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Saturday, 19 January, 2019

Olympic champions can foil fancied Americans

It's Miller time in the 400m

Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas
1 of 1

BBC2 and Eurosport 1, 9.30am Sunday
BBC1 and Eurosport 1, 6.30pm Sunday

The women’s 400m provided one of the moments of the Rio Olympics as Bahamian Shaunae Miller tied up in the dying strides and flung herself at the line to hold off charging American Allyson Felix by 0.07 seconds.

The rematch in London should be just as thrilling. The pair have not met since over 400m, although they have raced over 200m when surprisingly Shaunae, now Miller-Uibo, thrashed the three-time 200m world champion and set a national record. Just 0.12s separates the pair on their season’s bests, this time in favour of Felix.

Felix is a legend of track and field but Miller-Uibo is the coming force and at 23 is eight years younger. She has raced sparingly but broken 50 seconds on all three appearances this season and she looks a sound investment.

It could also be heartbreak for another American, Evan Jager. He is favourite for the 3,000m steeplechase and has been imperious this season. His world-leading 8.01.29 in Monte Carlo does not tell the full story as he wasn’t on for anything close to eight minutes until he kicked in the turbo for the final two laps. It was a seriously impressive display of flat speed.

However, while he has improved his kick, it is impossible to forget the way Kenyan - and a Kenyan-born runner has won every world championships since 1987 - Conseslus Kipruto left Jager for dead in Rio. He pulled out of that Monaco race to protect an ankle niggle but he clocked an 8:04 in June and is a big price if he is fully fit.

The theme of disappointed American superstars could also afflict the dominant figure in the men’s pole vault this season. Sam Kendricks is unbeaten in nine events, which is especially impressive in a discipline such as this when countback can often be a factor. But his personal and season’s best of 6m is far from out of reach of his rivals and given all the variables this is an event ripe for an upset.

Renaud Lavillenie is the world record holder and has 16cm in hand on Kendricks. He has been a serial bottler at major championships but his one gold came ar this venue at the 2012 Olympics. He does not have as much pressure on him as usual because he has had a shocker of a season with a best of 5.87m.

Instead a chance is taken on Sweden’s 17-year-old sensation Armand Duplantis. He popped off an Under-20 world record of 5.90m in April and has since added the European U20 title.

This may be a competition too soon for Duplantis but he has wondrous ability and is a huge price given he is the most progressive performer in the field. In a year when the elite have come down to a reachable level, he is already third on the world-leading heights list this year.

S Miller-Uibo Women's 400m
2pts Evens Betfred, Coral, Ladbrokes
C Kipruto Men's 3,000m steeplechase
2pts 4-1 Sky Bet
A Duplantis Men’s pole vault
1pt 20-1 bet365

He is a huge price given he is the most progressive performer in the field
E.W. Terms
Sky bet