames whilst captaining Team England to prove he is not ready for a rest just yet.
With no Dwight Thomas of Jamaica, Ryan Brathwaite from the Bahamas could pose the biggest threat after registering 13.34 in Rome back in June but the 22-year-old could well be eclipsed by an inspired Will Sharman.
The 26-year-old Belgrave Harrier will be looking to make amends for his disqualification in the Barcelona semi-final and after pipping Turner to the UK title in June and clocking 13.39 in London last month, the 2009 World fourth-placer could well be in for a medal shot.
The third Englishman tacking the short-sprint barriers will be 20-year-old Lawrence Clarke. The2009 European junior champion recorded a big lifetime best of 13.69 in France last June and claimed the English title after finishing third in the UK champs behind the two aforementioned Brits. Clarke would do well to make the final.
n Predictions: 1 Turner, 2 Sharman, 3 Braithwaite
n Reigning champion: Maurice Wignall (JAM) 13.26
n Commonwealth record-holder: Colin Jackson (WAL) 12.91
n Games record-holder: Jackson 13.08
n Home Countries: England – Lawrence Clarke, William Sharman, Andy Turner. Scotland – Chris Baillie.
n Did you know? England’s Turner and Sharman are originally from close areas of Nottinghamshire but didn’t find out until a fortnight ago
Brit Verses Former Brit
England’s Phillips Idowu will be attempting to retain his Commonwealth crown but in the event of end-of-season fatigue setting in, a former British rival will be ready to upstage him.
The World and European champion is known for his ability to peak at major championships, having registered lifetime bests at the past three but after taking continental gold in July, the 30-year-old Belgrave Harrier has been well short of his 17.81m best.
Second on the World rankings and the runner-up in the 2006 Games, Idowu leapt only 16.54 in the Crystal Palace Diamond League last month but improved to 17.24m for third place for Team Europe in Split.
Ready to pounce on the Olympic silver-medallist will be Nigeria’s Tosin Oke. A dual citizen with Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the 30-year-old is a new athlete of late, jumping over 17m for the first time in his eleven-year career with a best of 17.22m when taking the African title in July.
Competing in Britain earlier this summer, Oke leapt 17.05 in June and went onto finish sixth in Split for Team Africa. Tenth in the global lists, he will surely be ready to better his Commonwealth best-placing of fifth from 2002.
Others who will be hoping to rock the boat include Grenada’s 31-year-old Randy Lewis, who has jumped 17.29 this summer but has not made a championship final since the 2006 Games, where he placed sixth and Leevan Sands from the Bahamas.
Sands, 29, has a 2010 best of 17.21m and England’s Nathan Douglas will have him in his sights. The 27-year-old from Oxford disappointed in tenth in Barcelona but his 17.03 from the UK championships could make his Commonwealth debut an interesting one.
England’s third entrant, Larry Achike, has fond memories of this championship after tasting glory in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur edition but the former Zambian only has a season’s best of 16.67m from May and the 30-year-old has only jumped in two competitions all year.
n Predictions: 1 Idowu, 2 Oke, 3 Sands
n Reigning champion: Idowu (ENG) 17.45m
n Commonwealth record-holder: Jonathan Edwards (ENG) 18.29m
n Games record-holder: Edwards 17.86m
n Home Countries: England – Larry Achike, Nathan Douglas, Phillips Idowu
n Did you know? Oke used to compete internationally for Britain and has been a member of Woodford Green with Essex Ladies for the past ten years
Clash of the Caribbean’s
With the dominant American and Russian teams absent, both Jamaica and the Bahamas will start as the top contenders for glory in the long relay.
The Jamaican squad clocked 3:01.68 in July to go ninth on the World lists but are fielding a young team, whilst the Bahamians have a season’s best of 3:01.82, potentially making the final – if both teams get there in one piece – a very close one to call.
If the outfits were to be compared on championship history, however, then the Bahamas would win hands down. Highlighting their athletic CV are 2008 Olympic silver, 2006 Commonwealth gold and also they were also the victors in the 2002 Manchester Games.
Jamaica meanwhile, failed to go beyond the heats of the World championships last year and were only eighth in the Beijing Olympics two years ago. They did, however, take the bronze in the last Commonwealth event.
Other squads expected to feature are Grenada and Australia, and although England have not fielded a team this summer, the Great Britain outfit featuring two of the sprinters here are ranked twelfth in the global lists.
Running in the individual 400m, Conrad Williams and Rob Tobin, the Englishmen will be hoping to improve on their fourth placed-position from 2006.
Woodford Green with Essex Ladies pair Graham Hedman and Nick Leavey will join the duo, as will 800m-specialist Darren St.Clair.
Hedman, 31, with his 46.17 from the UK championships where he finished sixth is the eldest of the group as Leavey and St.Clair, with 2010 bests of 46.46 and 46.64, respectively, are in their mid-twenties. The athletes additionally took the English 400m and 800m crowns this summer.
n Predictions: 1 BAH, 2 JAM, 3 ENG
n Reigning champions: AUS 3:00.93
n Commonwealth record-holders: JAM 2:56.75
n Games record-holders: JAM 2:59.03
n Home Countries: England – Graham Hedman, Nick Leavey, Darren St.Clair, Rob Tobin, Conrad Williams.
n Did you know? Three American college teams are in the World top-ten rankings.
First Title for Montsho?
Her name has come to the fore this season and for Amantell Montsho, 2010 is the year to steal her first piece of gold on the international stage.
Representing Botswana, the 26-year-old has a scintillating 49.89 to her name this year whilst taking a surprise victory in Split to go third on the World rankings.
Eighth in the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 World championships, and fourth in the World indoors back in March, Montsho appears poised to make the step up onto the medal rostrum and improve on her fifth place from the 2006 event.
Jamaica’s Sherika Williams and Novlene Williams-Mills are absent, leaving the event wide-open for the top English and Scottish sprinters to take advantage.
With reigning Olympic, World and Commonwealth champion Christine Ohuruogu conceding defeat after an injury-ravaged year, the Englishwomen will be lead by Victoria Barr.
The 28-year-old Rugby and Northampton runner was only fourth in the UK championships but turned her season around by clocking a 52.40 lifetime best in Switzerland in July. Part of the relay squad that was fourth in the 2009 World’s, Barr will be joined by a new name to the international scene.
Nadine Okyere from Birchfield has been a revelation this summer, after registering 52.99 in Belgium last month – a personal best by almost one second and a half. The 23-year-old was third in the UK championships and would do well to reach the final in her Commonwealth debut.
Scotland’s Lee McConnell lies tenth on the Commonwealth lists after a 51.55 season’s best when claiming the UK title back in June and could well be in contention for the silver. The 31-year-old Olympic semi-finalist recorded only 53.15 in her heat at the Europeans but could be set to replicate her 2002 position.
n Predictions: 1 Montsho, 2 McConnell, 3 Barr
n Reigning champion: Christine Ohuruogu (ENG) 50.28
n Commonwealth record-holder: Cathy Freeman (AUS) 48.68
n Games record-holder: Sandie Richards (JAM) 50.17
n Home Countries: England – Victoria Barr, Nadine Okyere. Scotland – Lee McConnell
n Did you know? McConnell took bronze in the 2006 Games over the 400m hurdles.
Pearson’s to Take
With world-leader Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, World indoor silver-medallist Perdita Felicien and World bronze medallist Delloreen Ennis-London not competing, the hot favourite for the gold will be Olympic silver-medallist Sally Pearson in one of the most eagerly-anticipated events of the Games.
Australian Pearson, with a 12.57 season’s best, was fifth in Berlin last summer and returned from injury to claim victory in Split recently. Barring disaster, the 24-year-old is certain to improve on her last Commonwealth appearance, where at aged 20, she failed to go beyond the heats in Melbourne.
Pearson’s mother is from Kent but unfortunately for the English, has insisted on keeping with her Australian roots.
Jamaica’s Vonette Dixon and Aleesha Barber from Trinidad and Tobago should feature in this strongly depleted field, following their 2010 bests of 12.75 and 12.85, respectively.
The sole English entrant is heptathlon-specialist Louise Hazel from Birchfield. The 24-year-old set a 13.32 personal best when taking the UK title last June after finishing fifth the year before and will be lucky to reach the final.
n Predictions: 1 Pearson, 2 Dixon 3 Barber
n Reigning champion: Brigitte Foster-Hylton (JAM) 12.76
n Commonwealth record-holder: Glory Alozie (NGR) 12.44
n Games record-holder: Gillian Russell (JAM) 12.70
n Home Countries: England – Louise Hazel
n Did you know? Britain’s World and European heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis, currently on an end-of-season break, is a nifty sprint hurdler lying seventh in the 2010 commonwealth rankings with her 12.85 clocking from New York last May
Smith to Retain Title?
Trecia Smith, the 2006 Commonwealth winner looks set to retain her title with ease after leaping 14.13m in London last month to threaten her younger rivals at aged-34.
The experienced Smith will be hard to beat following her fifth place in Berlin, eleventh place in the 2008 Olympics and bronze-medal from the 2002 Commonwealths.
Others set to compete include Trinidad and Tobago’s Ayanna Alexander, who set a 13.99 personal best indoors in America in February and Canada’s Tabia Charles, who registered the same distance in the US back in July, following her tenth place in Beijing.
Leading the English trio will be 19-year-old World junior runner-up Laura Samuel. Ranked sixth in the Commonwealth courtesy of her superb 13.75m when collecting global silver in Canada last July, Samuel’s mark was a lifetime best by 77cm, emphasising how the Leicester athlete is ready to step up into the senior ranks.
For Samuel, the UK senior and English under20 champion, Delhi will mark her senior international championship debut at the end of a sensational breakthrough season, where she could cause the shock of the English team by claiming the bronze.
Nadia Williams and Yasmine Regis complete the squad, following 2010 best’s 13.68 (a personal best for Williams) and 13.32, respectively.
Williams, the 28-year-old from Shaftesbury Barnett, was third in the 2006 Games and after claiming UK silver and English gold this summer, will be aiming to feature in the final. Regis meanwhile, was ninth four years ago and the 23-year-old has had a disappointing season by her standards, placing tenth in the UK and fourth in the English champs, respectively.
n Predictions: 1 Smith, 2 Charles, 3 Samuel
n Reigning champion: Trecia Smith (JAM) 14.39m
n Commonwealth record-holder: Francoise Mbango-Etone (CAM) 15.39m
n Games record-holder: Ashia Hansen (ENG) 14.86m
n Home Countries: England – Laura Samuel, Yasmine Regis, Nadia Williams
n Did you know? Hansen, the 1999 and 2003 World indoor champion, set the Games record in Manchester 2002 - a month after claiming the European title and four years after claiming her first Commonwealth crown.
Young Lions Hope to Roar
With Jamaica the clear favourites and the Nigerians close behind, the destination of the bronze medals appear not as clear-cut a result to decide.
As the Bahamians have failed to show their relay form this summer and the Indians appear at a similar level to the Brits, the English girls could very well be within a shot at a minor medal.
The English women clocked an average 3:36.64 in May but a youthful and energetic squad – even minus Olympic, World and reigning Commonwealth champion Christine Ohuruogu – could still upstage their more illustrious counterparts.
Barr, with her recent 52.40 personal best, leads the team which will also include Okyere and her breakthrough 52.99 this season.
Also in the 400m hurdles, Meghan Beesley will add her useful 52.91 form to the squad as will Kelly Massey and her 53.11 lifetime best set in Belgium last month after taking the English crown. Completing the outfit is 2007 European junior champion Hayley Jones, who has a best of 53.23.
At the sharp end of the race, Jamaica are expected to dominate, following their 3:27.72 from April which puts them in seventh in the World rankings. Although with a younger, slower team, the Caribbean squad look set to add to their World indoor and outdoor silver and Olympic bronze, despite finishing fourth in 2006.
Unless the Bahamas field a strong team, Nigeria appear the closest challengers after their 3:29.26 clocking last month. Sixth in Berlin and seventh in Beijing, the Africans have taken the bronze in the past two Commonwealth events.
n Predictions: 1 JAM, 2 NGR, 3 ENG
n Reigning champions: AUS 3:28.66
n Commonwealth record-holders: JAM 3:19.73
n Games record-holders: AUS 3:25.63
n Home Countries: England – Victoria Barr, Meghan Beesley, Hayley Jones, Kelly Massey, Nadine Okyere. Scotland – Eilidh Child, Kathryn Evans, Claire Gibson, Lee McConnell, Gemma Nicol. Northern Ireland – Amy Foster, Katie Kirk, Ciara Mageean, Joanna Mills, Christine McMahon, Kelly McNeice, Joanna Patterson
n Did you know? Despite being an island known for its sprinting pedigree, their appearance in New Delhi will only be the Jamaican teams’ second outing in the women’s 4x400m relay.