Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Hangover's On Its Way For Team GB.

By Shane Thomas

The World Championships that follow an Olympic Games can often have that "going into the office the morning after the work Xmas party" feel about it. All the effort that went into the preparation for the London 2012 Olympics can drain an athlete, both physically and psychologically. After all, where do you go once you've climbed Everest?

Well, for the world's premier track & field athletes, where they go is to Moscow for the 2013 World Championships. And from Britain's perspective, it's not a meet to look at with a great deal of confidence.

Of the trio who brought us that magic hour last summer, Jessica Ennis-Hill is absent with injury, while Greg Rutherford has suffered injury problems, and has struggled for form all year[1]. Only Mo Farah goes to Russia looking like a potential World Champion in waiting. If anything, Farah looks in even better shape than he was in winning 5,000 metre & 10,000 metre glory in London. He appears to be Britain's safest bet for a gold medal.

Beyond that, the pickings are relatively slim. Christine Ohuruogu has been appointed GB team captain, and has steadily improved as the season has progressed. She has a well-earned reputation for peaking at major championships, and with Olympic champion, Sanya Richards-Ross missing from the event, Ohuruogu is a likely medallist, and a decent outside bet for gold.

Another strong medal hope is Perri Shakes-Drayton. She underwhelmed in the 400 metre hurdles at last year's Olympics, but seems to have added a better temperament to her talent. Having witnessed her first-hand run a superb personal best in the Olympic Stadium at the Anniversary Games, she looks ready to make the step-up from possible medallist, to probable. While Zuzana Hejnova remains the class in the field, Shakes-Drayton should expect to make the medal rostrum.

Two others with pedigree at the top level, Dai Greene and Robbie Grabarz, both have the capabilities to impress in Moscow, but Grabarz has been in pretty moribund form this season, and has had injury concerns. Greene - who is the defending (men's) 400 metre hurdles champion - has also had a truncated, injury-hit campaign. It cost him dearly at London 2012, and I fear it will do the same in Russia, especially as speed-endurance is pivotal to succeed in an event such as the 400 metre hurdles.

So, is there hope elsewhere? Well, Britain's track & field future comes in the shape of Jessica Judd and James Dasaolu. Judd has been something of a revelation. Still only 18, the 800 metre runner has already run a sub-2 minute time[2], and appears to have a maturity that belies her age. That said, Moscow will probably be more of a learning experience for her, with the benefit likely to be discluded in years to come. But if she can hit sub-2 minutes again, a bronze isn't out of the question.

As for Dasaolu, he put the sprinting world on notice, after running 9.91 seconds at this year's British trials. Not only was it the 2nd fastest time ever run by a UK sprinter, but it is also one of the fastest times in the world this year, causing some to proclaim him as a strong medal hope in Moscow.

Despite his electric performance at the domestic trials, it would be a huge step for Dasaolu - who has no big-race pedigree - to finish in the top three. Even with Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake not lining up in Russia (the first two to drugs offences, the third to injury), anything better than an appearance in the final should be regarded as a bonus for Dasaolu.

After the jubilation of the Olympics party, the hangover could be on its way. Forget "Super Saturday". Anything more than 4 medals is likely to constitute a decent championships for Team GB.

[1] At the time of writing, Rutherford has failed to attain the "A" qualifying standard. I suspect had he not won Olympic gold last year, he wouldn't have been picked for the Great Britain squad.

[2] 2 minutes is the recognised barrier for top-class women's 800 metre runner. Very much like 10 seconds in the men's 100 metres.

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