Sunday, 23 August 2009

Berlin 2009 - Expected highlights / DAILY PREVIEW - Day Nine, 23 Aug

Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia crosses the line to win his fourth successive world title in the men's 10,000m at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics  (Getty Images)

Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia crosses the line to win his fourth successive world title in the men's 10,000m at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics (Getty Images)

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    • Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia celebrates winning the gold medal in the men's 10,000m final for the fourth time with a Championship Record
    • Yusuf Saad Kamel of Bahrain celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 1500m final
    • Reigning World Champion Tero Pitkämäki of Finland competes in the men's Javelin Throw qualification at the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics
    • Maryam Yusuf Jamal clocks her second fastest ever time to win the 1500m
    Berlin, Germany - Following a week of world records in the Berlin Olympiastadion, there is an opportunity of another ‘first’ on the final Day Nine of the IAAF World Championships in Athletics.

    Despite the long distance domination over the last decade and a half of Ethiopians Haile Gebrselassie and his successor Kenenisa Bekele, neither has won the 5000/10,000m double at the World championships. Nor has anyone else from the earlier era. So Bekele has an outstanding opportunity to do something else (in addition to being a superb cross country champion) that Haile never did.

    It is hard to see anyone preventing Bekele adding the 5000m to last weekend’s 10,000m gold. To be sure, Eliud Kipchoge beat him (and Hicham El Guerrouj) to the world title in Paris 2003, but since then the Kenyan has played second fiddle. And although he has run a similar time to Bekele this year, ie just over 12:56, Kipchoge was well beaten in Hengelo by second Ethiopian Ali Abdosh, who can count himself fortunate to have been added to the final, after falling and failing to get back to the leading group. In the end, Bekele to win the first distance double.

    Women’s marathon – looking for Ndereba’s successor


    Earlier in the day, the women’s Marathon is run around the city streets, another ‘first’ in championships history. With the non-participation of twice winner Catherine Ndereba of Kenya, and the withdrawals of 2005 champion and World record holder Paula Radcliffe, and of local favourite Irina Mikitenko, Zhou Chunxiou of China, London winner 2007 and third in Beijing, is probably favourite.

    There is a host of potential medallists, including Zhou’s colleague Zhu Shaolin, a selection of Ethiopians, headed by Bezunesh Bekele, including Robe Guta and Dire Tune; the Japanese Yoshimi Ozaki and Yuri Kano, and the Romanian veterans Lidia Simon and Nuta Olaru. Sabrina Mockenhaupt has the best chance of featuring, among the German runners.

    Difficult defences on the line for Jamal and Yego

    The women’s 1500m looks to be a head-to-head, Maryam Jamal of Bahrain versus Gelete Burka of Ethiopia. They each have one win over the other this season, and both won their semi-finals easily. The US squad has done as well as in the men’s event, with all three women making the final, but they will have to beat Russian Natalya Ekdokimova and Natalia Rodriguez of Spain to be sure of a medal. In a slower race, the tactically sound Lisa Dobriskey of Britain cannot be discounted.

    After the carve up in the semi-finals, anything could happen in the men’s 800m final. The big names look suspect. Athens Olympic champ Yuri Borzakowski of Russia ran himself out just to qualify, while defending champ, Alfred Yego struggled to make fastest loser. Bram Som of the Netherlands and Marcel Lewandowski being added to the final, after their fall with Abubaker Kaki (who wasn’t added) might complicate things. But the men to watch are Amine Laalou of Morocco who qualified comfortably from both his races, and Yusuf Saad Kamel, who is full of confidence after his 1500m victory, and looking to put one over dad, Billy Konchellah, who won the 800m in both Rome (1987) and Tokyo (1991).

    Again, Thorkildsen vs. Pitkamaki in Javelin showdown

    Scandinavian rivals, twice Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway and defending champion Tero Pitkamaki will be hard to dislodge from the medal positions, but Athens Olympic silver medallist Vadims Vasilievskis from across the Baltic Sea in Latvia made light of the appalling weather conditions for his group on Friday night, to throw the leading qualifier of 86.69m.Yukifumi Murakami could be the first Japanese to threaten for a medal in the Javelin. But tradition is upheld with no fewer than four Finns in the final.

    The greatest combination jumper in history, Athens Olympic and defending champion Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia will again be to the fore in the Long Jump, alongside the woman who took her Olympic crown last year, Maurren Maggi of Brazil. Naide Gomes of Portugal looked good in qualifying, but the women who has looked most likely to snatch the title is Britney Reese of the USA, the only one over seven metres (7.06m) this season.

    The US squads in the 4x400m relays have an opportunity to make amends for the failure of their sprint relay colleagues to reach either final, albeit the women’s misfortune was down to Muna Lee’s injury on the second changeover. With LaShawn Merritt and Jeremy Wariner, gold and silver medallists from the individual race, the US men are virtually assured of the title. The US women have a much sterner test, against Russia and Jamaica, and may have to rely on their fourth ace, Sanya Richards, the individual champion, pulling it off on the final leg.

    Pat Butcher for the IAAF