Road to Oregon22 with one month to gone
One month from yesterday, the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 – the first to be held in the United States – will get under way at the all-new Hayward Field in Eugene.
One week from today, that same venue will stage the fearsome, first-three-home drama of the USATF Championships, where home athletes will seek to earn the right to return to the re-built arena once the global event starts on 15 July.
The perennial jeopardy of that event means that some of the most likely home medallists cannot yet be inked in for the World Championships. But wild card entries for defending champions mean that US athletes such as 200m gold medallist Noah Lyles, who has demonstrated convincing form in recent weeks and days, will count on toeing the line.
Prospective challengers for medals in Eugene, notably from Europe and Africa, have been laying down their markers in earnest over the last fortnight, however, as the meetings have come thick and fast. The level of excitement and anticipation is rising rapidly on the Road to Oregon.
Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson has her sights firmly set on world 800m gold in Oregon. As does her fellow 20-year-old Athing Mu of the US, who beat her to Olympic gold in Tokyo last year. Something has to give.
Hodgkinson eschewed an almost certain 800m medal at the World Indoor Championships in March as a precaution after feeling a muscle twinge in warm-up for the final – it had to be gold or nothing for her, and she didn’t want to risk what promises to be a richly busy outdoor season.
After an impressive victory in Birmingham she travelled to the Eugene Diamond League keyed up for a pre-World Championships battle with her rival, only to find that Mu was a no-show following the after-effects of having Covid-19.
The Briton did all she could to lay down a big marker on the track where the world golds will be disputed, piling in to win in 1:57.72, the fastest time of the year.
The glove was down. And less than a fortnight later at the Rome Diamond League meeting it was firmly grasped by Mu as she answered the challenge by romping home to win in 1:57.01.
Emmanuel Wanyonyi, the phenomenal 17-year-old who won the world U20 men’s 800m title on his home track of Nairobi last year, has maintained impressive momentum this season, winning in 1:44.15 in Ostrava and coolly outrunning Botswana’s 2012 Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos at the Rabat Diamond League meeting to win in 1:45.47.
In the Moroccan capital, local hero Soufiane El Bakkali, whose Tokyo victory in the men’s 3000m steeplechase provided his country with its only medal from the Games, once again defeated his great Ethiopian rival Lamecha Girma in a race that nearly blew the roof off the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium.
posted Thursday June 16th