Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco (L) crosses the line to win gold ahead of Ilham Obzilen of Turkey in the Men's 1500 Metres Final - WIC Istanbul (Getty Images) © Copyright
A slew of World and Olympic medallists on show in Rabat - PREVIEW - IAAF World Challenge
The meeting's fifth edition, the ninth stage of the IAAF World Challenge, which will be held at the Prince Moulay Abdellah sports complex in Rabat, will be attended by some 113 athletes who will compete in 17 events, about thirty of which were medallists at the Olympics or World championships.
The mens' 100m will be led by American Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion over the distance, double sprint World champion in 2005 and more recently the World indoor champion at 60m.
Gatlin won the Samsung Diamond League opener in Doha in 9.87, the third fastest time of the season, and defeating Asafa Powell in the process. He also emerged victorious in Daegu nine days ago, where he beat compatriot Mike Rodgers.
At a pre-meet conference Gatlin said he's aiming to achieve an "excellent time" in Sunday's race which he stressed was important step of his preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games and more importantly for the U.S. Olympic trials in late June.
Other key names include Dominican Felix Sanchez, the 2004 Olympic and 2001 and 2003 World champion in the 400m Hurdles); the young Ethiopian Mohammed Aman, the 18-year-old who took the World Indoor title in Istanbul; veteran sprinter Kim Collins of Saint Kitts and Nevis, the 2003 World 100m champion and bronze medallist in Daegu; and the Belgian Tia Hellebaut, the reigning Olympic champion in the High Jump.
The Moroccan 'side' will be well represented, with Abdelaati Iguider, the World Indoor 1500m champion, leading the pack. Local eyes will also focus on sprinter Ouhadi Aziz, a finalist over 60m at the World Indoor Championships; Meriem Alaoui Selsouli, a silver medalist at the World Indoors in the 1500m; and Btissam Lakhouad, who finished fourth in the World Championships' 1500m in Daegu last summer and third in Shanghai's Samsung Diamond League fixture last Saturday.
The meeting will be an opportunity for young Moroccan athletes to gain more experience by pitting themselves against Olympic champions and world calibre athletes, and will provide a chance for Olympic qualification on home turf.
"The organizing committee has worked hard to ensure that the 2012 meeting is better both organisationally and technically as well," said Abdeslamn Ahizoune president of the Royal Moroccan Athletics Federation (FMRA). "Notably by inviting high caliber athletes capable of achieving very good performances to give the meeting even more attention."
For his part the IAAF President Lamine Diack said that the Rabat meeting "occupies a most remarkable space".
"Morocco is a nation very active in terms of athletics, distinguished both by the organisation of international competitions and by the remarkable performances of its athletes," President Diack wrote in a letter to FMRA President Ahizoune.
The Rabat meeting is one of only two IAAF World Challenge meetings held in Africa, along with Dakar.
Mohammed Benchrif for the IAAF
- Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco (L) crosses the line to win gold ahead of Ilham Obzilen of Turkey in the Men's 1500 Metres Final - WIC Istanbul (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Men's 100m at the 2012 Samsung Diamond League in Doha - Gatlin won (Jiro Mochizuki) © Copyright
- Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia celebrates as he wins gold in the Men’s 800 Metres - WIC Istanbul (Getty Images) © Copyright