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Trent's picks: sizing up the competition in the men's Olympic track and field competition at the 2012 London Games Trent Warren | Fri, Jul 27 2012 12:26 PM

 

For those who do not know me, my name is Trent Warren. I am a 2011 graduate of Eastlake High School and am now attending the University of Oregon.

I attended the recent U.S. Olympic Trials for track and field in Eugene (that's right, Track Town USA) and had opportunity the see first-hand America’s best athletes compete.

The Trials are always an exciting showcase to watch. All of America’s greatest athletes gathered in one spot, ready to perform at their best with hopes and aspirations of representing the United States at the 2012 London Games.

There are a lot of familiar faces and numerous of new faces on this year’s U.S. Olympic team. They will strive to continue America’s winning tradition, with the goal to win the most medals for their country.

The Olympic track competition is scheduled from Aug. 3 to Aug. 12. Here are my picks on how our men’s track and field team should perform:


SPRINTS
100-meter dash

It was a bit heartbreaking for track fans to see Walter Dix (a 2008 Beijing Games double bronze medalist) suffer a hamstring injury after the semifinal round at the Trials. His injury would ultimately take him out of competition. Fortunately, the 100 meters is one of America’s dominant events and the U.S. team will be anchored in London by Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and impressive newcomer Ryan Bailey. Gatlin has had a career year thus far, setting a personal best time of 9.80 at the Trials. He’s had a great year despite serving a four-year doping ban issued in 2007. With Gay now just getting back into prime shape after having two hip surgeries, the United States is going to need someone to step up and fend for a gold medal against Jamaicans Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt. Gatlin might be that someone since Bolt has had a “slower” year thus far. The men's 100-meter final is Aug. 5.

Prediction:
Yohan Blake (Jamaica) gold medal, Usain Bolt (Jamaica) silver medal, Justin Gatlin (United States) bronze medal



200-meter dash
Wallace Spearmon is America’s best athlete in this event. Spearmon is looking to redeem himself after disqualified in Beijing. He initially finished third but was later disqualified after stepping out of his lane. Known as a superb finisher, Spearmon will have his hands full with Jamaica’s Yohan Blake. Blake is the second-fastest man ever in the 200 meters and has been beating teammate Usain Bolt in races lately. Joining Wallace will be two-time NCAA 200 champ Maurice Mitchell and Ole Miss Rebel Isiah Young, which will make for a very young 200 U.S. Olympic squad. Both Gatlin and Gay scratched out to focus on the 100 meters.  The men's 200-meter final is Aug. 9.

Prediction: Yohan Blake (Jamaica) gold medal, Usain Bolt (Jamaica) silver medal, Wallace Spearmon (United States) bronze medal



400-meter dash
An event dominated by Americans, the 400 dash will not be such a walk in the park in these Olympics. Athens gold medalist Jeremy Wariner failed to qualify which leaves 2008 Beijing gold medalist LaShawn Merritt as the man in charge. Merritt has a world-leading time of 44.12 and will be looking to repeat as gold medalist. In his path are 18-year-old Dominican Luguelin Santos, who is the second-fastest man this year (44.45), and 2011 world championship gold medalist Grenadian Kirani James. Merritt will be alongside two NCAA athletes: Tony McQuay and Bryshon Nellum. It has been a dream come true for Nellum. Three years ago, Nellum was shot in leg by two gang members and was told by doctors he probably would never be an elite runner again. Since then, he has proved that wrong with perseverance. He is on the 2012 US Olympic team. The men's 400-meter final is Aug. 6.

Prediction: LaShawn Merritt (United States) gold medal, Tony McQuay (United States) silver medal, Kirani James (Grenada) bronze medal



HURDLES
110-meter hurdles

Aries Merritt has looked unstoppable this year. At the Trials, he set a world-leading mark of 12.93, besting China’s Xiang Liu. Joining Merritt will be 2011 world champion Jason Richardson and surprise Olympian qualifier Jeff Porter. However, no credit should be taken away from Porter; he edged out American record-holder David Oliver for the final spot. That is quite an accomplishment by itself. World record-holder Dayron Robles of Cuba has not seemed to bounce back from his disqualification at the 2011 world championships. For that reason, it is expected that a majority of Americans will be on the medal podium in London. The men's 110 hurdles final is Aug. 8.

Prediction: Aries Merritt (United States) gold medal, Xiang Liu (China) silver medal, Jason Richardson (United States) bronze medal



400-meter hurdles
The United States historically dominates this event. Although Bershawn Jackson did not qualify for the London Games, the team is still loaded with talent. Michael Tinsley, Angelo Taylor and Kerron Clement will be competing in London. For Taylor, this will be his third Olympics. He won gold at both the Sydney and Beijing Games. Clement will have high expectations as well and could find himself standing on the medal podium with Taylor. Tinsley had a breakout performance during the finals at the Trials. He shocked everyone when he won the race with a time of 48.33. However, Taylor and Clement’s experience will help guide them through the rounds at the Olympics. In addition, David Greene from Great Britain is having an impressive year and will join them on the medal stand. The men's 400 hurdles final is Aug. 6.

Prediction: Angelo Taylor (United States) gold medal, Kerron Clement (United States) silver medal, David Greene (Great Britain) bronze medal




MID-DISTANCES
800-meter run

American track sensation Nick Symmonds is the American to watch in the 800 meters. Symmonds is going into this Olympics with a new, focused demeanor. At the 2008 Beijing Games, he openly admitted that he did not set his final goal high enough: the 800 final. This time he will be looking to land himself on the podium. Even with his blazing 1:43.76 personal best time, he will need a new personal best at London to accomplish that. Symmonds will be up against world record-holder David Rudisha from Kenya. Duane Soloman and Khadevis Robinson will also be at the London Games wearing the USA jersey. All three of the American competitors are very experienced but it will be a stretch to see any of them medaling in such a deep international field. Other contenders to watch out for include Mohammed Aman from Ethiopia and Abubaker Kaki from the Sudan. The men's 800-meter final is Aug. Aug. 9.

Prediction: David Rudisha (Kenya) gold medal, Mohammed Aman (Ethiopia) silver medal, Abubaker Kaki (Sudan) bronze medal


1500-meter run
This is probably the best team the United States has had in this event in a while. In regards to talent and experience, Leo Manzano, Matthew Centrowitz and Andrew Wheating have a lot of it. All three will represent the Red, White and Blue with dignity, pride and honor. It has been a tough last couple of months for both Wheating and Centrowitz. Both have battled threatening injuries this year, but luckily pulled it together right before the Trials. Centrowitz, who is best known as a strategic runner, was the bronze medalist in the 2011 world championship. The question is if he will be able to repeat last year’s performance at the world championships at the 2012 Olympics. He’ll be neck in neck with Kenya’s Silas Kiplinger and Asbel Kiprop. The men's 1,.500-meter final is Aug. 7.

Prediction: Asbel Kiprop (Kenya) gold medal, Silas Kiplagat (Kenya) silver medal, Matthew Centrowitz (United States) bronze medal



3000-meter steeplechase
Quite frankly, the longer the distance, the harder it is for American athletes to medal. However, Evan Jager has made great strides to change that. On July 20 in an international meet in Monaco, he set the new American steeplechase record at 8:06.81. His performance was impressive, especially for a guy who just recently took up the event. The other Americans who will join him include Donn Cabral and Kyle Alcorn. The three will be competing against Kenya’s Ezekiel Kemboi and Brimin Kipruto — both sub-8 minute steeplechasers. If for whatever reason the steeple final is a fast pace, do not be surprised to see Jager join the sub 8-minute club. The men's steeplechase final is Aug. 5.

Prediction:
Ezekiel Kemboi (Kenya) gold medal, Brimin Kipruto (Kenya) silver medal, Evan Jager (United States) bronze medal


DISTANCES
5,000-meter run

Americans Bernard Lagat, Lopez Lomong and Galen Rupp are all long shots to win this year’s Olympic title. Lomong, who was one of the lost boys of the Sudan, is fairly new to the event after mainly running 800- and 1,500-meter races. Lagat, the American record-holder, is toward the end of his career at 37 and will give one final surge to win his first Olympic gold. As expected, the Kenyans and Ethiopians are the favorites year-in and year-out. At a recent meet in Paris Saint-Denis, 11 runners from both countries went under the sub 13-minute mark. Among those 11 runners were Ethiopians Dejen Gebremeskel, Hagos Gebhiwet and Yenew Alamirew and Kenyans Isiah Koech, Edwin Soi and Thomas Longosiwa. They all qualified for this year’s 5,000 meters in London. Mohamed Farah of Great Britain is another runner to watch. The 5,000 medal distribution looks to be a toss up; anyone can win in a highly tactical Olympic final. The men's 5,000-meter final is Aug. 11.

Prediction: Dejen Gebremeskel (Ethiopia) gold medal, Hagos Gebrhiwet (Ethiopa) silver medal, Bernard Lagat (United States) bronze medal



10,000-meter run
Galen Rupp, Matthew Tegenkamp and Dathan Ritzenhein will represent the U.S. in the 10,000 meters. Rupp is the most impressive of the trio. He has the 16th best mark of all-time in the world and is expected to perform better at this distance than at 5,000 meters.  Despite Rupp’s impressive personal best time of 26:48, he will have to face Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia — the world record-holder at 10,000 meters (26:17.53). Bekele is just getting back into his prime shape after suffering multiple injury setbacks. Others to watch include Wilson Kiprop and Moses Masai, both from Kenya. The United States has won only two total medals in this event and has not medaled in the Olympics since 1964. Rupp has the most legitimate chance at changing that. The men's 10K final is Aug. 4.

Prediction: Moses Masai (Kenya) gold medal, Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia) silver medal, Wilson Kiprop (Kenya) bronze medal



Marathon
Predicting the marathon is such a crapshoot. Runners typically only run three marathons a year, which makes it is hard to predict who will finish among the leaders in the Olympics. Besides, the course, route and weather make all the difference when comparing one marathoner’s time to another. While the U.S women are ranked higher in the world than the American men, looking past this year’s U.S. men team could be a mistake. Athens’ silver medalist Mebrahtom Keflezighi, who is better known simply as Meb, is America’s best chance of getting a medal. At 37 years old, Meb won the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials en route to setting a personal best of 2 hours, 9 minutes, and 8 seconds. Joining Keflezighi will be Ryan Hall and Abdihakem Abdirahman with personal bests of 2:06:17 and 2:08:56, respectively. However, Ethiopians Ayele Abshero, Dino Sefir, Getu Feleke and Kenyan Wilson Kiprotich have the best marks in 2012. Abshero has the world-leading time of 2:04:23. The men's marathon final is Aug. 12.

Prediction: Ayele Abshero (Ethiopia) gold medal, Wilson Kiprotich (Kenya) silver medal, Getu Feleke (Ethiopia) bronze medal

 

RELAYS
4x100

Jamaica is once again the favorite to win here. They are led by this year’s gold and silver Olympic medalists in the 100 meters: Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake, respectively. On top of that, the Jamaican team always has clean hand-offs. This is unlike the United States relay team, which failed to do so in 2008 in Beijing. The United States has the fastest time in the world this year but do not be surprised if the Jamaicans break their Olympic record set back in Beijing. The Jamaican relay team may not include former world record holder Asafa Powell, who suffered an injury in this year’s 100-meter final. Despite Powell’s injury, the Jamaicans will still be the heavy favorites followed by the U.S. given that the Americans safely pass around the baton.  The men’s 4x100 relay final is Aug. 11.

Prediction:
Jamaica (gold medal), United States (silver medal), Trinidad and Tobago (bronze medal)

4x400

It was such a disappointing result for the Americans competing in the 400 meters at this year’s London Olympics. Not a single American qualified for the final. The 400 meters has historically been dominated by the United States — 16 of the 21 medals in the event have been won by the U.S. since 1984. But concern started when Athens gold medalist Jeremy Wariner did not qualify for Olympics. He was instead brought to London to be on the relay team. More concern rose when LaShawn Merritt injured himself racing two weeks before the Olympics. Merritt was obviously not healthy going into the Olympics after he pulled up with a hamstring injury in the opening round. Bryshon Nellum and Tony McQuay also did not live up to expectations by not making the 400m final. In hindsight, the once favored American 4x400 team will not be the favorites this year. Belgium has the Borlee twins and the Bahamas are lead by Demetrius Pinder and Chris Brown. I liked to keep my hopes up for the United States relay team but at this point, they are just looking to medal. The men’s 4x400 relay final is Aug. 10.

Prediction: The Bahamas (gold medal), Belgium (silver medal), The United States (bronze medal)

 

Decathlon
What a remarkable performance Ashton Eaton displayed at this year’s U.S. Olympic Trials. Eaton broke the world record in the decathlon in impressive fashion. He had magnificent marks in the 100-meter dash, long jump and 400-meter sprint — all in which he performed in terrible weather conditions. My bold prediction is for him to improve his personal best despite London being known for bad weather as well. Trey Hardee will join Eaton in the decathlon and the two of them will be looking to help the United States add more medals to its collection. Any off performance in any of the 10 events, however, can destroy one’s chances at medaling. With that said, Eaton and Hardee will be looking to dedicate their performance to their decathlon teammate (and Beijing gold medalist) Bryan Clay, who failed to qualify for London. The men's decathlon final is Aug. 8-9.

Prediction: Ashton Eaton (United States) gold medal, Pascal Behrenbruch (Germany) silver medal, Hans van Alphen (Belgium) bronze medal


JUMPS
Long Jump

Someone will need to step up for the U.S. in this event after 2004 Athens gold medalist Dwight Phillips suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. Texas Longhorn football star Marquise Goodwin might be that guy. He won the U.S. Olympic Trials with a 27 foot, 4.25 inch jump — just a little less than a half an inch off the world- leading mark. Chula Vista OTC athlete Will Claye is another jumper to watch. At just 21, he already has a bronze medal in the triple jump after competing at last year’s world championships. The question will be if he can apply his triple-jumping ability to the long jump. American George Kitchens claimed the third and final spot on the team at the Trials. All three will have to face Great Britain star Greg Rutherford, who has the world-leading mark of 27 feet, 4.74 inches. The men's long jump final is Aug. 4.

Prediction: Marquise Goodwin (United States) gold medal, Greg Rutherford (Great Britain) silver medal, Will Claye (United States) bronze medal



Triple jump
 Will Claye and Christian Taylor of the U.S. both have high expectations in the triple jump. Both are first and second, respectively, on the world leader boards and are reigning medalists from the 2011 world championships. Taylor leads the world with the best mark at 57 feet, 10.1 inches. The two of them will continue the American winning tradition in the jumps at London. Phillips Idowu of Great Britain and Italian Fabrizio Donato are others of note. The men's triple jump final is Aug. 9.

Prediction: Christian Taylor (United States) gold medal, Will Claye (United States) silver medal, Fabrizio Donato (Italy) bronze medal



High jump
This is bound to be a battle between Russia and Jesse Williams of the United States. The Russian team includes Ivan Ukhov, Andrey Silnov and Aleksandr Shustov — all of whom have cleared 7 feet, 8.52 inches. Williams knows he will need a faster start than his performance at the U.S. Olympic Trials where he barely qualified. His 7-foot, 8.91-inch jump matches well against the Russians, who have always had a history of excellence in the high jump. Therefore, it will be a Russian majority on the medal stand. Jamie Nieto and Erik Kynard are the other Americans competing in the event. The men's high jump final is Aug. 7.

Prediction:
Ivan Ukhov (Russia) gold medal, Jesse Williams (United States) silver medal, Andrey Silnov (Russia) bronze medal



Pole vault
Brad Walker is America’s best chance at reaching the medal podium in London. He is looking to redeem himself after failing to clear opening height in Beijing in 2008. He owns the American record at 19 feet, 9.75 inches and will need to jump something close to that in order for him to grab the gold medal. Walker will be up against world-leading vaulters Renaud Lavillenie of France and Bjorn Otto of Germany. The Europeans usually dominate this event but Walker should elbow his way in for a medal. Other Americans to watch are Derek Miles and Jeremy Scott. The men's pole vault final is Aug. 10.

Prediction: Renaud Lavillenie (France) gold medal, Bjorn Otto (Germany) silver medal, Brad Walker (United States) bronze medal

 

THROWS
Shot put

Historically, this is the United States’ best event in field competition. Christian Cantwell, Reese Hoffa and Ryan Whiting will attempt to “throw” the U.S. to victory. All three rank near the top of the international leader board; Cantwell has the top mark of 73 feet, 2.3 inches. Cantwell (2008 Beijing gold medalist) and Hoffa (2007 world champion) both have a multitude of experience at big stage meets. They will need to help guide Whiting (2012 world indoor champion), who is competing at his first Olympics, into the medal rounds. Polish competitor Tomasz Majewski is the biggest threat to an American medal sweep in the put. The men's shot put final is Aug. 3.

Prediction
Reese Hoffa (United States) gold medal, Christian Cantwell (United States) silver medal, Ryan Whiting (United States) bronze medal


Discus throw
Not much is expected from American discus throwers at these Olympics. The discus throw is an event that is dominated by the Eastern Europeans. With that being said, U.S. throwers Lance Brooks, Jarred Rome and Jason Young will have their hands full. However, if Young and Rome can throw close to their personal bests, they might be medal contenders. Unfortunately, it has been a lackluster year for the both of them. The Olympic favorites will be Robert Harting (Germany), Virgilijus Alekna (Lithuania) and Piotr Malachowski (Poland). Bad weather plagued the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, making it difficult to throw well in the ring. We will have to wait and see if London’s weather is any better. The men's discus throw final is Aug. 7.

Prediction
Robert Harting (Germany) gold medal, Virgilijus Alekna (Lithuania) silver medal, Piotr Malachowski (Poland) bronze medal



Hammer throw
It is going to take quite a performance by both Americans A.G. Kruger and Kibwe Johnson to medal in London. Kruger is having a more impressive year than his teammate and is currently ranked 13th in the world with a throw of 259 feet, 10 inches. Johnson, on the other hand, has a better personal best (266-9), which he set last year (which would rank him sixth in this year’s world rankings). Kruger and Johnson are going to be up against the three Eastern European favorites: Ivan Tsikhan (Belarus), Krisztian Pars (Hungary) and Pawel Fajdek (Poland). Tsikhan’s personal best throw (284-6/86.72m) is only one centimeter off from the world record. But that is the reason why athletes compete: no one is guaranteed anything. The men's hammer throw final is Aug. 5.

Prediction
Ivan Tsikhan (Belarus) gold medal, Krisztian Pars (Hungary) and Pawel Faidek (Poland) bronze medal



Javelin throw

If there is a throwing event that the U.S. is weakest at it is the javelin throw. The Nordic countries and Eastern European nations are predicted to dominate. However, Americans Sean Furey, Craig Kinsley and Cyrus Hostetler will be out to score an upset. Furey is America’s best thrower (271 feet, 5 inches) and is currently ranked 26th in the world. Their competition will include Vitezslav Vesely (Czech Republic), Vadims Vasilevskis (Latvia) and Stuart Farquhar (New Zealand) — all of whom have thrown 13 feet longer than the American competitors. The men's javelin throw is Aug. 11.

Prediction
Vitezslav Vesely (Czech Republic) gold medal, Vadims Vasilevskis (Latvia) silver medal and Stuart Farquhar (New Zealand) bronze medal


Trent Warren won the Mesa League boys 1,600-meter championship title in May 2011; he placed runner-up at the league’s cross country championship meet in November 2010.   

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