Sunday, 09 August 2009

Men's 200m - PREVIEW

Usain Bolt stretches away from the rest of the field to win the Olympic 200m title in 19.30  (Getty Images)

Usain Bolt stretches away from the rest of the field to win the Olympic 200m title in 19.30 (Getty Images)

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    • Tyson Gay powers back with a 19.58 victory in New York
    • Usain Bolt with his world record figures
    As crazy as it may sound, the defending World champion and 19.58 man Tyson Gay will be entering the 200m in Berlin as the ‘underdog’. The reason being, of course, that Olympic champion and World record-holder Usain Bolt has the better credentials.

    Having set the current World record of 19.30 in Beijing last year, Bolt has insisted that he might not be in as good form this year, but his 19.59 run in atrocious wet conditions in Lausanne – along with all of his 100m victories on the circuit – suggests that he is ready to win his first senior World title.

    Gay was absent from the 200m at last year’s Olympics, having been hampered by an injury. But he has bounced back to his best this year and clocked a life time best of 19.58 to let Bolt know that the Jamaican will have to go all-out if he wants to win. There were some whispers of Gay picking up a mid-season groin injury, but a concinving 20.00 victory at Crystal Palace last month showed that it is not a significant hindrance.

    The last time Gay and Bolt went head-to-head over 200m was at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, where Gay won in 19.76, 0.15 ahead of Bolt. It was the sixth time Gay had beaten Bolt in their eight meetings over 200m, and although both have improved in the past two years, Bolt is now the fastest man of all time and, barring disaster, is the favourite to win in Berlin.

    Aside from Gay and Bolt, the only other athlete to have dipped under 20 seconds this year is Wallace Spearmon. The defending bronze medallist is a proven championship performer, but could finish only third at this year’s US Trials. The winner on that occasion was former Olympic champion Shawn Crawford, who clocked a wind-assisted 19.73, and should be in the mix again come Berlin. Rounding out the US team is youngster Charles Clark, who will be competing in his first major international championship.

    Joining Bolt on the Jamaican team will be 20.01 man Steve Mullings and former World youth champion Ramone McKenzie. Mullings has come close to breaking both the 10 and 20 second-barriers this year, and that kind of form should see him challenge for a top-three finish in Berlin.

    There are, however, a few athletes who could stand in the way of this event becoming an all-USA-vs-Jamaica affair, with perhaps the leading and most intriguing contender being Ramil Guliyev of Azerbaijan. The 19-year-old won World youth silver two years ago, but improved massively this year to record a PB of 20.04 – a time that puts him second on the World junior all-time list, behind Bolt.

    Another athlete who could spring a surprise is 19-year-old Alonso Edward, who has reduced the Panamanian record from 20.40 to 20.00. It makes him the fourth-fastest man in the world this year, and he goes into Berlin with a string of 11 victories under his belt this year.

    Other athletes in with a chance include Shinji Takahira of Japan (20.22), Brendan Christian of Antigua & Barbuda (20.26) and Churandy Martina of Netherlands Antilles, who will be looking to make amends after his disqualification from the Olympic final last year.

    Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF