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Americans should dominate world medals: coach

By Gene Cherry

EUGENE, Oregon (Reuters) - A balanced U.S. team bursting with talent should dominate the medals at this year's athletics world championships, its men's coach said after the American trials concluded on Sunday.

Although such big names as 2011 world leaders Tyson Gay and Brad Walker failed to make it through the cut-throat trials, Vin Lananna said he believed the United States would top the medals table at the August 27-September 4 championships in Daegu, South Korea.

"We have the number one team in the world, and I think we are in a position this year to keep that string alive," Lananna told Reuters.

"We have a good combination, a good balance of veterans and youth."

Jumpers, hurdlers, sprinters, shot putters and decathletes power the men's team.

Long jumper Dwight Phillips, 400 meters hurdler Kerron Clement, shot putter Christian Cantwell and decathlete Trey Hardee will travel to Daegu as reigning champions.

World leaders David Oliver, Jesse Williams and Ashton Eaton could also win gold.

Oliver holds the world lead in the 110 meters hurdles with a mark of 12.94 seconds, high jumper Williams soared a life-time best 2.37 meters on Sunday and decathlete Eaton scored an impressive 8,729 points in the trials.

"We're in a great position to see what he can do in the world stage," Lananna said of the young Eaton.

Double sprint champion Walter Dix also promised victory, although his is a tough ask against world record holder Usain Bolt and the Jamaican's speedy compatriots in the 100 and 200 meters.

But the absence of world silver medallist Gay, who scratched from the trials with hip problems before the 100m semi-finals, could trim U.S. medal expectations.

Pole vaulter Walker also is out after no-heighting.

For up-and-coming performers, Lananna can turn to Tony McQuay, who surprised former Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner in the 400, triple jumpers Will Claye and Christian Taylor and Jeshua Anderson, who outran a group of talented U.S. 400 meters hurdlers.

LONG-TERM FOCUS

"We have a strong team with great upside potential to have a great medal count, and that certainly is what everyone's goal is going to be," Lananna said.

"But if our focus is on counting medals I am not sure that is the right focus.

"Our focus needs to be on having great teams.... that doesn't just look at one year," he said."

Women's coach Connie Price Smith said she was not yet ready to assess her team's possibilities.

But the squad will be strong in the sprints, hurdles and long jump.

The Americans have the 2011 world leader in all three sprint events, both hurdles races and the long jump.

U.S. champion Carmelita Jeter has the top 100m time, Shalonda Solomon, who upset Jeter, posted the 200m world lead in doing so and three-times world 200m champion Allyson Felix earlier ran the year's fastest 400.

Felix could wind up going for gold in both the 200 and 400 as well as two relays.

If she does the double, one of her strongest challengers in the 400 will be American Sanya Richards-Ross, the reigning world champion.

American champions Kellie Wells and Lashinda Demus also could be tough to beat. They lead the world in the 100- and 400-metres hurdles, respectively.

Brittney Reese likewise must be considered a top world championship favorite. The reigning long jump champion soared a personal best 7.19 meters in the trials. No other jumper has been over seven meters this season.

The performances had Lananna thinking the next two years would be good ones for American athletics.

"The United States is in a great position for the IAAF championships in Daegu, but also for setting the table for what is to happen in London a year from now," he said.

(Editing by Alastair Himmer)

(This article has been modified to correct the spelling of U.S. men's coach to Lananna throughout)

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