Mondo Duplantis at the FBK Games in Hengelo (© Dan Vernon)
The Golden Spike in Ostrava is set to host a field of dreams at the Czech Republic’s annual showpiece on Tuesday (27) when pole vault and shot put icons Mondo Duplantis and Ryan Crouser head the line up at the latest World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting.
The world-record breaking Olympic and world champions will both be looking to extend their unbeaten streaks, each with an optimistic eye on the respective meeting records.
Sweden’s Duplantis has won every competition this year, indoors and outdoors, which included setting a world record of 6.22m in Clermont-Ferrand in February. He has carried his sensational form into the outdoor season with 6.11m at the FBK Games in Hengelo earlier this month.
The meeting record of 5.93m, held by two-time world champion Sam Kendricks of USA, looks highly vulnerable. World bronze medallist Ernest John Obiena of Philippines leads the opposition.
USA’s Crouser is another athlete at the peak of his powers. He too is yet to taste defeat this calendar year and has also refreshed his own world record with a monstrous 23.56m at the Los Angeles Grand Prix in May. For his first competition of the year in Europe, he may target an improvement on his own meeting record of 22.43m from 2020.
New Zealand’s 2017 world champion Tom Walsh and European bronze medallist and home favourite Tomas Stanek are also in a stellar line up.
Staying in the field, Slovenia’s Kristjan Ceh is another thrower in scintillating form. The world discus champion launched a lifetime best of 71.56m at the Heino Lipp Memorial in Estonia last week and he will be seeking another confidence-boosting win in Ostrava on his march to this summer’s World Athletics Championships in Budapest.
Czech hero and javelin world record-holder Jan Zelezny is the meeting director, so that event always takes on special significance at this meeting.
In the men’s competition, two-time world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada is pitched against home hope and Olympic silver medallist Jakub Vadlejch. Belgium’s Timothy Herman has also emerged as a contender following a lifetime best of 87.25m to win the Kip Keino Classic earlier this year.
On the eve of her 42nd birthday, two-time Olympic champion Barbora Spotakova is making a surprise return to competition. The Czech superstar retired last year after closing her glittering career with European bronze in Munich.
She forms part of an intriguing women’s javelin contest that also includes European champion Elina Tzenkgo of Greece and Japan’s Haruka Kitaguchi, world bronze medallist and recent winner at the Diamond League meeting in Paris.
On the track the newly anointed steeplechase world record-holder Lamecha Girma steps down in distance to take on the Zatopek Memorial 1500m. In a stacked field, fellow Ethiopian Melese Nberet and Portugal’s Isaac Nadar are expected to lead the challenge. Meanwhile, European indoor 1500m silver medallist Neil Gourley steps down to the men’s 800m.
The women’s sprint hurdles looks like another standout competition featuring world champion and world record-holder Tobi Amusan of Nigeria, Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Puerto Rico and the improving Tia Jones of USA.
Camacho-Quinn is unbeaten so far this year and Danielle Williams’ four-year-old meeting record of 12.49 looks to be on borrowed time.
Meanwhile, Japanese record-holder Shunsuke Izumiya will start as the favourite in the men’s 110m hurdles.
In the one-lap events, world leader Muzala Samukonga from Zambia heads the men’s 400m line up and Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain is favoured in the women’s 400m.
Liberia’s Joseph Fahnbulleh will be one of the busiest athletes of the evening, as the Olympic finalist will tackle the men’s 100m and 200m double.
He placed fourth in the longer sprint at last year’s World Athletics Championships and will start favourite in Ostrava. The 100m looks much tighter with South Africa’s world and Olympic finalist Luxolo Adams and – fresh from winning at the European Team Championships in Silesia – European indoor champion Samuele Ceccarelli of Italy also in the mix.
Chris Broadbent for World Athletics