Today, the Guardian published a list of 10 reasons to watch athletics in 2011. Now, I’m not the type of person who needs 10 reasons to watch athletics, but I appreciate that others need more persuading. And with the Diamond League starting this evening in Doha, what better time to celebrate the world’s best athletes? Anna Kessel has picked out 10 athletes who are going to make an impact on the world stage this year. Now, I am a fan of Anna Kessel’s and she generally writes knowledgeably and entertainingly about athletics, but I felt that some of the picks were a little bit obvious. Usain Bolt, Blanka Vlasic, Jessica Ennis and David Rudisha are undoubtedly great athletes, but what about the other people who pass under the radar a bit? Here is my list of the track athletes who are going to have a good 2011 season.
With all the talk in the women’s 800 being dominated by the gender(s?) of Caster Semenya, it is easy to forget that there are actually other athletes who do this event. One of those is Pamela Jelimo, who is not only the third fastest woman ever to run half a mile, but is also the reigning Olympic Champion at the distance. She missed last season through a knee injury but if she can get anywhere near her form of 2008 when she ran an amazing 1:54, she will be unstoppable.
OK, maybe I’m going for the obvious choice here too but I can see Silas Kiplagat having a great 2011. Overshadowed by his compatriot Asbel Kiprop in the 1500 last year, the 21 year old is still a force to be reckoned with. Though he was not as succesful as Kiprop in the Diamond League, he still managed to run the fastest time in the world and became Commonwealth Champion. Not many people get under 3:30 but Kiplagat managed it with a 3:29.27 that puts him tenth on the world all time list. More of the same this year and we could see a new world champion in South Korea.
Moving from Kenyan middle distance runners to American sprinters, I’d like to explain why Allyson Felix will still be World Champion at the end of the year. A 200m specialist, she is rumoured to be doubling up in the 400 as well, whilst also competing in the 400 relay. Felix has run sub 11 for 100m, sub 22 for 200m and sub 50 for 400m, giving her a PB portfolio as impressive as her compatriot Tyson Gay. She has a great combination of pure speed and strength and will undoubtedly lead the way in the long sprints this year.
I’m surprised the Guardian didn’t mention him. At a time when the standard of distance running in the British Isles leaves a lot to be desired, the NEB athlete represents the one beacon of hope for Great Britain. After a 2010 season in which he became double European Champion and broke 13 minutes for 5000m, Farah’s name can genuinely be uttered in the same breath as those of the Bekele brothers and just about anyone in Kenya. It will be interesting to see the effects of his move to the States to train with Alberto Salazar and Galen Rupp. As a fan of British athletics, I would love to see him do well. A good 2011 season would set him up nicely for next year’s Olympics in his home city of London.
Why choose a French steeple chaser? Well, this man is the only one who looks like he’s anywhere near the Kenyans in ‘their’ event. The man can certainly shift over the barriers, as shown by his win in Barcelona last year to pick up European gold, and by his truly world class 8:02 clocking. Though he is no more than an outside shot for a medal at the worlds, this chaser of North African origin will definitely have the East Africans looking over their shoulders.
This woman is the second fastest woman ever over 100 metres. The only female athlete to have run faster is Florence Griffith Joyner, who may or may not have had chemical assistance to do so. Carmelita Jeter is another great American sprinter who will push her Jamaican rivals all the way to the line, and maybe even get there before them. She is in great shape for a woman in her 4th decade and could well be World 100m Champion by September.
So there you go: my picks for 2011. Maybe I will be proven wrong but amongst this collection of unsung heroes, returning greats, outside bets and proven world beaters are some fine athletes. Watch this space.