With 6 months to the World Athletics Championships in Beijing China and 18 months to the 2016 Rio, Summer Olympic Games the balance of power in the women’s short sprints as we have known it, is about to be rocked to its very foundation.
In the last 4 to 5 years it’s been the usual suspects in Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce of Jamaica, Allyson Felix of the USA, Carmelita Jeter of the USA and Veronica Campbell Brown of Jamaica who have outrightly dominated the 100 and 200 meter races from the Olympic Games to the World Championships and the Diamond League meets carting away the bulk of the top medals and the prizes.
Well if there is any indication that there is about to be a changing of the guards then 2014 gave us a glimpse of what is about to happen in the women’s sprint races.
Tori Bowie in the absence of any major international competition save for the indoors was unbeatable in pretty much all the races she ran in, upsetting the likes of Allyson Felix of the USA, Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce of Jamaica, Muriel Ahoure of the Ivory Coast and many more. A long jumper turned sprinter she has a personal best of 6.91 meters (outdoors) in the Long Jump, 10.80 seconds in the 100 meters and 22.18 seconds in the 200 meters. She is technically sound and very strong and is only 24. With a lot of upside to her as she continues to develop she will be very hard to beat as she approaches what one can call the peak years of a sprinters career (26 – 28 years) by the Rio Olympics. Barring any mishap Tori Bowie will be on the medal podium in Beijing 2015 and Rio 2016 for pretty much all of her events if she chooses to compete in all of them.
Michelle Lee-Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago has been under the radar for a while in Track & Field but come 2014 she took her game to another level as she improved to a personal best of 10.85 seconds in the 100 meters beating all comers from big names like Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce to a slew of nobodies. But she still has a lot of work to do on her 200 meters where she has a personal best of 22.77 seconds which is average at best for World Class women’s sprinters. She could have provided a very stiff competition for Blessing Okagbare at the Commonwealth Games in Scotland in the 100 meters besides Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica but she was injured and got withdrawn from the meet. She, like Tori Bowie is very strong and is only 22 years old and will be a force to reckon with and is a very strong candidate to medal in the 100 meters in Beijing 2015 and Rio 2016. However if she wants to be in the conversation for the 200 meters then she has a lot of work to do on her speed endurance training.
Blessing Okagbare is the current African Record holder in the 100 meters at 10.79 seconds and she performed spectacularly in the last season (2014) carting away 3 Gold Medals at the Commonwealth Games where she won the 100 and 200 meters setting a new Commonwealth Meet record in the 100 meters of 10.85 seconds and the African Championships where she outlasted fellow African Muriel Ahoure of the Ivory Coast to snag the Gold in the 100 meters. She has a personal best of 22.23 seconds in the 200 meters and was ranked as the best female 200 meters runner in the world for 2014. Blessing Okagbare like Tori Bowie is Triple and Long Jumper turned sprinter with a personal best of 7.00 meters in the Long Jump. Barring any obstacles Okagbare should be on the Podium in Beijing 2015 and Rio 2016 in her events of the 100 and 200 meters and the Long Jump.
With the above predictions and outlook it begs the question as some of you may be asking; what about the old guards like Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce (a repeat Olympic Gold medalist in 100 meters -2008/2012) and the likes of Allyson Felix. Well one can “never underestimate the heart of a champion” – Rudy Tomjanovich (Former Houston Rockets Coach) however the reality is they are getting older and these young stars mentioned have caught up with them and are training equally as hard as Fraser-Pryce and Felix and somewhere, sometime, someplace, something is about to give.
Superior mental strength backed up with some ultra intense and bone grinding training has to be the mantra of these athletes as they face their stiffest of competition in years. Looking at the lineups that are about to contend with each other this year (2015) on into the next one can be reminded of the heydays of women sprinting when the likes of Merlene Ottey of Jamaica went head to head with the likes of Gail Devers and Gwen Torrence of the USA. The potential shown by Bowie/Lee-Ahye and Okagbare in 2014 coupled with their superior physical strength is why I am tipping the balance of power towards them in the women’s sprints for the future. Any likely upset of the above scenario might come from the collegiate ranks.