Usain Bolt: The 11-time world champion has long maintained that the IAAF World Championships London 2017 will be the final competitive appearance of his phenomenal career. With every race he runs this year, Usain Bolt’s decision will feel that bit more real as the clock ticks closer to his grand finale.
Bolt enjoyed arguably the greatest moment of his career in World Championship competition when he set the existing 100 and 200m world records in Berlin eight years ago with barely-believable times of 9.58 and 19.19. The big Jamaican may have slowed – only slightly – over the years, but he remains one of the most exciting names in world sport.
Wayde van Niekerk: South Africa is currently enjoying a growth in athletics and headlining its crop of talented young athletes is Wayde van Niekerk. Van Niekerk did the unthinkable and broke Michael Johnson’s 400m world record en route to Olympic gold last year in a jaw-dropping performance of 43.03.
The 24-year-old is the only man in history to have run sub-10, 20 and 44 for each of the 100, 200 and 400m and has made it clear he intends on doubling up over the longer two distances in London. If his world record is anything to go by – not forgeting being the defending 400m champion – we could be in for something extra special from Van Niekerk this year.
Andre De Grasse: Since former world record-holder Donovan Bailey retired, Canada has been on the lookout for its next star in athletics, and Andre De Grasse looks like filling the gap. The 22-year-old burst onto the scene in 2015 winning bronze over the 100m and followed it up with medals in the 100, 200 and 4x100m relay in Rio.
In his 200m semi-final De Grasse went toe-to-toe with Usain Bolt, laughing with the Jamaican as he crossed the line narrowly behind him in a 19.80 personal best. De Grasse is showing the speed and personality at a young age to suggest he can continue bringing enjoyment and excitement to the event for years to come.
Akani Simbine: Another South African to have made huge strides in recent months is Akani Simbine. The 23-year-old has begun 2017 in a purposeful way, clocking three sub-10 100m times to demonstrate his 9.89 national record and Olympic final appearance were just a sign of things to come.
After finishing fifth in Rio, Simbine will be targeting London as the first chance to secure himself a medal for his country. He will likely play a key role in an aspirational South African 4x100m relay squad too if they secure qualification.
Adam Gemili: A hamstring tear robbed Adam Gemili the chance to compete at the IAAF World Championships two years ago in Beijing, but the young Brit returned to form last year when he reached the Olympic 200m final – just narrowly missing out on the bronze medal.
Gemili has developed well since bursting onto the senior scene in 2012, becoming a European champion in 2014 and also reaching the 200m World Championship final in 2013. More often than not Gemili pulls out his best performances at the major championships, proving that he’s made for the big occasion.
Dina Asher-Smith: As the fastest ever teenager in the 200m, Dina Asher-Smith is shaping up to have a long, fruitful career at the top of the sport. At just 21, she’s already bagged herself an Olympic bronze medal in the 4x100m relay, European gold in the 200m and Olympic and World Championship finals over the distance.
An injury setback earlier in 2017 meant Asher-Smith sat out much of the indoor season, but the Briton has plenty of time to recover and make further leaps forwards ahead of the London championships. When she hits the track again, it’s something you won’t want to miss.
Elaine Thompson: The last IAAF World Championships in Beijing two years ago was where Elaine Thompson first made her mark, finishing second in the 200m to go fifth on the all-time list. Since then, the Jamaican has risen to the top of the world.
Thompson completed an Olympic 100/200m double in Rio, conquering Schippers over the half-lap in the process. She’ll be 25 by the time the championships come around, and there’s every possibility that she continues to exert her dominance on the world stage.
Dafne Schippers: Dafne Schippers’ frustrated reaction after securing silver in the Olympic 200m was demonstrative of the high standards she sets herself and evidence of her drive to hold her status at the very top.
The Dutchwoman had previously run the fourth fastest time in history on her way to World Championship gold in Beijing – one of the outstanding performances of the entire 2015 season. Schippers will be out to retain her 200m gold and also go one better than the silver she won over the 100m two years ago.
Shaunae Miller: The Bahamian won Olympic gold in the 400m with a dramatic dive over the finish line. She has hinted that she’ll look to double up with an attempt to compete in the 200m in which she was the fifth fastest in the world for 2016.
Michael Johnson remains the only athlete to have achieved the 200/400m double at a World Championships, but Shaunae Miller’s age – she turns 23 in April – dedication and pedigree over each of the distances gives her a chance to achieve something truly special in London.
Candace Hill: She’s one of the fastest teenagers of all-time and, at 18 years old, is already running times which puts her among the fastest women on the planet. In 2015, as a 16-year-old, Candace Hill ran a phenomenal 10.98 personal best over the 100m.
Hill has won IAAF World Youth Championship and World Under-20 Championship golds in the last two years with times of 11.08 and 11.07, respectively. The next step is for her to make her mark among the senior ranks.
Tickets to the IAAF World Championships London 2017 are available at https://tickets.london2017athletics.com