Fred Kerley, winner of the 200m at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Melbourne (© AFP / Getty Images)
World champions Fred Kerley, Wang Jianan and Kelsey-Lee Barber are among the star attractions at the Seiko Golden Grand Prix – a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting – in Yokohama on Sunday (21).
Kerley heads to the Japanese city off the back of three victories over the longer sprint distances. He started his 2023 campaign with a 20.32 win over 200m in Melbourne, then ran 44.65 for 400m two weeks later. More recently he won the 200m at the Diamond League meeting in Doha in 19.92.
Sunday’s race will be his first outing of the year at 100m – the distance at which he won the world title last year. With a best of 9.76, the 28-year-old US sprinter is significantly quicker than all of his rivals in Yokohama, but Japanese duo Yoshihide Kiryu and Yuki Koike will do their best to stay in touch with Kerley, as will Australia’s Rohan Browning.
The field for the men’s long jump appears more evenly matched, and should be a highly competitive contest. Wang Jianan will be contesting his first competition outside of China since winning the world long jump title last year. He competed twice during the indoor season, leaping 8.01m and 8.09m, but the Chinese record-holder may need to go farther on Sunday if he hopes to win against a strong field.
World and Olympic finalist Yuki Hashioka has jumped 8.11m already this year, while Japanese record-holder Shoutarou Shiroyama is close to eight-metre form. Australia’s Henry Frayne and China’s Zhang Jingqiang are also in the line-up.
Two-time world javelin champion Kelsey-Lee Barber will get her international campaign under way. The 31-year-old has competed just once so far this year, finishing second at the Australian Championships with 57.05m, but the field in Sunday’s competition will likely inspire her to throw beyond 60 metres.
World bronze medallist Haruka Kitaguchi is the in-form athlete, though, and she will be cheered on by an enthusiastic home crowd. The Japanese thrower heads to Yokohama off the back of strong showings in Hiroshima (64.50m) and Osaka (64.43m).
Commonwealth silver medallist Mackenzie Little – who beat Barber to the Australian title last month – and Latvia’s world finalist Lina Muze should ensure a competitive contest.
Woo and Kerr clash again
World indoor champion Woo Sanghyeok will take on Commonwealth champion Hamish Kerr in what looks set to be a mouth-watering high jump competition.
Both men enjoyed a breakthrough at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, where Woo set a Korean record of 2.35m to finish fourth and Kerr reached his first major final. Woo went on to win world indoor gold and world silver in 2022, while Kerr took gold at the Commonwealth Games.
Woo recently finished second at the Doha Diamond League meeting, then improved to a season’s best of 2.32m in Yecheon four days later. Kerr, meanwhile, has been undefeated in all seven of his competitions this year, including in Banska Bystrica in February when he set an Oceanian record of 2.34m.
It might not be just a two-man contest, though. Australia’s Joel Baden is in the form of his life, having jumped 2.33m and 2.32m during the Australian domestic season. Italy’s Marco Fassinotti and Japan’s Tomohiro Shinno – both of whom have jumped over 2.30m in the past – are also in the line-up.
There’s a strong chance of a Japanese victory in the men’s 110m hurdles. National record-holder Shunsuke Izumiya, who earlier this month clocked a season’s best of 13.25, takes on Japanese indoor champion Shunya Takayama and Cuba’s Roger Iribane, who improved to 7.48 for the 60m hurdles earlier this year.
Elsewhere in the sprints, Oceanian record-holder Zoe Hobbs of New Zealand takes on USA’s Smith-Barnett in the women’s 100m, and Paul Dedewo leads the men’s 400m line-up.
Kirui takes on home talent Miura
One week after winning on home soil in Nairobi, Kenya’s Amos Kirui will line up against one of Japan’s bright hopes in the men’s steeplechase.
Ryuji Miura has won at this meeting for the past two years, setting a national record of 8:17.46 – while still an U20 – in 2021, before taking a more comfortable victory in 2022. An 8:09.92 performer at his best, Miura will start as an equal favourite in what will be his first steeplechase race of 2023.
Kirui, meanwhile, beat a strong field at the Kip Keino Classic last week in 8:18.45 in the altitude of Nairobi. The conditions in Yokohama should be kinder, but the crowd will be cheering for their home star Miura.
Nozomi Tanaka will also get a warm reception from the crowd when she lines up for the women’s 1500m. The national record-holder and Olympic finalist has already raced a lot so far this year and may need to produce a season’s best to give her a chance against USA’s Dani Jones, who finished two seconds ahead of Tanaka in an indoor mile back in February.
Elsewhere, Kenya’s Margaret Akidor faces Teresiah Muthoni Gateri in the women’s 3000m, and Australian record-holder Brooke Buschkuehl leads the women’s long jump field.