David Rudisha winning over 800m at the 2013 IAAF Diamond League in New York (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
Preview New York, USA

Blake, Rudisha, Aregawi and local heroine Suhr among the stars in New York - IAAF Diamond League

Over the last seven years, the adidas Grand Prix has consistently delivered thrills to the rabid Caribbean sprint fans calling the Five Boroughs home.

This year, despite the absence of Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce due to minor injuries, the organisers of the sixth stop of the 2014 IAAF Diamond League on Saturday (12) want you to know that, "everything is irie, mon."

The Jamaican flags will be waving feverishly for Olympic and World Championships medallists Yohan Blake and Nickel Ashmeade, who will headline the men's 100m and 200m races on Randall's Island.

The hotter of the two sprints figures to be the 200m where Ashmeade, who ran on Jamaica's gold-medal-winning 4x100m at the 2013 World Championships, will look for his second Diamond League win of the season.

The winner in Doha last month will square off against fellow Diamond Race leader Alonso Edward, of Panama, who won the 200m at the Golden Gala in Rome last week, and Jamaica's Warren Weir, the London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist and Moscow 2013 silver medallist in the event, who finished second to Ashmeade in Doha.

Blake, the 100m and 200m silver medallist at the London Games, headlines the 100m, a non-Diamond League event.

The 24-year-old, who led Jamaica to victories in the 4x100m and 4x200m at the recent IAAF World Relays, has run two 100m races this season with a best of 10.02. He won this race in New York two years ago in 9.90.

On the women's side, Jamaican hopes in the 100m rest on the shoulders of Samantha Henry-Robinson, who owns the fastest time in the field this season at 11.00.

However, the opposing US contingent is strong, led by upstart Diamond Race co-leader Tori Bowie, who won the 200m in Eugene and 100m in Rome in recent weeks in personal best times of 22.18 and 11.05.

Barshim and Bondarenko battle again

The men's high jump also should be a ‘can't-miss’ affair.

After their thrilling duel in Rome last week, Ukraine’s 2013 World champion Bodan Bondarenko and Qatar’s 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships gold medallist  Mutaz Essa Barshim will renew their rivalry here.

Both men came tantalizingly close to clearing 2.43m, with Barshim taking the win and share of the Diamond Race lead by virtue of his clearance at an Asian record of 2.41m.

With fair weather conditions expected, it is not out of the question for both men to challenge the US outdoor all-comers mark of 2.40m set by Barshim in Eugene last year and the all-time best mark on North American soil, which is the 2.41m cleared by Cuba's Javier Sotomayor at the 1993 IAAF World Indoor Championships.

Should either falter, Americans Erik Kynard, Jesse Williams and Dusty Jonas could surprise.

In the men's 800m, Kenya's David Rudisha will be looking to recapture a bit of the form he showed here two years ago, when he blazed to victory in 1:41.74.

After missing most of last season with a knee injury, one that first surfaced after he won this race 12 months ago in 1:45.14, the 25-year-old showed a few signs of rust in his 2014 opener, a seventh-place finish in 1:44.87 in Eugene.

The women's shot put could see the continuance of an amazing streak of success by New Zealand's Valerie Adams, who will be gunning for her 50th consecutive victory in the event.

The 29-year-old, the reigning World, World Indoor and Olympic champion, holds the world-leading mark at 20.46m and the Diamond Race lead with eight points.

Suhr looking to soar

The women's pole vault is always a favourite of the Icahn Stadium faithful, and this year's competition will feature local star and London 2012 Olympic Games champion Jenn Suhr, Cuba’s Diamond Race and world leader Yarisley Silva as well as 2009 and 2011 World champions, Poland’s Anna Rogowska and Brazil’s Fabiana Murer.

The women's 1500m field will be headlined by Sweden's reigning World champion indoors and outdoors  Abeba Aregawi, the Diamond Race leader.

Aregawi faces a deep and talented group of Americans led by 2011 World champion Jenny Simpson,  2013 IAAF World Championships 800m bronze medallist Brenda Martinez and Shannon Rowbury, fresh off her American record over two miles in Eugene.

In the women's 3000m, Kenya's Mercy Cherono, the runner-up in Doha in a super-quick 8:21.14, is a clear favourite.

Others figuring to contend include Ethiopia's Kalkidan Gezahegne and Kenya's Sally Kipyego, the 2012 Olympic 10,000m silver medallist who is on the mend after twice suffering a broken Calcaneus bone in her left heel.

Also look for a classic East African battle in the women's 3000m steeplechase, where Diamond Race leader Sofia Assefa, of Ethiopia, who won in Eugene in a world-leading 9:11.39. She will try to hold off a Kenyan assault mounted by Purity Kirui, Lidya Chepkirui and Fancy Cherotich.

The talent pool is just as deep in the remaining Diamond League events.

The women's 100m hurdles will see two-time Olympic medallist Dawn Harper Nelson look to improve on her narrow runner-up finish in Rome.

Fellow Americans Queen Harrison, 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships 60m gold medallist Nia Ali and Lolo Jones will share the spotlight in a field that sadly saw Australia's London 2012 Olympic Games champion Sally Pearson scratch earlier this week as a health precaution after tweaking her hamstring while warming up in Rome.

Merritt out to show his worth

The men's 400m will feature World champion and Diamond Race leader LaShawn Merritt against top challengers Leguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic, Yousef Masrahi of Saudi Arabia and Americans Tony McQuay, David Verberg and Jeremy Wariner.

In the men's 400m hurdles, world champion Jehue Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago will face the USA’s Diamond Race leader and Moscow 2013 silver medallist Michael Tinsley, Javier Culson of Puerto Rico and two-time Olympic champion Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic.

Greece’s Louis Tsatoumas will look to add to his lead in the men's long jump Diamond Race while 2012 Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor and 2014 eight-metre men Jeffrey Henderson of the US, Chris Tomlinson of Great Britain, Li Jinzhe of China and Ignicious Gaisah of The Netherlands are among those looking to take him down.

Poland’s Piotr Malachowski of Poland, the Diamond Race leader and world leader at 69.28m, headlines a discus field that also includes the reigning World, Olympic and European champion Robert Harting of Germany.

On the women's side, Colombia’s reigning triple jump World champion Caterine Ibarguen of Colombia will look to add to her Diamond Race lead with a victory over the likes of Jamaica's Kimberly Williams and Russia's Anna Pyatykh.

Australia’s Kathryn Mitchell, owner of the number three mark in the world this season at 66.10m, is a clear favorite in the women’s javelin.

Non-Diamond League women's races will see Americans Bianca Knight, Kimberlyn Duncan, Natasha Hastings and Shalonda Solomon do battle in the 200m; Americans Francena McCorory and DeeDee Trotter square off against Great Britain's Christine Ohuruogu and Shana Cox in the 400m; and US teen sensation Mary Cain with contest the 800m.

Joe Battaglia for the IAAF