Hengelo, The NetherlandsThe organisers of Saturday's Fanny Blankers-Koen Games have assembled some of the best ever fields in the history of this annual Grand Prix meeting, part of the IAAF World Athletics Tour 2008.
The track in the stadium in Hengelo, in the eastern part of the Netherlands, has proven its high quality with several World records set by Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie, nicknamed “Mr. Hengelo”, in the 5000 and 10,000 metres.
Athletes coordinator Ellen van Langen, the Olympic 800 metres champion from Barcelona 1992, received an overwhelming number of applications from world class athletes for the most important annual track meet in The Netherlands. Many athletes will be seeking qualification standards for the Beijing Olympic Games or will test their late Spring form.
Spotlight on Gebrselassie, Bekele
The longer track races were always the highlights in Hengelo. Gebrselassie, the World record holder in the Marathon, has set four World records on the Hengelo track. He will run the 10,000 metres to try to qualify for Beijing’s longest track race. The legendary Ethiopian will meet strong opposition from Kenyans Eliud Kipchoge and Moses Mosop and his compatriots Sileshi Sihine, Abebe Dinkesa and Gebre Gebremariam.
Kenenisa Bekele is the hot favourite in the 5000 metres. The heir apparent to Gebrselassie will meet Kenyans Edwin Soi and Thomas Longosiwa. Another spectacular event is the 3000m Steeplechase with 2007 World champion Brimin Kiproto and Osaka bronze medallist Richard Matelong.
Kirwa vs. Bungei in the 800m
For the Dutch spectators it was a disappointment that Bram Som, the European 800m had to withdraw due to a slight injury. The Dutchman, who does not want to endanger his chances for the Olympic Games, would have World champion Alfred Kirwa Yego and his Kenyan compatriot Wilfred Bungei, the former World Indoor champion.
Smith going for throws double
Of strong interest too will the Men’s Discus Throw and Shot Put. The home crowd will certainly be cheering for Dutch hero Rutger Smith. The giant from Groningen, the first ever athlete to win medals in the World Championships in both the discus and the shot, will have some very serious opposition. Smith who proved to be in a very good shape in recent weeks with 66.85m (discus) and 20.77m (shot) performances, and will double in Hengelo. In the Discus Throw he will face double Olympic champion Virgilijus Alekna, who threw 71.25 in Turnov on 20 May; Gerd Kanter, who also passed the 70m barrier this year with his 71.88m effort in Salinas on 8 May; and Aleksander Tammert.
In the Shot Put, the two-time World indoor champion Christian Cantwell (USA) is the opponent most to fear with the shot for Smith.
Dutch hurdlers Gregory Sedoc and Marcel van de Westen, who dashed to gold and silver at the 2007 European Indoor Championships, were to meet Allen Johnson. But the American veteran has injured an ankle and was forced to withdraw. He will by replaced by countryman Ryan Wilson (13.02 in 2007).
Churandy Martina of the Dutch Antilles will meet Rodney Martin and Marlon Devonish over 200 metres.
Runway adjustment for Air Saladino
A very promising event will be the men’s Long Jump with World champion Irving Saladino from Panama, the holder of the FBK stadium record (8.53m). The organisers have brought the take off board jump two metres back from it’s usual spot as last year Saladino landed very close to the end of the pit and didn’t dare jump full force. World indoor champion Godfrey Mokoena of South Africa should provide the fiercest competition.
In the Pole Vault, Germans Danny Ecker and Tim Lobinger top the field along with 2005 World champion Rens Blom from The Netherlands. The Dutchman was troubled by Achilles tendon problems in recent years, on which he was operated on two times. Last week Blom was back in competition and jumped 5.50m. The Dutch qualification standard for Beijing is 5.70m.
Gevaert vs. Williams in the 100m
An interesting confrontation in the women's 100m will be the clash between doule European sprint champion Kim Gevaert (Bel), World indoor 60m champion Angela Williams (USA), Jeanette Kwakye (GBr) and Susanthika Jayasinghe (Sri Lanka).
Maryam Jamal of Bahrain, the World 1500m champion, is the favourite on the 800 metres.
Solid women’s 5000m field as well
A very interesting field is assembled in the women’s 5000m with the Ethiopian trio of Gelete Burka, Meselech Melkamu, and Mestewat Tufa, along with Prisca Jepleting Cherono (Ken) and Kara Goucher (USA).
Susanna Kallur and Lolo Jones will clash in the 100 metres hurdles.
European champion Tia Hellebaut of Belgium is the favouite in the High Jump. Interesting is also the Shot Put with Nadine Kleinert and Petra Lammert of Germany.
Wim van Hemert for the IAAF