The official press conference of the Rome Kinder + Sport Golden Gala took place today in the headquarters of the Italian Olympic Committee CONI near the Olympic Stadium in Rome, the venue for the third leg of the ÅF Golden League meeting scheduled in exactly one month’s time on 11 July.
“Thirteen World outdoor champions from Osaka will feature in the star-studded field of the Golden Gala in the Rome Olympic Stadium in Rome,” said Rome meeting director Luigi D’Onofrio.
“We have reached an agreement with Asafa Powell a long time ago. His appearance in Rome depends on how he recovers from his spring injury. He will test his form in Trinidad before competing at the Jamaican Trials at the end of June,” continued D’Onofrio.
Towards a Powell v Atkins matchup
If Powell is able to run in Rome, the former 100 metres record holder will face his distant cousin Derrick Atkins who beat the Jamaican in Osaka. Atkins won the Oslo Golden League meeting last week in a wind-assisted 9.98.
Rome also features the clash between Jeremy Wariner and Lashawn Merritt in the 400 metres. Merritt beat Wariner in the opening leg of the Golden League in Berlin in 44.03 dashing Wariner’s hopes to win a share of the Golden League Jackpot. Wariner bounced back last Friday with a superb 43.98 in Oslo.
“Blade runner” Oscar Pistorius from South Africa will compete for the second time in his career in a B-race on the Rome track in the 400 metres in the attempt to pursue the difficult 400 metres Olympic standard for Bejing.
Felix opts for 400
Allyson Felix, triple world champion in the 200 metres and in the 4x100 and in the 4x400 in Osaka, will start in the 400 metres in her first European race after the US Trials in Eugene scheduled from 27 June to 6 July. Felix scored an impressive 100-400 metres double in the IAAF World Athletics Tour meeting in Doha running 10.93 and 49.83.
The highlight of middle distance races will be the women’s 5000 metres where reigning 10,000 metres World champion Tirunesh Dibaba, who broke the 5000 metres World record running a sensational 14:11.15 on the magic Bislett track in Oslo on 6 June, will be in the spotlight again in Rome.
All Jackpot contenders resume $1 million chase
All five ÅF Golden League Jackpot contenders Blanka Vlasic (women’s high jump), Pamela Jelimo (women’s 800 metres), Bershawn Jackson (men’s 400 metres hurdles), Josephine Onya (women’s 100 metres Hurdles) and Hussein Al Sabee (men’s long jump) are confirmed names in the provisional starting lists.
Two of these Golden League events will be of special significance for Italian fans in the Olympic Stadium due to the presence of Italian athletics heroes Andrew Howe in the long jump and Antonietta Di Martino in the high jump, who won two memorable silver medals for Italy last summer in Osaka.
Howe, also the reigning European outdoor and indoor champion, showed good form in Oslo where he finished second with 8.16 to Al Sabee’s 8.19. The Italian top athlete will probably renew his battle against World champion Irving Saladino who started his season with a sensational 8.73 in Hengelo but suffered from injury problems in Berlin and consequently was forced to skip Oslo. He should return in Rome.
Di Martino and Howe – home favourites
Di Martino will face a very tough battle against Blanka Vlasic who started her Golden League season with two impressive wins in Berlin (2.03) and Oslo (world season best 2.04) and is one the most serious contenders for a share of the Golden League Jackpot. Other athletes who confirmed their participation in Rome are reigning Olympic champion Yelena Slesarenko, joint World silver medallist Anna Chicherova and European outdoor and indoor champion Tia Hellebaut.
“To be in the spotlight as one of the most important athletes of the Golden Gala is a dream which comes true. I am an emotional athlete. Two years ago I competed in front of my parents and friends and I had my worst competition of the year,” recalled Antonietta Di Martino at the press conference in Rome.
“I need to compete after a long period of training during the winter. I am gradually reducing the workload in training to be in form for the next competitions. I am planning to compete at the European Cup in Annecy, at the Milan Notturna (2 July), at both Rome and Paris Golden League meetings and at the Italian Championships in Cagliari,” said Di Martino about her plans before Bejing.
Yelena Isinbayeva, reigning Pole Vault Olympic, World and European champion and last year’s Golden League Jackpot winner, has chosen the Kinder+ Sport Golden Gala as her first outdoor competition. Rome will be one of four pre-olympic meetings for Isinbayeva who will continue her campaign in three more World Athletics Tour meetings in Stockolm, London and Monaco.
Pamela Jelimo, the new standout name in the women’s 800 metres, sensationally broke the World junior champion and African senior record in Berlin running 1:54.99 and went on to win in Oslo in 1:55.41. Jelimo is set to continue her Golden League Jackpot hunt in Rome.
Another mouth-watering clash will be the women’s 100 metres Hurdles with Berlin and Oslo winner Josephine Onya from Spain (new spanish record holder with 12.50 in Berlin) against 60 metres World indoor record holder Susanna Kallur from Sweden and this winter’s World indoor champion Lolo Jones from the USA.
“The Golden Gala will be broadcast live by Italian Television Rai 3 and pictures of our meeting will reach 150 countries all around the world. The Rome Golden Gala meeting will be broadcast by US sport channel ESPN, chinese channel CCTV5, indian Ten Sports/Taj TV,” concluded Luigi D’Onofrio.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF