It’s nearly five years since the greatest show on Earth shook London’s Olympic Stadium to its very foundations in an unforgettable Olympics that saw, amongst many others, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Usain Bolt race to glory as they competed against track and fields’ elite.
And the same stadium is braced to do it all again, when, for ten days starting on Friday, it plays host to the 16th IAAF World Championships. It’s an event that began in Helsinki in 1983 and has grown into the sport’s second biggest showcase.
In August 2015 they were held in Beijing, China, where a record 1931 athletes from 207 national federations competed to go faster, further and higher than any other athlete in the world. Interestingly, Kenya topped the medal table for the first time in its history, winning 16 medals in total of which seven were gold. The USA, who have topped the medal table on ten occasions, had be content with third place in the table behind the Jamaicans.
In addition to the London crowd being thrilled by the world’s greatest, some of whom they hope will be from their own shores, there will be at least a couple of occasions for them to celebrate. And that’s because a couple of retrospective medals will be presented during the Championships.
Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill will be one recipient, when she receives a gold relating to the heptathlon in the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu. At the time she was awarded silver but it’s since transpired that the Russian athlete who beat her was a drug cheat. Therefore Jess will be officially awarded the third outdoor world title of her glittering career, ahead of session five on the evening of August 6.
And GB’s 10,000m runner Jo Pavey will receive her first ever World Championships medal when she picks up a bronze that dates back to Osaka in 2007. In similar circumstances to Ennis-Hill, she was denied her rightful medal by a drug cheat but a decade on that wrong is about to be righted. The original bronze medallist Kara Goucher of the USA will be promoted to silver.
The pre-meeting talk has pretty much centred on the fact a certain gent called Usain Bolt is running in his final World Championships and, understandably, it’s something that has occupied column inches and web pages aplenty. Yet, while it’s a seminal moment in the world of sprinting – the pending retirement of the fastest man who ever lived can’t pass without something of a kerfuffle– there are nearly two thousand athletes who are focussed on anything but Bolt’s final hurrah.
One defending champion who won’t be competing in London is 800m world record holder David Rudisha who has pulled out of the Championships with a quad muscle strain.
The 28-year-old Kenyan is the only person to ever run under one minute 41 seconds for the event and won gold in London at the 2012 Olympics and again in Rio last year. Despite only two weeks ago claiming to be “excited” to return to London, where he set the 800m world record of one minute 40.91 seconds five years ago, he’s picked up a training injury and will not be there to dazzle the London crowd. Although ranked only 19th in the world this year, he would still have been one of the favourites to win a third successive gold medal at the ‘Worlds’.
In Rudisha’s absence, fellow Kenyan Emmanuel Korir and Botswana’s Nijel Amos are expected to battle for the gold medal.
No Jess, but Katarina could win Heptathlon for the Brits
While Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill will be there to collect her 2011 gold, at 8-months pregnant and now retired she won’t be wowing the home crowd on the track and field. That task now belongs to Katarina Johnson-Thompson; the latest in a long line of high quality multi-event athletes to be produced from the shores of the UK.
And she’ll be looking to put the disappointment of Beijing behind her – when her bid for glory was blown by no-marking in the long jump – and having made changes and steps forwards since then, she registered a lifetime best score back in May. With a noisy home crowd behind her she has a chance and has the ability to push Belgium’s current Olympic champion Nafi Thiam all the way.
Fastest Women on Earth
All eyes will be on the men’s 100m for obvious reasons but for one of the titanic battles of the championships week look no further than the women’s 100m.
With women’s sprinting in rude health it will be a captivating event for the London crowd as double Olympic gold medallist Elaine Thompson of Jamaica – who enters the event in scintillating form as the world’s quickest female100m athlete – takes on Dutch sprinter Dafne Schippers and USA’s Olympic silver medallist Tori Bowie. The trio are fierce competitors and rivals and are promising fireworks.
For the home crowd there are another trio of athletes behind whom they’ll be sure to offer their vocal backing. GB’s Desiree Henry, Asha Philip and Daryll Neita – three of GB’s bronze medal-winning 4x100m quartet from Rio2012 – will all look to perform well in their home city. Philip, at 26 the most experienced athlete of the group, was victorious at the European Indoor Championships over 60m and so has some decent form behind her, while Henry is ranked no.1 in the UK and Neita, at just 20, is fast improving and will gain from the experience.
The above is but a snapshot of what’s on offer over what promised to be a thrilling ten days of competition; the timetable of which can be found on the IAAF’s official site.
To win Men’s 100m: Yohan Blake – 5/1
To win Heptathlon: Katarina Johnson-Thompson – 13/2
To win Men’s 110m Hurdles: Sergey Shubenkov – 9/2
To win Decathlon: Trey Hardee – 9/2