Allyson Felix crosses the line in the 400m in Rome (© Giancarlo Colombo)
Olympic champions Allyson Felix, Brittney Reese and Christian Taylor are just some of the latest athletes to commit to Rome’s Golden Gala on 6 June, the fifth leg of the IAAF Diamond League.
In all, 38 medallists from the 2012 London Olympics will feature at the Golden Gala, which will this year be held in the honour of 1980 Olympic 200m champion Pietro Mennea, who died earlier in 2013.
Felix got her 2013 Diamond League campaign underway last week in Doha, where she finished second in the 400m in 50.19. The US sprinter will now turn her attention to the shorter sprints for the rest of the season, and in Rome she will contest the 200m – the event in which she has won three World titles – where she’ll face the likes of double Olympic finalist Murielle Ahoure and 2008 Olympic 100m silver medallist Kerron Stewart.
World 400m champion Amantle Montsho, who ended Felix’s winning streak in Doha, will line up in her specialist event and will be keen to record a victory in one of the few remaining Diamond League meetings that she has not already won. Her main challengers in Rome will be 2008 Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu and 2012 world leader Antonina Krivoshapka of Russia.
Reese, the 2009 and 2011 World Long Jump champion, was one of the standout performers in the opening fixture of the Diamond League last weekend in Doha, flying out to a lifetime best of 7.25m – the best distance ever achieved in the Diamond League.
If conditions are favourable, she could target Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s stadium record of 7.36m, set when winning the 1987 World title. Six other jumpers with PBs over 7m are also in the field, including Olympic silver medallist Elena Sokolova and Olympic bronze medallist Janay DeLoach.
Like Reese, Taylor is a reigning World and Olympic champion, but the triple jumper will be up against the man who defeated him at last year’s Diamond League final in Zurich – Fabrizio Donato. The Italian will be boosted by the home-crowd support, and will be joined by compatriot Daniele Greco, the European indoor champion. Also making an appearance will be 2009 World champion Phillips Idowu.
Diamond Race leaders Aregawi and Perkovic sign up
European indoor champion Abeba Aregawi got her season off to a flying start in Doha with victory in the 1500m, smashing the Swedish record with 3:56.60 and giving her an early lead in the Diamond Race for that event. The 22-year-old, who last year broke the Rome meeting record with 3:56.54, will be up against World indoor champion Genzebe Dibaba and World champion Jenny Simpson.
Like Aregawi, Sandra Perkovic was another winner in Doha. The Olympic champion dominated the Discus to win with 68.23m in her opening competition of the year. A slight improvement on that in Rome could see her break the oldest women’s field event meeting record – Tsvetanka Khristova’s 68.90m from 1986. But trying to stop her will be World silver medallist Nadine Muller and three-time World medallist Yarelis Barrios.
Vlasic’s comeback trail to continue in Rome
Two-time World High Jump champion Blanka Vlasic hasn’t competed since the 2011 season, but is due to make her comeback at the New York Diamond League. The Golden Gala will be her second Diamond League competition of the 2013 season, but she’ll face tough opposition in the form of World and Olympic champion Anna Chicherova, Olympic bronze medallist Svetlana Shkolina, European bronze medallist Irina Gordeyeva, European indoor bronze medallist Emma Green, and World junior champion Alessia Trost. All six women boast PBs of 2m or higher.
The men’s 5000m, meanwhile, boasts six men with PBs quicker than 12:50. Olympic silver medallist Dejen Gebremeskel and World junior cross-country champion Hagos Gebrhiwet will take on Olympic bronze medallist Thomas Longosiwa and his Kenyan compatriot Isiah Koech.
A trio of talented teenagers lead the men’s 800m. Olympic silver medallist and World junior record-holder Nijel Amos will be up against Olympic bronze medallist Timothy Kitum and Ethiopian record-holder Mohammed Aman, the only man who has managed to defeat David Rudisha in recent years.
Bolt’s opponents revealed
As announced in March, Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt will be making his third consecutive appearance at the Golden Gala. He will contest the 100m where he will face Olympic bronze medallist Justin Gatlin, former US champion Mike Rodgers, 2008 Olympic silver medallist Richard Thompson and 2005 World silver medallist Michael Frater.
The men’s one-lap sprint will see 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt take on Belgian record-holder Jonathan Borlee, 2010 World indoor champion Chris Brown and European champion Pavel Maslak.
Culson, Harper and Shubenkov highlight the hurdles
Two-time World silver medallist Javier Culson won the 400m Hurdles at last year’s Golden Gala, and the Puerto Rican Olympic bronze medallist is back again, hopeful of another victory. But World champion Dai Greene and Olympic silver medallist Michael Tinsley will make it tough for him to do so.
In the shorter event over the barriers, the 110m Hurdles, European champion Sergey Shubenkov will face Olympic bronze medallist Hansle Parchment and two-time European silver medallist Garfield Darien of France.
The women’s equivalent will feature 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper, Olympic bronze medallist Kellie Wells and two-time World indoor champion Lolo Jones.
World and Olympic champion Yuliya Zaripova will renew her rivalry with long-time rivals Milcah Chemos Cheywa, Habiba Ghribi and Sofia Assefa, but Kenya’s Lidya Chepkurui – the surprise winner in Doha – could be the one to watch.
Elsewhere, two-time Olympic Shot Put champion Tomasz Majewski will be up against USA’s Reese Hoffa and Christian Cantwell, while world leader Mariya Abakumova is pitted against Olympic silver medallist Christina Obergfoll and World bronze medallist Sunette Viljoen in the Javelin.
Jon Mulkeen and organisers for the IAAF
2013 IAAF Diamond League calendar
Doha, QAT – 10 May
Shanghai, CHN – 18 May
New York, USA – 25 May
Eugene, USA – 1 Jun
Rome, ITA – 6 Jun
Oslo, NOR – 13 Jun
Birmingham, GBR – 30 Jun
Lausanne, SUI – 4 Jul
Paris, FRA – 6 Jul
Monaco, MON – 19 Jul
London, GBR – 26-27 Jul
Stockholm, SWE – 22 Aug
Zürich, SUI – 29 Aug
Brussels, BEL – 6 Sep