With just days until the start of the Beijing World Championships, SPIKES picks out ten of the lesser-know faces from the world of track and field that could make a huge impact in China. Here are the first five.
Andre De Grasse, Canada – 100m, 4x100m
The ‘Canadian Cannonball’ was heading along a road of wanton self-destruction until he was saved by sharp-brained former Canadian 200m record holder Tony Sharpe – the man credited as first spotting De Grasse’s sprinting gifts. Sharpe saw the 20-year-old run a 100m for fun in a pair of basketball shorts, identified the raw talent and encouraged De Grasse to give track and field a go. He agreed, committed to his new path and in June blitzed to the 100m and 200m NCAA titles in eye-watering – albeit wind-aided – times of 9.75 and 19.58. He has since landed Pan American Games 100m and 200m gold medals, the latter in a Canadian record 19.88.
While the world anticipates the 100m showdown between Bolt and Gatlin, the more discerning athletics fan will be keeping half an eye on De Grasse, knowing that he has the capacity to cause an upset.
Elaine Thompson, Jamaica – 200m, 4x100m
WOW Elaine Thompson (JAM) breaks Merlene Ottey's 200M meet record in 22.10 on Day 2 of Sainsbury's Anniversary Games pic.twitter.com/xQElrGUk3B— Team Jamaica (@JamaicaOlympics) July 25, 2015
Unbeaten over 200m this year, Thompson is the latest sprinting talent to roll off the never-ending Jamaican production line. This year, the 23-year-old has made staggering progress, lopping more than a second from her lifetime best on her way to scoring a high profile victory in 22.10 at the London Diamond League.
A dedicated follower of fashion and a training partner of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Thompson has this year worn extensions, sparkly headbands and glamorous bows in her hair. But forget the accessories; it’s the Jamaican's pace that could really have heads turning in Beijing.
Amel Tuka, Bosnia-Herzegovina – 800m
Only the most hardcore of athletics fans would have heard of Amel Tuka before this summer. At the start of this season, the 24-year-old’s personal best stood at a modest 1:46.12, with his career high coming in 2013 when he won bronze at the European Under-23 Championships.
But this summer the Bosnian, who only took up the sport six years ago, has achieved an extraordinary improvement in form. In Slovenia in July, Italian-based Tuka ran a national record 1:44.19, before trimming a further 0.35 from that time in Madrid a few days later. Then, at the Monaco Diamond League meet, the Gianni Ghidini-trained athlete went even faster, running a world leading 1:42.51 to defeat a high-class field. We can’t wait to see what he can do in Beijing.
Yomif Kejelcha, Ethiopia – 5000m
What were you doing at the age of 18? Forget cans of cider on a park bench, Yomif Kejelcha, whose birthday was only two weeks ago, has the more ambitious plan of winning world 5000m gold.
As 2013 world youth 3000m and 2014 world junior 5000m champion, the prodigious Ethiopian’s talent has been apparent for some time. He has already impressed on the senior circuit this year, beating classy 5000m fields in Eugene and Rome, the latter in a world leading personal best 12:58.39. His only 5000m defeat this season came at the hands of world and Olympic champion Mo Farah in Lausanne: if the Arsenal supporter (Kejelcha, that is, not Farah) reverses that result in the Bird’s Nest Stadium, he will become the youngest world 5000m champion ever.
Selina Buchel, Switzerland – 800m
Part-time urban planner Selina Buchel last year made the decision to radically overhaul her training under the guidance of husband and wife coaching team Urs and Marlis Goldi. The introduction of more speed and strength training has helped to take the 24-year-old 'Swiss Miss' to new heights this year.
Buchel’s year started brightly when she won European indoor gold over 800m in March. In July, she set a national record 1:57.95 in Paris – still the fourth fastest time of the year – before notching a win in Lausanne later the same week. The women's 800m field in Beijing will be wide open, and Buchel will be a genuine contender.