Coaches tipping U.S. sprinters, hurdlers to shine in Berlin

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EUGENE, Oregon (Reuters) – The U.S. team at August’s world athletics championships are expected to take the fast track to success, with coaches tipping sprinters and hurdlers to lead the way in Berlin.

“We have put together a great team,” women’s head coach Chandra Cheeseborough told Reuters at the conclusion of the four-day U.S. trials on Sunday.

“I really like the make-up of this team,” men’s coach Harvey Glance added. “We have seasoned veterans, but I also like the fact we have some rookies.”

Hurdles squads for both men and women should be especially strong after Olympic bronze medallist Bershawn Jackson and a rejuvenated Lashinda Demus delivered season-leading times in winning 400 metres hurdles titles.

Olympic champion Dawn Harper looked impressive in a wind-assisted women’s 100 hurdles with Beijing silver medallist David Payne claiming the men’s 110 hurdles with a narrow win over Terrence Trammell, twice an Olympic silver medallist.

Top American sprinter Tyson Gay ran only one race at the trials, as the defending 100 and 200 metres world champion has an automatic bye to Berlin in both events.

However, he showed plenty of speed in his only appearance, clocking a wind-assisted 9.75 seconds in a 100 metres preliminary round.

CRAWFORD FAST
Equally impressive was 2004 Olympic 200 metres champion Shawn Crawford. Although now 31, Crawford zipped through his final in a windy 19.73 seconds, his fastest time ever.

The 400 metres also looks strong with Olympic gold medallist LaShawn Merritt heading the team that will also include world champion Jeremy Wariner, who ran the 200 at the trials.

The 2004 Olympic long jump champion Dwight Phillips had also returned to form, Glance noted while adding that he expected an improved showing from U.S. shot putters compared to Beijing.

Injuries knocked out Olympic decathlon champion Bryan Clay, sprint hurdles medallist David Oliver and Walter Dix, bronze medallist in the Olympic 100 and 200 metres.

“Clay’s injury, that was a big blow,” Glance said. “But overall I don’t think this team takes a great blow.”

Cheeseborough expressed delight in her team’s mixture.

“In the sprints, the young ladies have done well,” she said, referring to 100 metres winner Carmelita Jeter, 200 metres world champion Allyson Felix and 400 metres U.S. winner Sanya Richards.

“(Also) Brittany Reese in the long jump, Dawn (Harper) in the hurdles.”

The team lost Olympic heptathlete silver medallist Hyleas Fountain to injury, but “I think we have a pretty well-rounded team,” Cheeseborough added.