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The Weekend's Best Matchups for May 24-26

The Weekend’s Best Matchups for May 24-26

| On 24, May 2013

In my weekly rundown of the best matchups, I try to highlight and simplify the best and most interesting things to watch. This weekend, the majority of the matchups come to us in the Adidas Grand Prix, the first of two US stops on the IAAF’s Diamond League circuit. You can see all of Saturday’s action live on NBC from 1:00 to 3:00 pm (Eastern time).

So what are the matchups to watch? Here are your top ten.

1. Jenn Suhr vs Yarisley Silva

Pole vault, Adidas Grand Prix
Icahn Stadium, New York NY

Suhr, finally injury-free for an extended period of time, broke Yelena Isinbayeva’s world indoor record at the USATF Championships back in March. Silva won silver at behind Suhr’s gold at the Olympics last year and has only improved since then, beating Suhr with a PR in their last meeting (at the Drake Relays). Not only is this the best matchup in the Adidas Grand Prix, it might be one of the best season-long duels in track and field this year.

The women’s pole vault at the Adidas Grand Prix includes a whole lot more than just these two stars. The field is deep, including European indoor champion Holly Bleasdale (who beat Silva indoors) and all of last year’s top seven save Isinbayeva. The pole vault is always an unpredictable event, which adds an extra element of interest. And a special runway has been created along the homestretch in order to highlight the event.
Meet website | Schedule and start lists
TV coverage: Live on NBC from 1:00pm to 3:00pm (ET)
Free but sketchy webcasts
IAAF: Q and A: adidas Grand Prix Meet Director Mark Wetmore

2. Amantle Montso vs Sanya Richards-Ross

400 meters, Adidas Grand Prix
Icahn Stadium, New York NY
Saturday, 2:17pm

These were the top two quarter-milers in 2012, with Richards-Ross winning Olympic gold to Montsho’s silver. Montsho won the Diamond League opener in Doha, defeating Allyson Felix and going under 50 seconds. This will be Richards-Ross’ season opener and she’ll have to be in excellent form right off the bat if she’s going to win this race. That’s a tall order, given that she had toe surgery last September and a long rehab and only returned to the track three weeks ago. The competition includes not just Montsho, the defending world champion, but 2007 world champion Christine Ohuorogu too.
IAAF: Right into the fire, Richards-Ross excited by New York return
USA Today: Sanya Richards-Ross is open to some drama in her life
IAAF: Life after 2012 for Ohuruogu

3. Ryan Whiting vs Reese Hoffa

Shot put, Adidas Grand Prix
Icahn Stadium, New York NY
Saturday, 11:30am

Whiting is undoubtedly the world’s best shot putter right now, losing just once this year and recording massive distances. Only Hoffa has topped him (at the Drake Relays) and of active athletes, only Hoffa and Cantwell have ever thrown further than Whiting’s 22.28m at Doha (and Cantwell is far from his best form right now). So it appears as though this is a two-man race. IAAF Diamond League: New York Field Events Preview

4. Underdogs vs favorites

NCAA Championships preliminary rounds
Mike A. Myers Stadium, Austin TX and Irwin Belk Track, Greensboro NC
Thursday through Saturday

Commonly called “regionals”, these two meets are actually the first rounds of the NCAA Championships. Qualifying rounds generally have little to no excitement…unless you’re cheering for someone on the bubble of making it to the next round. Then, it’s very exciting.

Two of the best days of the year for US sports fans are the first two days of the NCAA basketball tournament, when there is wall-to-wall action and upsets abound. Sports fans shed no tears for top teams that can’t get the job done in the tourney’s first round (unless it’s their favorite team). So let’s take the same attitude here. An example of a “minnow” who became a “giant-killer”, as the Brits call them in the FA Cup, is former Illinois sprinter/hurdler Andrew Riley, who entered last year’s preliminary round as the 31st seed in the 100 meters and two weeks later exited the finals as the NCAA champion.

For every link or piece of info you could possibly need–results, webcast links, schedules, you name it–go to the USTFCCCA’s National Championship Central. Particularly cool are the playoff brackets.

5. Blanka Vlasic vs Brigetta Barrett

High jump, Adidas Grand Prix
Icahn Stadium, New York NY
Saturday, 1:15pm

Vlasic won just about everything there was to win in women’s high jumping from 2007 through 2010 save an Olympic gold medal. She missed the entire 2012 season after a January Achilles tendon surgery led to an April infection and slow healing. In her absence, Brigetta Barrett surprised with an Olympic silver medal and is already ahead of where she was at the same time last year. (The Arizona senior will be competing the day after her NCAA preliminary round competition in Austin.) While they’re fighting to win here, both are chasing the world’s undisputed #1 high jumper. That’s Russia’s Anna Chicherova, reigning Olympic and World champion, and already the 2013 world leader with her season-opening 2.02m clearance on Tuesday in Beijing.
Sports Illustrated: Blanka Vlasic making comeback from injury at Adidas Grand Prix

6. Dawn Harper vs Kellie Wells

100 metre hurdles, BT Great CityGames Manchester
Deansgate and Albert Square, Manchester ENG
Saturday, 1:18pm local time (8:18am ET)

The Great CityGames are a street meet held in Manchester’s city centre and have been a big hit with the public, usually drawing about 20,000 fans. The track events are on a straight board track laid on Deansgate, Manchester’s main thoroughfare, and the field events are in Albert Square.

The headline race was supposed to be Allyson Felix vs Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at 150 metres, but Fraser-Pryce pulled out due to a touchy hamstring. Felix will still go after the record of 16.50 run by Carmelita Jeter in 2011 and there are plenty of other stars at this meet. But in terms of great head-to-head matches, this is the only really top-notch one left on the schedule. With Olympic champion Sally Pearson sidelined with a hamstring injury, Harper and Wells are probably the two best hurdlers in the world right now. After a loss at the Drake Relays, Harper put up two big wins on the IAAF circuit, Kingston’s World Challenge meet and Doha’s Diamond League meet, and Wells was second in Doha.

Another interesting race will give us a rare head-to-head matchup between two athletes who run fundamentally different events. The women’s 200 metre hurdles features Natalya Antyukh, the Olympic hurdle champion at 400 meters, and Delloreen Ennis-London, a three-time Worlds medalist at 100 meters.
Meet website | Free but sketchy webcasts
IAAF: Felix, Rutherford and Sanchez among Olympic medallists in Manchester
Athletics Weekly: Athletes ready for the Games to begin in Manchester

7. Tyson Gay vs his hip

100 meters, Adidas Grand Prix
Icahn Stadium, New York NY
Saturday, 2:51pm

Gay’s top competition comes from Nesta Carter and Ryan Bailey. Based on early-season form, this should be a walkover for Gay–if his body holds together, that is. It did not at one time or another over each of the last five seasons, and he has yet to return to the extraordinary form he showed in 2007 and 2009. It’s entirely possible that he never will, but after a healthy 2012 and very good early-season results at 100 meters and 200 meters, things are looking up for the American record holder.
USA Today: As Tyson Gay preps for NY race, talk turns to Bolt

8. Joyce Chepkirui vs Firehiwot Dado

10 kilometres, Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend
Saturday, 6:30pm ET, Ottawa ON

There’s a good bit of road racing action this weekend, much of it in England. There’s the BUPA Great Manchester Run on Sunday, which is slated to include Haile Gebrselassie and Tirunesh Dibaba, and the London 10,000 on Monday, which will have British übercelebrity Mo Farah. The Bolder Boulder 10k, also on Monday, will reprise its “International Team Challenge”, with legend Deena Kastor on the US team. But none of those are likely to be close contests.

Over in the Canadian capital, the women’s side of the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend’s 10k might be the hardest-fought battle of the major road races. The two athletes above are both marathoners with good 10k credentials. Chepkirui finished fifth at last month’s London Marathon and ran 31:40 at the World’s Best 10k in Puerto Rico. Dado won the 2011 New York City Marathon and finished third at last year’s Boston Marathon, and sports a 10k PR of 32:00.
Race website
Ottawa Citizen: 10K race title up for grabs

9. Hagos Gebriwhet vs Dejen Gebremeskel

5000 meters, Adidas Grand Prix
Icahn Stadium, New York NY
Saturday, 2:23pm

Let’s Run is hyping this race, saying “The Winner Of This Has To Be Considered Mo Farah’s #1 Rival”. Both broke 12:50 last year and both have dominated the early season, Gebrhriwett especially. He beat Galen Rupp at the New Balance Boston Indoor Grand Prix, with Gebremeskel a good ten seconds back. Gebremeskel, for his part, won Olympic silver last year at 5000 meters.

There are two Americans in this race and they stand in stark contrast. Ben True has two big wins (USA 15k championship and Payton Jordan 5000m) and an even bigger sixth place (World Cross Country Championships). He’s a fast-rising star. On the other side is Anthony Famiglietti, a late add who hasn’t been relevant on the national scene in three years. He hasn’t broken 13:50 for 5k or 8:30 for the steeple since 2009 and I can’t understand how he got into this meet.
Let’s Run: 2013 adidas Grand Prix Men’s Preview

10. Brenda Martinez vs Morgan Uceny vs Shannon Rowbury

1500 meters, Adidas Grand Prix
Icahn Stadium, New York NY
Saturday, 1:41pm

This matchup is not for the win. Ethiopian-turned-Swede Abebe Arigawi is going to thrash everyone. It’s fairly likely that none of them will even finish second. What they are fighting for is second-tier US supremacy.

Early season form makes it look like Jenny Simpson, the 2011 World Champion, is the top women’s miler in the US right now. After her, Katie Mackey and Mary Cain are about even (and were separated by only 0.02 seconds last week at the Oxy High Performance Meet). Any of the above three could belong in the elite group as well, and we’ll find out on Saturday.

Rowbury was the 2009 World Championships bronze medalist and hasn’t raced well so far in 2013, but in just two races. Uceny was the Diamond League champ in 2011 and also hasn’t yet raced well, but in just one race. Martinez, on the other hand, has been on fire this year. She’s won just about everything she’s entered and done nothing but get faster and faster.
Let’s Run: 2013 adidas Grand Prix Women’s Preview

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