Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Fuss Over the Osaka Track

The fuss over the new Osaka track surface has already begun in the build-up to the World Championships this summer, but is it much ado about nothing? Jeremy Wariner, wearing his customary wraparound sunglasses, ran a 44.02 in the 400m on the Osaka track this weekend, the fastest time in the world this year and the fastest ever in May, so there's probably something to it. What does that mean for the World Championships—a bunch of new world records? Not likely. Championship races are usually tactical. But the 400m should be a different story. A combination of factors points toward a record.

First, Wariner is running over 1 second faster than he was at the same time last year. Attribute that to his focus on racing the 200m this year. He set a PR last year of 20.19, so an improvement this year would mean a world-class time for 200m. Not only that, but he has improved his 400m time every year since 2002: he ran a 46.10 in '02, a 45.13 in '03, a 44.00 in '04, 43.93 in '05, a 43.62 in '06. Both Wariner and his coach commented about how fast the Osaka track is. That gives him a psychological boost. The curves on the Osaka track aren't tight. That's another advantage. So is that new springy-yet-hard surface that's so easy to grab with his Adidas spikes. He seems to be winning every race by 5 or more meters, so he doesn't have to worry about tactics. He's conscious this year of his tendency in the past to slow down at the end when he has the race wrapped up, so he should be able to avoid that pitfall. Everything is falling into place for Wariner, so the record should fall in Osaka.

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