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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympic Preview: Women's Sprints

The eleventh installment in my Olympic track & field previews looks at the shortest running events for women.

100 Meters
The Schedule: heats and semifinals, Saturday Aug 16; semifinals and finals, Sunday Aug 17
The Americans: #6 Muna Lee, #7 Torri Edwards, #8 Lauryn Williams
The Contenders: #1 Sherone Simpson (JAM), #2 Kerron Stewart (JAM), #9 Shelly-Ann Fraser (JAM)
The Stats: Records, 2008 List, 2007 Worlds, 2004 Olympics
The Medal Picks: T&FN - Williams, Stewart, Lee; SI - Stewart, Lee, Edwards
The Story: The sprints have turned into little more than a USA-Jamaica dual meet, and here more so than any other event. My World Points Standings have the two nations accounting for all top thirteen athletes in the women's 100.

Both country's Olympic Trials left a good athlete out. In Eugene, Marshavet Hooker ran best of all athletes until the final, when an awful start left her playing catch-up and just getting nosed out of the top three. More surprising was in Kingston, where defending World Champ Campbell-Brown was fourth and left off the national team.

So who's the favorite? Everybody and nobody. The two national champs, Lee and Stewart, are most favored, and the latter more than the former. Williams has been an unrivaled big-meet performer, winning gold or silver at every championship she's entered; her performances this year don't suggest this will happen again, but they didn't those other times either. Simpson was the dominant sprinter of 2006, but a mid-year injury took her out of top action for more than a year. Edwards was likewise the dominant sprinter of 2003 but hasn't looked sharp since returning from a shortened doping ban. And Fraser is young and internationally inexperienced. Take Stewart and Lee, and after that throw darts for third.

200 Meters
The Schedule: heats and quarterfinals, Tuesday Aug 19; semifinals, Wednesday Aug 20; finals, Thursday Aug 21
The Americans: #1 Muna Lee, #4 Allyson Felix, #12 Marshavet Hooker
The Contenders: #2 Sherone Simpson (JAM), #5 Kerron Stewart (JAM), #6 Veronica Campbell-Brown (JAM)
The Stats: Records, 2008 List, 2007 Worlds, 2004 Olympics
The Medal Picks: T&FN - Felix, Campbell-Brown, Lee; SI - Felix, Campbell-Brown, Stewart
The Story: In another USA-Jamaica showdown, the presumed favorite is Allyson Felix, a woman NBC has banked on as a star. But a recent strangely subpar performance in London gives the natural worrier something to obsess about. I'd point out, though, that her coach, Bobby Kersee, has a well-earned reputation of getting his athletes ready to do their best when it counts the most.

The athlete with the most to prove is Campbell-Brown, who is in the "wrong" event here as most of her successes have come at the 100 meter distance. But she's the defending Olympic 200 champ, and with only one sprint to concentrate on she's in a very good position.

Hooker is likewise in her weaker event, but still could challenge for a medal. The three athletes who will do double duty in both sprints--Lee, Simpson, and Stewart--are at a bit of a disadvantage as they will have to run eight races in six days.

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