The much publicized battle between Cuban Dayron Robles and Chinese Liu Xiang for the gold medal in the 110 hurdle-race of the upcoming Olympic Games will be anthological, no doubt about it. However, does this qualify them for a title in London 2012?
In my humble opinion, it does not. At this height of the season, neither one of the Olympic champions can sleep in peace, and much less consider himself the indisputable favorite, all the more after the fabulous irruption on the scene of U.S. athlete Aries Merritt.
Irrespective of the huge advertising campaign surrounding the Robles-Xiang duel, Merrit has the best official 2012 record with three identical times of 12.93 seconds, the last one achieved on July 20 at the traditional athletic meeting of the Principality of Monaco.
But the red carpet of the majestic Olympic stadium of the British capital only awaits Dayron and Liu for the 110 m hurdle race. The former, Olympic champion in Beijing’08; the latter, monarch under the five rings in Athens eight years ago.
The Antillean athlete, with world record of 12.87, is the human who has lowered the 13 second register most times in one season, but that was back in 2008 and much has happened since then. His own injuries are his main opponent, beyond his flesh and bone rivals.
The Asian runner, former world champion with 12.88, will arrive at the Games in splendid form, endorsed mainly by his very good time at Eugene, U.S.A., where he equaled Robles’ 12.87, although the favorable +2.4 m/second wind, above the limit allowed by the IAAF, deprived him of the possibility of being photographed next to the giant chronometer that announces the new records.
In my opinion, it will be necessary to approach 12.95 in London to mount the winners’ podium and be crowned Olympic king in the land of William Shakespeare. Those figures are forbidden for the great majority of short-race runners on Earth – I couldn’t say if on other planets – so I dare predict the three medal winners in London 2012, although my eyesight blurs when I try to order them Xiang-Robles-Merrit (remember it’s a podium).
It would be beautiful to see them running alone on a track. I would place them in lanes three, four and five; I would even put Jason Richardson – accidental world champion after the fatidic Robles-Xiang incident at the Daegu-2011 finals – in lane six.
In addition to the injuries, there is also a historical factor that plays a role against Dayron Robles, and it is that only two 110-m hurdle runners have won the Olympic gold consecutively: Lee Calhoun (Melbourne 1956, Rome 1960) and Roger Kingdom (Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988).
In any case, the race will be anthological, that’s for sure. Who will win? Will there be a new world record? There’s no alternative: we will have to wait until next August 8.