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Powell, Wariner, Richards and Dibaba go for gold Sunday in Berlin

1 September 2006

Asafa Powell, Jeremy Wariner, Sanya Richards, Tirunesh Dibaba Asafa Powell, Jeremy Wariner, Sanya Richards, Tirunesh Dibaba
By Robert Falkoff

For four athletes who are undefeated in their feature events on the Golden League circuit, the thoughts have turned from a run for fun to a dash for cash.

On Sunday in Berlin, there's a $1 million jackpot waiting at the end of the Golden League rainbow and Asafa Powell (100-meter), Jeremy Wariner (400-meter), Sanya Richards (400-meter) and Tirunesh Dibaba (5,000-meter) will be out to win their fair share.

All four athletes are 5-0 in their Golden League outings and a sixth win for Powell, Wariner, Richards and Dibaba would mean an additional $125,000 for each runner.

Under the terms of the Golden League jackpot, five wins insures a slice of the first $500,000. Powell, Wariner, Richards and Dibaba would split that pot four ways unless Kenenia Bekele (5,000-meter) and/or Irving Saladino (long jump) win their respective events in Berlin. Bekele and Saladino have four wins and a fifth would enable them to take a share of the first $500,000.

The second $500,000 is reserved for those achieving a perfect series of six wins. Will Powell, Wariner, Richards and Dibaba all prevail and make it a four-way split and a $125,000 check for each? Or will someone stumble and increase the pay day for the athletes who go undefeated?

Based on how they have performed in Europe thus far, it would seem that all four undefeated athletes rate strong shots at winning the final and taking a quarter split of the remaining $500,000. But sometimes that last race can be the toughest, especially when the last pot of money is on the line and the pressure of expectations is weighing on an athlete's shoulders.

Here's a closer look at the "Final Four" in the Golden League and a rating of each athlete's chances to emerge undefeated in Europe for the summer. For our purposes, the rating system is excellent, good and fair.

On your mark, get set, go:

Asafa Powell

The doping ban against chief competitor Justin Gatlin has opened the door for Powell to dominate in the Golden League. The world record holder in the 100-meter, in effect, gave his opponents a head start last week in Brussels when a quick gun left him stuck in the starting blocks. No matter. Powell still came on strong to win in 9.99 seconds with an effort that he said may have been his fastest final 90 meters. Said to be angry and frustrated by the quick gun, Powell figures to be primed for a top start-to-finish outing this time around and that could lead to a world record if conditions are favorable. Powell has three 9.77s, including one on this year's Golden League circuit. He thinks it's only a matter of time before he lowers the mark and this could be the time. Marcus Brunson and Leonard Scott could challenge, but only if Powell again fails to get out of the blocks cleanly. Chances for victory: Excellent.

Jeremy Wariner

The man in the sunglasses just won't be denied. Wariner, who races with his trademark shades whether or not the sun is shining, just seems too strong and too confident to suffer a glitch in Berlin. Last week in Brussels, Wariner saw Gary Kikaya get off to a brisk start. But on the back straightaway, Wariner turned it off and made up the ground. Taking the lead with approximately 250 meters to go, Wariner cruised the last 20 meters to win in 44.29. That race was delayed almost 15 minutes because of an electrical failure. With a more favorable environment in Berlin, the reigning gold medal winner could take dead aim on a sub-44-second performance and blow away the field. Chances for victory: Excellent.

Sanya Richards

In her spare time, Richards likes to sing and dance. She even puts on shows for family and friends. Her Berlin finale could make for a great show, as well. Although the pace in Brussels was relatively slow, Richards turned it up a notch to finish at 50.02, which was a full second ahead of second place. With big money on the line, Richards figures to be at her best on Sunday. But this could be a different kind of pressure than Richards has ever faced. Chances for victory: Good

Tirunesh Dibaba

Dibaba is coming off a hard-fought victory over fellow Ethiopian Meseret Defar and Britain's Jo Pavey in Brussels. In the last lap, after a tactical race, Dibaba sprinted away from Defar and Pavey to win in 14:30.63, which was the tenth fastest of all time. Defar, an Olympic champion who has run 14:23.53, is a major roadblock between Dibaba and a sixth win in the Golden League. It won't be easy to hold off Defar one more time. Chances for victory: Fair.

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