Beijing Olympics Days 9 and 10 preview - rewrite
On this ninth day of the Olympics the US does have a chance to win 4 of the seven events. The US does have a couple of challengers for the marathon on the last day.
2007 world champion Blanka Vlasic of Croatia has had a tremendous last two seasons with 34 consecutive wins and 31 consecutive meets over 2 meters. She has been on a quest to break the world record and as a result of competing in so many meets and taking so many jumps she may have worn herself out. Tia Hellebaut of Belgium only recently became a full-time high jumper (2006 was her last Heptathlon) but proved to be in peak form last year and has two European titles to her credit. The Russian jumpers Elena Sleseranko (defending champion) and Anna Chicherova ('07 world silver medallist) always come through in big events. American Chaunte Howard was 2nd at the 2005 world championships but had a child in 2007 and hasn't reached her 2005 form yet.
Andreas Thorkildson of Norway (defending champion) and Tero Pitkamaki of Finland ('07 World champion) have been the top two javelin throwers over the last four years. Thorkildsen has not finished lower than second in any of those international championships the last four years and is the likely favorite here. Vadims Vasilevskis of Latvia was third at the '07 worlds and was the top qualifier. Young (24) Australian Jarrod Bannister is the list leader this year.
The 800 meters may feature Yeimar Lopez of Cuba. He is likely to get the first male Cuban non-relay, non-hurdle medal on the track since Alberto Juanterena won the 400 and 800 meters in 1976. Yussef Kamal of Brunei is probably the favorite due to his fast times this year. 2007 World champion Alfred Kirwa and silver medallist Gary Reed took advantage of a slow pace to medal. Kirwa still has a good shot to medal in what is likely to be a pace much faster than the 1:47 that he won in last year.
Brunei's Maryam Jamal won the 1,500 meters at the 2007 world championships but unlike other runners America's Shannon Rowbury is not afraid to race with her as she did in the close race in Paris. Anna Alminova is the only Russian left after her country's two best were suspended. There is little separation among most of the competitors except for Jamal which could mean surprise medallists.
Keninise Bekele of Ethiopia will try to become one of the rare doublers to win both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. He has not run a major 5k since his runner-up finish to El Guerrouj in Athens. American 2007 world champion Bernard Lagat has not looked good at the Olympics and this pace may be too fast for him. His teammate and 2007 world fourth place finisher Matt Tegenkamp may also be involved in too fast of a pace. 2007 world silver medallist Eliud Kipchoge and Kenyan teammate Edwin Soi are likely to try to stop the Ethiopian. 2005 800/1500 world championship winner Rashid Ramzi is trying the 1500/5000 double and may be good enough to do it if the pace is not pushed.
Women's 4x400 meter relay. The US has too many good 400 meter runners for them to be defeated. The Russians as usual will challenge them and the Jamaicans have plenty of talent to make it interesting.
The US men are good enough to break the world record in the 4x400 meter relay. What would be interesting is if Usain Bolt runs the relay. Until Bolt broke the 100 world record in New York earlier this year he was planning on running the 400 meters here. He has talented teammates that should give them second unless one of the American runners does not make a strong effort. The British looked very strong but the anchor, Sean Rooney, tried to "show-up" the Jamaicans and the Jamaicans will try to make him pay.
The Marathon is always a wide open event. No medallists in the last three international championships have repeated. Martin Lel of Kenya has won the last two London Marathons and New York recently but many runners save their energy specifically for the Olympics and will have fresher legs. Kenyans Sammy Wanjiru and Robert Cheruiyot will challenge for medals as will Mubarak Shami of Qatar and Abderrahim Goumri of Morocco. Ryan Hall won the US Olympic Trials and teammates (Eugene resident) Dathan Ritzenhein and Brian Sell have the potential to compete at a high level in this race.