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Four Events to Watch at the Bislett Games

Published by
RunnerSpace.com/Pro   Jun 9th 2014, 8:19pm

Diamond League Stops in Oslo

By Scott Bush

With two Diamond League events on tap this week, track and field fans have so much to celebrate. The first stop, the Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway, loaded up on a variety events. Lets take a look at four of the best for Wednesday’s event.

Men’s Steeplechase

It’s not every day an American record is a possibility, but that’s the case with Wednesday’s men’s steeplechase. Current American record holder Evan Jager competes in his first steeple of the 2014 season. Based on recent results, including a 3:53 mile personal best at Pre and a 13:08 5,000m effort at Payton Jordan, Jager seems more than ready to attack his American record of 8:06.81 from 2012.

Jager paced teammate Daniel Huling to a seven second win at the USATF High Performance Distance Classic earlier in the season, a time which ranks Huling as the second non-Kenyan in the world. Jager looked smooth and relaxed at that pace. While many of the top competitors have steepled a few times this season, with a rash of sub-8:10 performances, the fastest man in the field is Brimin Kipruto (Kenya), with a world #2 best of 8:04.64.

You can bet the top Kenyan runners will take aim at the eight minute barrier and Jager seems ready to, with both quality strength and speed results, to at least hang at that pace for quite a while. No matter what happens, American track and field fans need to keep an eye on this one.

Kipruto leads the pre-race favorite list, with his runner-up effort to Ezekiel Kemboi (Kenya). Kemboi won’t compete in Oslo, so Kipruto seems like the man to beat.

Fellow Kenyans Paul Koech and Jairus Birech have five 8:05-8:07 performances between them. Koech ran 8:05.47 in Doha for third, while winning in Beijing with a 8:06.04 effort. Birech ran within one second on all three of his world top ten performances. Fourth in Doha, runner-up in Beijing and a win in Rome shows the competition up front will be fierce.

While Jager gets much of the attention in the build-up to Bislett, Huling is entered, too. Huling’s win at the USATF HP meet was mighty impressive and he looked as if he could go much faster. While a sub-8:10 effort might be just a tough out of his range, don’t’ be surprised if he sets a new personal best, beating his 8:13.29 set in 2010. He’s in the best shape he’s been in since that 2010 season and can key off Jager a bit.

Hillary Yego (Kenya) and Gilbert Kirui (Kenya) round out a stellar field with their Doha fifth and sixth place efforts of 8:09.07 and 8:11.86. The entire field holds bests of 8:15 or faster, which means it’s nearly anyone’s game for top five finishes.

Women’s High Jump

While no Americans are in the women’s high jump field, this event is loaded and ridiculously deep. Seven, yes seven, athletes have leapt between 1.95-2.01 this season. Leading the charge is Pre Classic winner Anna Chicherova (Russia). Chicherova bested a tough field with her world leading effort of 2.01m. The reigning Olympic champion and 2011 World Champion is back to her winning ways and is undoubtedly the pre-event favorite.

Ana Simic (Croatia) is an interesting athlete to watch. While she finished fifth at Pre last month, she won in both Beijing and Shanghai with leaps of 1.98m and 1.97m respectively. She’s as consistent as you can get at this point in the season and is certainly a winning threat.

Chicherova’s fellow Russians Irina Gordeeva and Maria Kuchina finished fourth and sixth at Pre with bests of 1.95m and 1.97m. They’ll gage themselves off Chicherova a bit and have shown the ability to challenge for top three if they can find their rhythm early.

Former University of Georgia All-American Lavern Spencer (St. Lucia) went 1.96m at a meet in mid-April. She’s been relatively quiet since but has the ability to challenge the two-meter barrier Wednesday. Polish standouts Justyna Kasprzycka and Kamila Licwinko enter with seasonal bests of 1.99m and 1.97m. Kasprzycka finished second at Pre and her mark ranks her second best in the world.

With so many athletes so close together, not only will most of them be eyeing the two-meter mark, but figure they have a shot to win as much as anyone else in the field.

Women’s 800m

Similar to the women’s high jump, this race hosts a ton of talent and a ridiculously close field. Reigning world champion Eunice Sum (Kenya) leads the way, searching for a new seasonal best after her winning performance in Doha earlier this season of 1:59.33 ranks her in the world’s top five. Sum is a force and holds the edge over the tough field.

Coming on strong this week in Hengelo, Brenda Martinez (USA) is Sum’s most fierce challenger. Martinez ran away to a stellar time of 1:59.24, dipping under two minutes for the first time this season and proving to the world that she’s one to watch once again in every single competition.

Led by Ajee’ Wilson (USA), six separate athletes enter with seasonal bests of 2:00.18-2:00.55, all of whom should hope to crack the two minute mark. You can bet the early pacing is set up to accomplish this feat, which could very well make it the fastest race in the world this season up to this point. Wilson holds the third best seasonal best in the field with her third place 2:00.18 effort in Rome, while Angelika Cichocka (Poland) finished just behind Wilson with her 2:00.30 fourth place effort and is ready to roll.

Melissa Bishop (Canada), Molly Beckwith-Ludlow (USA) and Malika Akkaoui (Morocco) enter between 2:00.52-2:00.58, rounding out the chase pack who’ll be racing to upset Sum and Martinez. And of course with Caster Semenya (South Africa) in the field, the former World Champion and Olympic medalist looks to dip under 2:00 for the first time this season and continue her reign of sub-1:59 efforts of the prior five seasons.

Women’s 400m Hurdles

There were a bunch of events to consider for this fourth spot, but we’ll shine the spotlight on the women’s long hurdle event. Following the charge of world #1 Kaliese Spencer (Jamaica), this race could very well have three or four athletes dip under the 54 second mark. Spencer leads with her 53.97 winning effort from Rome earlier this season, while she also holds the second fastest time of the season with her winning 54.29 mark from the Pre Classic last month.

While Spencer is the easy favorite at this point, Americans Kori Carter and Tiffany Williams seek to upset the world indoor 400m silver medalist. Carter, finished second to Spencer at Pre, while winning the Jamaica International Invitational with her season’s best time of 54.94. Williams finished just behind Carter for third in Eugene and has run 55.41 or faster three times this season, with her best being 54.82 this past Sunday in Marrakech, Morocco.

Not to be overlooked, Eilidh Child (Great Britain) enters with a sub-55 seasonal best, as well. She finished a strong third in Rome with a mark of 54.82, which currently ranks her tied with Williams as the fifth fastest athlete in the world.

The long hurdles never get as much recognition as they deserve, so lets make it a race to watch and follow along to Wednesday in Oslo. 

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