Wednesday, 28 May 2014
PREVIEW: Prefontaine Classic/Eugene IAAF Diamond League – Oregon, USA
The Prefontaine Classic, the longest-running international invitational athletics meeting in the USA, celebrates its 40th birthday this weekend as the IAAF Diamond League travels to Oregon for the third leg of the summer-long season.
Taking place at the historic Hayward Field, which will also host July’s IAAF World Junior Championships, the Pre Classic - as it is affectionately known – will spread across Friday evening (30th May) and Saturday afternoon (31st May).
A plethora of world-class stars have confirmed their attendance and here is a run-down on the top names to watch out for:
Jamaica’s two-time Olympic 100m champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce starts as the favourite to take the women’s 200m event.
Having captured the world indoor 60m crown in Sopot, Poland in March, the 27-year-old world outdoor 100m, 200m and 4x100m champion faces world bronze medallist, Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria.
The world championship long jump runner-up stole the honours in both events at the Shanghai Diamond League a fortnight ago and finished second behind Fraser-Pryce over 100m in the Doha leg a week earlier.
Another key name who is expected to feature is Olympic champion, Allyson Felix of the USA.
Additionally part of the Olympic-winning 4x100m and 4x400m relay squads, the three-time world 200m champion has not competed over the half-lap event distance since pulling up injured in August’s world championships final in Moscow, but should utilise the home crowd support to rediscover her form.
World 100m and 200m silver medallist, Murielle Ahoure of Ivory Coast and local girl, English Gardner – the 100m fourth-placer in Moscow – also contest.
In the men’s 100m, the USA’s Justin Gatlin looks the man to beat.
The 32-year-old world championship runner-up and Olympic bronze medallist currently leads the world rankings with a swift 9.87 clocking from Beijing a week ago, and following his victory in Shanghai, the American looks set to take his fifth win in Eugene.
Nesta Carter – part of Jamaica’s Olympic, world and recent IAAF World Relays 4x100m winning teams – finished second in Shanghai after claiming global outdoor bronze last summer.
Others to look out for include 2009 Pre Classic winner, Mike Rodgers of the USA, world 200m fourth-placer, Nickel Ashmead of Jamaica and France’s European indoor 60m champion, Jimmy Vicaut.
The men’s one lap contest features a thrilling head-to-head battle between world champion, LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James, the Olympic champion.
Merritt, the 27-year-old 2008 Olympic champion won in Doha and was part of the USA’s winning 4x100m squad at the IAAF World Relays in the Bahamas last weekend, whilst James – the 2011 world champion and at six years younger – will be hoping to halt his rival from claiming his fifth Pre Classic victory.
The 400m field also includes the USA’s global silver medallist, Tony McQuay, world indoor champion, Pavel Maslak of Poland, Chris Brown of the Bahamas and Belgium’s Jonathan and Kevin Borlee.
World 110m hurdles champion, David Oliver will be hoping to replicate his winning ways from Doha and the 32-year-old American has a fine history in Eugene, winning in both 2010 and 2013.
His closest challenge will come from world record holder and Olympic champion, Aries Merritt and a third USA athlete, Ryan Wilson – the global silver medallist.
Other notable names include 2011 world champion, Jason Richardson of the USA, Shanghai runner-up, Pascal Martinot-Lagarde of France and Russia’s world bronze medallist and Doha second-placer, Sergey Shubenkov.
Ashton Eaton, the Olympic and world decathlon champion and world record holder, is Eugene-based and is an interesting entrant in the high hurdles.
Middle distance –
Olympic 800m champion and world record holder, David Rudisha makes his hotly-anticipated return to competition following a long-term knee injury in his debut appearance in Eugene.
The 25-year-old’s comeback will be a baptism of fire as he faces three of the nine fastest men in history, the quickest of whom being Ethiopia’s Mohamed Aman.
The 20-year-old world indoor and outdoor champion took advantage of his rivals’ absence in 2013 and this will be the pair’s first meeting in a full year.
The USA’s Olympic fourth-placer, Duane Solomon and Botswana’s 20-year-old Olympic silver medallist, Nijel Amos are expected to feature highly, whilst world indoor silver and bronze medallists, Adam Kszczot of Poland and Great Britain’s Andrew Osagie also compete.
2012 world indoor victor and three-time Eugene winner, Abubaker Kaki of Sudan makes his season debut and France’s European under23 champion, Pierre Ambroise-Bosse start.
The Pre Classic’s signature event, the Bowerman Mile should be an easy affair for world 1500m champion and 2008 Olympic champion, Asbel Kipop.
The 24-year-old Kenyan has won this prestigious event on three occasions and arrives in Eugene following victory in Doha and the Bahamas (in the 4x1500m).
His fiercest challengers will be compatriot, Silas Kiplagat – the 2013 Eugene winner and world indoor 1500m champion, Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti.
The loaded field also includes Ethiopian duo, world indoor runner-up, Aman Wote and world outdoor bronze medallist, Mekonnen Gebremedhin, Kenya’s Bethwell Birgen and local man, Matthew Centrowitz.
Meanwhile, the women’s 1500m contest has been described as Eugene’s ‘best field ever’, with Sweden’s world indoor and outdoor champion, Abeba Aregawi leading the way.
Undefeated in her specialist event in 2013, the 23-year-old took the metric mile victory in Shanghai and will be challenged by Kenya’s Hellen Obiri.
The 2012 world indoor 3,000m champion and 2014 runner-up won the 3,000m event in Doha and was part of the winning 4x1500m team in the Bahamas.
World 800m bronze medallist, Brenda Martinez of the USA should figure prominently whilst her team-mate, world runner-up Jenny Simpson and Kenyan trio world 800m champion, Eunice Sum, Faith Kipyegon and 2008 Olympic champion, Nancy Langat additionally race.
Ethiopia’s 19-year-old world indoor runner-up, Axumawit Embaye and Britain’s 2011 world silver medallist, Hannah England complete the impressive line-up.
In the women’s 3,000m steeplechase, Kenya’s Milcah Chemos starts as the favourite.
The 28-year-old world champion has won twice in Eugene and will face her compatriot and global runner-up, Lidya Chepkurui and bronze medallist, Sofia Assefa from Ethiopia who placed second in Shanghai.
Shanghai third-placer and world fourth-placer, Hiwot Ayalew of Ethiopia also contests, as does Tunisia's Olympic silver medallist, Habiba Ghribi and Kenyan pair Purity Kirui and Fancy Cherotich.
Long distance –
The men’s 5,000m will see a clash between 39-year-old Bernard Lagat of Kenya and his younger rivals, namely his team-mate, Edwin Soi and Ethiopia’s Yenew Alamirew.
2007 world 1500m champion, Lagat has won five times in Eugene but never in this event and despite his advancing years, took the 3,000m silver medal in Sopot.
24-year-old Alamirew claimed the honours in Shanghai and Soi won this event in 2013, but the trio will not have the contest all the own way, with Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet – the 20-year-old world silver medallist - also contesting.
Additional names set to impress include Kenyan pair Isiah Koech, the world bronze medallist, and Caleb Ndiku – the world indoor 3,000m champion, as well as the USA’s Ben True.
Great Britain’s double Olympic and world 5,000m and 10,000m champion, Mo Farah will act as the honorary starter.
Kenya’s Mercy Cherono heads the women’s two-mile field, having placed runner-up over 3,000m in Doha.
The 23-year-old world 5,000m silver medallist will run against Bahrain’s two-time world 1500m champion Maryam Jamal – the Olympic and world indoor bronze medallist – and world bronze medallist, Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia.
Local girl, Sally Kipyego – the Olympic 10,000m runner-up – will come down in race distance, whilst other notable names include her compatriot, Viola Kibiwot and Ethiopia’s Belaynesh Oljira, the world 10,000m bronze medallist.
The men’s 10,000m will be held on the traditional ‘Distance night in Eugene’ on Friday and Galen Rupp from nearby Portland is hoping for a home victory over the 25 laps.
The 27-year-old Olympic silver medallist will take on Kenya’s world bronze medallist, Paul Tanui and his team-mate and Olympic fifth-placer, Bedan Karoki.
Two more Kenyans, Kenneth Kipkemoi and Emmanuel Bett should feature highly, as should Ethiopia’s world junior champion, Yigrem Demelash and Birhan Nebebew.
The USA’s Brittney Reese will be looking to reverse her bad luck in Eugene in the past with victory in the women’s long jump here, following her Olympic and world championship wins in recent seasons.
The 27-year-old opens her season in Oregon and is matched up against her team-mate, Janay DeLoach Soukup – the Olympic bronze medallist and world indoor champion, Eloyse Lesueur of France.
Others of note include Serbia’s world indoor and outdoor bronze medallist, Ivana Spanovic, Russia’s two-time European indoor champion, Darya Klishina and Great Britain’s 2012 world indoor bronze medallist, Shara Proctor.
The women’s high jump features Olympic silver medallist, Brigetta Barrett of the USA.
The 23-year-old world silver medallist opens her outdoor campaign in Eugene and will duel with Olympic champion, Anna Chicherova of Russia and her team-mate and world champion, Svetlana Shkolina.
Additional top names include joint world indoor champions, Kamila Licwinko of Poland and Russia’s Mariya Kuchina, plus Spain’s world indoor bronze medallist, Ruth Beitia.
World pole vault record holder, Renuad Lavillenie will be looking to add to his victory in Shanghai and the Olympic champion will attempt to win the Diamond League Trophy for the fifth consecutive year this summer.
The 27-year-old will jump against world champion and Olympic bronze medallist, Raphael Holzdeppe of Germany and his compatriot, Malte Mohr – the world indoor runner-up.
Greece’s Konstadinos Filippidis succeeded Lavillenie as the world indoor champion in Sopot and will be joined by the bronze medallist, Jan Kudlicka of the Czech Republic.
The USA’s world indoor champion, Ryan Whiting goes up against Germany’s two-time world champion, David Storl in the men’s shot put contest.
The 27-year-old Whiting placed third in Shanghai following his world indoor victory, whilst his 23-year-old rival claimed the world outdoor crown in Moscow.
Keen to upset expectations is Poland’s two-time Olympic champion, Tomasz Majewski and the USA’s Reese Hoffa – the 2007 world champion in this battle of the big men.
*At the time of writing, the entry lists for the women’s discus, men’s triple jump, women’s 400m hurdles, women’s 400m and men’s javelin were unavailable.