The men’s 100m is shaping up for a formidable Olympic year and all eyes will be on Asafa Powell in Shanghai May 19th after his impressive season debut over the distance in the Doha leg of the Diamond League on Friday. Fastest out of the blocks, the Jamaican relay Olympic gold medallist crossed the line in a scintillating 9.88, just 0.01 down on winner Justin Gatlin of the USA. Powell’s time is the fourth fastest in the world this year after compatriot Usain Bolt’s 9.82. But there is clearly much more to come from Powell who refused to be drawn into a battle for times with Gatlin, preferring to cruise across the line and keep his powder dry for more important occasions. Next weekend, the burly Jamaican returns to defend his Shanghai title. Last year Powell won easing down with a 9.95 clocking, at that time the second fastest in the world. In preparation for the summer season, Powell has had a few outings over the boards for the first time in eight years. This winter he has reduced his 60m lifetime best to a nifty 6.50, suggesting that he is sharper than he has been for some time. But Powell’s task is a daunting one. So far this season six men have already dipped under the magic 10-second barrier, four of them Jamaican, indicating just how fierce the claim for places will be on the Jamaican team for London. Shanghai will give Powell a priceless occasion to stake an early psychological claim on a place in that team.
In only his second 1500m this year, Asbel Kiprop revised his lifetime best in Doha to 3:29.78, indicating that his step down in distance to contest the 800m in Shanghai could produce similar fireworks. So far in 2012, Kiprop has clocked 1:45.91 in Sydney in February, but his all-time best is a dizzying 1:43:15 from last year. Kiprop did not enjoy good fortune over the metric mile on Friday. Had it not been for a trip with 100m to go from eventual winner Silas Kiplagat, the Kenyan Olympic and world champion would have gone even faster at the Qatar Sports Club. One man who enjoyed the freedom of the track in Doha was Augustine Choge who set a world leading 7:30.42 in the 3000m. After his silver in the world indoor 3000m in Istanbul earlier this year, this is shaping up to be an important year for the 25 year old. Ever since he was discovered by Father Colm O’Connell in 2001, Choge has suffered as many downs as ups, but 2012 could finally be his year. In Shanghai he competes in the 5000m, a distance where he must have realistic chances of being picked for the Kenyan Olympic team despite the intense competition. As a precocious 18-year-old, Choge ran a scintillating 12:53.66, but has not come close to that time in recent seasons. Given his current form over 3000m, however, this could be the year when he once again approaches those dizzying heights. Shanghai will give some indication of how possible that is.