Friday, July 27, 2012

Taking the temperature of the US Olympic Distance Squad a week before Athletics begin

Shalane Flanagan got to wear the flag in 2008. Will any American
Distance Runners get that opportunity in 2012?
Track and Field at the 2012 Olympic Games starts one week from today (check out the schedule here).

How's are the United States Distance Team doing going into the games?

Below is an update about what each American athlete has been up to since the trials and who has a true MEDAL CHANCE, a DARKHORSE medal opportunity, and then sadly, those who may not by ready to roll due to injury (HURT ALERT).

Men's 800
1. Nick Symmonds - MEDAL CHANCE
Ran a near PR 800 in Monaco in 1:43.78, then ran a tune up 400 in Ireland in 47.45. Symmonds looks to be fit and has run rounds well. No doubt he'll be gunning for a medal after coming in 5th in Daegu last year. Abubaker Kaki's recent demise helps him, but it will take an A+ effort to make the podium.

2. Khadevis Robinson - DARKHORSE
KD ran great at the trials, but hasn't run since. Making the final should be his number one goal. If he can do that, he's capable of top five or better, especially with his run from behind and kick from 300 out tactic, that he's employed over the last two seasons.

Saucony has made custom spikes for #5 All Time American
in the 800, Duane Solomon 
3. Duane Solomon - DARKHORSE
His phenomenal 1:43.44 PR in Monaco shows he is at the top of his game. Solomon, like KD, has changed his style from frontrunner to "run right behind the leader" and it's paid off well. His goal should be making the final, and then going from there. Like KD, and Symmonds for that matter, he's got a great shot if he's on the line for the final on Thursday, August 9th. One side note; neither Abraham Kipchirchir Rotich or Leonard Kirwa Kosencha, both of Kenya, who beat Solomon in Monaco, are running in London.

Women's 800
1. Alysia Montano - MEDAL CHANCE
Monaco was good, but not great for Montano. She ran 1:59.05 for third, but looked to be in better shape at the trials. Maybe it was just her international rust buster. She likes to front run, which can be disastrous, but she's too good not to make the final. From there, I'm sure she'd like to improve on her 4th place finish from Daegu last year.

2. Geena Gall
"OMG Opening Ceremonies is tonight!!!!" was a recent tweet from Gall. This is her first rodeo and she leads the clubhouse in the potentially "happy to be here" division. Will she be ready? She ran 2:01.65 at Crystal Palace, so she'll have to return to her Olympic Trials form to make it past the semifinal (it took 1:58.61 to make the final in '08).

3. Alice Schmidt
Schmidt's added strength training this year led to a PR and A Standard in the 1500 at Prefontaine. She barely missed the final in Daegu last year. That will be her goal for London. Read the 5 Questions with Schmidt feature here.

Hopefully this Manzano will show up in London
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
Men's 1500
1. Leo Manzano - DARKHORSE
Known for his hot and cold racing habits, Manzano has been hot all year, except for two weeks ago at Crystal Palace. Hopefully one poor showing isn't a sign of where he is right now. Manzano's kick is medal-worthy and if he runs like he did at the trials, that's a possibility.

2. Matt Centrowitz - DARKHORSE
A poor 800 at Crystal Palace led to a withdrawal at Monaco. He ran much better at the Morton Games a few days ago, winning the 800 in 1:47.72. Centro rounds into shape fast and runs rounds well. If he can time this right, he'll hope to finish on the podium again, like he did in Daegu.

3. Andrew Wheating - HURT ALERT
A few days ago, "Britain's Athletics International" said that Wheating had withdrawn from the games. That looked to be false information, but Wheating has been hurt and had to withdraw from Monaco with a flaring up of plantar fasciitis. Let's hope he's ready to go, but I wouldn't put too much stock in him going beyond the semis if this continues to be an issue (it took 3:37.77 to make the final in Beijing)

Uceny will lead a strong 3 in the 1500
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
Women's 1500
1. Morgan Uceny - MEDAL CHANCE
Uceny hasn't looked quite as strong as last year. The devastating kick that she displayed all of 2011, save Daegu, hasn't been there. Maybe by design. Her, Shannon Rowbury and Jenny Simpson all looked good, but not great, at Crystal Palace, but I'm sure she and her coach, Terrence Mahon, have been trying to time her peak for the games. We'll see if it works; as if it does, she's a podium threat.

2. Shannon Rowbury - DARKHORSE
No stranger to the medal stand, Rowbury has been overshadowed by Uceny and Simpson over the past two seasons. She's a smart racer most certainly will make the final. After that, she'll need a big race, but like Simpson last year, is capable of medaling if things go her way.

3. Jenny Simpson - MEDAL CHANCE
Last year's 1500 meter World Champ hasn't shown that kind of form yet, but we know it's there. She's run under 4:00 in the event and has as good of 100 meter speed as anyone if it comes down to the last straightaway.

Man of the hour, Evan Jager
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
Men's 3000 Steeplechase
1. Evan Jager - MEDAL CHANCE
What's he done since the trials? Only set the American Record in the Steeple in an incredible time of 8:06.81. He also launched himself into the medal conversation. Maybe it's too soon, but maybe not. This event was made for Jager and he's taking full advantage of the opportunity. Look for him to contend on Friday, August 3rd (semifinal) and Sunday, August 5th (final).

2. Donn Cabral
The 2012 Princeton grad recently ran a PR of 3:40.03 for 1500 meters in Lignano, and then four days later, ran a flat 3000 PR of 7:53.48 in Szczecin. His smart racing style should land him in the final (it took 8:23.66 in Beijing). After that, top 10 would be an excellent goal. Read the 5 Questions with Cabral feature here.

3. Kyle Alcorn
If you saw Alcorn at the trials, you know he left it all out there to make the team. He'll have to do the same to make the final in London. He's got a great kick, which will bode well in a kickers race. Read the 5 Questions with Alcorn feature here.

Women's 3000 Steeplechase
1. Emma Coburn - DARKHORSE
Yet to be truly challenged this season, Coburn should thrive in London. She tuned up this week with a 4:33.24 Mile in Ireland. It took 9:17.16 to make the podium in Daegu last year. Coburn has run 9:25.28, but is certainly on the rise.

2. Bridget Franek
Franek looked excellent at Crystal Palace, running a PR of 9:29.53. She just missed the final in Daegu last year, but should be ready to run faster than the 9:40.04 it took to make the final then. Read the 5 Questions with Franek feature here (note: from before the trials).

3. Shalaya Kipp
Like Gall, hopefully Kipp won't fall into the potentially "happy to be here" mode and will compete. In the same Morton Mile as Coburn, Kipp managed only a 4:40.31, but is "hungry for more." She's certainly capable of making the final, but her best shot at the medal stand will be at 2016 or 2020.

Rupp, Lagat and Lomong will all have a shot at 5000
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
Men's 5000
1. Galen Rupp - MEDAL CHANCE
While Rupp's training partner, Mo Farah, ran in front of his home crowd at Crystal Palace, Rupp has been silent. I don't think anyone has any doubts he'll be ready to roll when the 5000 semifinal goes off on Wednesday, August 8th.

2. Bernard Lagat - MEDAL CHANCE
Not too much should be taken from Lagat's 3:54.17 Mile at Crystal Palace. It was an alright tune up race. Like Rupp, Lagat is a veteran that will be ready to go for the semis and will exhaust just enough energy to make the final. Gold is on his mind, but a podium finish would be a victory for him and America.

3. Lopez Lomong - DARKHORSE
Lomong won't have the hoopla that comes with being a flag bearer this year. In '08, he didn't make it out of the semifinal in the 1500. He should make it out of the semifinal and then could surprise in the final. He's run very few 5000's, but has run them all well. It took 13:06.22 to medal in Beijing, and will likely take faster in London.

Women's 5000
1. Julie Culley
Culley's kick at the trials was phenomenal. She'll need to channel that and more to make it to the final in London. Her 15:13.77 in Eugene and 8:45.57 3000 in Monaco show she is capable of the 15:15.12 that it took to make the final in 2008.

2. Molly Huddle
How fit is Huddle? We're not really sure. She's battled injury since her 14:44.76 American Record in 2010. Could she be rounding into shape? She didn't make it out of the heats in Daegu, so priority number one will be that.

Conley should feel like this if she
can make the 5000 final
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
3. Kim Conley
"Conley's definitely not just 'happy to be here.' This is the freaking Olympic Games. You can't simply coast in and show up," says her Coach Drew Wartenburg. "Training/prep is going well." She's got absolutely nothing to lose. She ran the race of her life to make it and secured a deal with New Balance in the process. Things are looking up. They'd be even more exciting if Conley could find that same magic to make the final. She won her tune up race in Cork, so it's possible!

Men's 10,000
1. Galen Rupp - MEDAL CHANCE
What seems to be Rupp's signature event will be the first on his schedule. The gun will go off next Saturday, August 4th for his run at the medal stand. It will be tough beating his teammate, Mo Farah, but everyone else is beatable, including Keninisa Bekele. He'll need to have the kick of his life to medal, but that's what he and his coach, Alberto Salazar, have been training his whole life for.

2. Matt Tegenkamp
Teg's run at the trials was inspiring. After looked washed up at Pre, he rebounded and looked in control the whole way. Keep in mind, he's only run four 10,000's ever. His 10th place finish at Daegu last year was good, but I'm sure he wants more, as he finished 4th in Osaka in the 5000 in 2007. Top 7-8 is likely where he'll fall if he runs a strong race.

3. Dathan Ritzenhein
Ritz seems to be on the upswing. His 13:15.91 in the rain at Crystal Palace was another positive step towards his comeback to the track (although he's running the Chicago Marathon this fall). Can he hang on to the front pack? It's going to be tough, but I would think a top 7-8 finish, like Teg, for Ritz is doable.

Brooks made custom shoes for Amy Hastings & Desi Davila
(photo: Amy Hastings Twitter)
Women's 10,000
1. Amy Hastings
One of the best stories of the trials was Amy Hastings breaking through and winning the 10,000, after finishing a disappointing 4th at the Marathon Trials. It will be near impossible to make the podium, but a top 7 finish should be possible, based on Daegu's results.

2. Lisa Uhl
Like Huddle, Uhl has been injured and it's hard to know what to expect from her. She hasn't raced since the trials, so we'll see what happens a week from today!

3. Janet Cherobon-Bawcom
JCB mentioned in her interview with me that she was "so sick in Eugene that I can't even pretend that I had a strategy." Hopefully she's feeling better now and will compete! Read the 5 Questions with JCB feature here.

Men's Marathon
1. Meb Keflezighi - HURT ALERT
While Meb has been busy on television running around in Citibank commercials, it sounds like he isn't ready for London. A hamstring injury seems to have set him back in his training, but he was the 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist, so he'll put forth his best effort.

2. Ryan Hall - DARKHORSE
In early June, Hall looked abysmal at the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon, getting his butt kicked by Meb. He's done this before, but never this slow. News came out that he'd had a bad case of plantar fasciitis that was hindering his training. That seems to be in the past now, but will he be ready for the world's best? I know he wants to rebound from his 10th place finish in Beijing. Expect him to contend for as long as he can on the last day of athletics, Sunday, August 11th.

Abdi hopes to airplane some people in London
(photo: The Oregonian)
3. Abdi Abdirahman
The Black Cactus is always a question mark. He could contend for the podium or he could finish 25th. It's hard to say until the race gets going. He'll likely be running in Nike's new Flyknit Racers and he "had a good workout at the track" on July 25.

Women's Marathon
1. Shalane Flanagan - MEDAL CHANCE
If you needed more of a reason to watch the Women's Marathon on Sunday, August 5th, Flanagan is it. Her surprise bronze medal finish in the Beijing 10,000 only whet her appetite for her chances in the marathon. She'll contend. Just watch.

2. Desi Davila - HURT ALERT
News has come out recently that Davila has been injured and could potenially not start next Sunday, August 5th. Let's hope she can find a way to go. The marathon is a tough event to go into half-cocked, but Davila is one of the toughest out there.

3. Kara Goucher - DARKHORSE
She surprised many with her podium finish at the trials and has been training well by all accounts. She could surprise again in London if people crash and burn, as she'll likely take a more balanced approach.

Agree? Disagree? Got some information I missed? Feel free to comment or email me something I left out.

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  1. Great rundown Pat!! Very informative for those of us who shamelessly only follow the marathon ;)

  2. Thank you. So what happens if one of these athletes pulls from the race before it starts? I read Desiree Davila has just announced that she will not be running. Does the next spot go to Deena Kastor since Hastings and Bawcom are committed to the 10K, or does the opening get forfeited at this late date?

  3. Paula Radcliffe just withdrew and will be replaced by Freya Murray. Kastor is next in line, but is hurt, so the next spot would go to Clara Grandt, if Davila doesn't start. Davila has yet to officially pull the plug. My guess is Davila starts, even if she doesn't finish.

    1. Thank you so much. This is really helpful. I am glued to this blog, and have really enjoyed your posts!!