The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympic Preview: Men's Jumps

The fifth installment of my look at the Olympic track & field events concerns the four men's jumping events.

High Jump
The Schedule: qualifying, Sunday Aug 17; final, Tuesday Aug 19
The Americans: #4 Jesse Williams, #8 Andra Manson, #11 Dusty Jonas
The Contenders: #1 Andrey Silnov (RUS), #2 Stefan Holm (SWE), #3 Yaroslav Rybakov (RUS) #5 Linus Thörnblad (SWE)
The Stats: Records, 2008 List, 2007 Worlds, 2004 Olympics
The Medal Picks: T&FN - Holm, Rybakov, Tereshin; SI - Holm, Rybakov, Williams
The Story: The gold is expected to come down to two men at opposite ends of their careers: 24-year old Russian Andrey Silnov at the early stages of his, and 32-year-old Stefan Holm who is getting into the twilight of high jumping.

Silnov finished fourth at the Russian Championships and initially left off his Olympic team. But his results since then have been so good that he was recently named to the team anyway. By contrast, Holm's last few competitions before the Olympics were subpar, but considering how often he competes I'm not sure that means anything. Defending World champion Thörnblad had a slow start to his season but picked up steam as the year went along.

The American trio are young and ascendant, and none have any international hardware save Manson. He won bronze at this year's World Indoor championships and gold at the '02 World Juniors. Williams dominated the collegiate scene a few years back and has been slowly moving up the international scene ever since, while Jonas just finished his NCAA eligibility.

Pole Vault
The Schedule: qualifying, Wednesday Aug 20; final, Friday Aug 22
The Americans: #2 Brad Walker, #4 Derek Miles, #15 Jeff Hartwig
The Contenders: #1 Yevgeniy Lukyanenko (RUS), #3 Steven Hooker (AUS), #5 Maksym Mazuryk (UKR)
The Stats: Records, 2008 List, 2007 Worlds, 2004 Olympics
The Medal Picks: T&FN - Walker, Lukyanenko, Hooker; SI - Lukyanenko, Walker, Hooker
The Story: So far as I can see, this is a three-man competition. The World Indoor championship medalists are the only vaulters over 6 meters, and have lost to no one but each other in 2008. Lukyanenko, just 23 years old, is undefeated this season and hasn't shied away from top competition.

Then again, this is the pole vault, and weird things happen. Miles and Mazuryk would appear to have the best chance to sneak in for a medal. Germany's Danny Ecker is coming back from injury and if fully healthy could also be a factor. Another German, Tim Lobinger, might be one of the factors explaining why Chinese authorities specifically banned streaking.

Long Jump
The Schedule: qualifying, Saturday Aug 16; final, Monday Aug 18
The Americans: #5 Brian Johnson, #6 Miguel Pate, #12 Trevell Quinley
The Contenders: #1 Irving Saladino (PAN) #2 Hussein Taher Al-Sabee (KSA), #3 Mohamed Salman Al Khuwalidi (KSA), #7 Loúis Tsátoumas (GRE), #11 Ibrahim Camejo (CUB)
The Stats: Records, 2008 List, 2007 Worlds, 2004 Olympics
The Medal Picks: T&FN - Saladino, Tsátoumas, Camejo; SI - Saladino, Tsátoumas, Camejo
The Story: The only thing that could keep Saladino from winning Panama's first Olympic gold medal is his own knee. A niggling injury there caused his only loss since July 2006, a 7th-place finish at Berlin's Golden League meet. Earlier in the year on Holland, he recorded the best jump in the last 14 years plus a massive foul of over 9 meters (29' 6"). And pressure doesn't get to him; at last year's Worlds, Italy's Andrew Howe overtook first place on the second-to-last jump of the competition, but Saladino calmly stepped up with the last jump and took it right back.

Of all the countries you could have guessed to supercede the US in long jumping dominance, Saudi Arabia might have been one of your last choices. But they have two legitimate medal threats, who most likely will do battle with Americans Johnson and Pate. Quinley's win at the Olympic Trials was probably a fluke, and success for him will be just making the finals.

Triple Jump
The Schedule: qualifying, Monday Aug 18; final, Thursday Aug 21
The Americans: #8 Aarik Wilson, #14 Kenta Bell, Rafeeq Curry
The Contenders: #1 Phillips Idowu (GBR), #2 Nelson Évora (POR), #3 Randy Lewis (GRN), #5 Arnie David Girat (CUB), #7 Jadel Gregorio (BRA)
The Stats: Records, 2008 List, 2007 Worlds, 2004 Olympics
The Medal Picks: T&FN - Idowu, Évora, Wilson; SI - Idowu, Girat, Gregorio
The Story: This one is tough to handicap because the triple jump hasn't been held much on the World Athletics Tour. World Indoor champ Idowu is undefeated and has the year's best jump, so he looks to be the one to beat. After that it gets a little hazy. Lewis recently beat World Indoor bronze medalist Évora; Girat's season highlight was silver at those same indoor championships but hasn't been nearly as good since then. Note that world record holder Jonathan Edwards recently expressed the opinion that Évora has a better chance of someday breaking his record than Idowu.

Don't expect much out of US Trials champ Wilson; he has four stress fractures.

No comments: