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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Osaka 800m Predictions

IAAF Middle Distance Preview

The picture is muddled to say the least. Only three runners have as many as two wins this year in Grand Prix meets, and all of them have bombed at times. Usually you can count on Kenya to send a fine group but even here we basically have a trio of unknown quantities (while Bungei is a very good runner he has a history of running poorly at championships).

That would make prognosticating difficult enough, but then we've got the additional issue of how the race will be run, which will make a huge difference in who gets the medals. T&FN's early favorite, Yuriy Borzakovskiy, always hangs back in the first lap and attempts to come storming to the front in the final 200 meters. Nick Symmonds has also picked up this strategy (but isn't nearly as extreme); two of his races show its strengths and weaknesses.

At the Prefontaine meet, Khadevis Robinson took out the pace hard (50.7) while Symmonds ran behind all but Borzakovskiy. Robinson tired and it was fairly easy for Symmonds to pass a strung-out field. But at the USATF meet, Robinson held back a bit (51.1) and held on for the win, while a tighter pack of runners boxed in Symmonds and then he had to swing wide on the homestretch. Four-tenths of a second might not seem like a lot, but in these two races it was the difference between winning and losing.

Which way will it go? Well, big-time races have been run this way. Munich '72, Seoul '88, and Athens '04 jump to mind. But these jump to mind because they are unusual. So I'm going to guess that the race will not begin at a suicidal pace, and Borzakovskiy will come up short and win silver.

Gold - Belal Mansoor Ali (Bahrain). I don't yet know if he will run this event in Osaka.

Silver - Yuriy Borzakovskiy (Russia).

Bronze - Abraham Chepkirwok (Uganda). Here I'm more or less throwing darts at a list of names.


Gold - Kenia Sinclair (Jamaica). Has lost only once this year on the World Athletics Tour (to Mutola at Eugene) and avenged that loss in Lausanne.

Silver - Maria Mutola (Mozambique). We can only assume she has a painting of an old and very slow Mutola in her attic.

Bronze - Olga Kotlyarova (Russia). Had a so-so summer until the recent Russian Championships, where she ran very well to win.

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