Monday, 2 June 2014

PREVIEW: IAAF Rome Diamond League/Golden Gala – Rome, Italy

The fourth leg of the 2014 IAAF Diamond League arrives in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on Thursday evening, where the crème de la crème of world athletics will gather to compete in the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea.

Below is a summary of the headline acts to look out for in the Italian capital…

Men’s 100m -

2004 Olympic champion, Justin Gatlin contests the 100m following victory in last weekend’s Eugene Diamond League with a wind-aided 9.76.

The 32-year-old world silver medalist currently leads the world list with a swift 9.87 from Beijing last month and the American looks set to add a sixth straight win over the distance to his season resume.

His main challenger will come in the form of world bronze medalist, Nesta Carter.

The Olympic and world 4x100m relay champion from Jamaica clocked 9.89w for fourth place in Eugene, whilst France’s Jimmy Vicaut – fresh off a 9.89w third place finish in Eugene – should also provide stiff opposition.

British duo, Adam Gemili and Richard Kilty – the Olympic semi-finalist and world indoor 60m champion, respectively – start in a field which also boasts evergreen St Kitts and Nevis sprinter, Kim Collins – the 2003 world champion – and Jamaica’s Kemar Bailey-Cole.

Women’s 100m -

Olympic and world champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce suffered a major blip over 200m in Eugene, finishing last whilst carrying a hamstring injury but if the 27-year-old Jamaican has recovered in time, she should easily add Rome to her victory in Doha last month.

World 100m and 200m runner-up, Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast won this event in the 2012 meeting ahead of Fraser-Pryce and will be keen to take advantage of her rival’s vulnerability.

Third in Doha, Jamaica’s Kerron Stewart also contests as does Olympic 4x100m relay champion, Tianna Bartoletta Madison and her US team-mates, Barbara Pierre, Octavius Freeman, Janeba Tarmoh and Alexandria Anderson. 

Men’s 200m – 

Panama’s 24-year-old 2009 global silver medalist, Alonso Edwards has made a recent return to form with a 20.00 clocking last month and he will face Olympic sixth placer, Christophe Lemaitre of France.

22-year-old American, Dedric Dukes is the only man to dip under 20-seconds so far this season with 19.97 in Florida in April, and other notable names include World bronze medallist, Curtis Mitchell of the USA and European champion and Olympic fifth placer, Churandy Martina of the Netherlands.

Men’s 400m – 

World champion and 2008 Olympic champion, LaShawn Merritt will be looking to repeat his 2013 victory and arrives in Rome following a thrilling battle against fierce rival, Kirani James in Eugene – with the pair sharing the same world-leading 43.97 as Merritt had to settle for the runner-up spot.

The American will match up against the Dominican Republic’s 20-year-old Olympic silver-medalist, Luguelin Santos and world indoor champion, Pavel Maslak of the Czech Republic.

Other stand-out names include 2010 European champion, Kevin Borlée and Saudi Arabia’s Yousef Ahmed Masrahi.

Men’s 800m

Just five days since their nail-biting battle in Eugene, Botswana’s Nijel Amos and Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia will clash once again.

Amos, the 20-year-old Olympic runner-up, stormed to a 1:43.63 world-lead in holding off Aman, the world indoor and outdoor champion in thrilling fashion last weekend and their rematch will make for fascinating viewing.

Women’s 800m – 

Cuba’s 18-year-old Sahily Diago is enjoying a breakthrough campaign with a recent 1:58.14 world junior record and world-lead, and she will be making her international debut in Rome.

Her toughest challengers will arrive in the form of Kenya’s world champion, Eunice Sum – who was victorious in Doha – and Janeth Jepkosgei, the 2007 world champion.

South Africa’s 2009 global champion and Olympic silver medallist, Caster Semenya and US trio, Chanelle Price, the world indoor champion, Brenda Martinez, the global bronze medallist and world junior champion, Ajee Wilson also contest.

Men’s 1500m - 

Following his world-leading 3:29.18 metric mile in Doha, two-time world champion, Asbel Kiprop heads into this event as the favourite.

The 24-year-old Kenyan will face his countryman, Silas Kiplagat – the 2011 global runner-up – and Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman, the world indoor champion and winner of the Bowerman Mile in Eugene.

World indoor runner-up, Aman Wote of Ethiopia also takes part, as does world indoor 3000m champion Caleb Ndiku - who set a 13:01.71 world-leading time over 5,000m with victory in Eugene.

Women’s 5000m -

Ethiopia’s world indoor 3000m champion, Genzebe Dibaba was the revelation of the indoor season with world record-breaking performances over 1500m, 3,000m and two-miles, and despite only finishing sixth over 3,000m in Doha, the 23-year-old should not be discounted against returning to top form.

She will be up against world silver medallist, Mercy Cherono of Kenya who placed second in Doha and won the two-mile event in Eugene and her team-mate, Almaz Ayana – the global bronze medallist

Men’s 3000m steeplechase -

Two-time Olympic and three-time world champion, Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya heads a tight battle over the barriers.

The 32-year-old was victorious in Doha, one place ahead of 2008 Olympic champion, Brimin Kipruto - who in addition to the added presence of 2004 Olympic bronze medallist, Paul Kipsiele Koech in the field – will ensure a thrilling battle between the East African trio.

Women’s 100m Hurdles –

For the first time ever in an IAAF Diamond League meeting, Olympic champion Sally Pearson will go head-to-head with world champion, Brianna Rollins and the pair are evenly matched ahead of this mouth-watering duel.

Australia’s Pearson, the 27-year-old 2011 world champion – registered a swift 12.59 in the southern hemisphere season, whilst American, Rollins – five years her junior – scorched to a 12.58 world lead in Beijing last month.

Amongst those hoping to upset the proceedings are Olympic bronze medalist, Kellie Wells of the USA, Britain’s world indoor and outdoor bronze medalist, Tiffany Porter and the USA’s 2008 Olympic champion, Dawn Harper-Nelson. 

Women’s 400m hurdles – 

Jamaica’s world indoor champion, Kaliese Spencer recorded a fine 54.29 world-lead en route to winning in Eugene and the 27-year-old will take on the US pair, Lashinda Demus, Georganne Moline and Dalilah Muhammad.

Demus – the 2011 world champion and 2012 Olympic runner-up – should turn out to be the pick of the American pile ahead of world silver medalist, Muhammad and Olympic fifth placer, Moline.

Other names to watch include Britain’s Eilidh Child – the world fifth placer - and the Czech Republic’s 2012 European runner-up, Denisa Rosolova, who makes her seasonal debut in the event.

Men’s high jump - 

With three men having cleared the iconic 2.40m height this season, the men’s high jump is shaping up to be the most exciting discipline of the summer.

In arguably one of the most eagerly awaited clashes of the season, Russia’s Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov – who cleared 2.41m whilst winning in Doha – will battle with world champion, Bogdan Bondarenko of Ukraine, who leapt 2.40m on his season’s debut in Tokyo last month.

The 21-year-old 2.45m world record held by Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor could well be in threat this summer and any of the three aforementioned athletes could be the man to take it.

Additional names to look out for include Olympic bronze medallist, Derek Drouin of Canada who also has a 2.40m clearance to his name this season, Qatar’s world indoor champion Mutaz Essa Barshim and the USA’s Olympic runner-up, Erik Kynard.

The field in Rome will be the first time since 1992 that five athletes with personal bests of 2.40m or higher will be on the same start list.

Men’s triple jump –

2012 world indoor champion and Olympic runner-up Will Claye took the honours in Eugene over his American team-mate, Christian Taylor – the Olympic champion – and Russia’s world indoor champion, Lyukman Adams and same order may be replicated again in Rome.

22-year-old Claye leapt 17.66m albeit an illegal wind allowance and Taylor should benefit from his recent foray into one lap sprinting – having recorded a fine 45.17 of late.

Women’s triple jump - 

Colombia’s world champion, Caterine Ibarguen won in Doha and the 30-year-old finished one place ahead of Ukraine’s world indoor runner-up, Olga Saladukha of Russia.

The field also includes Russia’s world indoor champion, Ekaterina Koneva.

Women’s javelin -

Australia’s 29-year-old global silver medallist, Kim Mickle had to settle for the runner-up position in Doha behind surprise winner, Martina Ratej of Slovenia, but world record holder and twice Olympic champion, Barbora Spotakova makes her eagerly anticipated return to action following childbirth and may finish top of the pile.

The 32-year-old also faces Germany’s Olympic bronze medallist, Linda Stahl and 2011 world bronze medallist, Sunette Viljoen of South Africa.

Women’s shot put – 

Two-time Olympic and four-time world champion, Valerie Adams will be eager to maintain her impressive winning streak following her 47th straight victory in Doha last month and she arrives in Rome in imperious form.

The only woman who could possibly upset the 29-year-old from New Zealand is Germany’s world silver medallist, Christina Schwanitz.

Other entrants include China’s Gong Lijiao – the Olympic bronze medallist – Russia’s Olympic runner-up, Yevgeniya Kolodko and the USA’s world indoor bronze medallist, Michelle Carter.

Men’s discus -  

Germany’s Robert Harting and Poland’s Piotr Malachowski renew their rivalry, with 29-year-old Harting expected to gain the advantage.

The Olympic and world champion will battle the world runner-up in addition to world and Olympic bronze medallist, Gerd Kanter of Estonia and Olympic runner-up, Ehsan Hadadi from Iran.

*Full entry lists were not available at the time of writing.

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