The Paris Fever has started early. This is the first column on #Paris2024 from Mike Rowbottom, who will be writing a weekly column for #RunBlogRun.

This is Mike Rowbottom’s first piece for RunBlogRun. Mike will be doing a weekly column for RunBlogRun on athletics topics and at least once a month on Paris 2024. 

Mike Rowbottom covered the last three Olympic Games as chief feature writer for Insidethegames and the previous five for The Independent in London. He has worked for the Daily Mail, The Times, The Observer and The Guardian. 

 

Paris 2024 fever starts early…

by Mike Rowbottom

A satisfying collision occurred at the weekend’s Dr Martin Luther King Jr Collegiate Invitational in the high altitude setting of Albuquerque as an Irish runner hit the padded barrier bearing the name of the hosting city at speed.

After bouncing back from the first letter “E” the 21-year-old was soon celebrating a 60 metres time of 7.15sec – which bettered her national record of 7.17.

The commentator added, excitedly: “That’s going to be the second fastest time in the world this year from Rhasidat Adeleke…”

Not only was it going to be, but it was as she took her place in the early 2024 listings behind the 7.11 clocked by US runner Aleia Hobbs in Baton Rouge.

An hour later, the young woman who won the NCAA 400m title last June with a national record of 49.20 – a result which prompted her to skip her final year at the University of Texas and turn professional – lowered another of her records, improving her 200m best from 22.52 to 22.49.

Rhasidat Adeleke won the 2023 NCAA 400m title in an Irish NR, photo by How Lao Photography.

Exciting form in any year. More so in the Olympic year. The blue touch paper has been lit – or perhaps, in the case of this Dublin-born product of Nigerian parents Ade and Prince, it should be green touch paper.

Athletics followers back in her home country are already getting into what you might call pre-subrational mode, anticipating a final burst of achievement in the French capital this summer.

All the anticipation and interest generated by Adeleke’s participation in last year’s World Athletics Championships in Budapest is about to be seen and raised in the Emerald Isle.

In Budapest, Adeleke, gamely extending a season that had already peaked for the NCAA Championships, missed a medal by one place in her specialist event of 400 metres.

But Irish eyes were smiling, and Irish fans were posting. Never mind, next year, that’s the one…

All over the world, similar hopes are rising as the sport looks forward to what will be – thanks to the vicissitudes of COVID – its fourth successive global gathering.

In 2024, all tracks lead to Paris.

A similar phenomenon is already occurring in Britain following the national indoor 300m record of 36.77 set at the same Albuquerque meeting by the 2019 world 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith, who took 0.03 off her previous mark.

Since winning her first – and so far only – global title in Doha four years ago, Asher-Smith has had her track progress undermined by injuries.

Dina Asher-Smith, photo by European Athletics

Her spirit and talent have kept her in the mix. But at 28, perhaps she is looking to the 400 metres as a future area of contention? Maybe even Olympic contention?

Comments online in response to an Athletics Weekly post indicate the way some British fans are already thinking.

Steve Cross commented: “I always wondered what she could do over 400.”

Paul Morris implored: “Please don’t break Kathy Cook’s record.”

Meanwhile, the women’s 400 metres scene is prompting fevered speculation in another part of the athletics forest as US fans attempt to forecast the path that may be taken this year by the enigmatic Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone.

Last year, this athletics phenomenon switched her focus from the 400m hurdles to the 400m flat with dizzying results, setting a personal best of 48.74, making her the tenth fastest of all time, before scratching from the World Championships because of a knee injury.

The Tokyo 2020 champion’s 400m flourish took place on the same Eugene track where a year earlier, she had reduced her own world 400m hurdles record to a mind-blowing 50.68 to secure a first world title.

Sydney McLaughlin takes the 400m, USATF New York Grand Prix
Continental Tour Gold
presented by Global Athletics &Marketing Inc., photo by Kevin Morris

Will the 24-year-old from New Jersey defend her Olympic title this year, thus facing once again the challenge of the Dutch marvel Femke Bol, who won the world title in her absence in Budapest and also broke the longstanding world indoor 400m record last year?

Femke Bol takes 400m hurdles in Eugene, photo by Brian Eder for RunBlogRun

Lip-smacking.

Or might she stick to the flat – thus putting herself on a collision course with the double Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo, who competed at the World Championships shortly after giving birth and who will have been building back to her top form since?

Adeleke and, perhaps, Asher-Smith could be added to that prospect along with the Dominican Republic’s world champion, Marileidy Paulino.

Mouth-watering.

Meanwhile, World Athletics has posted on its X feed a fantasy women’s 600-metre line-up comprising McLaughlin Levrone, Bol, Athing Mu, Keely Hodgkinson and Mary Moraa.

600 meters Fantasy Race, designed by World Athletics

What a race that would be, involving the three latter athletes who have recently energised the 800 metres to new levels with their intense and dramatic rivalry.

Of course, there is still time for McLaughlin-Levrone to surprise us all again by announcing she will seek both titles in Paris – as well as the 100m hurdles. (Personal best 12.65 in 2021…).

Already, it’s heady….

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