10 athletes ready to take the world by storm in Moscow next week
Last weekend's Anniversary Games in London whetted the appetite for track and field again so here are the potential stars of the World Championships which begin on Saturday
Sunday 04 August 2013
Jessica Judd (Great Britain) 800m
It is going to be a big day for Judd: 15 August, the day she runs in the heats of the 800m in Moscow, and also when her A-level results will drop through her letterbox back in Canvey Island. Judd's rise this summer has been spectacular and while Rio 2016 or even the 2020 Olympics are more realistic targets for the 18-year-old, her achievements this year already mark her out. She won the European Team Championships on her senior British debut and then went below two minutes for the first time to win the Birmingham Diamond League meeting – and celebrated with a trip to Colchester Zoo. Won a silver at last year's world junior championships.
English Gardner (United States) 100m
A name to catch the eye and a sprinter who can do so on the track. The 21-year-old only turned pro this summer after a successful college career with the University of Oregon, where she studied social science, and two weeks later won the US trials in a then world-leading 10.85sec. Since turning pro she has moved to Los Angeles where she is now part of a training group working with the controversial coach John Smith, who looked after Maurice Greene. Her first aim is to bulk up her slight frame under Smith's guidance. Gardner will also run as part of a 100m relay quartet that does not include any of the team that broke the world record in London, showing how quickly the next generation of US sprinters have come through.
Yarisley Silva (Cuba) Pole vault
The pint-sized 26-year-old has never won a major title and if she breaks her duck in Moscow it will be the most unpopular result of the entire championships. Russia's great favourite, the Jess Ennis of Moscow 2013, is Yelena Isinbayeva, who will hang up her pole after the worlds. But Silva, all 5ft 3in or her, will start as the favourite to step up from the silver she won in London (Isinbayeva took bronze). Silva beat the winner in London, American Jenn Suhr, at the Anniversary Games and has dominated the season with four wins out of six.
Blessing Okagbare (Nigeria) 100m, 200m & long jump
A strong, powerful runner, Okagbare broke the African record in the heats and did so again in the final en route to winning the Diamond League 100m at the Olympic Stadium last weekend. Her late surge – she is a notoriously slow starter – took her through a high-class field that included Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the defending world champion and quickest women in the world this year. Okagbare won in 10.79sec, 0.02 slower than the time Fraser-Pryce set in the heats. The Nigerian is enjoying a notable all-round season, she leads the Diamond League long jump standings and also won the 200m at the Birmingham Grand Prix.
Kirani James (Grenada) 400m
By the time James celebrated his 20th birthday he was already a world and Olympic champion and it would be a huge surprise were he not to become a double world champion in Moscow. The reason to watch the young man from St Georges – where the main road out of the capital has been renamed Kirani James Boulevard – is because this is an athlete destined to be one of the greats. He is capable of dominating the distance as crushingly as Michael Johnson once did and that world record set by Johnson all of 14 summers ago, 43.18sec, may also prove within James's reach.
Warren Weir (Jamaica) 200m
With no Yohan Blake, Tyson Gay or Asafa Powell there are sprint medals up for grabs and the latest Jamaican off the blocks is the front-runner. The 23-year-old trains with Usain Bolt and Blake as part of the Racers Track Club under Glen Mills. Weir won bronze behind his training partners at London 2012 and appears to have built briskly on that achievement. He ran 19.89sec in London last weekend to finish ahead of another Jamaican star in the making, Jason Young, and that followed a personal best of 19.79 to win the Jamaican trials. Bolt's season's best of 19.73 is not out of reach, even if the man himself still is.
Zuzana Hejnova (Czech Republic) 400m hurdles
If Britain's captain Perri Shakes-Drayton is to win a popular gold, this is the woman she must beat. The 26-year-old is the form athlete of 2013. Her victory in London last weekend was her fifth in five Diamond League races and the fastest time in the world this year. She has improved steadily since finishing seventh at Beijing 2008, but has taken a leap forward this year – her 53.07sec last Saturday was 0.31 quicker than the time that won her bronze in the stadium at London 2012.
Bohdan Bondarenko (Ukraine) High jump
Last Saturday the leggy 6ft 6in Ukrainian seemed to catch a whiff of the buoyant air at the Olympic Stadium and told the officials to place the bar at 2.47m. No one has ever cleared that height and Bondarenko failed in his two attempts. But he believes he can break Javier Sotomayor's 20-year-old mark of 2.45m. The 23-year-old cleared 2.41m in Lausanne last month, the highest since 1994.
Tiffany Porter (Great Britain) 100m hurdles
Porter has been here before – she was flagged up as a medal prospect ahead of London 2012 but, hampered by a back injury, she failed to make the final. She considered quitting the sport but has come back well this year and was a strong second to the world and Olympic champion Sally Pearson at the Anniversary Games last weekend, finishing ahead of Kellie Wells, the bronze medallist at 2012. The American-born 25-year-old – her husband Jeff runs for the US – was at the centre of the "plastic Brits" controversy stirred up by a newspaper last year. She claims to have been unaffected and was warmly received by the London crowd, but away from the unique pressures of London 2012 she is capable of a medal in Moscow.
Conseslus Kipruto (Kenya) 3,000m steeplechase
The next big thing to come running off the Kenyan production line, Kipruto is only 18 yet is enjoying a memorable debut season in the senior ranks. He put a golden full stop on his junior career by winning at the world championships last year and will be the boy-man to beat in Moscow in the grown-up version. So far this season he has been triumphant at all the Diamond League meetings, winning five out of five in the steeplechase. He also won the ultra-competitive Kenyan trials and in so doing completed a hat-trick of wins over Ezekiel Kemboi, the world champion and the man who won Olympic gold in London last year.
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