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Tight corners: Breaking down the worlds

Source: Watch the world champs live daily webcast on WCSN.com

21 August 2007
By Dave Ungrady

The first time the IAAF World Championships for Athletics were held in Japan in Tokyo in 1991, U.S. long jumper Mike Powell broke one of the more celebrated records in track and field history, Bob Beamon's 23-year-old world record of 29 feet, 2 1/2 inches (8.90 meters) set at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

Beginning Friday in the Eastern Time Zone, Japan will again be the host country for the world championships, but this time the event will be staged in Osaka. Athletes could be poised to set world records in the men's 400 meters and 100 meters and the women's high jump. If a fourth world record is set, it will be the most at any outdoor world championships. Below is a review of the more highly anticipated dramatic scenarios that could unfold at Nagai Stadium from Saturdaythrough Sept. 2.

Ten to Watch:

Men's shot put (Day 1, Friday/Saturday): Americans have been dominating this event all year and could come home with a medal sweep. Olympic silver medalist Adam Nelson is the defending champion, but Reese Hoffa owns three of the top five throws this year, including the best. Olympic bronze medalist Joachim Olsen of Denmark could spoil a U.S. triple triumph.

Men's 100 meters (Day 2, Saturday/Sunday): Barring mishap, American Tyson Gay and Jamaican Asafa Powell, the world record holder, are expected to face off for the first time in the most highly anticipated final at the championships. The two ran against each other in the 100 meters three times in 2006, and Powell won all three races. Powell missed the 2005 world championship due to injury, which also caused him to miss the early part of the 2007 season. Gay, who owns the season's best time, also is nursing a minor leg injury. Francis Obikwelu of Portugal, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist, should contend for a medal along with Michael Frater of Jamaica and Darrel Brown of Trinidad.

Women's 100 meters (Day 3, Aug. 27): 2003 world champion Torri Edwards of the United States missed the 2004 Olympics and the 2005 world championships due to a doping violation. She won the U.S. outdoor title in June for the first time since 2003 and owns the second fastest time in the world, 0.01 seconds behind the 10.89 run by Veronica Campbell of Jamaica. Defending champion Lauryn Williams is struggling to regain her top form.

Women's pole vault (Day 4, Aug. 28) Olympic gold medalist and defending world champion Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia is unbeaten in six events this season. The world record holder (5.01 meters) also owns six of the top eight jumps this year. Jenn Stuczynski of the United States (4.88) and Svetlana Feofanaova of Russia should provide the most intense pressure.

Women's long jump (Day 4): A sweep by Russian jumpers is a strong possibility. Six Russians, led by Lyudmila Kolchanova and Olympic champion Tatyana Lebedeva, own eight of the top 15 jumps in the world.

Men's 400-meter hurdles (Day 4): With six runners, including defending champion Bershawn Jackson, claiming the top nine times in the world this year, Americans dominate this event and should finish 1-2-3. U.S. champion James Carter, who won silver at the 2005 world championships, tops the list and looks for his first world title.

Men's 1,500 meters (Day 5): It's been 20 years since a U.S. runner, Jim Spivey, has won a medal in this event. He took bronze. Four years earlier, Steve Scott won a silver medal, the highest place for an American runner in the 1,500 at the worlds. Alan Webb, who broke Scott's 25-year-old American record in the mile in July, owns the fastest time in the world this year and is primed to win the first world title by an American. Webb will face a stern test from by Daniel Kipchirchir Komen of Kenya and former Kenyan Bernard Lagat, now an American. Lagat won a silver medal in this event in 2001 while still a Kenyan citizen.

Men's 400 meters (Day 7, Aug. 31) Olympic and defending world champion Jeremy Wariner ran a personal best 43.50 earlier this month and is poised to break the 43.18 world record set by his manager and mentor, Michael Johnson, at the 1999 world championships. U.S. champion Angelo Taylor and LaShawn Merritt could procure a sweep for the Americans.

Men's 110-meter hurdles (Day 7): Olympic champion and world-record holder Liu Xiang, who has won five of six races this year, seeks his first world title after winning bronze in 2003 and silver in 2005. Two-time Olympic silver medalist Terrence Trammell of the United States also looks for his first world title.

Women's high jump (Day 9, Sept. 2): Blanka Vlasic of Croatia has won 13 of her last 14 competitions and owns five of the top six jumps this year with a best of 2.07 meters. Her attempts to break the current record of 2.09 meters set at the 1987 world championships have failed this year, but, with momentum, she could finally clear that barrier in Osaka.

Severely challenged: Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain will defend his titles in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters despite recovering from a foot injury that has kept him out of competition since winning a bronze medal in the 1,500 meters at the 2006 Asian Games late last year.

Lagat will attempt a 1,500 meters/5,000-meter double despite an IAAF time ranking of 32 in the 1,500 meters and not appearing on the 5,000 meter list.

U.S. sprinter Allyson Felix, the defending champion in the 200 meters and the world leader in that event, is also scheduled to compete in the 100 meters.

Gay will attempt to become the third U.S. sprinter to win both the 100 meters and 200 meters at a world championship. Maurice Greene (1999) and Justin Gatlin (2005) are the others.

Three-peats: Tatyana Tomashova of Russia will try to become the first woman to win three consecutive 1,500-meter titles at the outdoor world championships.

Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia will try to win his third consecutive world outdoor title in the 10,000 meters.

Jaouad Gharib of Morocco will attempt to win his third consecutive men's marathon title in the opening event of the championships.

Olympic champion Dwight Philips tries to become the first American to win three consecutive outdoor world titles in the long jump.

Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia, the Olympic long jump champion, will try to win her third consecutive outdoor world title in the triple jump.

Double-double Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia will try and repeat her double wins in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters in 2005. She is attempting a record third consecutive title in the 5,000 meters. In that race, she is expected to face Ethiopian Meseret Defar, the Olympic champion and world-record holder in 14:16.63, in what promises to be one of the tighter battles of the championships.

Home-course advantage: Reiko Tosa of Japan, the 2006 Tokyo Marathon champion, is a favorite in the women's marathon. Japanese runners have won four of the past five marathon team titles at the world championships.

Streakers: Two-time Olympic and world champion Virgilijus Alekna of Lithuania will try to keep alive the longest winning streak in track and field. He has won 37 consecutive discus finals.

Streak busters: Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi will try to win his first world title in the 3,000-meter steeplechase after finishing second in 2003 and 2005.

Yuriy Borzakovsky of Russia will try to capture his first 800-meter title after finishing second in 2003 and 2005.

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