Dafne Schippers in action at the IAAF World Championships (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Beijing, China

Preview: women’s 200m – IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015

Allyson Felix’s decision to contest the 400m in Beijing has left the 200m wide open.

Felix, the only woman in the world to have broken 22 seconds in 2015, would have been an overwhelming favourite, but her absence leaves the destination of the gold medal difficult to predict.

Defending champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has been selected for the 200m, but has had a season-long tug-of-war with her coach about whether to do the double. If she runs the 100m only, the race opens up further as the margin between the remaining contenders is narrow.

Just one hundredth of a second separated Candyce McGrone and Dafne Schippers in the year’s next-fastest 200m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco, 22.08 to 22.09. Then there is only another 0.01 back to the 22.10 run by Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson in London eight days later.

Shaunae Miller of The Bahamas is next on the annual list at 22.14 but, like Felix, she may concentrate on the 400m in which she now heads the entry list.

Schippers is probably a slight favourite in this even field. Her credentials are strong – a bronze medallist in the heptathlon in Moscow two years ago; double sprint champion at the European Championships last year – and her form is good. McGrone surprised her when she edged the Monaco race by 0.01, but Schippers had Felix under pressure in Lausanne until falling away in the last 20 metres.

McGrone is a bit of a surprise package. NCAA champion at 100m in 2011, she has come back with a vengeance this year. Monaco is by some way her best run, as she was beaten at the US Championships by Jenna Prandini.

Tarmoh has not been as consistent as the other two, but was third in Monaco and beat Felix (both 22.29) and Dina Asher-Smith (22.30) at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham.

Prandini, in turn, was NCAA champion at 100m (though beaten in the 200m) and a winner by almost two metres over McGrone and Tarmoh at the US Championships. Interestingly, she has not raced since, other than with the winning USA 4x100m team in Monaco.

With or without Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica fields a strong trio.

Thompson is another big improver this year – from 11.17 to 10.84 in the 100m and from 23.23 to 22.10 in the 200m. She won the 200m at the Jamaican Championships handily from the experienced pair of Sherone Simpson and Veronica Campbell-Brown.

Neither Campbell-Brown nor Simpson rank in the top 20 on times coming into the championships, but two-time Olympic champion Campbell-Brown, in particular, warrants respect.

Nineteen-year-old Asher-Smith, whose 22.30 right behind Tarmoh and Felix in Birmingham was a personal best, was the world junior champion at 100m in Eugene last year and a bronze medallist with the British 4x100m relay in Moscow two years ago as a 17-year-old.

Ivory Coast’s Murielle Ahoure was the silver medallist in both sprints in Moscow two years ago and is likely to be a factor in Beijing as well. She ran her season’s best of 22.29 at the first IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha, but remains in good form.

Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor, bronze medallist in this event in 2013, has raced only sparingly at 200m this year, but the Nigerian must be considered if she runs both sprints in the Bird’s Nest.

With no obvious favourite and a long list of possibilities, the women’s 200m looms as one of the most intriguing events in Beijing.

Len Johnson for the IAAF