Deji Doodles, #11: Norman and Bol break records, as Simbine falters in Ostrava...


Deji Ogeyingbo

In this week's Deji Doodles column, Deji discusses the fast times of Michael Norman, the new world best by Femke Bol and questions about Akani Simbine's fitness prior to the African Championships.

Deji will be covering the African Championships for RunBlogRun onsite next week. We look forward to his coverage of the continental championships!

Deji always has observations on the human condition, his views of how athletes perform in the elite meets and the big championships give me new insights into the athletes we follow and the sport that we love.

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Femke Bol, photo by Diamond League AG

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Akani Simbine, photo by Diamond League AG


Michael Norman takes the 400m in 43.60 at the 2022 Nike Pre Classic, photo by Kevin Morris / @kevmofoto

Norman and Bol break records, as Simbine falters in Ostrava

What a week we had in track and field. Two of the most exciting meets in the history of the sport took place in the space of three days. The Prefontaine Classic was first on the block in Eugene as it delivered a classic. The Ostrava Golden Spike meet followed suit three days later in the Czech Republic as Femke Bol hugged the headline.

Michael Norman has laid down the gauntlet, but can he replicate it at the World Championships?


Michael Norman goes supersonic, 2022 Nike Pre Classic, photo by Kevin Morris / @kevmofoto

Michael Norman shot to the top of the men's 400m top list with what was arguably the performance of last weekend when he stormed to a Meet Record (Broke Michael Johnson's record of 43.90 that stood for 22 years) and World lead of 43.60s to take the win at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene.

Norman is a supremely talented athlete, but there is the feeling that he has so far underachieved despite running fast times pre-championships or Olympics. For context, he's the only athlete to have run inside 44s this year, his winning time in Eugene would have put him seventh on the all-time top list (he's joint fourth with Jeremy Wariner with a Personal Best of 43.45).

All of these make for good reading and will certainly put his competitors on the edge, especially World and Olympic Champion Steven Gardiner (who is unbeaten since 2019). But it is Norman. You just can't be too sure. History tells us he bulks under the pressure at major championships. Or how else will you explain him not making the final of the last World Champs in Doha despite running two sub-44s prior or his fifth-place finish in Tokyo after being the bookie's favourite to finish on the podium?

Whatever the issue is the no doubt has the talent, fight and perseverance to produce fast times over the quarter-mile, the million-dollar question is if he can channel it to winning a medal on the world stage. Like that say in the track world, times can be broken at any time but you can't take a medal from an athlete even if they retire.

Sha'Carri Richardson proves she can still compete amongst the best


Sh'aCarri Richardson, 2022 Nike Pre Classic, photo by Kevin Morris / @kevmofoto

Sha'Carri Richardson is an enigma. Since her emergence in the global track scene as an elite sprinter, the American has been one of the most vocal athletes you will find on the circuit. In recent times, she has stirred up conversations around the women's 100m which makes the event more enticing. Her jabs towards the Jamaicans, row with the media, getting banned, and missing the Olympics.

In all of the off-track antics, her prowess when sprinting seemed to have dwindled a bit (honestly a lot as she wasn't in the top 20 fastest Americans over the 100m until recently). At the Pre-Classic, she was up against some of the very best in the world and a rematch with Elaine Thompson-Herah was on the cards. Richardson held her own to place second just ahead of Shericka Jackson in 1.0.92. It was her first sub-11 clocking since the US trials last June.

Does this mean she's back? Well, not entirely. Her running form seems to have changed which is being reflected in her improved timing. But it just doesn't seem enough. Getting into the 10.7s zone is what will presumably put her in contention for a medal in Oregon.

Currently, joint-sixth in the world over the distance, Richardson's time surely would serve as a confidence booster for her going into subsequent races.

Femke Bol's 300mH World record in Ostrava puts her in the driving seat ahead of the World Championships

Beauty, elegance, and panache are some of the words one can use to describe Dutch sprint-hurdler Femke Bol. At the Ostrava Golden Spike meet, Bol broke the women's 300mH record set by Czech 400m hurdles star Zuzana Hejnova, crossing the finish line with 36.86 on the clock to take more than a second off Hejnova's previous world best.

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Femke Bol, photo by Diamond League AG

Bol has had to play catchup to America's duo of Sydney Mclaughlin and Dalilah Muhamad for over a year, but this win might just be the much-needed morale booster to surge past them this year. Their race at the Tokyo Olympics was one for the ages and all three will look to run faster this year.

Muhammad has already clocked 54.54 this year in Birmingham. The time is not one to send shivers down the spine of Bol, while Mclaughlin has had only one race under her belt this year over the 100mH. Still, the way Bol obliterated the world record was a thing of delight and keeps her just a notch ahead of her rivals heading into what will be a busy summer.

Akani Simbine is still yet to hit top form ahead of the African Champions

South Africa's sprinter Akani Simbine has always been the top dog in Africa over the last five years. He has won the African Championships 100m Gold, Commonwealth 100m Gold as well as multiple appearances at World Championships and Olympic final.

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Akani Simbine, photo by Diamond League AG

At the Ostrava Golden spike meet, a Continental Gold Tour meet, Simbine couldn't crack the top 3 in the men's 100m while also failing to run inside 10s, too. 10.06, the time he clocked is not one to shake the sprinting world as he hopes to get into shape ahead of the World Championships in July.

First off is the African Championships in Mauritius taking place in just over a week from now. Defending his title will be one tall order for the South African. Kenya's Ferdinand Omanyala is the World leader and African Record holder over the event this year and is the favourite to snag the title off Simbine's hands.

His form seems to be worrying, and one suspects that's why he hasn't raced in any Diamond League event this season. Still, he needs to pick up the pieces as soon as possible. The thinking is that he would most likely finish behind Omanyala in St Pierre next week, but there is the African Games Champion, Raymond Ekevwo as well as Arthur Cissé, who have run very fast 100m times this year to push Simbine out of the podium.
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