Ugandan distance runner Joshua Cheptegei (© AFP / Getty Images)
Six world record-holders will headline a stunning cast of athletic talent for the 60th edition of the Golden Spike in Ostrava, a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting, on Wednesday (19).
In their respective outdoor events, Joshua Cheptegei, Mondo Duplantis, Genzebe Dibaba, Barbora Spotakova and Anita Wlodarczyk have all gone where no other athlete in history has, while with his indoor world record of 18.07m earlier this year, Hugues Fabrice Zango showed he has the potential to one day surpass Jonathan Edwards’ triple jump world record of 18.29m.
With 1500 fans allowed in the stadium, every set of eyes will be trained on Cheptegei when he takes to the track for the men’s 3000m, the final event on the programme. Edged by Duplantis for Male World Athlete of the Year in 2020, the Ugandan 24-year-old has been untouchable on the track since 2019, setting world records at 5000m and 10,000m.
Cheptegei’s current best for 3000m is 7:33.26, but the enlisting of Australia’s Stewart McSweyn – a 7:28 man – as pacemaker suggests the Ugandan is ready to take a massive chunk off that. If conditions are favourable, he looks primed to challenge Daniel Komen’s 3000m world record of 7:20.67, which has stood for 25 years. The world 10,000m champion sharpened his speed last month with a 3:37.36 1500m PB at altitude in Kampala. Olympic 5000m silver medallist Paul Chelimo is likely to be his closest pursuer.
Elsewhere in the distance events, world half marathon champion Jacob Kiplimo will open his season over 10,000m where it seems the 20-year-old Ugandan’s personal best of 27:26.68 is due for serious revision. In the men’s 3000m steeplechase, 2019 Diamond League champion Getnet Wale of Ethiopia will be looking to improve on his best of 8:05.21, having clocked a blazing 7:24.98 for 3000m indoors back in February.
Poland’s world bronze medallist Marcin Lewandowski takes on Ugandan record-holder Ronald Musagala in the men's 1500m. European Indoor 800m champion Patryk Dobek will race the two-lap distance in Ostrava, and the Pole remains undecided between the 800m and the 400m hurdles for the Tokyo Olympics. He should get a good indicator of his medal chances at the longer distance on Wednesday as he takes on seasoned veterans Adam Kszczot and Amel Tuka.
Genzebe Dibaba is the star attraction in the women’s 1500m, her first outing at the distance in which she holds the world record since August 2019. The Ethiopian made an eye-catching half marathon debut last December when clocking 1:05:18 in Valencia, but she failed to finish on her only outing since, an indoor 3000m in February. Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo should be her biggest rival. In the women’s 800m, European indoor champion Keely Hodgkinson should be tough to beat.
Duplantis vs Kendricks, Taylor vs Zango
The field events in Ostrava are loaded with quality, and all eyes will be on the pole vault runway as Mondo Duplantis looks to go above and beyond the six-metre barrier once again. His best so far this year is the 6.10m he cleared indoors in Belgrade, and two-time world champion Sam Kendricks should once again put it up to his good friend and rival.
Two titans will square off in the men’s triple jump, with two-time Olympic champion Christian Taylor looking to stamp his supremacy once again after a modest start to his season. Taylor, who often competes off a shortened approach during his first few competitions of the year, had a best of 16.52m on his most recent outing in Eugene but the four-time world champion knows how to get it right when it counts. In Ostrava, he’ll have to be on song to defeat Hugues Fabrice Zango, who soared to an indoor world record of 18.07m in Aubiere, France, back in January and who opened his outdoor season with 17.40m earlier this month.
Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk will be looking to establish her credentials for a third straight Olympic title when she takes to the circle in the women’s hammer, the 35-year-old’s best this year the 73.87m effort she unleashed in Antalya, Turkey, earlier this month. Alexandra Tavernier should provide stiff opposition, having thrown a French record of 75.38m earlier this year.
Johannes Vetter will be hoping to rekindle some 90-plus-metre magic in the men’s javelin, the German record holder holding a best so far this year of 91.50m.
The Czech fans will be keen to see how two-time Olympic champion Barbora Spotakova fares in the women’s javelin. The 39-year-old had a best of 65.19m in 2020 and will be looking to improve on the sole mark she recorded at the European Throwing Cup in Split, Croatia, in recent weeks of 58.24m. Spotakova’s world record of 72.28m may well be under threat in Ostrava from Maria Andrejczyk, the Pole who opened her season with a stunning effort of 71.40m at the same event in Split.
European indoor champion Tomas Stanek will be looking to win one for the host nation in the men’s shot put, where he takes Poland’s Michal Haratyk and Konrad Bukowiecki, while Radek Juska, an 8.31m athlete, will be hoping to do likewise in the men’s long jump.
Richardson takes on Schippers and Okagbare
In the sprints, the women’s 200m will take top billing, with fans eager to see what Sha’Carri Richardson can produce after her red-hot form in recent weeks. The 21-year-old US sprinter clocked wind-legal 100m times of 10.72, 10.74 and 10.77 already this season and she seems primed to dip below 22 seconds over 200m for the first time. Also in the field is two-time world champion Dafne Schippers and Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare.
Olympic 100m bronze medallist Andre De Grasse will face 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlin in the men’s 100m and while both have edged below 10 seconds this year, they will have it all to do to beat 400m specialist Fred Kerley, who clocked 9.91 (2.0m/s) in Miami last month.
Kerley is also slated for the 200m, which takes place 80 minutes after the 100m. In the latter, Kenny Bednarek should prove tough to beat, having run 19.94 behind Noah Lyles at the USATF Golden Games recently.
In the men’s 400m, 2012 Olympic champion Kirani James will be looking to return to his best as the clock counts down towards the Tokyo Games. The Grenadian opened his season with a 44.88-second clocking in Phoenix, USA, last month, though Vernon Norwood is the quickest in the field this year with his 44.64.
Olympic bronze medallist Yasmani Copello headlines the men’s 400m hurdles, while Denmark’s Sara Slott Petersen is the quickest on paper in the women’s event.
Cathal Dennehy for World Athletics