English Gardner at the 2016 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene (© Kirby Lee)
US champion English Gardner and Olympic long jump champion Tianna Bartoletta will lead the women's 100m field at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene on 27 May, the third stop of the 2017 IAAF Diamond League series.
A historically fast track awaits a field loaded with Olympians, but one runner knows the track better than anyone else.
Gardner might want to run every major race at the Pre Classic, though a growing list of defeated rivals would prefer otherwise. Her success on her former home track at historic Hayward Field is unmatched at the Pre Classic in the sprints: wins over women who won the past three Olympic gold medals in the 100m.
Gardner won last year’s Pre Classic over a stout field that included two-time Olympic gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, who would add bronze in Rio. A year earlier, Gardner had rocked the house with a same-time 10.84 win over Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson, the Rio gold medallist who has not lost since that 2015 Eugene 100m. (Thompson, of course, is in this year's Pre Classic 200m.)
Gardner won her second US 100m title last year with a 10.74 PB.
Bartoletta is the world and Olympic champion in the long jump and a fantastic sprinter with a rocket start. For the third straight year, she will attempt a Pre Classic double that begins with an IAAF Diamond League long jump on Friday night followed by a world-class 100m on Saturday afternoon.
Last year in Rio, Bartoletta jumped a lifetime best of 7.15m to win the long jump title and the next morning led off the US 4x100m team in the heats and would eventually earn her third Olympic gold a day later as part of the US quartet that blazed the inside lane of Rio’s blue oval in 41.01, a performance second only to the Bartoletta-led London Olympic quartet that clocked a 40.82 world record.
After a runner-up finish in last year’s stacked Pre Classic 100m, she was second in the US Olympic Trials race at 10.78 that saw three break 10.80 in the same race for the first time.
Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown will return to the Pre Classic, where she has never run anything except 10.78 – winning the 2010 edition and finishing third in the wind-aided 2013 race. The 35-year-old has an overflowing treasury of medals, with Olympic bookends in 2000 as an 18-year-old and last year in Rio, both with silver medals and three golds in the middle.
In total, she has 21 major medals, and her Olympic total of eight is only one behind Allyson Felix and Merlene Ottey, the latter her idol while growing up and racing for the same high school, Vere Tech. The final chapter has yet to be written – her 11.06 last month is the fastest posted by any runner in the field this season.
Others in the field include Michelle-Lee Ahye, Trinidad & Tobago’s second fastest ever at 10.85 who was sixth in the Rio Olympic final; Murielle Ahoure of Cote d’Ivoire, the 2013 world silver medallist in both the 100m and 200m and African record-holder at 10.78; and Jamaican Simone Facey, a former NCAA 200m champion.
Other US sprinters in the field include Morolake Akinosun, a former US junior champion who was fourth in last year’s US Trials with a PB 10.95; and Dezerea Bryant, a two-time NCAA champion in the 200m, once indoors and once outdoors, who is on the comeback from a injury-shortened 2016 season.
Organisers for the IAAF
2017 IAAF Diamond League calendar:
5 May – Doha, QAT
13 May – Shanghai, CHN
27 May – Eugene, USA
8 Jun – Rome, ITA
15 Jun – Oslo, NOR
18 Jun – Stockholm, SWE
1 Jul – Paris, FRA
6 Jul – Lausanne, SUI
9 Jul – London, GBR
16 Jul – Rabat, MAR
21 Jul – Monaco, MON
20 Aug – Birmingham, GBR
24 Aug – Zurich, SUI
1 Sep – Brussels, BEL