By Hishan Welmilla
The 13th edition of the IAAF World Championships where Sri Lankan athletes will pit themselves against the best on the planet got under way here in Daegu on Saturday with a spectacular opening ceremony.
Sri Lankan distance runner Chaminda Wijekoon and hurdler Christine Sonali Merrill will carry Sri Lanka’s hopes at this world’s greatest athletic extravaganza which is second only to the Olympic Games. The event will run from August 27 to September 4 in South Korea.
Christine will be the first in action in the women’s 400m hurdles first round which are scheduled for 11:25 a.m. local time ( 2.55 pm Sri Lankan Time) on Monday, August 29. The Semi finals is scheduled for August 30 at 10.00 am local time (1.30 pm Sri Lankan Time).
Wijekoon will be in action in the heats of his pet event men’s 1500m on Tuesday (August 30) which is expected to begin at 11.20 am local time ( 2.50 pm Sri Lankan time).
Both Sri Lankans have qualified for the event after clinching bronze medals in their respective events at the Asian Athletics Championship held in Kobe, Japan in July.
Wijekoon clocked three minutes and 40.78 seconds in the 1500m to clinch the bronze at Kobe and a place in the World Championship.
Merrill finished third in the 400 hurdles with a time of 57.30. She posted a time of 56.83 in the preliminaries, which was a Sri Lankan national record. Although she just missed the World Championships qualification standard of 56.55 in Japan, Merrill was awarded a wildcard entry to the Championship.
The U.S. is confident it will race to the top of the table again this year, as it has eight defending world champions, 19 medalists at the World Championships, and 16 Olympic medalists in this year’s squad. They will compete in 46 of the 47 disciplines, the only exception being the men’s 50km race walking.
The U.S. topped the medal table at the last world championship in Berlin in 2009 with 10 gold, six silver and six bronze medals. Its dominance at the event is such that it has finished first at nine of the last 12 editions of the track and field showcase. At other times, it finished second.
Jamaica is perhaps the only country that can threaten the U.S on the track. In the last championships, the Caribbean nation finished second overall with seven gold medals thanks to its prowess in the short-distance sprints.
Kenya and Ethiopia, who are expected to dominate the marathon and mid and long-distance running disciplines, are also serious contenders for medals. Meanwhile, Russia’s women are expected to keep their vice-like grip on a number of field events including the pole vault.
This time Cutting-edge technology will ensure the most accurate recordings of time and distance in the track and field events at the IAAF World Championships.
The photo finish system, which takes as many as 2,000 pictures per second and costs US$ 600,000 (120 million Won) per set-up, will make sure that track stars like Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell of Jamaica do not feel cheated should they cross the finish line neck-and-neck due to its phenomenal level of precision timing.
Meanwhile, for the first time at a World Championships, a video distance measurement system will be introduced for long jump events. Two cameras set up at each side of the sandpit will capture images of the athlete’s landing, with these immediately displayed on a computer screen and the distance measured automatically. At a whopping USS$ 1 million (1.1billion Won), this ranks as the most expensive piece of measuring equipment in the sports world.
Hosting the 2011 world athletics championships in Daegu completes a prestigious treble for South Korea after the Olympic Games and the World Cup as the East Asian nation confirms its status as a major destination on the international sporting stage.
South Korea’s big breakthrough came in 1988 when it hosted the Olympic Games in capital Seoul, followed 14 years later by holding the 2002 World Cup together with Japan.
The 13th IAAF World Championships will be held in a country buoyant after it last month trounced European rivals Munich and Annecy to win the right to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.