2017 Worlds: What To Watch For Day Two

2017 IAAF World Championships – Day Two (NBC Sports Network, NBC, NBC Gold)

Men’s Shot Put Qualification: PA Represent!
Not only does the United States have 4 representatives in the Shot Put qualifying, but 3 of them hail from our home state of Pennsylvania. Darrell Hill (Penn Wood) and Ryan Whiting (Central Dauphin) are not locks for the final, but certainly have the potential to throw well beyond the 20.75 meter automatic qualifying mark (season bests are 21.91 and 21.65 respectively). If either of them can pop off a performance near or above their PRs, they will be in the medal hunt. Then, there’s Joe Kovacs (Bethlehem Catholic) who is the defending world champion and has heaved a PR of 22.57 meters this year. That puts him in truly elite company (9th all time).

Of course, even Kovacs is chasing the Olympic Champion Ryan Crouser who has heaved 22.65 meters this year. If Crouser looks in form through qualifying, the world record of 23.12 meters is in play.

Women’s Hammer Throw Qualification: A Medal Opportunity for USA
Gwen Berry of the USA enters this event as one of the top seeds and could potentially bring home a medal for the USA in the hammer. She moved to #11 all-time in this event in May when she tossed a 76.77 meter effort. However, the American Record Holder didn’t even make the final in Rio last year so she has something to prove. The USA’s DeAnna Price did make last year’s final and placed 8th in the Olympics. She’s looking to make it two in a row in London.

If you want to see the most dominant performer in the history of the event, look no further than Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland. She’s got the 13 best Hammer Throw performances of all time including an 82.98 world record last year. The next closest personal best is 77.33 while the next closest season best is Berry’s 76.77.

Men’s 400m Heats: Watch a World Record Holder and 4 Americans
There shouldn’t be much drama in the heats of the 400 as the big names usually advance with relative ease. However, the times in Beijing a few years back were electric in the 400 rounds so you may see one or two runners pop off a fast time. Plus, if you tune in for Heat #2 you get to see the world record holder Wayde Van Niekerk take to the track. Americans will be Heat 1 (Kerley), 4 (London), 5 (Merritt) and 6 (Roberts). Top 3 in each heat go through automatically with the next six fastest advancing on time.

Women’s Triple Jump Qualification: USA’s Long Shot Looking for Long Jump
The final in this event is sure to be fantastic as Caterine Ibarguen battles with fellow 15 meter jumpers Yulimar Rojas and Olga Rypakova (assuming all athletes advance), but for American fans the real drama will be in the qualifying round. Tori Franklin is the USA’s only competitor in this event and she enters with a PB of 13.86, the shortest of the field, from this past indoor season. Franklin is the ultimate long shot for the finals, but she will be on the track with a chance to surprise on Saturday morning.

Women’s 100m Heats: Tori Bowie and the Ducks
We haven’t seen much from our US contingent in the 100 meters since the US championships. Tori Bowie is a world class talent in this event and the 200, but we haven’t seen her race since the championships. It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of form she is in. Meanwhile Oregon’s Deajah Stevens and Ariana Washington are coming off long collegiate seasons. Will they have enough left for the rounds in London? It would be stunning if the US didn’t have at least one woman in the final competing for a medal given their history success in this event, but there are a good amount of question marks surrounding this group. They should have no problem with the prelims, but their form in this first race should provide an indication of how they will handle the later, tougher rounds.

Men’s 800m Heats: Another Year, Another New US Team
In 2015, the top 3 at USAs were Nick Symmonds, Erik Sowinski and Cas Loxsom. A year later, the Olympic team was Clayton Murphy, Boris Berian and Charles Jock. Now, we have Donovan Brazier, Isaiah Harris and Drew Windle toeing the line in the 800. That means three rookies will competing in one of the most grueling events in the championships, a three round, cut throat ordeal.

I’m nervous for our guys in the early rounds. Brazier is a huge talent, but he’s struggled with tactics in slower paced races. He almost missed the finals at USAs and this will surely be a deeper group. Meanwhile, Harris is relatively inexperienced on this stage, despite great form at our national championships the past two seasons. He was excellent during the collegiate season, but that was a long time ago now. Windle has perhaps been our most consistent performer, but he can’t afford to spot this field a big gap and expect to kick down world class athletes each round.

The top 3 in each heat will advance to the finals along with the next 6 fastest times. Windle runs in Heat 1 of 6. He draws Kipyegon Bett and Andres Arroyo among others. By personal best, Windle is the #2 seed in his heat with a good chance to advance, but the 5 guys right behind him are capable of 1:45 or faster.

Harris is in Heat 3 and draws Ferguson Rotich of Kenya as well as home town stand out Elliot Giles of Great Britian. Like Windle, Harris has the #2 PB in this group, but a lot of 1:45 guys will be in the mix. I think I am most nervous for Harris out of all of the USA guys, but I think he got a decent draw. He will definitely have a chance to advance.

Lastly, Brazier goes in the final heat of the day. That should give him a chance to make things fast if necessary. That’s the good news. The bad news is his heat will be loaded. While Brazier has the fastest 2017 best of the bunch, he draws 2013 World Champ Mo Aman, 2015 Bronze Medalist Amel Tuka, consistent global finalist Marcin Lewandowski and Kenya/UTEP’s Michael Saruni. Throw in a Brit with homefield advantage (Guy Learmonth) and you have an extremely capable field, including some very savvy veterans. Aman and Tuka have not been in top form thus far this season, particularly Aman, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be dangerous. Brazier has to go into this race very focused if he wants to come out the other side.

Women’s Heptathlon Day One: The New Multi Star
With Ashton Eaton retiring this year, the Multis need a new face. Introducing Belgian Nafissatou Thiam. After winning the Olympics over an all time great in Jessica Ennis-Hill, Thiam asserted herself as a world class athlete. But the 22 year old, in turns out, was only just getting started. Thiam produced a new PR of 7013 points this year, moving her to #3 all time in the event. She’s only a few points back of #2 and she’s still improving.

On Day 1, the Heptathlon competitors will take on the 100 meter hurdles, the High Jump, the Shot Put and the 200 meters. Thiam is a world class High Jumper (she jumped 1.98 in the Olympics, a mark that would have put in her contention for gold in the open event) so that will be her big point scoring opportunity on Day 1. Her PRs in each of the events she will be contesting on Day 1 are as follows: 13.34s, 1.98m, 15.24m and 24.40s.

Erica Bougard and Kendell Williams of the USA have a good chance to be competitive on the first day of competition. While neither are great shot putters, their personal bests are very competitive in the 110 hurdles, high jump and 200. Also expected to excel on day one is Germany’s Carolin Schafer. She’s #2 in the world this year behind Thiam.

Women’s 1500m Semi-Final: Who Will Survive To The Final?
The prelims today were fast! It started with Jessica Judd pushing the pace and being rewarded with a 4:03 PR and an auto Q. And it ended with Sara Vaughn of the USA and Sarah McDonald of Great Britain running PRs to get themselves into the next round as time qualifiers. In total, it took 4:05 to get you into the final, which is worth roughly 4:25 for the mile. That’s moving for a preliminary round where they were only beginning to weed out the talent.

Now we head to the semi finals with just 12 spots up for grabs. The two heats will each get 5 automatic qualifiers and then the last 2 spots will be determined by time. As expected, the heats are absolutely loaded. Right off the bat, we will have world record holder Genzebe Dibaba, Diamond League champ Laura Muir, Olympic 800m champ Caster Semenya and Olympic 1500m champ Faith Kipyegon. In case you were wondering, that’s four spots that could be taken up by truly elite talent. It’s not even accounting for someone having a step up day. Assuming those 4 are the ones who advance, that leaves just one more spot for women like Angelika Chichocka of Poland, and sub 4 performer Gudaf Tsegay. Not to mention the USA’s own Kate Grace. This could be bad news for Kate who only just skated by to make into this semi final on time.

Heat 2 should be a bit more manageable although it’s still no cakewalk. Sifan Hassan and Jenny Simpson of the USA will headline this heat, but the race also includes 3 other women with sub 4 minute 1500 PRs. Also sure to factor in is Laura Weightman of GBR. She’s run 4:01 this season and should get a nice boost from the hometown crowd. The London faithful should be a real x-factor as, on Day One, they willed all four British athletes through to the semi-final including two PR performances. The USA’s Sara Vaughn will be looking to continue her truly magical season by making the final from this heat. She will need something truly heroic if she is going to make it out of this loaded group, but Sara is clearly not someone who goes quietly. After her PR in round one, she will be hungry for more.

**Men’s Discus Final: Stahl is the favorite, but the gap is closing**
Dan Stahl of Sweden advanced through automatically on his second throw of the preliminary round. The only man over 70 meters this year had the best throw of the qualifiers, however Robert Harting and Piotr Malachowski had an easier time, qualifying on their first throw. Andrius Gudzius of Lithuiana emerged as a podium threat as the only auto qualifier from Group 2. If I had to guess I’d say the three medals come from those four throwers.

USA’s Mason Finley qualified for another global final in the Discus. He went past the auto Q mark which was pretty impressive. He was definitely in good form during qualifying and, if he holds it through to the finals, he could surprise and slip into the top 5.

**Men’s Long Jump Final: A New Champ Will Be Crowned**
Defending Olympic Champion Jeff Henderson and defending indoor world champ Marquis Dendy both missed out on qualifying for finals in the long jump. That opens the door for a newcomer to emerge atop the podium. The front-runner is likely Luvo Manyonga who looked plenty healthy eclipsing the auto qualifying mark on his first jump. The South African was the silver medalist in the Rio Olympics and, with Henderson out, can smell the gold.

Jarrion Lawson is the only remaining US jumper and, although he didn’t wow with his series, he advanced to the finals with an 8.05 meter jump. Lawson had an awesome second jump where he was incredibly close to the board that was called a foul. If it had been legal, he would have been one of the top jumpers of the day without a doubt. Lawson has been playing the game inches for years as he memorably missed out on an Olympic medal last year when his hand brushed the sand.

Also in medal contention will be Ruswahl Samaai of South Africa, Aleksandr Menkov of Russia and Radek Juska of the Czech Republic. Juska had two very strong jumps in qualifying and, although his PB is one of the lowest of all finalists, he seems like a breakout candidate in Saturday’s night final.

**Men’s 100m Semi-Finals & Final: Bolt’s Last Race**
The Semis and Finals are both held tomorrow in the 100 meters meaning we won’t have a complete picture of how things look until the afternoon. That being said, the stage certainly looks set for Bolt to win yet another gold. Nobody looked particularly impressive in the heats as Coleman was arguably the best from Heat One. I that he would be done after a long collegiate season, but he seems to be holding form well enough to be a factor.

Bolt didn’t look phenomenal in the prelims, but he clearly had plenty of gears to use as he made up ground in a hurry on his competitors. I don’t feel like he’s a lock, but after watching Farah pull out some magic in the 10k, there’s no way I’m betting against Bolt.

The remaining medal spots seem pretty open to me. Blake looked rough, Simbine didn’t even get an auto Q and Ujah didn’t blow me away like I was thinking he might. The name that jumps out from the first round was Jamaica’s Julian Forte who will be dangerous after a 9.99 win in his heat.

Update: Gatlin draws a tricky 100 meter Semi as he will go up against Simbine, Meite and Forte who are all sub 10 guys this year. Only the top 2 are guaranteed a spot in the final. Bolt and Coleman will get a good luck at one another in the semis as they are both in Heat 3 with Ujah and Vicaut. I think Belcher got a nice draw in Heat 2 as he obviously didn't get any of the names I mentioned. His primary competition will be Blake and Bingtian Su of China, the latter of which has looked very strong thus far.

**Women’s 10,000m Final: How Healthy Is Almaz?**
A year ago in Rio Almaz Ayana demolished one of the most impressive world records on the books when she clocked a 29:17 in the 10,000 meters for Olympic Gold. That mark alone makes her an overwhelming favorite in this event, but it helps that her main rival, 2015 world champ Vivian Cheruiyot is not competing these year due to pregnancy. However, Ayana has given us no performances with which we can judge her fitness. So do we trust that the world record holder will have enough talent to defeat any field?

Similarly, Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia, the Olympic bronze medalist in Rio, has given us little results to discuss. She excelled in her appearance in the London Marathon, running 2:17 to move to #3 all-time. However, she hasn’t been hitting the track circuit so far this summer either. So although she is a prolific talent with a long list of global medals, Tirunesh is a question mark as well.

The USA’s Molly Huddle should be a name to watch in a potentially wide open race for the medal stand. Huddle was just 6th in Rio, but she clocked a time of 30:13 in the process. That was not only a new American Record but the 16th fastest performance in history. She memorably lost out on the 2015 Bronze medal to a hard charging Emily Infeld and who probably like a shot at redemption before she moves full time to the roads.

The aforementioned Infeld along with Providence grad Emily Sisson round out the USA contingent. If the pace is honest (and Alice Aprot of Kenya is expected to make it honest), it’s going to be tough for these ladies to hang on and compete for medals as their PRs are over two minutes slower than Ayana’s world record. But these two are in great form. Infeld just ran a great 10k PR in hot conditions at USAs and then broke 15 minutes for 5k. Sisson is also excelling, having PRed in that same 10k race.

Ultimately, I have a lot of questions about this race which means I don’t have a lot of answers. All the more reason to tune in and find out how the race unfolds!

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