Meseret Defar cruising in the 5000m heats in Osaka (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Osaka, Japan

Osaka 2007 - DAILY PREVIEW - Day Eight, 1 Sep

With five titles to be decided, another full slate of action is in store on the penultimate day of the 11th World Championships at Nagai Stadium.

50 Km Race Walk begins the day

To win a medal in today’s men’s 50km walk, you have to walk -- staying in touch with the ground at all times -- and cover the distance in less than four hours. The fastest anyone has done it this year is 3 hours 36 minutes and 4 seconds, by Alex Schwazer of Italy.

Schwazer was third in the 50Km Race Walk in Helsinki in 2005, behind Russians Sergey Kirdyapkin and Aleksey Voyevodin, and all three are here looking for more medals.

Others who are threats to medal are Nathan Deakes of Australia, with a PB of 3:35:47, and the three Chinese entrants, all of whom have PBs under 3:38.

Given the weather, it’s hard to imagine anyone breaking 3:45, or even 3:50.

Three-man battle in the Decathlon

The Decathlon’s second day shapes up surprise leader Maurice Smith of Jamaica, with 4525 to Kazakh second-placer Dmitriy Karpov’s 4439 and Czech Olympic champion Roman Sebrle’s 4434. They aren’t too different in second-day levels until the last two events, the Javelin Throw and the 1500m, where Smith’s marks are a bit weaker. It should be an exciting three-way battle.

Defending champion Bryan Clay of the U.S. was forced to pull out after sustaining a hamstring injury during the High Jump.

Defar chasing first world title outdoors

The women ‘s 5000m is the “big” race of the evening program, and with Tirunesh Dibaba withdrawing after winning the 10,000m, the likely gold medallist is Dibaba’s Ethiopian teammate and fierce competitor, Meseret Defar, who lowered her own World record to 14:16.63 on 15 June. Closest to Defar in terms of time is Vivian Cheruyiot of Kenya at 14:22.51, but that time was achieved in the same World record race. The other leading contender is Turkey’s Elvan Abeylegesse, who has run 14:24.68, but not recently.

Can Walker move up a step in the men’s Pole Vault?

Well before the men’s Pole Vault final was set to begin, two of the four 6-metre jumpers in the field failed to qualify for Saturday’s competition. That leaves Brad Walker of the U.S. and Tim Lobinger of Germany at the top, and along with Steve Hooker (5.96 PB) of Australia, they should dominate the vault here. Others with a look at the medals include Frenchman Romain Mesnil (5.96) and Lobinger’s German teammates Danny Ecker (5.93) and Otto Bjorn.

4x100 relay titles on the line

The men’s and women’s 4x100m finals will wind up the evening. Given the parlous history of American men’s 4x100 teams in the past, one cannot make predictions. Based on sheer speed, the U.S. should win almost every 4x100, but the 4x100 is as much about baton-exchanges as about running fast. But win or lose, the one-lap relay is one of the most exciting races on the athletics program.

Still, the American team of Rodney Martin, Wallace Spearmon, Darvis Patton and Leroy Dixon managed to get the stick around in 38.10, close to Jamaica’s winning time of 38.02 in their heat. With the next fastest time being Japan’s 38.21 (an Asian Record), it looks like Jamaica versus the U.S. – always assuming that the U.S. doesn’t drop the stick or pass out of the zone.

And it is always possible that Tyson Gay might end up on the American foursome – perhaps even running the anchor leg against Asafa Powell!

The women’s 4x100m contest begins with the heats in the morning, with the final preceding the men’s.

Not quite as exciting, but more predictable, is the classic 4x400m relay. Semi-finals for both men and women will take place as well.

James Dunaway for the IAAF