Olympics Betting: Middle and long distance Mens Athletics
Mo Farah versus Africa. No pressure.
Jack Houghton previews where the early value is in the men's middle- and long-distance races are with the 2012 Olympic athletics' programme just weeks away.
David Rudisha is phenomenal: he broke a long-standing world record in 2010 at the age of 21, and won the World Championships in Daegu last year despite having struggled with injuries earlier in the season. This season he has been on fire, remaining unbeaten and setting the four fastest times in the world for the event. For these reasons, he will likely be as short as Betfair odds of (1.15) to win his first Olympic title, and only misfortune or misjudgement should stop him from doing so.
The future of the 800m looks exciting. Rudisha leads the way, but there are a batch of incredibly talented 18- and 19-year olds who are following his example. Mohammed Aman (who ended Rudisha's 34-race winning streak at the back end of last season), Nijel Amos, Timothy Kitum, Abraham Rotich and Leonard Kosencha have all run fast times this season. Unfortunately, Kosencha and Rotich haven't made the Kenyan team, which leaves Kitum, Aman and Amos as the most likely medallists behind Rudisha. In the unlikely event that an overly-tactical race ensued, Poland's Adam Kszczot could spring a surprise.
Kenyans Silas Kiplagat, Asbel Kiprop and Nixon Chepseba are the three fastest in the world this year and should fight it out for the gold medal. If pressed, I would predict Kiplagat to come out on top, reversing places with Kiprop from last year's World Championships, but I doubt if any of the Kenyans will offer much value.
Instead, I will be looking to have a small interest in the 20-year-old Ayanleh Souleiman from Djibouti. He has run second on two occasions in grand-prix meetings this year and could cause a surprise - at a big price - in a race that will be in all likelihood very tactical. Britain's Andy Baddely and Ross Murray both have a chance of making the final, but will struggle should they get there.
5,000m & 10,000m
Mo Farah versus Africa. No pressure.
Much has been made of the fact that, at the Paris Diamond League meeting over 5,000m, the first six athletes home all posted times faster than Mo's personal best. Less emphasis seems to have been placed - except by Mo himself - on the fact that he has consistently beaten most of those athletes when racing them. There is little doubt that Mo is capable of significantly improving his personal best in the right race, but he won't get that opportunity at the Olympics, where winning, and not running a fast time, will be the priority for all competitors. It's also worth remembering that, with only three spots in the Kenyan and Ethiopian team, the Olympic final may, ironically, be an easier proposition than some of the grand-prix fields we have seen this year.
Mo is likely to be @ Betfair odds of around (4.20) in the two races, and I will be backing him in both, fully expecting that he will win at least one. Some of the usual crowd will put up able opposition - Isaiah Kiplangat, Edwin Soi, Thomas Longosiwa, Dejen Gebremeskel, Hagos Gebrhiwet, Yenew Alamirew, Kenenisa Bekele, Tariku Bekele and Gebre Gebremariam - but it will be worth waiting for the final line-ups before plumping for a likely top three, as the Ethiopian and Kenyan teams could still change
Since 1968, when Amos Biwott won their first Olympic steeplechase title, Kenya have amassed 19 medals in the event, out of a total possible 33. Given that Kenya boycotted the 1976 and 1980 Olympics, where six of those medals were handed out, and that they have therefore won gold in every Olympic steeplechase race they have contested, it is little surprise that Kenya are the overwhelming favourites to continue their dominance. Brimin Kipruto, Ezekiel Kemboi and Abel Mutai made the Olympic team, and slight preference is for Brimin Kipruto to retain his Olympic crown
Sammy Wanjiru competing in, and winning, in a fast time, the 2008 Olympic marathon, seemed to herald a change in the event at major championships. Prior to that, in recent times, the best African runners had tended to focus their attentions on the more lucrative city marathons, meaning the supposed pinnacle of the sport was usually won by someone who would struggle to win a major marathon anywhere else. That looks to have changed, though, and this year's Olympics should be a straight fight between the best of Kenya - Mutai, Kirui and Kipsang - and the best of Ethiopia - Abshero, Sefer and Feleke - with Wilson Kipsang, the impressive London Marathon winner, the most likely winner.