With just less than a week to go to the IAAF / VTB Bank Continental Cup the track world is ready to tackle a brand new challenge in this newly revamped team competition which takes over from the late IAAF World Cup.
This time around only four teams – Africa, Americas, Asia/Pacific and Europe – will field two scoring men and two women* in each event on the two-day programme to win the overall Continental Cup Trophy.
Let’s take a look at the women’s events…
Sprints and hurdles
It is probably safe to say that the championship records carried over from the IAAF World Cup in the flat sprint events (10.65, 21.62, 47.60) will remain unchallenged this weekend, but there should at least be some very competitive races. In the 100m Trinidad’s national record-holder Kelly-Ann Baptiste will clash with African champion Blessing Okagbare, who will by vying for Africa’s first ever 100m victory at this event, while the top two from the European Championships – Verena Sailer and Veronique Mang – will find strong opposition in the form of Shalonda Solomon and Ruddy Zang Milama.
The in-form athletes in the 200m are Russian Champion Aleksandra Fedoriva and Central American and Caribbean Games Champion Cydonie Mothersill, but European silver medallist Yelizaveta Bryzgina and US champion Connie Moore will both pose a strong threat.
A high-quality women’s 400m sees Olympic silver medallist Shericka Williams face off with European champion Tatyana Firova, World Indoor Champion Debbie Dunn and African champion Amantle Montsho. All are sub-50 athletes at best and with so few 49-second clockings this season, can this event round out the season on a high?
The 100m Hurdles is also a top-notch event with Olympic silver medallist Sally Pearson of Australia taking on the top two from the European Championships – Nevin Yanit and Derval O’Rourke – as well as the top two from the World Indoor Championships – Lolo Jones and Perdita Felicien. With such talent, the Championship Record of 12.60 looks to be in serious threat.
In the 400m Hurdles European Champion Natalya Antyukh will renew her rivalry with European silver medallist Vania Stambolova.
Meanwhile Nigeria’s Adjoke Odumosu will be looking to prove that her finish ahead of Antyukh in Zurich was no fluke, and at the same time will try to get one up on Morocco’s Hayat Lambarki, the surprise winner at the African Championships.
Middle and long distance
Mariya Savinova has had an almost perfect season, winning the World Indoor and European titles along the way, but her unbeaten streak came to an end in Brussels where 2007 World Champion Janeth Jepkosgei defeated the Russian. The pair will be in Split and Savinova will be joined on the European team by World Indoor silver medallist Jenny Meadows. World leader Alysia Johnson, African champion Zahra Bouras and Jamaica’s Kenia Sinclair add even further quality to this event.
Olympic Champion Nancy Langat has been almost unbeatable this year, suffering just one defeat in Lausanne. But there are many athletes trying to spoil Langat’s party, including five athletes who have broken four minutes this season – a feat that Langat is yet to achieve. They include 2008 World Indoor Champion Gelete Burka, Morocco’s Btissam Lakhouad, Christin Wurth-Thomas, European silver medallist Hind Dehiba and World silver medallist Lisa Dobriskey.
Meseret Defar will be keen to secure Ethiopia’s third consecutive victory in the 3000m, but there is a strong chance the win could go to another Ethiopian (now Turk) Alemitu Bekele, the European 5000m Champion who finished within a whisker of Defar in Stockholm. World 1500m leader Anna Alminova represents Europe in this event along with Portugal’s Sara Moreira, while the likes of Iness Chenonge, Btissam Lakhouad and Shannon Rowbury can never be discounted.
Tirunesh Dibaba and Elvan Abeylegesse will renew their rivalry here over 5000m. Dibaba has had a low-key season, but an undefeated one nonetheless and will start in Split as the favourite. But World Champion and world leader Vivian Cheruiyot has the ability to cause a surprise, especially in a tactical race.
The biggest two names in the women’s 3000m Steeplechase are undoubtedly African Champion Milcah Chemos and European Champion Yuliya Zarudneva. Chemos suffered a rare defeat to Zarudneva in Stockholm, but the Russian lost out in London as Chemos caught her on the line. Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa – who recently beat Chemos in Brussels – and Jamaica’s Korine Hinds will also likely score good points for their respective teams.
With world leader Chaunte Lowe cutting short her season with a leg injury, Continental Cup poster girl Blanka Vlasic is now the overwhelming favourite to win the High Jump in Split – a feat that would undoubtedly bring down the house. Her nearest challengers will now likely be European silver medallist Emma Green of Sweden and Lavern Spencer of St Lucia.
World Indoor Champion Fabiana Murer has held the advantage over European Champion Svetlana Feofanova in 2010 and will want to go one better than her second place finish in Athens four years ago. But the Russian is a seasoned campaigner and will want to avenge her defeat to Murer from the IAAF World Indoor Championships.
Newly-crowned European Champion Ineta Radevica of Latvia will take on Naide Gomes of Portugal. But Cuba’s Yargelis Savigne has her eyes on pulling off the first long jump-triple jump double at this competition. Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare also has her eyes on an unprecedented double of her own, as she is also entered in the 100m.
First up for Savigne though will be the triple jump, where she will be up against the only athlete who has defeated her this season, World Indoor Champion Olga Rypakova of Kazakhstan. Another Olga, European Champion Olga Saladuka of Ukraine, will also be looking to end her season on a high note. As is the case in the Long Jump, this event is also void of any Russian entrant as they surprisingly finished out of the medals in Barcelona in both horizontal jumps events.
Nadezhda Ostapchuk and Valerie Adams have had an intense rivalry all year in the Shot. The New Zealander will be keen to salvage a big win from this season and had a memorable late-season peak in 2009 when she threw her 21.07m Area Record, but Ostapchuk is definitely the in-form athlete with an unbeaten streak through 2010. USA’s Jillian Camarena is rounding into good form and Chinese youngster Gong Lijiao can also be expected to threaten 19 metres.
In recent years the discus has been dominated by veterans, but Split will play host to a clash between the two most exciting young talents in this event – World Champion Dani Samuels and European Champion Sandra Perkovic. They are even at 2-2 this year, but Perkovic is fresh off a 66.93m national record in Brussels and will want to bring that same form to her home crowd in Split. If anyone is going to spoil the youngsters’ party, look no further than Nicoleta Grasu or Yarelis Barrios.
World record-holder Anita Wlodarczyk will be conspicuous in her absence, having finished just third at the Europeans and failing to qualify for this event. But Europe will be expected to score big here with European Champion Betty Heidler and Russia’s Tatyana Lysenko in action. Yipsi Moreno will continue her comeback from pregnancy in her third appearance at this event.
With no one dominating the javelin this year, this event is wide open. Linda Stahl was the surprise winner at the European Championships. USA’s Kara Patterson has improved markedly this year and could score her country’s first ever victory in this event. And should Sunette Viljoen throw close to her best, she too stands a chance of becoming the first ever African winner.
The new format of the Continental Cup means that there will be just four teams in each of the relay events – one from each team. Europe, Africa and Asia-Pacific have nominated their best national teams – Ukraine, Nigeria and Japan respectively. But the Americas team have put together an all-star squad comprising Kelly-Ann Baptiste, Shalonda Solomon, Sherone Simpson, Connie Moore and Cydonie Mothersil. A talented group no doubt, but with minimal opportunities to practice, it is a risky strategy. The slick baton-passing of European Champions Ukraine – fresh off their 42.29 National record – could give them the edge here.
The European 4x400m team will be sure to pack a punch with the top four from the individual 400m at the European Championships – Russian trio Tatyana Firova, Antonina Krivoshapka, Kseniya Ustalova and Italy’s Libania Grenot. But the Americas team is hardly lacking in quality either, as they boast the likes of World Indoor Champion Debbie Dunn, Olympic silver medallist Shericka Williams and 2007 World bronze medallist Novlene Williams.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
IAAF / VTB Bank Continental Cup
Composition of Teams
- Each team will be allowed to enter two athletes in each event (three in the 1500m, 3000m, 5000m and 3000mSC but only the first two finishers from each team shall score points).
- Only one athlete from any one country may compete in each individual event.
- individual events: 1st: 8pts – 2nd: 7pts – 3rd: 6pts – 4th: 5pts – 5th: 4pts – 6th: 3pts – 7th: 2pts – 8th: 1pt
- relays: 1st: 15pts – 2nd: 11pts – 3rd: 7pts – 4th: 3pts
- teams: Points achieved by men and women will be combined and the overall winner of the IAAF Continental Cup will be the team with the most combined points.