Zuzana Hejnova in the womens 400m Hurdles at the IAAF World Championships 2013 (© Getty Images)
Thursday’s competition at the IAAF World Championships here in Moscow will see more Russian athletes in action on the same apron where Yelena Isinbayeva won her memorable third title on Tuesday.
The men’s High Jump final will be a highlight of Tuesday’s action, along with the women’s Triple Jump; on the track, we’ll see finals in the men’s 3000m Steeplechase, women’s and men’s 400m Hurdles, and the women’s 1500m.
Bondarenko the crowd favourite
Despite being Ukrainian, not Russian, top qualifier Bohdan Bondarenko may be a crowd favourite at Luzhniki. Previous sessions have seen two large, loud blocks of Ukrainian fans with blue and yellow shirts arranged to make their sections into giant Ukrainian flags; they chanted Bondarenko over the bar in qualifying and will doubtless return to do the same for the final.
Nonetheless, there are still two Russians in the final, Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov and Aleksandr Shustov, who like Bondarenko qualified without a single missed attempt. While an Eastern European sweep of the medals is by no means assured – Mutaz Essa Barshim is also heavily favoured – it will certainly be what the crowd will be looking for.
Saladuha in position to defend
Or perhaps the Ukrainians will need to divide their attention, as defending World champion Olha Saladuha, also of Ukraine, was the top qualifier in the women’s Triple Jump.
Three Russians led by Anna Pyatykh will also challenge in that event, but they fared less well than Saladuha in the qualifying rounds; several others, notably Caterine Ibarguen, were much closer to Saladuha.
Simpson ready for challenging title defence
There has been a pattern of defending champions in the women’s 1500m over the past four championships, with Tatyana Tomashova winning two in a row (2003-2005) and Maryam Jamal the next two (2007-2009).
Jenny Simpson, the surprise champion in 2011, has worked her way through the rounds this year in a way that suggests a successful title defence would be no surprise at all, but facing (among others) Sweden’s Abeba Aregawi makes Simpson’s task no cake-walk.
Also in the final will be Simpson’s US team-mate Mary Cain, at 17 the youngest woman ever to make the 1500m final.
Hurdles: strong races, new faces
Defending champion Lashinda Demus and Perri Shakes-Drayton have the centre lanes for the women’s 400m Hurdles, but just inside Demus, Zuzana Hejnova has been a force in the preliminary rounds and will make a title defence difficult for Demus unless the US record-holder has held more strength through the rounds.
The men’s 400m Hurdles has a true old-timer, with 2001 World champion and double Olympic champion Felix Sanchez (among others) in lane four.
Two lanes outside Sanchez is 2010 World junior champion Jehue Gordon, who stands a chance of raising the Trinidad and Tobago flag for the first time at the World Championships since Ato Boldon won the 200m title in 1997.
Kemboi, Kenya and the thirty-five barriers
The quality of Kenyan steeplechasing is such that the question, most years, is not whether a Kenyan will win, but whether they will achieve a sweep of the medals, and if not, who will break in to the top three.
This year, there are other questions, such as what kind of dance moves Ezekiel Kemboi will come up with should he win yet another title. The final will include four Kenyans, but also three Frenchmen, two Ugandans and two Canadians, the Ugandans having done significant pace work in the qualifying rounds.
Parker Morse for IAAF