Australian high jumper Brandon Starc
The inaugural World Athletics Continental Tour, a series of leading international one-day meetings around the globe, kicks off this weekend with back-to-back meetings in Sydney and Auckland.
The Tour, which will span six continents over the next seven months, is designed to provide athletes with more high calibre competitive opportunities to earn prize money and world ranking points while reaching fans in nearly every corner of the world.
The Tour will be divided into three levels – Gold, Silver and Bronze – whose status will be determined by the quality of competition and prize money on offer.
World Athletics is investing in the Gold level meetings, which will each offer $US200,000 in prize money. Area associations will be responsible for managing the Silver ($US75,000 prize money) and Bronze level competitions ($US25,000).
Saturday's Sydney Track Classic, a popular fixture in Oceania dating back to the 1990s, will launch the Tour and will feature athletes from 12 countries.
Some of Australia's biggest stars are expected to compete in this Bronze level event at Sydney Olympic Park, including middle distance national record holders Linden Hall and Joe Deng, and rising high jump stars Eleanor Patterson and Nicola McDermott, who both cleared the Olympic qualifying standard of 1.96m in Canberra last week. Brandon Starc, the 2018 Diamond League winner and Oceania high jump record holder at 2.36m, is also on the bill. Pan American hammer champion Gwen Berry of the USA leads the international contingent.
The Sydney Track Classic will be streamed live on Athletics Australia's YouTube channel.
The Tour continues on Sunday with the Sir Graeme Douglas International in Auckland, another Bronze event, which will feature a slew of New Zealand's brightest athletics stars, shot putters Tom Walsh, the 2017 world champion, and Valerie Adams, the two-time Olympic and four-time world champion, among them. Adams returned to action in January after taking a season off for maternity leave and has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Nick Willis, a world and Olympic 1500m medallist, is also on the slate.
Athletics New Zealand reports that the meeting will feature some of the strongest fields it has ever assembled, and that has prompted Sky Sport New Zealand to broadcast the meeting live on television and through its YouTube channel (Sky Sport Next).
This weekend's competitions are among more than 50 meetings that are currently included in the 2020 calendar, with more to be announced over the next several weeks.
“The Continental Tour is something really close to my heart,” said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe, after meeting some of the athletes who will compete in Sydney. “There just aren’t that many one-day meetings around anymore so we wanted to create more opportunities for the athletes to compete, more opportunities to compete at a whole range of distances and we also want to create some more opportunities for athletes to win prize money. It’s a really important way to breathe more life into the one-day circuit.”
After a stop next month in Brisbane for the first Silver level meeting, the Tour will move to the Caribbean nation of Granada on 4 April and to the USA on 24 April for the 111th edition of the Drake Relays. Hiroshima will host the first Asian stop on the Tour on 29 April. The following week, the Tour will reach Africa where Nairobi will host the first of 10 Gold level meetings on 2 May.