Both the men’s (110mh) and women’s (100mh) sprint hurdles events in Rio will have a new Olympic champion.
Prior to 2013 Sally Pearson of Australia was unstoppable in the women’s 100m hurdles. She won the 2011 world championships in 12.28 seconds which is still a championship record and then the coveted Olympic title in London the following year. Pearson will not defend her crown in Rio as an injury plagued season which saw her struggle to hit top form decided her fate.
She will be joined on the side-lines by the super-fast and technically efficient Kendra Harrison. The American, by far the world’s best female sprint hurdler, finished outside the automatic top three at the US trials. That haunting result remains one of the biggest talking points around the world. It has since gathered momentum after Harrison eclipsed the previous world record (12.21) by 0.01 which stood for 28 years. Harrison (23) wasn’t even born when the record was set on August 20, 1988.
Both Harrison and Pearson may experience different sets of emotions if they choose to watch the final back home. They are not the only ones as 2015 world champion Danielle Williams will be a spectator as well. The Jamaican crashed out at the Senior Championships and was not selected as part of the provisional four names submitted.
The current situation has catapulted 2013 champion Brianna Rollins to the head of the class as the odds on favourite. Rollins held her nerves together while all hell was breaking loose behind her at the US trials. Her winning time of 12.34 seconds in the final is only bettered by Harrison on the world list.
Her teammates Kristi Castlin (12.50) and Nia Ali (12.55) will be looking to make it a sweep for Team USA. However, just like last year in Beijing when no one recognized the faces on the podium, history shows that this event could turn out a few surprises.
World championship bronze medallist Alina Talay from Belarus has improved her personal best to 12.63 seconds while silver medallist Cindy Roleder has showed signs of finding her best form. She has a season’s best of 12.62 just 0.03 seconds outside her PB (12.59). Talay and Roleder along with Jamaica’s national champion Megan Simmonds (12.79) and Shermaine Williams (12.78) will be seeking to exploit any misfortune suffered by their more illustrious rivals.