Day Three (Sun 23) of the US Olympic Trials had only finals in the programme, three on the track and four technical events.
The marquee event no matter on which day it is scheduled is the men’s 100 metres. And intense interest in two rehabilitated sprinters - one after injury and one after a drug suspension - captivated the Hayward Field audience in Eugene on Sunday.
It was Justin Gatlin, eight years after his Olympic win in Athens, again getting the opportunity to repeat the feat as he blazed to a PB 9.80 in winning the competition over Tyson Gay at 9.86. For Gatlin, it was an affirmation that his World indoor title last March was not a mirage. He is back on top of his sprinting game, perhaps even better than before.
Gatlin wasn’t the first out of the blocks, but within ten metres he had moved into a lead he would not relinquish. With Gay clearly in second, the focus suddenly shifted to the third-place finisher. In the end, it was local runner Ryan Bailey from nearby Salem running in lane one almost unnoticed for most of the way and slipping in for third ahead of Mike Rodgers, 9.93 to 9.94.
Doc Patton also dipped under ten seconds in fifth with 9.96. One negative note came from Walter Dix who finished last in 10.95. Dix had pulled up at the end of the semifinals and his mere participation in the final was somewhat surprising. His obviously sub-par condition may well impact the 200 metres which begins next Friday.
Richards exorcises the demons
All season long, Sanya Richards-Ross has referred to her 2008 Olympic experience—a bronze medal instead of the hoped-for gold—as a personal nightmare. Now, after a spectacular world-leading 49.28 win in the women’s 400 metres, she has an opportunity to exorcise the demons. Her mark equalled the Olympic Trials record set in 1984 by Chandra Cheeseborough, and it was the fastest performance in the event since her own performance in the 2009 Van Damme meeting in Brussels.
Francena McCorory’s fast back stretch appeared to be a good pacemaker for Richards-Ross, who was running on McCorory’s immediate inside. McCorory held the lead until midway into the final curve when Richards-Ross moved ahead for the final assault. Down the final stretch Dee Dee Trotter also concentrated on the tape and clipped off McCorory ten metres before the finish, 50.02 to 50.43.
Debbie Dunn’s late push to try and claim third fell short as she clocked 50.78, while Natasha Hastings appeared well off the mark with her seventh-place 51.28.
On the men’s side, LaShawn Merritt looked quite prepared to defend his Olympic 400 metres title if his world-leading 44.12 today is any indication. Running a controlled opening 200 with Brady Gehret in lane eight serving as a pacer, Merritt then pushed the pace upward off the final curve and was unchallenged on the run-in.
Tony McQuay appeared to have a small advantage over the Olympic champion coming into the final curve before eventually giving way to Merritt. McQuay finished with a PB 44.49 to clearly take second. Behind Merritt and McQuay, two USC runners were staging a duel for the final team spot, won by Bryshon Nellum in a PB 44.80 to Josh Mance’s 44.88.
Athens gold and Beijing silver winner Jeremy Wariner finished sixth with 45.24.
Hoffa puts out to 22
The three favoured competitors in the men’s Shot Put will be heading to London. On this occasion it was former world champion Reese Hoffa who held most of the cards as he increased his world lead to 22.00 with the win and successfully defended his Olympic Trials title. His big throw came in the third round and pushed Ryan Whiting’s leadoff 21.66 to second place, where the world indoor champion remained the rest of the way.
University student Joe Kovacs surprised the field in the same third round with a PB 21.08 to momentarily sit in third place, but the next competitor in the ring, Beijing silver winner Christian Cantwell, dashed Kovacs’ Olympic hopes with a 21.28 which remained his best for the day as Kovacs ended in fourth.
Goodwin surprises Claye but Taylor misses out on potential London LJ / TJ double challenge
Marquise Goodwin broke open a close competition in the men’s Long Jump with a PB 8.33m on his final jump to move past Will Claye for the victory. (It also ensured that at least one of the long jumpers would surpass Friday’s 8.23 jump by decathlete Ashton Eaton!) Up until that time, Claye held a miniscule lead on a countback as both had bests of 8.23 and the countback score was 8.22 for Claye to Goodwin’s 8.21. World indoor Triple Jump champion Claye - who will return in that event as well next Thursday - held second as George Kitchens chose today to log his first-ever legal-wind eight-metre jumps with an 8.21 best to get the required A-norm and capture the third team spot. Three years ago in the selection for the Berlin World Championships, Kitchens finished in a qualifying third but his 8.23 jump was wind-aided as he failed to get a team spot.
It was a frustrating day for Daegu Triple Jump champion Christian Taylor, who was seeking both a third place as well as an Olympic A-standard (8.20). With third-place Kitchens only at 8.21, Taylor’s two goals were potentially reachable, but the World Indoor Triple Jump silver winner could only find a pair of 8.12 leaps in the late stages. Along with Claye, he will return in the Triple Jump later in the week.
Like Kitchens, Goodwin felt a bit of redemption today as he has been vacillating for several years between football and long jumping. After missing the final in Daegu last year by one centimetre, the disappointed Goodwin decided to make a return to football last autumn. But the call of the Olympic Games is apparently not one to ignore, and the 21-year-old returned to jumping during the winter. It paid off.
Brown Trafton set to defend Olympic laurels
Another Beijing champion headed for London is Stephanie Brown Trafton who won the women’s Discus Throw with 65.18. Brown Trafton took the lead with a 63.30 in the opening round just after 2008 Trials winner Aretha Thurmond had flung 62.04. It was on the final throw of the competition, with her title secure, that Brown Trafton achieved her big effort for the day after the pressure was gone. First representing the US in the 1996 Games, Suzy Powell-Roos’s quest for a fourth Olympic team spot fell short, even though her 60.20 took third, as she lacks the required A-standard. The third team position will thus go to the only other competitor with the required norm, Gia Lewis-Smallwood, who finished sixth today at 58.78.
Of note was the fourth-place finish by national junior champion Shelbi Vaughan with 59.68.
Routine day for Suhr
Jenn Suhr will be making a return Olympic appearance in the women’s Pole Vault after what was, for her, a rather routine day. The Beijing silver winner opened at 4.55 when only three other jumpers remained, and with her first-effort 4.60, she could—and did—retire as the winner of her sixth national title.
Suhr had to wait a long time before picking up her pole for the first jump as the event was staged as a straight final with 27 competitors. Rainy conditions on Friday had been deemed too extreme for the qualifying round, which was canceled. Suhr’s delay today was not overly extreme, however, as twelve of the jumpers helped her cause by no-heighting.
Becky Holliday’s 4.55 took second as Lacy Janson bested Mary Saxer for third on a countback as both cleared 4.50.
Basically, the tie-breaker will either be a run-off or a coin toss, and the method to be used will be chosen by the two athletes involved. It has not been announced when the coin toss or run-off will be held.