ATHLETICS Worlds Preview III: Expect to hear “Jamaica, Land We Love” multiple times this coming week

Hi, I'm Dalilah Muhammad, and I'm the world-record holder in the 400 m hurdles!

The IAAF World Championships finally get going on Friday in Doha’s Khalifa International Stadium with no finals, but the women’s marathon will be held at 11:59 p.m. However, when the medals start getting distributed in the women’s events, don’t be surprised if you’re able to hum the Jamaican anthem – “Jamaica, Land We Love” – by the end of the championships.

Jamaican sprint power has ebbed on the men’s side, but not for the women; a look at the women’s track events:

Women/100 meters: 28-29 September

Leading entries:
10.73 Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (JAM) ~ 2018-12 Olympic Champion
10.73 Elaine Thompson (JAM) ~ Defending champion; 2016 Olympic Champion
10.88 Dina Asher-Smith (GBR)
10.93 Marie-Josee Ta Lou (CIV) ~ 2017 Worlds silver medalist
10.94 Briana Williams (JAM)

Fraser-Pryce and Thompson, who between them have won the last three Olympic titles, are the clear favorites, not only for their year-leading times at the Jamaica Nationals, but impressive running during the summer. That said, Asher-Smith is fully capable of breaking them up or even winning, and Ta Lou was the 100/200 m silver medalist in London two years ago. Williams, just 17, was cleared by a Jamaican doping panel on Wednesday with just a reprimand after testing positive; she insisted that the prohibited substances came from over-the-counter medications and had no intent to cheat.

Defending champ Tori Bowie of the U.S. has not healed fully from her injuries in 2018 and has run a modest 11.09 so far this year. American champ Teahna Daniels ran 10.99 at the NCAA West Regionals in May and 11.00 at the NCAA final, but no faster than 11.13 at sea level since.

Women/200 meters: 30 September-1-2 October

Leading entries:
22.00 Elaine Thompson (JAM) ~ 2016 Olympic Champion
22.05 Blessing Okagbare (NGR)
22.08 Dina Asher-Smith (GBR)
22.16 Angie Annelus (USA)
22.22 Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (JAM)

Olympic champ Thompson and European champ Asher-Smith rate as favorites here, since Okagbare has been consistently inconsistent all season, She won at the Prefontaine Classic in 22.05, but nothing close since then. Annelus was fast at the NCAAs, winning her second title in a row, but hasn’t been seen since her third-place finish at the U.S. Nationals in 22.71.

U.S. champ Dezerea Bryant has run 22.47 and has a blazing start, but hasn’t shown much since Des Moines. Two-time defending champion Dafne Schippers (NED) has managed only 22.45 this season and may be hurt.

Women/400 meters: 30 September, 1 & 3 October

Leading entries:
49.05 Shaunae Miller-Uibo (BAH) ~ 2016 Olympic Champion
49.17 Salwa Eid Naser (BRN) ~ 2017 Worlds silver medalist
49.78 Shericka Jackson (JAM)
50.20 Shakima Wimbley (USA)
50.38 Kendall Ellis (USA)

With the exception of Miller-Uibo, this has been a down year for the 400 m. The Bahamas star has only run the distance three times, winning in 49.05-49.54-49.59 with no one close. She’s an overwhelming favorite.

Naser was thought to be a challenger, but her 49.17 at the Lausanne Diamond League meet is her only sub-50 of the year. Same for Jackson, whose sub-50 came at the Jamaican Nationals in June. That makes the minor medals up for grabs, but the Americans have not distinguished themselves either. Phyllis Francis of the U.S. came from nowhere to win in the final meters in London two years ago and she or someone else could surprise again … for second place.

Women/800 meters: 27-28-30 September

Leading entries:
1:57.72 Ajee Wilson (USA) ~ 2017 Worlds bronze medalist
1:57.99 Natoya Goule (JAM)
1:58.19 Hanna Green (USA)
1:58.61 Lynsey Sharp (GBR)
1:58.65 Raevyn Rogers (USA)

With Caster Semenya (RSA), Francine Niyonsaba (DJI) and Margaret Wambui (KEN) all excluded due to the IAAF’s female eligibility regulations, Wilson has been the top performer this season and has won eight of 10 meets, losing only two Semenya twice and Niyonsaba once. Goule, who ran at LSU, looked like a top challenger, but was only fifth at the Diamond League Final in Brussels. Green has been a revelation in 2019 and along with Rogers, are medal contenders. The biggest challenger to Wilson might be the veteran Sharp, who has a strong tactical sense and finish.

Women/1,500 meters: 2-3-5 October

Leading entries:
3:55.30 Sifan Hassan (NED)
3:55.47 Genzebe Dibaba (ETH)
3:56.73 Laura Muir (GBR)
3:57.40 Gudaf Tsegay (ETH)
3:58.84 Rababe Arafi (MAR)

It’s not clear if Hassan – who set the world record for the mile this year – will run this race; she’s set to compete in the 10,000 m on Saturday and then decide between the 5,000 m and 1,500 m. Even if she runs, she’s no more than a co-favorite with Dibaba, who looked unbeatable in Diamond League wins in Rome and Rabat, only to finish fourth in the Final in Zurich.

Those two are the class of the field in 2019, but in a championship – likely slow – race, there are other obvious contenders. Muir is still recovering from injury, but if she feels good, could try to break the race open from 600 m to go. Two Americans are medal threats: the 2011 World Champion Jenny Simpson, with her perfect tactical sense that earned her a silver medal in 2017, and sprint-finisher Shelby Houlihan, who won at the U.S. Nationals. Then there is German Konstanze Klosterhalfen (3:59.02), but it’s not clear whether she will run this race or the 5,000 m. This should be one of the best races of the meet.

Women/3,000 m Steeple: 27 & 30 September

Leading entries:
8:55.58 Beatrice Chepkoech (KEN)
9:03.83 Hyvin Kiyeng (KEN) ~ 2017 Worlds bronze medalist
9:04.90 Emma Coburn (USA) ~ Defending champion
9:06.76 Celliphine Chespol (KEN)
9:07.23 Wilfred Yavi (BRN)

Chepkoech has won seven of eight races this year, including six in a row and owns the untouchable world record of 8:44.32 from 2018. She a heavy favorite and she has hinted that the WR could be in jeopardy in Doha. Defending champion Coburn and 2017 silver winner Courtney Frerichs (9:09.75 in 2019) have been saving their fitness and tactics for this race, but have not shown as much fitness as the Kenyans most of this year. In Coburn’s three Diamond League races, she’s finished 4-2-6 this season. A Kenyan sweep is unlikely, but certainly possible. Wild card: German Gesa Krause (9:07.51), who beat Coburn at the Diamond League Final in Zurich.

Women/5,000 m: 2 & 5 October

Leading entries:
14:20.36 Hellen Obiri (KEN) ~ Defending champion
14:22.12 Sifan Hassan (NED) ~ 2017 Worlds bronze medalist
14:26.76 Konstanze Klosterhalfen (GER)
14:29.54 Letesenbt Giday (ETH)
14:31.69 Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi (KEN)

If Obiri is fit and Hassan is entered, it will be a clash of the titans. Obiri ran the fastest time of the year at the Diamond League meet in London, with Hassan third; Hassan won the Diamond League Final, with Obiri fourth. If they are both in shape, this will be epic.

It’s also not clear which race Klosterhalfen will choose, but she has shown great talent at this distance. Beyond those three, the best last lap will be in line for medals. It could be Giday or Chelimo, or Fantu Worku (ETH) or Lilian Rengeruk (KEN) or someone we don’t suspect.

Women/10,000 m: 28 September

Leading entries:
30:37.89 Letesenbet Gidey (ETH)
30:40.85 Netsanet Gudeta (ETH)
30:45.14 Senbere Teferi (ETH)
30:49.57 Emily Sisson (USA)
30:53.11 Tsehay Gemechu (ETH)

Forget the year leaders; the defending champ, Almaz Ayana (ETH) hasn’t run the distance all year, but pulled a similar stunt in 2017, winning the 10,000 m and silver in the 5,000 m after having been quiet all during that year. Add in Kenyan Hellen Obiri and Dutch star Sifan Hassan – the favorites in the 5,000 m – and suddenly the race is wide open.

The U.S. has won medals in this event before; Emily Infeld famously out-leaned an already-celebrating Molly Huddle for bronze in 2015; Huddle is back and she and Sisson could be battling for a podium spot again.

Women/Marathon: 28 September

Leading entries:
2:17:08 Ruth Chepngetich (KEN)
2:19:46 Lorna Salpeter (ISR)
2:20:40 Ruti Aga (ETH)
2:20:51 Roza Dejere (ETH)
2:21:05 Shura Demise (ETH)

The late data and proximity to the big fall marathons – like Berlin on Sunday – has hurt the field, but the medals will mean plenty to the winners. This race has no pacesetters, so the experience of Chepngetich and the Ethiopians will help; this will be Salpeter’s sixth career marathon and she has bean improving steadily and won in Prague in May at 2:19:46. She was 41st in the 2017 Worlds marathon and she is able to pace herself properly, could set off a celebration in Tel Aviv about 2:30 a.m. Sunday!

Women/100 m hurdles: 5-6 October

Leading entries:
12.32 Danielle Williams (JAM)
12.40 Janeek Brown (JAM)
12.43 Keni Harrison (USA)
12.49 Tobi Amusan (NGR)
12.55 Nia Ali (USA)

Williams has been outstanding, winning her last three Diamond League meets in 12.32-12.46-12.46, with no one close. She’s a clear favorite, despite almost not making the team after she false-started out of the Jamaican Nationals. Harrison has been good, finishing second to Williams twice in the Diamond League and everyone else has been up and down. Brown has not regained her NCAA form that had her as the world leader in June.

Amusan, Ali, defending champ Brianna McNeal (USA/12.61) and Sharika Nelvis (USA/12.66) are all in contention for a medal. This is one event in which watching the heats and semis can tell you a lot about who’s in form.

Women/400 m hurdles: 1-2-4 October

Leading entries:
52.20 Dalilah Muhammad (USA) ~ 2017 Worlds silver medalist
52.85 Sydney McLaughlin (USA)
53.11 Ashley Spencer (USA)
54.11 Zusana Hejnova CZE)
54.16 Rushell Clayton (JAM)

Muhammad and McLaughlin could become one of the must-see rivalries in the sport. Muhammad set the world record in the U.S. Nationals, but won just four of six races this year, with McLaughlin winning the other two and is 2-1 against her. Neither has raced much – just six times each – and both ran a grand total of one race since the end of July. Another record?

Spencer and Hejnova should fight for third; Clayton is coming on a medal threat and is not to be ignored. Defending champ Kori Carter of the U.S. has only managed 55.09 this season.

Women/4×100 m Relay: 4-5 October
Women/4×400 m Relay: 5-6 October

Jamaica should walk away with the 4×100, even with ordinary passes, with Elaine Thompson, Shelly-Anne Fraser-Pryce and Briana Williams on the team. Germany has run 41.67 and passes the stick perfectly and the Dutch should be close if Dafne Schippers is fit.

The U.S. has plenty of speed, but no experience. Good passes will mean a silver medal.

In the 4×400, the U.S. has the most depth and should win; no one else has run faster than 3:24.81 (Poland). Look for a possible leg for Allyson Felix, who ran a very encouraging 50.10 on her carry at the USA vs. Europe match in Minsk. She’ll be on the quirky Mixed 4×400 m on 29 September (Sunday) and if she continues to improve, she can really help in this race.

Women/20 km Walk: 29 September

Leading entries:
1:25:29 Glenda Morejon (ECU)
1:25:34 Jiayu Wang (CHN) ~ Defending champion
1:25:37 Shenjie Qieyang (CHN)
1:25:56 Hong Liu (CHN)
1:27:15 Liujing Yang (CHN)

The race starts at 11:30 p.m. to beat the heat, with temperatures still expected to be around 90 F. Who handles the heat best will win and since there are four Chinese who can work together, it’s likely Yang or Qieyang.

Women/50 km Walk: 28 September

Leading entries:
4:03:51 Maocuo Li (CHN)
4:04:50 Elenora Giorgi (ITA)
4:05:46 Julia Takacs (ESP)
4:07:30 Faying Ma (CHN)
4:13:57 Ines Henriques (POR) ~ Defending champion

The conditions are going to be hot at 11:30 at night, and once again, working together helps. There are three Chinese, including Rui Liang (4:19:34 this year) and any could win. This will not be a fun race, finishing about 4:00 a.m. Doha time.

Prize money at the Worlds is $60,000-30,000-20,000-15,000-10,000-6,000-5,000-4,000 for individual events at $80,000-40,000-20,000-16,000-12,000-8,000-6,000-4,000 for the top eight places.

Next up: women’s field events; look for results here.