21 MAY 2009 General News

Four reigning global champions line-up for Prefontaine middle distances – IAAF World Athletics Tour

Alfred Kirwa Yego sprints to gold in the men's 800m final (Getty Images)Alfred Kirwa Yego sprints to gold in the men's 800m final (Getty Images) © Copyright

Eugene, USAIn the storied 35yearhistory of the Prefontaine Classic, never have the meet records in the middle distances been more in jeopardy across the board than at this year’s meet on 7 June in Eugene.

The Prefontaine Classic is a Grand Prix status meeting as part of the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Tour

In the men’s 800, 2007 World champion Alfred Kirwa Yego returns seeking to break the meet and Hayward Field record of 1:44.01 that he set at last year’s Pre Classic. 
Yego, who was also Beijing Olympic bronze medallist will be challenged by Ahmad Ismail of Sudan, who finished in the silver medal position in Beijing.

Also in the two-lap field is the Oregon Track Club Elite’s Nick Symmonds, 2007 World silver medallist Gary Reed of Canada and Amine Laalou of Morocco. Add in 2004 Olympic gold medalist Yuriy Borzakovskiy of Russia, and you have the best 800 field in Prefontaine Classic history.

Last year, Maria Mutola retired after winning 16 Prefontaine Classic races with her 1:57.57 meet record still intact.  In the 17th--her first when she was still a high school student in 1991--Mutola was shoved and finished 5th in a mile race.  Call it a bittersweet scenario, but Maria’s mark which has stood since 1997 has a real chance of being broken the very first year after her retirement.  Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo of Kenya has been nothing short of spectacular in her brief career. The 19-year-old phenom was undefeated last year, her first-ever in the event, and ran faster than the Pre Classic meet record eleven times! 

Jelimo won’t be running a solo time-trial, however, as countrywoman Janeth Jepkosgei, the reigning World champion and Olympic silver medallist, is in the race, as well as Kenia Sinclair of Jamaica. 

In the women’s 1500m, surprise Olympic gold medalist Nancy Lagat of Kenya returns to the venue where she began her run-up to Beijing success. With just a 4:08 seasonal-best coming into last year’s Prefontaine Classic, Lagat improved to 4:03.80 to take second. She then went on to improve another 3 seconds in Beijing and take home the gold in 4:00.23. 

The meet record is the 4:00.44 held by Geleta Burka of Ethiopia, the African champion and World Indoor medallist who is also in the race. Not to be forgotten is No. 1 American Shannon Rowbury, who ran 4:00.33 last year and Spain’s Nuria Fernandez.

Finally, the Bowerman Mile will feature a field capable of taking down Daniel K. Komen’s 2007 meet record of 3:48.28, which is also the fastest ever run on U.S. soil.  African 1500m champion Haron Keitany and Olympic 1500m silver medallist Asbel Kiprop, both of Kenya, head the large field that includes five men who have run under 3:50 for the Mile or its metric equivalent. American recordholder Alan Webb, Bahrain’s Belal Mansoor, and Kenya’s World bronze medallist Shedrack Korir are those that join Keitany and Kiprop in the sub-3:50 club. 

Another Pre Classic milestone which may go is the all-time record of 13 finishers under 4-minutes.  Every entrant in the field has been well under that mark within the past year.

Organisers for the IAAF


800m (MEN)

Nick Symmonds
Khadevis Robinson
Gary Reed (Canada)
Alfred Yego (Kenya)
Yuriy Borzakovskiy (Russia)
Amine Laalou (Morocco)
Ahmad Ismail (Sudan)
Boaz Lalang (Kenya)
Christian Smith
Matt Scherer—pace

800m (WOMEN)

Pamela Jelimo (Kenya)
Hazel Clark
Alice Schmidt
Janet Jepkosgei (Kenya)
Kenia Sinclair (Jamaica)
Alysia Johnson
Tatyana Andrianova (Russia)
Jemma Simpson (Great Britain)
Jesse Carlin--pace

1500m (WOMEN)

Nancy Lagat (Kenya)
Gelete Burka (Ethiopia)
Anna Alminova (Russia)
Shannon Rowbury
Christin Wurth-Thomas
Nuria Fernandez (Spain)
Erin Donohue
Meskerem Assefa (Ethiopia)
Anna Willard
Jenny Barringer
Nikeya Green--pace
Shayne Culpepper
Shalane Flanagan
Treniere Clement

BOWERMAN MILE (MEN)

Haron Keitany (Kenya)
Shedrack Korir (Kenya)
Asbel Kiprop (Kenya)
Belal Mansoor (Bahrain)
Alan Webb
Lopez Lomong
Juan van Deventer (South Africa)
Leonel Manzano
Nicholas Kemboi (Kenya)
Josephat Kithii (Kenya)
Moise Joseph (Haiti)--pace
Nate Brannen (Canada)
Jackson Kivuna (Kenya)--pace
Evan Jager
Peter van der Westhuisen (S Africa)
Henok Legesse (Ethiopia)
Steve Sherer--pace