The World Championships in Doha will mark the beginning of a long season for most athletes, which many of them will be hoping will end with a gold medal at the 2020 Olympic Games. Indeed, the countdown to the greatest sporting show on earth is well untruly underway and when the event in Doha concludes on the 6th October; we will know exactly who the contenders are to pick up the crown that has been left behind by Usain Bolt following his retirement.
Bolt himself was a clear sign of the significance that this competition has on Olympic performance. He broke the world records in the 4X100 relay and the 100 and 200-metre events throughout his career at the World Championships on his way to winning eight gold medals. This event in Doha will give the punters a clear indicator who will be among the leading contenders for gold medals when the 2020 Games roll around.
Andre De Grasse
The Canadian athlete has been shortlisted as the next big things on the track by Usain Bolt himself, and he already holds all the tools that could see him excel on the global stage. The event needs a new superstar, and De Grasse could be that man. The 24-year-old only took up athletics on a fulltime basis before the London Games in 2012, and since then he has recorded personal best times of 9.91 seconds in the 100m and 19.80 seconds in the 200m. In just four years he went from a nobody to a medallist at the Rio Olympics. However, his eyes will be on bettering that in Japan with his first gold medal.
His exploits in Brazil saw him become the first Canadian athlete since 1932 to win three medals at the same game, and the expectation on him from his country will be overwhelming. He will be expected to put down a marker in Doha that he can live up to the hype. However, inconsistency and injuries have played their part throughout his season so far as he has only won once at 100m and twice at 200m this year. His performance last time out at the Nanjing World Challenge was much improved, but he still has some way to go to fulfil his potential. The 200m event does seem more appropriate to his skill set and qualities, but he will also have a good chance at the 100m.
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The preference over the 100m would be for Christian Coleman. He will be expected to be the star performer in Doha ahead of next summer’s games, but the showdown between himself and fellow American Noah Lyles has already got the tongues wagging in the athletics world. Both are hitting the peak of their abilities, but Coleman’s achievements make him the leading contender to achieve both Olympic and World Championship success. He is already the world indoor record holder for the fastest time over 60 metres which just highlights the burst of speed that he possesses, while he is also a silver medallist from the last World Championships.
Lyles did beat him earlier in the year, but following that event in May, he went onto clock the fastest time of the year at 100m. This just highlights that he is hitting form at precisely the right time ahead of the World Championships. Not only that, but he is capable of going much faster. In August 2018 he recorded the seventh fastest time of all-time at 9.79; which was also the quickest time on the track in the last nine years. Since his defeat to Lyles, he has won events in Oslo and the USA, and he looks in perfect shape to go for gold in Doha.
Wayde van Niekerk
Michael Johnson’s record over 400m looked almost impossible to beat, but as we know in athletics, every record is a target, and for van Niekerk that is exactly what he achieved. At the Olympic Games in Rio, he smashed the record as he clocked 43.03. In doing so, he became the first athlete to ever run sub-10, sub-20, sub-31 and sub-41 seconds in the 100m, 200m, 300m and 400m events respectively. The South African athlete almost had the pick of which event he wanted to dominate next. There were rumours that he could have attempted the unprecedented treble of 100m, 200m and 400m, but it would seem that fate has stopped that from happening.
Athletics fans haven’t seen van Niekerk on the track since the 2017 season due to an injury that he picked up playing in a charity football match. However, it was recently announced that he would be returning to the track at the Diamond League meeting in London, and it would be used as preparation for the upcoming World Championships. How he comes back into the sport will be vital and wins in London and Doha would set him up to be the picture-boy for the Olympic Games next year. No other athlete has been able to come close to matching him over 400m, and that doesn’t look likely to change, as long as he comes back in good shape.
Away from the track, there could be a star born in the form of Caterine Ibarguen from Colombia in the long jump and triple jump. The Colombian has impressed throughout the season in 2019 and could be a shock contender for a gold medal in her events. She will be preparing for her fourth Olympic Games, after winning medals at the previous two; both in the long jump. She won silver in London before getting the gold in Rio and this season she has been as dominant in the long jump as she has been in the triple jump.
It could be set to be her final Olympics, and her form points to her going out in a blaze of glory. This season she has won triple jump events in Barranquilla, Oslo and Lausanne, while she came second in long jump competition in Doha and Rome. It would be difficult to see her past her adding two more gold medals to her collection at the World Championships.
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