17 MAY 2011 General News

Plenty of star power on tap for Rabat - IAAF World Challenge

Amine Laalou of Morocco wins the 1500m for Team Africa in Split (Getty Images)Amine Laalou of Morocco wins the 1500m for Team Africa in Split (Getty Images) © Copyright

Asafa Powell and Blanka Vlasic will be among the international stars to join local headliners at the Meeting International Mohammed VI d'Athlétisme in Rabat, Morocco, on 5 June.


Powell, who opened his Samsung Diamond League season with a 9.95 victory in Shanghai on Sunday, will headline the 100m field at this IAAF World Challenge meeting as well where he's expected to face his Jamaican teammate Michael Frater.


Like Powell, 2010 World Athlete of the Year Vlasic got her Samsung Diamond League season off with a victory in Shanghai. In Rabat, she'll take on 2004 Olympic champion Yelena Slesarenko of Russia, who's gradually returning to form after some injury problems in recent years.


Local middle distance talent on show


Morocco's traditional strength lies in the middle and long distance events, and many of the country's current roster of standouts will take centre stage at the nation's premiere annual athletics event. Local favorite Amine Laalou, the 2010 IAAF/VTB Bank 1500m winner with 3:29.53 credentials, will contest the 1000m where he'll face Poland's Marcin Lewandowski, the European champion at 800m.


The 1500m will feature a battle between Abdelaati Iguider, a two-time winner of the event here, and Kenyan's William Tanui and Geoffrey Rono.


On the women's side, Moroccans Hasna Benhassi, a multiple World and Olympic medallist at 800m, and Halima Hachlaf will take on Dutchwoman Yvonne Hak and Briton Jeanny Meadows, the silver and bronze medallists from last year's European championships. In the 1500m, 2008 Olympic finalist and sub-4:00 ace Btissam Lakhouad will face young Ethiopians Abeba Arigawe and Genzebe Dibaba.


Elsewhere on the infield, local long jumping star Yahya Berrabah returns to the scene of his 8.38m national record. In the men's Discus Throw, Omar El Ghazali of Egypt will face Erik Cadee of The Netherlands, while Cuba's former World and Olympic champion Olisdeilys Menendez will headline the field in the women's Javelin Throw.


Other top names include Panama's Alonzo Edward, the 200m World silver medallist in 2009; Richard Mateelong of Kenya in the 3000m Steeplechase; Uganda's Moses Kipsiro in the 5000m; Kenyans Iness Chennonge and Sylvia Kibet and Ethiopian Wude Ayalew in the women's 3000m; and Jana Pittman-Rawlinson of Australia, the 2003 and 2007 World champion in the 400m Hurdles, who is waging a strong comeback after several years of injury.


Bob Ramsak for the IAAF