Will the Van Niekerk-Makwala show be upstaged?

They may primarily be 400m rivals, but Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa and Isaac Makwala of Botswana are in contention for the 200m world titles too at London 2017. EPA/SEBASTIEN NOGIER

On a busy evening of athletics at London 2017, there will be nine events on and around the track with medals up for grabs in three of them... but will Wayde van Niekerk or Isaac Makwala claim gold?

In terms of 'Road to the Final' events, there's the women's 5000m heats, men's javelin throw qualification (in two separate groups), qualification for the women's high jump final, women's 800m and men's 1500m heats and finally the women's 200m semifinals.


That schedule means African interest will be piqued from the get-go at 19:30 (CAT) as four of 2017's top 5 5000m runners, namely Kenya's Hellen Obiri and the Ethiopian trio of Genzebe Dibaba, Senbere Teferi and Letesenbet Gidey will be in action. Arguably, however, the performance of Almaz Ayana will be watched more intently.

The Ethiopian is the defending champion, but this time she is going for the 5 000m-10 000m double which she just couldn't manage at Rio 2016. After smashing the world record in the longer event, she only took bronze in the 5 000m... so how will she manage her reserves this time around in London?

Thereafter Kenya's Julius Yego will throw in qualification group A (20:05, CAT) while Rocco van Rooyen (South Africa) will do so in group B at 21:35 (CAT).

Van Rooyen is a rank outsider to make the final but Yego just so happens to be the defending world champion. The 28-year-old should comfortably qualify as one of the best 12, but this season he is way down on the likes of Thomas Rohler and Johannes Vetter, the Germans who have dominated world list.

Then the women's 800m heats (from 20:25, CAT) will see the African favourites go in consecutive heats starting with the outstanding favourite for gold Caster Semenya (South Africa) in the third one, then Kenyans Margaret Wambui and Eunice Sum in 4 and 5, before finally Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi in heat 6. With three to qualify for the semifinals, none of them should come under any undue stress.

It might not quite be so clear-cut in the three heats of the 1500m for men at 21:25 (CAT), especially the first of those in which Kenya's Elijah Manangoi, the 2017 world leader, and three-time defending world champion Asbel Kiprop run.

Only six men (out of 15) automatically go through from each heat and with Rio 2016 winner Matthew Centrowitz (USA), two-time major medallist Abdalaati Iguider (Morocco), Ayanleh Souleiman (Djibouti), 800m convert Marcin Lewandowski (Poland) and Ethiopia's Samuel Tefera all first up, heat is a must-watch.

On paper, Kenya's Ronald Kwemoi, Sadik Mikhou (Morocco-born Bahraini) and Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya will have it easier in their subsequent heats.

Later on Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou will likely be one of the talking points of the women's 200m semifinals (22:05, CAT) alongside Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers (who'll have South Africa's Justine Palframan in her heat) and Shaunae Miller-Uibo, if the Bahamian actually runs after she dramatically saw a 400m gold medal splish-splash away last night.


Attention can then switch to the first of the three finals on offer, namely the men's triple jump at 21:20 (CAT) which has been billed as straight head-to-head between Americans Christian Taylor and Will Claye, with the other 10 athletes fighting for the lowest podium step. (Much the same as the women's competition which had the Olympic Stadium enthralled two nights ago.)

Qualification belied that fact though, as Claye didn't jump an automatic final entry distance, as such having to hang around until his place was confirmed.

Taking history into account, the 26-year-old (born in Sierra Leone) will probably have to have the night of his career if he is to get the better of Taylor, whose major event temperament has seen him beat Claye to gold in the last two Olympics. The 27-year-old is also a two-time world champion -- including last time out -- while Claye only managed bronze in 2011 and 2013.

Chris Benard led qualifying at 17.20m and wil be keen to make it an American sweep, but Andy Diaz (Cuba), Nelson Evora (Portugal) and Alexis Copello (Azerbaijan) have it in them to deny them.


It looks like a battle of the Americans in the women's 400m hurdles (22:35, CAT) too considering Dalilah Muhammad, Kori Carter and Shamier Little all broke 53 seconds at their national Championships in June and Cassandra Tate has joined them at London 2017.

However, Little was knocked out in the semifinals, and Zuzana Hejnova (Czech Republic) has looked in the type of form which won her the previous two gold medals in Moscow and Beijing. Ristananna Tracey (Jamaica) and Switzerland's Lea Sprunger have also looked sharp, while there's always the extra competitor of the 10 hurdles to throw a spanner into the works...


Finally, the world's focus will zoom in on two Africans -- slated for the next great rivalry -- when the men's 200m final closes Day 7 of London 2017.

South African Wayde van Niekerk and Botswana's Isaac Makwala were favourites for the 200m going into the championships, and while they're both in the final they've taken some interesting routes to it.

Makwala came out of quarantine to secure lane 6 for the final... an ideal position to run your own race from. Van Niekerk, meanwhile, came through a stacked semifinal as a 'lucky loser' but his lane 3 draw may help him as it means he will have the main contenders in his sights until they finally see him round about the bend.

Their main rivals for medals (if not gold) look like Trinidad and Tobago's Jereem Richards, Turkey's Ramil Guliyev, as well as American Isiah Young who all looked impressive in winning the semis and haven't doubled in the individual sprints.

Finally, of further African interest in the final is the presence of Abdul Hakim Sani Brown, who runs in the colours of Japan (his mother's home country) but has a Ghanaian father. Sani Brown is only 18, outran London 2012 silver medallist Yohan Blake in the semis and could serve notice of his future pedigree with another stunning run.