LaShawn Merritt sets a World Leading mark of 44.37 seconds in the men's 400m semi-final in Berlin (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview 21 August 2009 – Berlin, Germany

Berlin 2009 - Expected highlights / DAILY PREVIEW - Day Seven, 21 Aug

Berlin, GermanyThe two major track events of Day Seven of these IAAF World Championships in Athletics in the Olympiastadion Berlin look to be head-to-head re-runs of the men’s 400m and the women’s 200m finals at the Olympic Games in Beijing last year.

Merritt vs. Wariner and Campbell-Brown vs. Felix

The men’s race is also a domestic struggle, Olympic champion, LaShawn Merritt against his US colleague, Jeremy Wariner, who took the previous Olympic title, and the world titles in 2005 and 2007, beating Merritt in the latter. The women’s race has the extra edge of being the latest episode in what could well be a long series of US-Jamaican sprint duels, Veronica Campbell-Brown against Allyson Felix.

There was probably no one in Beijing more surprised than Felix. Although she had been comprehensively defeated by VCB in Athens 2004, the American had equally easily taken the world titles in Helsinki 05 and Osaka 07, with the Jamaican finishing fourth and second respectively. But then VCB won the Olympic title again, relegating Felix to second. Felix had a slower start to this season than normal, but then posted by far the fastest time, 21.88sec. Debbie Ferguson McKenzie beat Campbell-Brown by 0.05sec, with 22.24sec in their semi-final. But would you bet against VCB?

Ivan Ukhov has been an entertaining addition to the international circuit, no more so than in Lausanne last year, when his breath would have knocked the bar off. But he has entertained us in a more traditional way this year, jumping the years highest, 2.40m indoors in Greece, going on to win the Euro indoors in Italy, then leaping 2.35m in Cheboksary. The Russian lost to Athens Olympic bronze medallist, Jaroslav Baba of Czech Republic in a downpour in Lausanne this year, and the other man who could threaten in tonight’s final is Linus Thornblad of Sweden, who has jumped 2.36m.

Wide open women’s Discus Throw

When Stephanie Brown-Trafton of the USA won the Olympic Discus title last year, it was her first victory in any major competition. She finally won the US title this year, and was looking good with her world leading personal best 66.21m. But then she had trouble qualifying for this final. In contrast, the Chinese, Ma Xuejun and Song Aimin won the two groups. And Olympic silver medallist Yarelis Barrios of Cuba will be out to reverse roles with the American. Not forgetting the veterans, Natalya Sadova of Russia, and Romanian Nicoleta Grasu , who are still hit paraders.

Until Bob Tahri split the Kenyans and won steeplechase bronze, the French were not having a good championships. European champion Johan Diniz could change all that in the first event of the day, the 50k Walk. Having won both 20k events, with Valery Borchin and Olga Kaniskina, the Russians are pinning hopes on a talented team of Denis Nizhegorodov, Sergey Kirdyapkin and Yuriy Andronov. Another great walking nation, China relies on Zhao Chengliang, national champion Li Lei and championship debutant Xu Faguang.

Brutal 800m semis

World Cup soccer qualifiers, which pitch three or four top teams together are often called the Group of Death. Well, the second (of three) semi-finals in the men’s 800 metres tonight outstrips any of that. Abubakar Kaki looks to have a clear passage to the final from heat one, and with two to qualify automatically (with two fastest losers), David Rudisha of Kenya and world silver medallist Gary Reed of Canada are favourite to advance to the final. But what to make of the second semi?

It pitches together reigning champion Alfred Yego of Kenya, Athens Olympic gold and silver medallists, Yuri Borzakowskiy of Russia and Mbulaeni Mulaudzi of South Africa, newly crowned 1500m champion, Yusuf Saad Kamel of Bahrain, Olympic silver medallist Ahmed Ismail of Sudan, and Olympic 1500m silver medallist, Asbel Kiprop of Kenya. I’m not even going to try to predict this one, I’m just going to sit back open-mouthed, and watch the fireworks.

Pat Butcher for the IAAF