Jamaicans can deny Felix again in 200m

FROM THE SPORTS DESK

Hartley Anderson

Sunday, July 15, 2012

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CONFIRMATION that Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will run both sprints at the London Games has appreciably upped the tempo of the Women's athletic programme.


In fact, I'm enthralled at the prospect of her and compatriot Veronica Campbell-Brown tangling with the fleet-footed American Allyson Felix in the half-lap event — even more than the 100m for which all three have also entered.


This intrigue essentially stems from my own curiosity about Fraser-Pryce's personal ambition in the longer dash, since her overall sprinting capability is certainly beyond question.


Regardless of how she fares, she has already won my respect by her willingness to brave unchartered territory and in going for broke, has demonstrated confidence and character.


Again, for the fans who would have been satisfied with — and expect nothing more than — a 'one-off' clash in the 100m, this should, therefore, be regarded as a bonus treat. For, as it stands, both female sprint races will showcase the above-mentioned protagonists, along with perhaps the swiftest of them all, Carmelita Jeter.


To borrow a boxing idiom, the world's top four female sprinters will therefore have a Part One and a Part Two of an epic series in London, and naturally, fans are agog with anticipation. But who will triumph in these respective events, and will there be a double winner? Let's take a look.


By process of elimination, I doubt Felix can win the 100m as to my mind she lacks the raw speed for the explosive dash. More of a measured runner suited for the longer event, Felix's turnover pattern and leg speed are comparatively slow, which should work to her disadvantage.


The 200m, however, is a completely different affair. In fact, Felix's world-leading and personal best 21.69 seconds firmly positions her as the top choice entering the Games and makes betting against her an unwise choice. Many-time world champion at the distance, Felix has never captured this event on the grandest of stages and ostensibly, will be extra motivated. Critically, the 26-year-old is undoubtedly in the form of her life.


VCB, meanwhile, has had the measure of her great American rival on the two previous occasions that they met at the Olympics, yet is not the favourite for London. Her form has been dubious this season, with her perceptibly heavier frame doing greater harm than good in the areas of speed and flexibility.


However, as the two-time defending champion and with the Beijing victory being achieved in an impressive lifetime best 21.74, the proficient VCB knows how to win and is not expected to go gently into that good night. Further, the 30-year-old veteran has always worn the tag of underdog against the highly-rated Felix at the Games.


Despite her increasing forays over the half-lap, Jeter is still learning the event and is still listed in my book as a rookie. Though blessed with blinding speed and a personal best of 22.11, the 32-year-old American is yet to display sufficient speed endurance to topple a top-class field. The combative Jeter drew level with VCB in Daegu last year, but lacked that decisive kick coming home.


Notably, Jeter has shown no observable improvement in what has been a strangely subdued season where she has been unable to recapture the form of the past two years, despite clocking a creditable 10.81 seconds over 100m in May. I daresay it would take something special for her to cop the 200m, which would rank as an upset.


And so we come to the relatively unknown over the distance, Fraser-Pryce, who has a personal best 22.10 in an event she rarely competes in, and hitherto never attempted at a global championship. However, after decimating the field at the National Championships a few weeks ago, she should be regarded as the 'dark horse'.


Clearly enjoying her best form in years, that Beijing tenacity and alertness have ominously resurfaced within the 25-year-old. Additionally, she has got perceptibly stronger and though still learning the intricacies of a technical event, would have been adequately tutored by guru, Stephen Francis, who would not have encouraged this experiment had he not fancied her chances.


Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Women's 200m final is poised to parade four notable athletes — two veterans and two relative rookies, one in each category from rivals Jamaica and the United States. Not surprisingly, the popular top-three prediction is Felix, VCB and Jeter, in that order — a prophecy which has a logical ring to it.


Despite the overwhelming odds in her favour, Felix will have to earn that gold medal, nevertheless. Her credentials are imposing entering the meet, with her recent PR at the US National Trials being the fastest time run by a woman in 14 years.


However, the fact is that the former World Youth champion has yet to claim an individual victory at the Olympiad, despite her multiple triumphs at the worlds — a psychological barrier yet to be vaulted.


Ultimately, the 200m could be a dogfight between Felix and her Jamaican opponents. My hunch is that the outcome will be determined by how things unfold in the 100m, which would have been settled days earlier.


If either Fraser-Pryce or VCB wins the shorter race, the momentum could carry over into the 200 and they would be difficult to deny. The truth is that since Felix cannot win the 100 and Jeter is not expected to cop the half-lap, only the Jamaican duo has a realistic chance of snatching the double in London.



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