It’s day three into 2016 and with nothing much having happened yet, it’s still early enough to have a ponder about what this year might hold.
2016 is a leap-year and it’s also an Olympic year with the eyes of the world set to focus firmly on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil eight months from now.
Insofar as the Rio Olympics are concerned, I predict the Brazilians will deliver a colourful and highly successful games. All the facilities will be completed before schedule, and all the dire predictions – just like we heard for the Montreal and Athens Olympics Games, and the Delhi Commonwealths – will amount to nothing, just like previously.
In so far as world track and field is concerned, with the Russians absent from the games, as they were last time back in 1984 at LA, I’m picking that New Zealand will have a good games at the track and field in Rio.
I’m picking that Julian Matthews will qualify for Rio and cut his 1500m time down to 3:35. I see him as a semi-finalist in Rio, while Nick Willis will again be a finalist in that event. I also predict that Julian Oakley will emerge as a big mover to make the Olympic team, and who may even go into the final with Willis. That’s my big call for 2016.
Elsewhere I’ve been thinking it’s time for Jake Robinson to shine. I think he and his brother Zane can be the first Kiwi’s to go under 13:00 for the 5000m. Last year I suggested that Hamish Carson – who’s run a sub 8:00 3000m ought to be targeting the 3000m steeples rather than the 1500m. With his 3:37/3:57 speed over 1500m/1-mile, he’s a sub 8:18 steeplechaser in my eyes, and that’s good enough to make an Olympic final when you consider that only four Kenyans can enter. If Hamish works on his speed, he’s already got better speed than Peter Renner had, as Oceania Record holder with his 8:14, then Carson is good for 8:08. He’s got all the attributes to do so.
Insofar as the girls are concerned, I think Melissa Bishop from Canada is set to shine again in the women’s 800m. Bishop was running neck and neck with Ange Petty at previous worlds and commonwealths, before kicking on to win silver in Beijing last year. I’m picking Petty to again run with Bishop to make the Olympic 800m final. To do that, Ange will need the right lead in races and that’ll be harder than getting through to an Olympic final in my view. Also I’m picking that Rosa Flanagan will break the New Zealand 3000m steeplechase record, and run under 9:25 in 2016. New Zealand has more than a few highly promising woman runners right now who I’m expecting will emerge in 2016.
Elsewhere at Rio I’m predicting that the New Zealand 7’s rugby team will fall short of expectations. From all accounts, the gold medal was won sometime back in 20-whenever it was when it was announced that rugby would once again become an Olympic sport. My prediction is based on a New Zealand team comprising ‘name’ players – all of them there for the wrong reasons (i.e. personal agendas and ego. One has even admitted he hasn’t even played 7’s), rather than a team of 7’s specialists. Throw in a combined Great Britain 7’s side that will have specialist 7’s players and the going will be altogether tougher than the average New Zealand fan might expect. I Predict a bronze for New Zealand. The interesting thing about the 7’s is I believe the sport will go the way beach volleyball went. Once an Olympic sport, the whole landscape of that sport changed significantly. It was no longer a sport played on beaches for starters. Suddenly the Latvians, the Germans, the Chinese, the Swiss, everyone really, came into that sport to make it truly global. I predict the same for the 7’s, if not before, then after Rio.
Off the athletics track I’m predicting 2016 will be dominated by more doping suspensions, this time with the Kenyans mostly in the spotlight, but I’m also predicting we’ll see more fallout across Africa as well as from Turkey, Spain, Algeria and Morocco.
I’m also predicting that big names from the past – probably from the countries I just listed above, will be revealed in 2016 as having cheated, going back to the 1990’s now that new techniques and new tests can be performed on samples that were taken and stored from previous eras.
I predict that athletes living in developing nations will be more prone to being detected than those living in nations where there are more sophisticated means of avoidance detection on offer. Of course proving my prediction will be something of a paradox.
Over at the IAAF HQ, I’m expecting more fallout. I’m predicting that IAAF President Sebastian Coe will not resign. He’ll tough it out at the helm, which personally I will find deeply disappointing. Coe received a lot of British financial backing for his bid, especially from the British government, so Coe’s backers will angle for him to stay put and where their money put him. They provided all that cash for a reason; to have more influence at the top of the IAAF, so Lord Coe will won’t go anywhere in 2016. Perhaps after Rio. Being a multiple Olympic medalist, a peer and an organiser of an Olympic Games doesn’t correlate to having integrity, judgement or credibility for the job, and as Coe has already proven, particularly around the company he has kept, or says he hasn’t.
Clearly, I think there are better candidates to steer the sport through these troubled times, but not in 2016.
I predict more and more elite athletes will become more and more proactive in speaking out and even refusing to compete against known drug cheats as a way to cleanse the sport of cheats, particularly on the Diamond League and World Challenge circuits, which I predict will struggle with sponsorship and cash but be among the best editions yet in 2016 leading into Rio, and an almost non-event after Rio, as everyone hangs up their spikes for the year. Also look for an athlete previously denied a medal at a major games to launch legal proceedings for loss of income against an athlete who was found to have cheated. I just know that one is close at hand.
Beyond the athletics track, although still somewhat associated with sport, the biggest disappointment of 2016 for me will be that an ageing New Zealand will vote to retain the current flag which is even duller and less representative than the proposed alternative is. But here’s the thing: Because the alternative flag better reflects New Zealand and New Zealanders, I predict it will become even more popular, especially as Rio rocks on. Seeing our athletes wrapped in Britain’s flag across their shoulders will provide that eureka moment of what the fuck did we just do? Can we have that vote again? It’ll be the same moment that the Scots faced after voting not to become a proper country when the English dominated parliament retracted the bribes they’d made to the Scots prior to the vote a few weeks later.
In our case the alternative flag that we reject, I predict, will become the flag we fly at sports and non-sports events despite not voting for it. Ironic, huh?
And on the writing scene, I predict a new John Kelly novel will come out. OK, that’s an easy one for 2016, but at least I know I’ll get one prediction for 2016 right, so look out for it.