It hasn't been since the late 19th century that the United States could be properly considered a sleeping giant, but that's where they sit in the world of track and field entering tonight's start of the IAAF World Championships in Beijing.
For the Americans, this meet will feature a chance to reclaim the 100m from the Jamaicans on the men's side as well as assert themselves in the middle and long distance races on the track for both the men and women. It should prove to be an exciting meet from an United-States-centric perspective as Americans have realistic medal hopes in most events on the track.
Men: In case you hadn't heard, the battle for first on the men's side will likely come down to Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt. Gatlin has consistently been the stronger runner this season and enters with the top time of 9.74. Usain Bolt, however, is Usain Bolt and has to be considered a threat even if his 9.87 from a rainy London meet doesn't necessarily get him in the conversation on its own. Americans Trayvon Bromell (#3 in 2015) and Tyson Gay (#6) both figure to contend for medals as well.
Women: In English Gardner (#2) and Tori Bowie (#4), the Americans have two solid medal hopefuls. Unlike the men though, the U.S. does not have the favorite in the event as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is the prohibitive-est of favorites.
Men: Justin Gatlin headlines the American crew here and enters with the fastest time in the world this season in the event by a significant margin over Jamaican Rasheed Dwyer.
Women: With Allyson Felix not attempting the double at worlds, the women's side of this event lacks big names. Fortunately for the U.S. Candice McGrone enters as the favorite with the fastest time among entrants this season.
Men: A strangely thin crew for the U.S. in the 400m this time around as LaShawn Merritt enters as the fastest American at #6 in the world. It's difficult to see an American medal here.
Women: Hop on aboard the Allyson Felix 400m runner train before it leaves the station, because it's about to. She isn't the fastest American on the season, but she is the fastest entered in this event. She'll be second in the world among women running, so a medal is well within reach for the 400m convert.
For the U.S., the 800 is the saddest event on the track for both genders. With Boris Berian not making the team out of the trials and Nick Symmonds not making the team because of USATF nonsense, the men's side lacks any sort of medal contender. The women's side is a bit more cheerful, even after potential gold medal threat Ajee Wilson pulled out of the meet due to injury. Her replacement, Molly Ludlow enters as the 6th fastest woman in the event this season (5th if you remove Wilson) so has an outside shot at a medal.
Men: Matt Centrowitz enters as America's best hope at a medal in the 1500 after being overshadowed by Asbel Kiprop in a phenomenal PR effort in Monaco. The 1500 has been fast on the men's side this year, so despite being in good shape, Centrowitz will likely have to turn in a superior effort and get a little lucky to medal this week.
Women: Let's get this out of the way: Genzebe Dibaba is not going to lose this event. In Shannon Rowbury and Jenny Simpson, the United States enters the 3rd and 4th fastest 1500m runners on the season and both of them have as good a chance to medal as anyone outside of Dibaba, even with Almaz Ayana running. At the very least, it will be fun to see the Rowbury/Simpson rivalry grow more intense.
The only legitimate U.S. medal hope in this event, on either side, is Galen Rupp. Rupp is a bit of an enigma this season as he hasn't raced that much. He ran a 13:12 in the 5k back in May at the Pre Classic and that's his only performance of note on the season. He's obviously capable of running with nearly anyone in the field if he's going right, but it's unclear if that is in the cards this go-around.
Men: Again, Galen Rupp is the only American hope here for a medal and, as with the 5000, we're left without much information to go off of.
Women: If you squint really hard, you can talk yourself into Shalane Flanagan and Molly Huddle as medal contenders in this event. I find myself convincing myself of Huddle as she's had a really solid Diamond League season and could put things together if this race turns more tactical than she has faced thus far. I know I should be admonished for undervaluing Flanagan's experience in this event in championship races, but I'm doing it anyway.
110m Hurdles (Men) / 100m Hurdles (Women)
Men: David Oliver enters as the fastest American in the event and, as holder of the third fastest time in the world in 2015, their only legitimate medal threat. We'll all be hoping his experience relative to the field carries him to gold.
Women: The United States is stacked here as they enter 4 of the 6 fastest runners in the event this year in Shakira Nelvis (1), Dawn Harper-Nelson (3), Kendra Harrison (4), and Brianna Rollins (6). If they don't emerge with at least 2 medals here, it will have to be considered a disappointment.
Men: As always, the United States is set to dominate this event as they enter 4 of the 5 fastest runners here. Bershawn Jackson and Johnny Dutch should go 1-2 and either of Michael Tinsley and Keron Clement will be certainly in the mix for bronze. But, this all isn't surprising in the 400 hurdles.
Women: The women are strong in this event, but not as strong as the men. In Shamier Little, they enter the fastest woman in the event, but she'll likely face a strong fight from Czech Zuzana Hejnova for gold. Cassandra Tate enters as the 4th fastest on the year and has a strong chance to finish anywhere in the top 3.
Men: Evan Jager enters with the second fastest time in the world, but after tripping over the final hurdle of the Paris Diamond League meet, he has to feel that sub-8:00 is there for his taking. He's the first American medal contender in this event that I can remember and he has as good a shot at gold as anyone. Remember when Fam was our premier steepler?
Women: Emma Coburn has the 5th fastest time in the world in 2015 and she's coming off the best season of her career. She'll should improve on her 9th place finish in the London Olympics and potentially challenge for a medal.
Tonight's Notable Events
7:45 PM EST: Men's Marathon: This stacked field--Kipsang, Kimetto, Kiprotich, Desisa--features 6 sub-2:06 marathoners and a whopping 24 sub-2:10 marathoners. Unfortunately, none of those 24 is an American. It'll be a great race for all but the most extreme of American homers.
10:25 PM EST: M Steeplechase Trials: Praying that Evan Jager doesn't trip over the last hurdle again and easily makes it through.
11:15 PM EST: Womens 1500m Trials: Simpson and Rowbury should advance and Lauren Johnson and Kerri Gallagher should be right on the cusp of advancing to the next round of trials.
11:50 PM EST: M 800m Heats: Cas Loxsom has as easy a heat as it's going to get to advance, but all three Americans could realistically be going home after tonight.
A meet thread will be up shortly before the start of the men's marathon as a venue for conversing about the meet while it is in progress. We'll see you there.