With less than a month until the Meeting Areva 2013, the line-up has been further boosted by a handful of athletics stars, making the French stage of the IAAF Diamond League even glossier than previous editions.
World 110m Hurdles record-holder Aries Merritt will return to the Stade de France on 6 July in search of his first victory in the French capital. He has competed here five times previously, but is yet to win. The Olympic champion’s task will not be an easy one either, as he will be up against World champion Jason Richardson and David Oliver, who set his PB of 12.89 at this meeting in 2010.
This year, Oliver is so far the fastest of the three, confirming his return to form with a time of 13.10 in Eugene. But his two domestic rivals are making no secret of the fact that they’re intending to make the most of the fast Stade de France track to vie for national leadership.
The men’s 400m line-up is not yet quite complete, but the presence of two athletes in particular will ensure that it will be one of the evening’s high points. Winner in Rome and Eugene, USA’s 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt will face the previously-announced Kirani James, the World and Olympic champion.
The pair have already clashed twice this season. James got the upper hand in Shanghai, winning with a world-leading 44.02, but Merritt prevailed in Eugene as just 0.07 separated the pair, 44.32 to 44.39. Their revenge match in Paris promises to be electric.
Billed as the evening’s main event, the men’s 200m already had a start list worthy of a global championships final, with six competitors having run under 19.90 over the course of their career – World record-holder Usain Bolt, World bronze medallist Christophe Lemaitre, Olympic bronze medallist Warren Weir, World finalist Nickel Ashmeade, European champion Churandy Martina and Jamaica’s Jason Young.
The latest addition to this list is Jimmy Vicaut. Fresh from his performance at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome, where he finished third in a European-leading 10.02, Guy Ontanon’s student will be competing in his secondary event.
“I want to make progress with the 200m this season, a distance where my personal best of 20.58 dates back to last year, with the aim of using it to benefit my performance in the 100m,” said the European 100m silver medallist.
“I’m hoping to make the most of the atmosphere to secure a place in the World Championships. I know that I can perform well this year over 200m. I’ll be gunning for a good time at the Stade de France, enough to get my ticket to the Worlds at least, a bit better than that even.”
Until now, Vicaut has never competed at the Meeting Areva, nor has he ever set foot on the Stade de France track. But the expected 50,000 spectators won’t ruffle his composure. “The pressure may be a bit greater, but I take fairly little notice of the outside elements. I just run my race.”
Another young French athlete who will be making their Stade de France debut on 6 July is 21-year-old Valentin Lavillenie. The younger brother of Olympic pole vault champion Renaud Lavillenie, he will be part of a competition where his older sibling will be targeting his fifth consecutive victory. Winner of the Montreuil meeting last week with an outdoor PB of 5.65m, Valentin will hope to benefit from the atmosphere to achieve the World Championships qualifying standard of 5.70m, equal to the indoor PB he set earlier this year.
Organisers for the IAAF
2013 IAAF Diamond League calendar
Doha, QAT – 10 May
Shanghai, CHN – 18 May
New York, USA – 25 May
Eugene, USA – 1 Jun
Rome, ITA – 6 Jun
Oslo, NOR – 13 Jun
Birmingham, GBR – 30 Jun
Lausanne, SUI – 4 Jul
Paris, FRA – 6 Jul
Monaco, MON – 19 Jul
London, GBR – 26-27 Jul
Stockholm, SWE – 22 Aug
Zürich, SUI – 29 Aug
Brussels, BEL – 6 Sep