MOSCOW, Russia, August 8, 2013 (AFP) – Penpics of six athletes to watch out for at the World Athletics Championships that get under way in Moscow on Saturday with Kenyan men 1500m titleholder, Asbel Kiprop, the only African on the star-studded list:
Usain BOLT (JAM; men’s 100m, 200m 4x100m relay)
The biggest name in track and field has also firmly established himself at the top table of global sports stars since winning triple gold in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The 26-year-old Jamaican swept aside all before him at the 2009 worlds in Berlin, setting two new world records in the process. The sole blot on his copybook was a false start disqualification in the 100m in the 2011 Daegu worlds, quickly rectified when he added a further three Olympic golds to his trophy haul at the 2012 London Games. He remains the man to beat, even more so since the withdrawals of teammates Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell, and US arch-rival Tyson Gay, the latter for failing drugs tests.
Allyson FELIX (USA; women’s 200m, 4x100m relay, 4x400m relay)
The graceful style of the lissom American belies a steely grit and fiercely competitive nature that has seen her become one of the dominant forces in women’s sprinting. At just 27 years of age, Felix has won eight world golds and four Olympic golds. But she is in Moscow for one reason only: to reclaim the 200m title. After three successive world victories in the event in Helsinki, Osaka and Berlin, she could only finish third in Daegu after deciding to branch out into the 400m. The physical demands took too much of a toll then, and Felix has now re-fixed her sights on the half-lap event, which does not feature rival Veronica Campbell-Brown, the defending champion and double Olympic gold medallist who is out after a positive drugs test.
Yelenya ISINBAYEVA (RUS; women’s pole vault)
The self-proclaimed queen of the pole vault could not have scripted her send-off to track and field any better, with a nostalgic finale on home soil in front of legions of her own fans. The two-time Olympic champion, double world gold medallist and world record holder, now 31, might have lost some of her on-field prowess, but only the most foolhardy would dare to rule her out of the medal running. For Isinbayeva, it will be a question of mastering her emotions and harnessing them to gold-medal effect.
Asbel KIPROP (KEN; men’s 1500m)
When Kiprop took to the track for the 1500m at Monaco’s Diamond League meet this season, all eyes were on Briton Mo Farah, who had stepped down to hone his speed ahead of an assault on the 5,000-10,000m double. He got exactly what he wanted as Kiprop proved there is life for Kenya after David Rudisha, the world and Olympic 800m champion out injured. Kiprop blasted through the line in the fourth fastest time ever, Farah on his coat-tails for the sixth fastest in a new European record. In the absence of Rudisha, the Kenyan team will look to Kiprop to maintain that stunning form in the battle for middle- and long-distance mastery over traditional rivals Ethiopia.
James DASAOLU (GBR; men’s 100m)
The Briton came late to athletics, only really concentrating on sprinting when he went to university from the age of 18. But the 25-year-old has hit a rich vein of form coming into the worlds. He kicked off his season with silver in the 60 metres at the European Indoor Championships, and then clocked a personal best of 9.91sec at the British trials for Moscow. Only Linford Christie has gone faster in a British vest, and with a diminished field in the 100m, Dasaolu can realistically dream of getting to the podium.
Bohdan BONDARENKO (UKR; men’s high jump)
Usain Bolt’s predilection for world records notwithstanding, it is difficult to see where a new world best mark might come from. Bondarenko seems the likeliest bet, having hit some outstanding form in the run-up to the worlds. Cuban Javier Sotomayor’s record of 2.45m has stood since 1993, but the 23-year-old Ukrainian might just have what it takes to challenge. At this season’s Diamond League meet in Lausanne, Bondarenko cleared 2.41m, placing him third on the all-time list behind Sotomayor and Sweden’s Patrick Sjoeberg. He had three good efforts at 2.46m to send a ripple through the high jumping world, and will have to replicate that form in Moscow in the face of some stiff opposition from Olympic champion and local hero Ivan Ukhov.