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Previews12 Sep 2021

Crouser, Allman and Stahl lead star-studded cast for Zagreb


Ryan Crouser, winner of the shot put in Zagreb (© Organisers)

An array of Olympic medallists will be seeking to sign off their seasons in style at the Boris Hanzekovic Memorial in Zagreb on 13-14 September.

The final World Athletics Continental Tour Gold event in Europe this year sees multiple champions from Tokyo named on the start lists in the Croatian capital. In particular, the throws events are brimming with championship quality.

The men’s shot will see the complete podium from Tokyo – and Rio and Doha – renew rivalries. Unbeaten all year and fresh from his most recent Wanda Diamond League success in Zurich last week, two-time Olympic gold medallist and world record-holder Ryan Crouser will start as favourite.

The US thrower, who excels at street meets, has won in Zagreb three times and set a meeting record of 22.74m when winning in the Croatian capital last year.

Olympic silver and bronze medallists Joe Kovacs and Tom Walsh will be joined by Olympic finalist Armin Sinancevic of Serbia as well as home hope Filip Mihaljevic to try to blot Crouser’s perfect year.

The sport’s strongmen may also draw inspiration from their competition enjoying showcase status on the eve of the main meeting in the intimate setting of Zagreb’s City Fountains on Monday evening in a competition that is known as the Ivan Ivancevic Memorial.

The following night in the Sports Park Mladost, the main Hanzekovic Memorial welcomes another complete Tokyo podium to the men’s discus circle. Fresh from wrapping up another impressive win at the Diamond League Final in Zurich, Olympic champion Daniel Stahl leads a stellar entry from Tokyo silver and bronze medallists Simon Pettersson and Lucas Weisshaidinger. Zurich runner-up Kristjan Ceh will also be seeking to end his season with a further flourish.

The women’s discus is the event perhaps most likely to capture the crowd’s imagination. Croatian heroine Sandra Perkovic, the three-time world champion, goes head-to-head with her successor as Olympic champion Valarie Allman of the USA. Allman got the better of Perkovic again at the Diamond League final, but the Croat will be highly motivated to end her season on a high in front of her home supporters after the disappointment of her fourth-place finish in Tokyo last month.

The men’s and women’s sprint hurdles both offer some real intrigue.The men's event in particular always takes on extra significance at this competition as Boris Hanzekovic, after whom the meeting is named, was a 110m hurdler before he was killed in World War II.

An evenly matched men’s 110m hurdles includes Olympic gold and bronze medallist Hansle Parchment and Ronald Levy going in against Devon Allen, fourth in Tokyo but in fine form off the back of his Diamond League final victory over the Jamaican duo.

In the women’s 100m hurdles, Diamond League winner Tobi Amusan of Nigeria will be looking to build on her searing African record run of 12.42 which landed her with the Diamond trophy. She will have world indoor silver medallist Christina Clemons among the opposition.

In the sprints, the women’s 200m pits Olympic silver medallist Christine Mboma against Olympic 100m bronze medallist Shericka Jackson in a rematch from Zurich that saw Mboma win by 0.03 in 21.78 for an improvement on her own world U20 record. Allyson Felix's meeting record of 22.35 looks to be living on borrowed time.

The men’s 400m is spearheaded by 2012 Olympic champion and Tokyo bronze medallist Kirani James of Grenada with Botswana’s Isaac Makala his chief opposition. The meeting record in this discipline, 44.94 from 2017, also appears to be under threat.

USA’s Ronnie Baker, Marvin Bracy and Trayvon Bromell head up the men’s 100m line-up. With a fifth-place finish in Tokyo and a third-place finish in the Diamond League final, Baker arrives in the better form of the trio. Former European record-holder Jimmy Vicaut is also in the field.

In the men’s pole vault, Olympic silver medallist Chris Nilsen goes in against USA teammate and two-time world champion Sam Kendricks, who will be hoping to end the season on a high after missing out on competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

In the men’s 3000m steeplechase, Olympic fourth placer Getnet Wale of Ethiopia heads the line-up. There will also be plenty of interest in the women’s 2000m with Diamond League 5000m champion Francine Niyonsaba, Olympic 1500m fourth-placed Freweyni Gebreeziweher and 2013 world 5000m silver medallist Mercy Cherono set to tackle the rarely run distance.

Chris Broadbent for World Athletics

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