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Statistician's crystal ball reveals some surprises for London 2012

NEWS just in.

Olympic 2012 athletics winners: 100 metres Yohan Blake, 800m Adam Kszczot, heptathlon Tatyana Chernova. Yes, defeat for world record-holders Usain Bolt and David Rudisha, and for Britain's darling, Jessica Ennis.

These are among the Olympic predictions of my good friend, BBC statistician Mark Butler, who included them with his Christmas card.

It is, of course, just a bit of seasonal fun – or what passes for fun when track and field anoraks get together. Yes, we should get out more, but athletics meetings are in short supply at this time of year.

Speculation as to whether Usain has shot his bolt will be the sprint question of Olympic year.

The Jamaican demonstrated falibility with his inability to get out of the 100m starting blocks at the World Championships in Daegu. The false start which heralded the demise of the defending champion was a seismic sporting shock.

It even prompted foolish argument for rewriting the start rules, but overlooks that the start is fundamental.

I believe, like Butler (who reckons Bolt will win the 200m in London) that Blake now has the measure of his training partner at 100m, even though ranked just fourth (9.82sec) of the six Jamaican sprinters in the world top 10 this year. That list is still headed by world record-holder Bolt, at 9.76.

Yet, by any standards, the under-rated Blake is an exceptional sprinter. Twenty men ran 9.99 or better this year on 61 occasions. Just five of these were into a headwind, including 9.92 into a 1.4 metres per second wind and 9.95 into a 1.6 by Blake. With assistance close to the legal permitted limit of 2.0mps at his back, it suggests Blake is capable of under 9.70.

Those tempted to cite redemption in Bolt's Daegu 200m victory (19.40) should view the footage of Blake's victory at that distance in Brussels this year. His 19.26 (into a headwind and second fastest ever) was just 0.07 outside Bolt's world mark. His start was poor and his bend was no more than modest. I believe Blake has that record at his mercy.

Bolt will be defending the Olympic 100 and 200m titles he won with world records in Beijing where the winning margin in both had never been wider. When Bolt added the world crowns in Berlin two years later, speculation abounded that he would have to convert to the long jump and 400m in order to keep competitive juices flowing.

Such talk has now dried up.

Bolt has had back problems since 2010, the result of a spinal problem since birth. These have prompted repeated consultations at the Munich clinic of Dr Hans Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt whose celebrity patients have ranged from Boris Becker, Linford Christie and Michael Owen, through the German national football team to Luciano Pavarotti, Darren Gough and Michael Jordan.

We may well have seen the best of Bolt, but not the best of Blake.

I would take issue with Butler's dismissal of Rudisha at 800m in favour of the Pole, Kszczot. The two-lap event is the Kenyan's to lose. I think the Sudanese, Abubakir Kaki, is the only threat to the Masai, Rudisha.

Kaki, as recently revealed in these columns, is experimenting with altitude, and a switch to 1500m, and Butler tips Kaki to win the metric mile in London.

He is optimistic for male British hopes, predicting gold for Dai Greene (400m hurdles), Mo Farah (10,000m) and Phillips Idowu (triple jump), but believes Chernova will put heptathlon gold beyond Ennis.

Surprisingly, he predicts gold for defending 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu. I will be surprised if she reaches the final.

Those inclined to dismiss what Butler sees in his crystal ball might reflect that the last time he tried this was before Athens. Among his more outrageous thoughts were correctly predicting marathon gold for Stefano Baldini, high jump victory for Stefan Holm, and the British 4 x 100m quartet's gold.

Baldini had finished third in successive world championships in 2001 and 2003 as Butler compiled his Athens predictions. He was ranked only 22nd in the world, more than three minutes down on Paul Tergat's world marathon record in Berlin.

Holm was in a four-way tie for third in the world high jump rankings. He'd won two world indoor titles, but second in the outdoor edition that year was his best. And the form for the British relay quartet was bleak; ninth in the world behind the USA, Brazil, Italy, Poland, Jamaica, Trinidad, Japan, and Nigeria.

We note with interest positive drug tests on two members of the Indian 4 x 400m relay quartet who won gold in Delhi last year.

It's impossible now to rerun those Commonwealth Games events, and impossible to speculate on how races might have evolved without those now convicted of cheating.

Scotland were a close sixth in the relay in which Lee McConnell's 50.61 was fastest of the overall race. She had been fourth in the individual event.

One team (Nigeria) has already been disqualified. Now India's performance is manifestly suspect.

Justice would be best served if all performances by dope cheats were nulified, and all championship medals re-allocated.

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