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Three key battles in Berlin

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Katharine Merry | 16:36 UK time, Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Many people ask if there is an Olympic hangover for an athlete the season after a Games. Not for me there wasn't.

A new season meant a new mission and this season that means the World Championships in Berlin.

There are those who left Beijing last year with gold and want to add another too show the world they are deserving of being the reigning Olympic champion.

And there are those who, in their minds, under-performed or had injuries in Olympic year, so want to make up for that.

One thing that stands out for me this year is potential head-to-head battles between athletes who got it right in Beijing and those who didn't.

Here are just three. Who do you think will win?


Bolt v GayThis battle between Mr Entertainer and Mr Quiet must be one of the most eagerly anticipated in athletics history.

Since putting in performances hotter than the Olympic flame in Beijing, Bolt has become a superstar, not just because of his fast feet but for his exuberance.

But the triple Olympic champion and world record-holder currently lies second in the world rankings behind American Gay, who went into the Olympics carrying a hamstring injury and failed to qualify for the final.

They are different characters, with different techniques but they have the same mission: to be number one on the only stage that matters this season. Bolt wants the world to see that he can beat anyone and Gay wants to show the world that Bolt can be beaten.

Many believe that, if Gay he not been injured, he could have challenged Bolt in Beijing. I don't. Many think Gay could challenge Bolt in Berlin, I don't.

The reason why? I don't believe with the injury set-backs Gay has had, he has raced enough and is fit enough to go through the rounds and still challenge a man who can win whichever way he runs a race.

After his 200m victory at the London Grand Prix, Gay was very tired, walking the slowest lap of honour of the two-day meet.

I interviewed him there and felt that maybe time is not on his side leading into a major championships.


Evora v IdowuWhen I say Phillips Idowu didn't get it right, let me explain. Phillips himself says he didn't get it right.

"It hurts" and "I fell short" are just two of the phrases Phillips will say when you ask him about missing the "Big G" by just 5cm to Portugal's Nelson Evora.

Evora, the reigning world champion, leads this year's world rankings but is just 6cm ahead of the man who took silver in Beijing.

Knowing how long it took him to finally box his Beijing disappointment and bury it in the garden, I hope Phillips he hops, steps and jumps his way to the top of the podium.


Richards v OhuruoguThere are two big questions here. Is Christine Ohuruogo fit enough to defend her title and will America's Sanya Richards finally judge her race properly when it matters?

Christine has raced this year with the weight of the world title and the Olympic gold medal round her neck. It's a nice weight, but a weight nevertheless. Her plans have been knocked off track though because of a virus and hamstring injury.

At both the 2007 Worlds in Osaka and in Beijing last year Christine has, quite rightly, taken advantage of Sanya's poor racing tactics in major finals.

Sanya may have the current world-leading time, as she did going into Beijing, but we all know Christine has a superb habit of getting it right when it matters, whatever circumstances she is coming into the Championships from.


  • Comment number 1.

    I cannot wait to for the World Championships, particularly the Bolt v Gay showdown. I really hope Gay can challenge Bolt, perhpas more world records could tumble?

  • Comment number 2.

    I agree... I don't think Bolt can be beaten just yet!

  • Comment number 3.

    I am only interested in the Gay-Bolt match up. It doesn't look gay will muster enough of a challenge to the hugely talented Bolt who seems to still have a bit to spare. But I wish he did. That will be very good for the sprinting class in general.

  • Comment number 4.

    Totally agree Katherine. These are 3 really big head to heads and I am excited to watch them all.
    I too feel Bolt has too much for anyone right now and agree Gay didn't look convincing to me in London. Could it be mind games by Gay though to deflect pressure?
    Ohuruogo you should never be written off and hope she can win again.
    I am trying to get my daughter excited about the Champs, but all she wants to know at the moment is what colour Idowu's hair is going to be!! Any ideas?!
    Looking forward to your insight from the Championships, keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 5.

    If Gay can get through the first three rounds without having to work - and, realistically, the first two won't even be training-run intensive for someone as good as him - then we could have the race we yearned for last year. We don't know how Bolt might react to a genuine challenge, plus Bolt has shown nothing to suggest that he's running anything like he was last year. But if he does, it will confirm him as a freak. It could be interesting.

    And if Sanya Richards doesn't win this championship, then she'll never win one. I think she's a far, far better 400 runner and Ohuruogu looks out of sorts - she'll do well to medal.

    I'll stick my neck out and say Bolt to pip Gay by a few hundreths in a 9.75 ish time. And Richards by a country mile in the 400. Sub 49. If I'm wrong feel free to shoot me.

  • Comment number 6.

    My three key battles to the upcoming World Championships are those yet to be decided. The womens 100m hurdles will be a great spectacle. Lolo Jones will certainly be looking to make amends for Beijing but what with the Olympic Champion competing, the Canadians Priscilla Lopez and her evergreen teamate, the fast improving Sally Mclellan and not least the Jamaicans Deloreen Ennis-London and Brigette Foster-Hylton. This race could be a blanket finish and is perhaps the most hotly contested of all events at these Championship. The w100 will be the other showpiece event with Carmelita Jeter throwing down the gauntlet at crystal Palace and Shelly ann Fraser responding at Monaco. Meanwhile Keron Stewart has quietly and efficiently bagged four of four in golden league 100m races so far this season. Whilst Tyson Gay v Usain Bolt is the 'big bill' the undecided races which are wide open have got to be the most anticipated, at least from an international perspective.

  • Comment number 7.

    "At both the 2007 Worlds in Osaka and in Beijing last year Christine has, quite rightly, taken advantage of Sanya's poor racing tactics in major finals."

    Sanya Richards was not in the 400m in 2007. She was injured and missed the US trials.

  • Comment number 8.

    Key battles? OK.

    Sorry but Phillips Odowu will never be on anyones radar as being a 'key' anything. The man is two inconsistent to be considered one fo the top athletes.

  • Comment number 9.

    Mack_501, Couldn't you argue that Richards missed out on selection at trials because of her choice over preparation?

    Mark Butler write recently:

    "In 2007, Richards interrupted her build-up to the US trials by travelling to Europe to win the first Golden League in Oslo.

    "But she then went on to place only fourth in those cut-throat trials and so was not even selected to compete at 400m in the Osaka World Championships."

  • Comment number 10.

    i think bolt v gay will b acracker i hope bolt beat gay gay 2long the usa have thing there own way know that raggie is playing the tune they us like 2 dance ohhaha

  • Comment number 11.

    I can't wait for the sprint relays .............. Jamaicans should be very special. Men Bolt, Powell,Blake & Carter/Frater and Women Stewart, Frazer, Campbell & Brooks.......... = Two GOLDS MEDALS

  • Comment number 12.

    lolo didnt qualify through the american champs :( sorry mate lol

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm becoming slightly doubtful of Christine Ohuruogo, she has been able to perform at big championships being the Commonwealth, World and Olympic champion. But I think that Sanya Richards is a bit too ahead this year, running under 50 seconds five times, yet christine hasnt broken the 51 second barrier! But she usually produces good times at major championships! It'd be really good if she can get a medal preferably a gold one!

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi all.

    This blog highlights just 3 head to heads to look forward too. Add to that the likes of the Women's High Jump with Ariane Friedrich and Blanka Vlasic and the Men's Long Jump with Dwight Phillips and Irving Saladino, the action will be endless!

    When I asked Phillips recently what colour his hair would be in Berlin and whether he would be matching the blue Berlin track, he said he was going to go for his 'lucky' red! We will see!
    You make some good points but on the other hand should he use the heat and quarter final to get himself in peak condition due to lack of races this season?
    Everyone has to step it up in the semi finals, with the final being just over 2 hours later.
    Well spotted my mistake. It was of course a battle in Osaka between Christine, Nicola Sanders and Novlene Williams with 5/100ths of a second seperating the 3 medalists. Will this years race be so close?

  • Comment number 15.

    I totally agree Katherine,
    Although i think Antonina Krivoshakpa is a big thret to sanya richards hopes of winning, but i also think nicola sanders can run a very quick time if she manages to get back to her best.

    And can i just say i think that it is really sad at the form of the british female 100m sprinters as i think Jeanette Kwakye&Montell Douglas really have sub 11 seconds potential which i will hope to see next season.

  • Comment number 16.

    It looks set to be a great Championships, I can't wait to see these showdowns!

  • Comment number 17.

    Thanks for the info Kath I have informed my daughter and she is waiting eagerly to see if Idowu does come to Berlin with the red hair! Of course those other battles you have mentioned in the high jump and long jump are going to be good too. I believe Vlasic this year will win the high jump with 2.07m and Saladino will win the long jump with 8m 65!

  • Comment number 18.

    Hello all,
    Some points:
    1) Yes there are some exciting duels - we just saw one - the men's shot.
    The men's LJ has to be another - I'm assuming that Dwight Philips is competing? If so then Saladino will have a real battle on his hands, Idsupa.
    2) I'm glad to say that Ennis is making me eat my words that I posted on this site earlier this summer - fingers crossed for the Javelin and 800.
    3) Poor Idowu - if he wins a medal it will be great but I don't pin my hopes on it. Last year winning the silver in Beijing was seen as a failure by him (and many others) - but I think the opposite - Idowu IS talented but he is so erratic. He could win or not even make the final (remember Athens?).
    4) It's a shame that the circus called the Premiership begins so early now. I like football but couldn't we have had it begin a week or two later?
    That's all for now!

  • Comment number 19.

    Hi all.

    As Micheal Johnson's jaw was dropping in amazement on tv, so was the rest of the worlds, including my old coach Linford Christie.
    Now these are some of the fastest guys ever and know about running quick, but 9.58sec, that is super quick and took their breath away!

    As the texts starting flying around the athletic community myself and Linford were straight on the phone discussing what we had just witnessed and Linford summed it up with "it was wicked!"

    Both Gay and Chambers impressed everyone, including Linford because of the injury problems Gay has had and with Dwain having had so few races.
    Linford reckons a fit Gay could run 9.60, but added that if that were the case last night, it would only have pushed Bolt to run 9.4s!
    I agree!

    So I know I wasn't the only one that woke up this morning with the replay of Bolt's 9.58sec flying around my head as fast as Usain ran down the Berlin track last night!?
    Absolutely awesome!

    Tyson proved he was in shape to challenge running a US record of 9.71s, but still finished 2 metres down. Looking at Gay's frustration it reminded me of Frankie Fredericks and Micheal Johnson, in particular the 1996 200m Olympic final. Frankie running super fast times (19.68s)but being clearly beaten by Johnson. Is Gay going to be like Fredericks and go through the rest of his career frustrated at being in the same era as someone like Bolt??

    So one of the blogs head to heads is complete, and what a cracker it was.
    Check out the link below for a timings breakdown of the final last stuff! 9.58sec....WOW!

    LeePom: Dwight Phillips is competing in his 5th World Championships and leads Saladino 2-1 this year in their meetings!

  • Comment number 20.

    Hello all,

    Well done to Ennis - let's see that lift the whole GB Team.

    Please with the major emergence of a new GB talent in the men's 400h - yet another race to watch.

    Thanks, Katharine, for the link. If you look at Bolt's split times, he also smashed the record for the 60 metres too, indoors or outdoors, I think? Would the IAAF ratify that mark or is 60 metres not an official outdoor event?


  • Comment number 21.

    Hi All,

    I was so pleased for Idowu, for finally winning a gold... you can't ask for more than a personal best!

    Have just seen Jenny Meadows take a medal again with a personal best... fantastic result!

    I have one question... For some time now, I have wondered whether atheletes set their expectations too low. I understand that they need to set goals for a season and keep focused, however, I have heard far too mnay times this championships, of atheltes who are 'happy just to make the final', or 'working towards 2012' etc.

    I am by no means a sports psychologist, I just wondered whether if athletes had a more cut throat determination, where second place isnt good enough, whether we would see more medals?

    Last year in China, we saw chinese athletes forced to apologise to the nation for not fulfulling the expectations put upon them, slightly drastic I realise, but atleast they all went in wanting to win and not just happy to make a world final.

    Just curious for your thoughts?

  • Comment number 22.

    Hi all.
    All 3 heads to heads in this blog have taken place. Bolt winning the 100m battle and fantastically Phillips winning gold against Evora in the Triple Jump.
    He told me before his hair would be his 'lucky' red, now may I suggest Phillips stocking up on red hair dye!
    The women's 400m showed that when Sanya gets it right, she is unbeatable. Will this now be the medal that makes her unstoppable? The monkey is off her back and will now fly home with a sense of completion. The confidence that brings to an athlete is huge.
    Christine's performance, considering her troubles this year, was very good. My concern was her race analysis after syaing she was judging her race off Montsho in lane 8 outside her, and therefore 'forgot' about the athletes inside her. Christine has always been a 'reactive' runner to me, someone who does what is needed to win by reacting to a race rather than running her own.
    The event is moving back up with the times now being run, having been down in the world for the last couple of years. Can Christine get back in the mix? I am sure she can when she is fully fit and nails her 'own' race plan. One that she can run whatever the situation and whoever is in a race.
    I honestly believe we have not seen Christine run near to what she is capable of running.


    Some of the athletes that are due to do well, eg medal are confident but do not verbalise this so they don't want the extra pressure put on them (which they will have anyway!) and look stupid if they fail! Hence you hear the 'I just want to get in the final and see what happens' line. Some athletes though are very realitic about their chances like making finals, because that is actually the best case senario. When Dwain Chambers spoke of 'project Bolt' and beating Usain Bolt this year, was he being confident or unrealistic?
    The Olympics and World Champs are our biggest stage and for many athletes it is only realistic to expect a seasons best, a personal best or a final place and of course making progress into areas you have never been before is an improvement.
    Also having 2012 coming, this is an understandable expectation to have as an athlete and the 'looking towards 2012' line is one all athletes can use. For many it is a line used with genuine meaning, eg James Brewer, David Greene and Will Sharman etc....but sometimes it will be used as an excuse for an athlete under performing and also let's be honest, in many events we are just not good enough.

  • Comment number 23.

    Hi Katherine,

    I have eben following WC on BBC Sport and noted that Mark Butler gave some predictions at the start for the winners of each event. I did this as well to see how we compared. I know theres only 2.5 days left in the championships but I dont suppose you would fancy lending your opinion as to who you think will win the remaining events?

    My predictions are here:

  • Comment number 24.

    Hi Luke_Plastow

    Ok for what it's worth here are the Merry predictions for what is left in Berlin!

    M High Jump - Ukhov
    W 1500 - Jamal
    W Discus - Barrios
    M Javelin - Thorkildsen
    W Long Jump - Gomes
    M 800 - Kaki
    W 200 - Felix
    M 400 - Merritt
    M Long Jump - Phillips
    M Pole V - Lavillenie
    M 5k - Bekele
    W 5k - Defar
    W Hammer - Wlodarczyk
    M Marathon - Kirui
    W Marathon - Mockenhaupt
    W 4x100 - Jam
    M 4x100 - Jam
    W 4x400 - Jam
    M 4x400 - USA

  • Comment number 25.

    Thanks for the Merry predictions. You can keep an update on how you do over 3 days against Mark and myself. Just click the link.

  • Comment number 26.

    I have had a good day today I believe! 5/7 winners picked wasn't it?!! Am I up in the leader board!? :)

  • Comment number 27.

    Before you get all cheeky on me there is a long way to go!!! The current scores before the womens 1500m are:

    Katheriine Merry = 8
    The challenger! = 7
    Mark Butler = 4 (and he calls himself a statistician?)

  • Comment number 28.

    Good evening. Totaled it all up and it was a draw. :( If only I had chosen the Norwegian javelin master.

    Though there is a nice challenge for you on the blog. If you are willing to accept.

  • Comment number 29.

    A draw? Surely not! I demand a recount!! :)
    In true athletes style, I hate losing, but will graciously except sharing the spoils! If athletes can share medals and stand side by side on a podium when it is a dead heat, then we can celebrate together too!
    I was glad to hold up the ex athletes end of your competition and will touch base next season :)
    I hope everyone enjoyed the 12th IAAF World Athletics Championships as much as I did. Well done to ALL the GB athletes who performed well, especially to our medal winning bunch.
    You've got to love seeing the GB & NI flag flapping in the wind on those medal ceremonies!
    One point though...Who was the person in the Berlino bear? They were fantastic! Sometimes pushed it a little bit, but what great fun!

  • Comment number 30.

    I recounted twice and we drew. I regret not picking Andreas Thorkildsen, and I think I blew my chance to win there. And I think you blew your chance by picking Jam to win the 4x400W instead of the USA.

    But like I said. It is on like Donkey Kong for the Commonwealth Games next year.

    I think Team GB is well considering who wasn't there and who was injured but I want to see improvements in the quality and number of people at the games next year.

    Also Berlino was awesome. I am writing a blog about him now. I want that job come 2012. :) I was jealous of all the athletes he was hugging and messing about with.


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