Newly crowned world indoor champion Yarisley Silva and reigning world champions Caterine Ibarguen and LaShawn Merritt are among the leading athletes revealed to compete on May 17 at the Ponce Grand Prix, part of the IAAF World Challenge series.
Colombian triple jumper Ibarguen has competed at the Ponce Grand Prix on several occasions, but never in her specialist event. Her previous appearances at the competition have been in the long jump, winning in that discipline in Ponce two years ago.
Up against 2009 world silver medallist Mabel Gay of Cuba, this time Ibarguen will contest the triple jump in Ponce and will have her own Puerto Rican all-comers’ record of 14.45m in her sights.
Merritt, the world 400m champion, will face Olympic silver medallist Luguelin Santos, two-time world champion Jeremy Wariner, 2011 world bronze medallist Kevin Borlee, 2009 world bronze medallist Renny Quow, and US duo David Verburg and Kind Butler, one half of the world indoor record-breaking 4x400m team from this year’s IAAF World Indoor Championships.
Merritt will be competing in Puerto Rico for the first time in his career, as will world indoor pole vault champion Yarisley Silva. The Cuban struck gold in Sopot last month, having claimed the silver medal at the 2012 Olympics and bronze medal at last year’s World Championships.
Two-time world silver medallist Javier Culson will be the home crowd favourite. Winner of the 400m hurdles in Ponce for four consecutive years between 2009 and 2012, the Olympic bronze medallist will be up against Cuban record-holder Omar Cisneros and two-time NCAA champion Jeshua Anderson.
Aside from Culson in the one-lap hurdles, hopes will be high for another home victory in Ponce from Wesley Vazquez in the 800m. The 20-year-old rising middle-distance talent has finished second at the past two editions of the Ponce Grand Prix and earlier this month he smashed his own national record with 1:44.64.
But he won’t have an easy ride as he will be up against his training partner and current world leader Duane Solomon of the USA and Colombian record-holder Rafith Rodriguez, who defeated Vazquez in Ponce two years ago.
The Ponce Grand Prix is also part of the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge and in the women’s contest US champion Amanda Bingson faces her predecessor as North American record-holder, Sultana Frizell of Canada.
In the women’s 100m, Jamaica’s world leader Carrie Russell faces US trio Alexandria Anderson, Octavious Freeman and Barbara Pierre. The quartet of sub-11-second sprinters will take on South American record-holder Ana Claudia Lemos of Brazil.
Over one lap of the track, two-time Olympic finalist Rosemarie Whyte and fellow Jamaican Christine Day will be up against Russia’s Lyudmila Litvinova and Britain’s Shana Cox in the flat event, while NCAA champion Kori Carter faces Olympic finalist Georganne Moline and Jamaican duo Nickiesha Wilson and Ristannana Tracey over the barriers.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF