A Beijing 2008 Olympic Games track and field primer...

Error message

(Tim) Realizing how many of us are boycotting the Olympics because of the persecution of Christians and other crimes China commits against her people, I also realize this is something believers can differ over and both sides hold their convictions quite sincerely. My daughter, Michal, is boycotting; my daughter-in-law, Heidi, is not. My friend, David Wegener, is a missionary to Zambia and subscribes to some exotic track and field publication, so the Olympics for him are like the Super Bowl and World Series all wrapped up in one. Today, he sent me the following post and I trust those of you dear friends who are boycotting will not spit on me for sharing it with those who aren't.

* * *

Men’s 100 meters: Tough call. Tyson Gay would have been the favorite but he injured his leg in the 200-meter race during the U.S. Olympic Trials. He says he has recovered fully but I think it’s disinformation. The two Jamaicans, Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell are now the favorites. I’d go with Powell.

Men’s 200 meters: My favorite would have been Gay but he didn’t make the team in this event, falling to the track with a hamstring injury at the Trials in Eugene. Usain Bolt will win. He is tall and can unwind better in this longer event, even though he recently set the world record in the 100 meters, breaking Powell’s record...

Men’s 400 meters: Should be a good race between Jeremy Wariner
of the U.S., who won the Athens gold medal in 2004, and LaShawn
Merritt. Wariner has been nearly undefeated in the last four years, but
Merritt has beaten him twice in 2008, including in the U.S. Olympic
Trials. I still think Wariner will win. He is managed by Michael
Johnson, world record holder in the 200 and 400 meters. Both went to
Baylor, almost a Baptist college. Here's a clip.

Men’s 800 meters: The man who is running best in the world right now
is probably the youngster who just set the world junior record,
Abubaker Kaki, from Sudan. Politics are always a part of the Olympics
and it is hard for me to root for a Sudanese Arab, after all the
atrocities his government have foisted on their own countrymen and
those in surrounding countries. So I’ll go with the champ from the
Athens Olympics, Yuriy Borzakovskiy, from Russia. If Kaki wins, he will be the youngest gold medalist since Bob Mathias won the decathlon in 1948 at age 17.

Men’s 1500 meters: Last year, Kenyan turned American, Bernard Lagat,
won the world championships in this event (and in the 5000 meter race).
Usually these big meets are tactical affairs. No one wants to set a
hard pace and so everyone lays back and tries to kick it in at the end.
Such a race favors Lagat. He should win, though Rashid Ramzi from
Bahrain will challenge.

Men’s 3000-meter Steeplechase: Kenyans dominate this event. Last
year, the top six steeplechasers in the world were all Kenyans. Root
for Ezekiel Kemboi.

Men’s 5000 meters: A dog-fight between Kenenisa Bekele and
Bernard Lagat. Lagat won the world championships last year. Bekele
holds the world record in 12:37.35 (60.56 per lap or an average of a
four-minute mile for more then three miles), but these championships
are usually strategic affairs and the gold medal often goes to the guy
with the biggest kick. That would be Lagat, but I’ll still go with
Bekele this time.

KenenisabekeleMen’s 10,000 meters: The Ethiopian, Kenenisa Bekele,
should win. At the Prefontaine Classic on 8 June, Bekele tried to break
his world record (of 26:17.53). Though he failed, he still ran 26:25.
Some perspective: to run a sub-four-minute, you have to run four laps
under 60 seconds each. In his world record race, Bekele ran 25 laps
(6.25 miles) averaging 63 seconds per lap. No American has ever broken
27 minutes for the 10,000 meters and our best runners rarely break 28
minutes. America’s best used to be Bob Kennedy from IU who recently

Men’s Marathon: Always hard to call. So many factors enter in: heat, humidity, injuries and Bejing’s pollution. I’ll go with Haile Gebrselassie,
the Ethiopian. He broke the world record in 2007 but fears the
pollution may prevent him from running his best. Geb suffers from

Men’s 20K and 50K Walk: Track and Field News says the 20K will be won by Jefferson Perez (Ecuador) and the 50K by Vladimir Kanaykin of Russia.

Men’s 110-meter Hurdles: The winner of the last Olympics was a Chinese
man named Xiang Liu. He has dominated the event for the last few years
since Athens and was ranked number one in the world last year. However,
last year’s number two ranker, Dayron Robles, broke Liu’s world record in June. (Watch it here.)
The nation of China is resting its hopes on Liu’s shoulders as he is
the only male Chinese track athlete who has a realistic chance at the
gold medal. And they have told him, if he doesn’t win, all his past
accomplishments (Olympic and World Championship gold medals, world
records, etc.) mean nothing. A little pressure, huh? Robles (Cuba) will
win as Liu has a minor injury.

Men’s 400-meter Hurdles: Kerron Clement of the U.S. should
win and it is possible that America could sweep the top three places.
Bershawn Jackson (U.S.) should challenge.

Men’s 400-meter Relay and 1600-meter Relay: Short relay should be
between the U.S. and Jamaica. I’ll go with the U.S. though they’ve had
difficulty with exchanges in big meets and exchanges are make or break.
The United States should win here as well. A world record could happen.

Men’s High Jump: Most high jumpers are 6’5”, 6’6”, but Stefan Holm (Sweden) is only 5’11” and can jump nearly two feet over his head (watch how
he curls his back around the bar as he clears 7’10.5”). Yaroslav
Rybakov (Russia) will challenge but let’s go with the underdog with the
buzz cut.

Men’s Pole Vault: Brad Walker broke the eight-year American Record in early June (watch it here),
going a hair under 19’10”. He is the odds on favorite, but the pole
vault is tricky. Wind and rain can completely change this event around.
Sergey Bubka still holds the indoor and outdoor world record. He was
the tops in the world in the late 80s, early 90s, but lost the
Barcelona Olympics because of the wind. (Side note for Bloomington
fans. Our own Dave Volz, South and IU vaulter, finished 5th in
Barcelona while Bubka no-heighted.) The sentimental favorite this time
will be Jeff Harwig, whose American record Walker broke. Hartwig, who
likes to raise large snakes in his spare time, just turned 40 years
old. It would be nice for him to win and lots of couch- potato former
jocks will be rooting for him, but he is past his prime and was lucky
to make the American team. Russia’s Yevgeniy Lukyanenko and Australia’s
Steve Hooker will challenge Walker.

Men’s Long Jump: Irving Saladino (Panama) should win. Watch Saladino
going over 28’7”, the longest jump in the world in the last 14 years.
Bob Beamon’s world record in 1968 in the thin air of the Mexico City
Olympics dominated this event until the early 90s when Mike Powell and
Carl Lewis staged an epic battle at the World Championships in 1994 in
Japan, with both going over 29 feet and Powell winning at 29’5.5”. The
closest anyone has gone since then is Saladino in the video link.

Men’s Triple Jump: Phillips Idowu
is the favorite. Those from Bloomington will be interested to know that
America’s best hope is Aarik Wilson, who jumped at IU for four years.
He has a real chance to medal and is very consistent. Christian Olson,
from Sweden, was the favorite, but injuries have kept him out for the
last few years, including this year. The world record is still held by
Jonathan Edwards (now retired), the son of an Anglican minister and
himself a serious Christian (for a while, he refused to compete on the
Sabbath). Edwards went just over 60 feet. The winning distance at this
Olympics will be over 57 feet, maybe over 58 feet. Watch Idowu,
as he wins the 2008 World Indoor Championships with a jump of 58’3”.
Idowu will have to watch out for Nelson Evora of Portugal.

Men’s Shot Put: Toss up here between the three Americans: Adam Nelson
(kind of small for a shot putter, at 5’11”, 255 lbs), Reese Hoffa
(pushing 300 lbs but only 5’11”) and Christian Cantwell (a giant at
6’6”, 320 lbs). Cantwell is inconsistent but capable of some monster
throws. Hoffa has been doing well recently. Nelson has won two Olympic
silver medals. It will probably come down to who is “on” that day. I’ll
go with Nelson, “the shrimp.” This is his time. Watch this.

Men’s Discus Throw: Guys from the Baltic Republics tend to dominate
this event. The last few years, top dog in the discus has been a fight
between Gerd Kanter (Estonia) and Virgilijus Alekna (Lithuania). Kanter was ranked number one in the world last year and I’ll go with him.

Men’s Hammer Throw: Ivan Tikhon from Belarus. If we go with
an Asian, it would be Koji Murofushi. The World Championships were held
in Japan last year and Koji was the only Japanese who had a realistic
shot at winning. Tikhon won, in part because Murofushi had taken time
off in 2007 to complete his doctorate. This video will give you a feel for the hammer throw.

Men’s Javelin Throw: What the Baltic Republics are to the discus, the Scandanavian countries are to the Javelin. Best bets are Tero Pitkamaki
(Finland) or Andreas Thorkildsen (Norway). They ranked one and two in
the world last year. Breaux Greer, from Louisiana (kinda near
Scandanavia), ranked number three, but he is injured and barely made
the U.S. team. I’d go with Pitkamaki. Watch this and listen to the announcer go crazy in Finnish.

Men’s Decathlon: Bryan Clay
(U.S.) and Roman Sebrle (Czech Rep) have been the best in the world the
past few years and Sebrle is the world record holder, but he is
injured. Dmitriy Karpov (Kazakhstan) could challenge. Small but strong,
Clay is a fire-ball. Rarely does a man his size (5’10”, 180lbs) excel
in the throwing events of the ten-eventer (shot, discus and javelin)
like Clay does. Bryan is a professing Christian who attends a
FourSquare Gospel church.