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Five Things We Learned at the Adidas Grand Prix

Five Things We Learned at the Adidas Grand Prix

| On 25, May 2013

Five quick lessons learned from today’s first US stop on the Diamond League tour.

Tyson Gay is back.
On a cold day and with a headwind, Tyson Gay put on a display of power in the men’s 100 meters. He got a great start, accelerated well, and shut it down at 80 meters. Still, he ran 10.02 and left top-notch sprinters like Ryan Bailey, Keston Bledman and Nesta Carter way behind. Bailey was closest but was still 0.13 seconds in arrears. I don’t think either Usain Bolt or Yohan Blake is worrying just now, but they most certainly are paying attention. At the Worlds in Moscow, Jamaica may still win the 100 and 200 but there will not be the kind of complete dominance we’ve seen over the last few years.

NBC analyst Ato Boldon noted his start. “Whatever Tyson Gay has done in the last three weeks in start practice, he needs to keep doing. Because this can see him being a real threat [to Usain Bolt] come World Championships time.”

Rain is not David Rudisha’s kryptonite.

David Rudisha is dominant. David Rudisha has run faster than anyone ever has and faster than many though possible. David Rudisha doesn’t lose…except for when he does.

It’s happened just twice since he emerged as the world’s best, and it was raining both times. So it’s the rain that makes him lose! It saps his magical running powers! And it’s raining today so (gasp) he could lose!

Nope. Both of those losses were at the end of long seasons and to a very capable young Ethiopian named Mohammed Aman, and those are the key variables. No one in today’s race has what it takes to beat Rudisha under any circumstances and they didn’t.

How good is Rudisha? It’s “close” when he has a three-meter lead off the final turn, one he turns into nine meters down the stretch. Both in the Diamond League opener in Doha and here, he’s demonstrating a new (for him) strategy called “toying with the field”. With the possible exception of Sandra Perkovic, who extended her world lead in the discus this morning in wet and slippery conditions, Rudisha is the most unbeatable athlete on the Diamond League circuit.

Brenda Martinez will make the US Worlds team.

Right now it appears that best American woman over 1500 meters is Jenny Simpson, the 2011 World Champion. She ran her best time since 2009 at the Drake Relays and followed it up with a good run over 800 meters at the Oxy High Performance Meet. After that, it’s rather wide open.

Martinez has had a tremendous spring, running well at both 800 meters (split 2:00.6 at Penn, won Re:Run San Diego) and 1500 meters (won BAA road mile, ran solo Worlds ‘A’ standard at Mt SAC Relays). Here she took third against a top-class field, beating the 2008 Olympic champion (Nancy Lagat) and most of the other top Americans (Shannon Rowbury, Morgan Uceny, Kate Grace). The time wasn’t great for her, but then again it wasn’t for anyone else either, what with the strong winds.

Running near the back for much of the first half of the race, I had her opening split at 65.8 and second lap and third laps at about 68.0 and 67.5 (she was off-screen at 800 meters), then closing with 45.4 for the last 300 meters (61.8 for the last 400). She showed some real tactical acumen there, and we know she has both good closing speed and the ability to run a fast pace. I don’t see her finishing outside the top three at next month’s USATF Championships in Des Moines.

Janay DeLoach-Soukup has Brittney Reese’s number.

There aren’t many long jumpers who have a winning record against Reese, who has won just about every major title there is to win over the last five years. But DeLoach-Soukup does, beating her twelve times in their twenty-two meetings. Today she won in a meet record, and in January she beat Reese at the Millrose Games.

To be fair, Reese is often the key variable. She tends to foul a lot (her problem today) but when she hits a big one, no other jumper can come close. DeLoach-Soukup is a consistent jumper and makes the best of her opportunities. As for today’s windy and cold weather? No problem for DeLoach-Soukup. She spent her college years at Colorado State, where chilly weather is common, and her high school years prepared her for anything. She jumped for Ben Eielson High School, which is located near Fairbanks, Alaska.

Brigetta Barrett is a gamer.

Barrett, the Olympic high jump silver medalist, jumped in the NCAA preliminary round yesterday in Austin and then the Adidas Grand Prix today in New York. Flying from one meet to another to compete on back-to-back days wasn’t terribly unusual back in the 70s and early 80s, but it sure is now.

Adding some complexity to the situation was a long thunderstorm delay at yesterday’s west preliminaries. The reports I saw said she didn’t get finished until 1:00 AM Central time, which is 2:00 AM in New York. Yet there she was when the Adidas Grand Prix high jump began at 1:15 PM. Barrett finished third, clearing an average-for-her 1.91 meters (6′ 3¼”) and her lowest finish in a meet since last year’s Prefontaine Classic. But she got a great lesson in dealing with adverse conditions and difficult travel, two things every professional in track and field can count on.

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