Ten stars to watch at London 2017

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Five years on from Super Saturday at London 2012, the World Championships begin at London Stadium
World Athletics Championships
Venue: London Stadium Dates: 4-13 August
Coverage: Live coverage on BBC One and Two, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, the BBC Sport website and app.

Usain Bolt’s farewell blast? Check.

Mo Farah’s tilt at another distance double. Got it.

But who are the names and faces to watch out for beyond the two headline acts at the World Championships in London?

Steve Cram, who won 1500m gold at the first World Championships in 1983 and is part of the BBC Sport commentary team this year, selects the athletes we will be talking about after 10 days of the world’s best fighting it out.

First, the best from around the world…

Wayde van Niekerk (South Africa) – 400m/200m

Van Niekirk is the defending 400m world champion after victory in Beijng two years ago

Wayde van Niekerk sensationally broke Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old 400m world record at the Rio Olympics last year, but there are a lot of things going on at an Olympics.

These championships will be a chance for him to really establish himself as a global star.

The 25-year-old is considered heir apparent to Bolt as the next global figurehead for the sport. He is a quieter guy than Bolt – most are – but is warming to his time in the spotlight.

The intriguing thing for athletics fans is Van Niekerk only just missed going sub-43 seconds in Rio – he ran 43.03 – and we know London is a great stadium that can produce fast times.

Van Niekirk’s world record at Rio 2016 beat the mark set by American great Michael Johnson at the World Championships in Seville in 1999.

There is strong competition with American Fred Kerley, just 0.08secs behind at the top of the 2017 timesheets, and Botswana’s Isaac Makwala pushing Van Niekerk close in Monaco in the Diamond League in July.

That pair – combined with the London crowd and track – could push Van Niekirk towards another world record.

He is also entered for the 200m, but he is renowned for giving everything in the 400m. After running that time in Rio he was barely able to do a lap of honour.

Whether he decides to double up with the 200m in reality is a different matter.

Nafissatou Thiam (Belgium) – heptathlon

Thiam scored five personal bests across seven events as she took gold in Rio last summer

In the aftermath of defending world champion Jessica Ennis-Hill’s retirement and with Katarina Johnson-Thompson in action, there will be a lot of hometown eyes on the heptathlon.

However, quite a few people missed just how impressive Nafissatou Thiam’s gold in Rio was.

She became Olympic champion as a 21-year-old student, and in May she broke the 7,000-point barrier – a holy grail of heptathlon – at Gotzis.

Thiam become a goodwill ambassador for children’s charity Unicef in June

She is already keeping company with brilliant heptathletes of the past and is still improving.

We are going to see her for two days in competition with Johnson-Thompson and people will enjoy watching her.

As well as being a supreme athlete, Thiam is a good character.

Luvo Manyonga (South Africa) – long jump

Maonyonga told the Guardian in December that he “will be a recovering addict for the rest of my life”

Luvo Manyonga is a huge talent. He is the first guy in a long time who has looked capable of beating Mike Powell’s 1991 long jump world record of 8.95m and possibly even breaching the magical nine-metre mark.

He got injured slightly in the Diamond League in Stockholm in June, but I’m told that he has got over that setback.

With five of the top six marks so far this year, he is be red-hot favourite to go one better than the silver he won in Rio.

His backstory is also incredible. He is from a really difficult background in the townships and, after finishing fifth in the World Championships in Daegu, was banned in 2012 for taking crystal meth.

He is a brilliant physical kind of athlete and is learning that the sport is his route away from the wrong side of the tracks.

If he wins, it will be a great chance for more people to hear about his story.

Kendra Harrison (United States) – 100m hurdles

Harrison’s world record beat a 28-year-old mark set by Bulgarian Yordanka Donkova in 1988

Kendra Harrison did not make the Olympics last year after a really disappointing run at the American trials, but she channelled that frustration in exactly the right way.

Knowing she was going to miss out on Rio, she came out at the Anniversary Games and broke the 100m hurdles world record with a storming run.

She was not obliged to run the trials this year as she qualified automatically as the reigning Diamond League champion.

But she decided to compete – and won, to rid herself of those 2016 demons.

Anniversary Games: Kendra Harrison sets 100m hurdles world record

She has run 12.28 seconds this year – just eight hundredths outside that world record – and is in great shape.

It is an incredibly competitive race, with Australian Sally Pearson back in form, but Harrison is just that little bit better than everyone else if she gets it right.

If the conditions are good, the world record could go again.

Caster Semenya (South Africa) – 800m/1500m

Semenya’s testosterone levels have been a source of controversy

Through her 800m Olympic gold in Rio, twin world titles and the controversy over her hyperandrogenism, Caster Semenya is already well known to the public.

But the interesting thing about her London campaign is that she is entered to run the 1500m as well as the 800m.

As the fastest in the world this year and reigning Olympic champion, she is favourite for the shorter distance, but the schedule makes attempting the double a brave call.

The 1500m is first of the two events. Normally athletes doubling up like to have their favoured event first, followed by another as a bit of a bonus.

The 1500m is a tall order against Rio’s one-two of Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon and Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba and world-leading Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan.

If Semenya pulls it off, it will be the sort of middle-distance double that we have not seen since Dame Kelly Holmes in 2004.

Evan Jager (United States) – 3,000m steeplechase

Jager met his wife – Swede Sofia Hellberg-Jonsen – when the pair were representing their countries at the 2008 World Junior Championships in Poland

Not since Italy’s Francesco Panetta in 1987 has a world or Olympic 3,000m steeplechase title gone to a man born outside Kenya.

However, American Evan Jager tops this year’s rankings and has a real chance to break that stranglehold.

It would be phenomenal for the sport as it is an event that a lot of people have shied away from because of the Kenyan dominance.

But Jager has proved that you can run near eight minutes and have the kick at the end to challenge.

He is a bit of a throwback to the all-American kid. He runs really aggressively and was second to Conseslus Kipruto at the Olympics in Rio.

And the best of the Britons…

Laura Muir – 1500m/5,000m

Muir has been juggling her training with studying veterinary science

Great Britain have their biggest endurance team at a World Championships. On the men’s side, it is spearheaded by Mo Farah, but on the women’s side, Laura Muir is the leading light.

She will be the focus of a lot attention as she is going to spend a lot of time on track through three rounds of the 1500m and her plan to then run 5,000m.

Muir holds five outdoor and indoor British records, has proved her abilities on the Diamond League circuit and set the fastest 1500m time in the world in 2016.

Muir breaks Holmes’ 1500m British record

She had a bit of time off with a foot injury midway through her preparations this season, but it does not seem to have affected her too much.

She is going well and clocking an 800m personal best in Lausanne in July was promising for the 1500m.

The 1500m is really tough, with Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya and Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands in contention. Ethiopia’s Olympic silver medallist Genzebe Dibaba is also registered, but there is a big opportunity for a medal for Muir.

Andrew Pozzi – 110m hurdles

Pozzi is the eighth fastest in the world this year over 110m hurdles

Andrew Pozzi has had a season that kind of sums up his career. There have been flashes of what he is capable of – such as when he moved up to third in the British all-time list behind Colin Jackson and Tony Jarrett with a 13.14 in Paris in July – but now he has to deliver on it.

Jamaica’s Olympic champion Omar McLeod has bombed out of a couple of races on the circuit this year, while Aries Merritt – the London 2012 champion – is back after making an incredible recovery from a kidney transplant last year.

Pozzi now seems to have the consistency that means he has a chance if he gets into the final. It is an outside chance of a medal, but he is a prospect.

Holly Bradshaw – pole vault

Bradshaw finished sixth in the pole vault final in Rio

Holly Bradshaw has slipped under the radar a little bit.

She has broken the British outdoor record twice so far this season – most recently clearing 4.81m in Germany in July – and is quietly going about her business.

The pole vault is a very open event on the women’s side this year.

If she can produce 4.80m or better at London Stadium and the crowd get behind her, we could see something equivalent to when Thiago Braz da Silva upset Renaud Lavillenie of France in the men’s pole vault at Rio.

Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake – 200m

Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake’s win at the British trials in July was his first race in the UK since his family left for Jamaica when he was 13

Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake is a really nice guy with an excellent attitude and, after spending time in Jamaica and the United States, this will represent something of a homecoming for the Newham-born 23-year-old.

He has not quite broken 20 seconds this year but he has been close and it is an open event.

The two fastest guys in the world this year over 200m – Isaac Makwala and Wayde van Niekerk – are primarily 400m guys and will be coming to the event after the longer event – while Jamaican Yohan Blake’s preparations have been disrupted by a groin injury.

Mitchell-Blake’s strong performance at the trials may have helped keep Adam Gemili out of the 200m, but he could learn from his compatriot.

Gemili is an expert at major championship campaigns – getting through the rounds, not doing too much too early and saving his best for the final.

If Mitchell-Blake can do that and harness the support from the home crowd, he has a chance.

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