Three Americans lead the world lists this year for 200m, and although the reigning champion Marion JONES is not competing, it would be foolish to bet against another US victory here. Indeed, these championships could mark the start of a new era, heralding the arrival of the 17 year-old US high school phenomenon Allyson FELIX onto the world stage.
Felix, who will start as a student at the University of Southern California in September, shattered the world junior record when running in Mexico City in May, and her time there, 22.11, remains the best in the world this year, by a full tenth of a second. However, her best non-altitude assisted time is ‘only’ 22.51, and that run came way back in April.
Felix was beaten at the US Championships by Kellie WHITE, whose 22.21 is second on the 2003 world lists, and White may well be a good tip for the title if her body holds up after four rounds of the 100m, where she is also a leading contender. Despite her excellent season over the shorter sprint, the US champion still regards herself as a 200m specialist, and has recorded two further times under 22.45.
European champion Muriel HURTIS, who was born and still lives in the Saint-Denis area, will have extra motivation to provide the home nation with the world championships gold it dearly craves. With a best time of 22.51 this year she has not yet recovered the form she showed in 2002, despite claiming a silver medal at the world indoors in Birmingham this March.
Commonwealth champion Debbie FERGUSON of the Bahamas and Pan American Games silver medallist Cydonie MOTHERSILL of the Cayman Islands will lead the Caribbean challenge, along with Jamaica’s trio of Aleen BAILEY, Beverly MACDONALD and Juliet CAMPBELL. Like Felix, Ferguson’s best time this year (22.50) was set at altitude, in Pretoria at the beginning of April. Mothersill could be the first ever world championships medallist from her country.
Another outside challenge may come from Russia’s Anastasiya KAPACHINSKAYA, who set a personal best of 22.48 in June. Note too, the appearance of Nigeria’s Mary ONYALI-OMAGBEMI, the 35 year-old who is competing in her sixth world championships, and claims to be in the form of her life, having clocked a hand timed 22.4 at her national championships, and an electronic season’s best of 22.60 in May.