05 JUN 2009 Preview

Beijing gold medallists galore at Prefontaine Classic - Preview

LaShawn Merritt won the 300m in the Road to Eugene '08 Meet (Kirby Lee/Image of Sport)LaShawn Merritt won the 300m in the Road to Eugene '08 Meet (Kirby Lee/Image of Sport) © Copyright

Eugene, USAReigning Olympic champions Angelo Taylor, Dawn Harper, LaShawn Merritt, Pamela Jelimo (KEN) and Shelly Ann-Fraser (JAM) are among a plethora of gold medallists that will compete in the 35th Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field on Sunday (7 June).

Andrey Silnov (RUS), Irving Saladino (PAN), Nancy Lagat (KEN), Tomasz Majewski (POL) and Oksana Menkova (BLR) are other Beijing winners in the Grand Prix status meeting that is part of the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Tour.

In all, 34 Beijing Olympians are on the start list at Prefontaine which was named after legendary American distance runner Steve Prefontaine, who was killed in an automobile accident at age 24 in 1977.

It is the fifth and final stop on the USATF VISA Championships Series before the national championships on 25-28 June that will be held at Hayward Field to determine the U.S. team for the IAAF World Championships in Berlin.

Merritt drops down to 300m
    
LaShawn Merritt, who set the American and Hayward Field 300m record of 31.31 in 2006, will try to take down the meet record of 32.19 set in 1994. The Olympic 400m champion is part of a field that features David Neville, the Beijing bronze medallist in the 400m, 300m Indoor World best holder Wallace Spearmon and Xavier Carter.

There will be two sections of the 100m. Former World record holder Asafa Powell (JAM) and Richard Thompson (TRI), Walter Dix and Churandy Martina (AHO), who finished second, third and fourth in the 2008 Olympics are in one race.

The other 100m race includes Nesta Carter and Michael Frater, who teamed on Jamaica’s World record-setting 4x100m relay in Beijing, and 2004 Olympic 200m champion Shawn Crawford.

The women’s 100m will bring together reigning Olympic champion Shelly Ann-Fraser and compatriot and 2009 World leader Kerron Stewart. Lauryn Williams, the 2005 World champion, and U.S. leader Carmelita Jeter are also in the field.

In the women’s 400m, Shericka Williams (JAM) and Sanya Richards, who finished second and third in Beijing, and Novlene Williams are the ones to watch.

Jelimo and Jepkosgei duel in the women’s 800m

Pamela Jelimo and Janeth Jepkosgei, who led a Kenyan 1-2 finish in the women’s 800m in Beijing, will duel at Pre.

Jelimo, the 2008 IAAF Golden League Jackpot winner, ran 1:54.01 last season and ran 11 times under the Prefontaine meet record of 1:57.57 set in 1997 by Maria Mutola, who ran to 17 straight Pre Classic wins before retiring last year.  Kenia Sinclair (JAM) ran 1:59.66 at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York City last Saturday (30 May).

In the men’s 800m, Ahmad Ismail (SUD) and Alfred Yego (KEN) are the 2008 Olympic silver and bronze medallists. Yego set the meet and Hayward Field record of 1:44.01 at the 2008 Prefontaine Classic.

The race also includes 2004 Olympic champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy (RUS), Gary Reed (CAN), Amine Laalou (MOR) and U.S. Olympian Nick Symmonds, who lives and trains in Eugene.

Nancy Lagat (KEN) finished second in the women’s 1500m in the 2008 Prefontaine Classic as a springboard to her win in the Beijing. Meet record holder Gelete Burka (ETH) and Shannon Rowbury, who finished seventh in the 2008 Olympics for the highest finish by an American woman, will also be in the field.

The meet finale, the Bowerman Mile, has five men who have run under 3:50 with Alan Webb, Kenyans Haron Keitany, Asbel Kiprop and Shedrack Korir and Belal Mansoor (BHR).

US soil bests in distances in jeopardy?

The American soil records in the 3000m and Steeplechase and the women’s 2000m could be challenged at Pre.

In the 3000m, Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) will be attempting to lower his US soil best of 7:35.44 set in the 2005 Prefontaine Classic. Bernard Lagat, the 2007 World 1500m and 5000m champion; 2008 Olympic silver 10,000m medallist Sileshi Sihine (ETH) and Steeplechase World record holder Saif Shaheen (QAT) are also in the field.

In the Steeplechase, Paul Koech (KEN) , who set both the Prefontaine and Hayward Field records of 8:08.08 in 2007, will be chasing the US soil best of 8:04.51 run by Brahim Boulami (MAR) in nearby Portland. Beijing Olympians Josh Adams and Billy Nelson are the top US entrants.

In the women’s 2000m, Osaka 1500m World champion Maryam Jamal (BAH) will be chasing the US soil record of 5:32.7 set by Mary Decker at Hayward Field in 1984.

Jamal will be chased by Kenyans Vivian Cheriuyot, Linet Masai and Sally Kipyego. 2007 World 10,000m bronze medallist Kara Goucher and Jen Rhines are the top American entrants.

Gold medallists Taylor and Harper lead Hurdles

The men’s 400m Hurdles and women’s 100m Hurdles will feature Olympic gold medallists Angelo Taylor and Dawn Harper.

The 400m Hurdles will feature 2000 and 2008 Olympic champion Taylor along with Kerron Clement and Bershawn Jackson who swept the top three places in Beijing. Isa Phillips (JAM), the yearly World leader at 48.36, is also in the race.

The women’s 100m Hurdles will feature Harper as well as the last World champions in the event with Harper’s training partner Michelle Perry (2005 and 2007) and Canada’s Perdita Felicien (2003).

Beijing bronze medallist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, Brigitte Foster-Hylton (JAM), Damu Cherry and Ginnie Powell round out the field.

Silnov and Saladino headline jumps

The men’s High Jump will feature the 2008 Olympic gold, silver and bronze medallists with Andrey Silnov (RUS), Germiane Mason (GBR) and Yaroslav Rabokov (RUS) with defending World champion Donald Thomas (BAH) and Americans Andra Manson and Jesse Williams and Ivan Ukhov (RUS), who rank first second and third on the yearly world list.

The men’s and women’s Long Jump will pit the top two jumpers in the World this season.
The men’s field features 2008 Olympic champion Irving Saladino (PAN) against Dwight Phillips, the 2004 Olympic and 2003 and 2005 World champion. Saladino and Phillips have sailed 8.56m and 8.54m, respectively, in 2009.

In the women’s Long Jump Brittney Reese has the top two jumps in the World this season at 7.06m and 6.99m while compatriot Funmi Jimoh has sailed 6.96m for the No. 3 mark. Beijing Olympic Heptathlon silver medallist Hyleas Fountain may also be a factor.

In the men’s Pole Vault, Beijing Olympic silver medallist Yevgeniy Lukyanenko will be challenged by Derek Miles, who finished fourth in the 2008 Olympics, 2007 Prefontaine champion Giovanni Lanaro (MEX), Alhaji Jeng (SWE) and Daichi Sawano (JAP) complete the field.

Majewski, Brown-Trafton and Menkova in the throws
 
The throws at Prefontaine will be highlighted by Beijing gold medallists Tomasz Majewski (POL) in the Shot Put, Stephanie Brown-Trafton in the women’s Discus and Oksana Menkova (BEL) in the women’s Hammer.

The Shot Put will reunite the top three finishers from Beijing with Majewski, Christian Cantwell and Andrey Mikhnevich (BEL). The three will be challenged by 2007 World champion Reese Hoffa and 2000 and 2004 Olympic silver medallist Adam Nelson.

In the women’s Discus, Brown-Trafton, the first US Olympic champion since 1932, will throw against US Olympic Trials champion Aretha Thurmond and US record holder Suzy Powell.

Along with Menkova in the women’s Hammer, there is 2008 bronze medallist Wenxiu Zhang (CHN), Darya Pchelnik (BLR), Betty Heidler (GER) and US Olympic Trials champion Jessica Cosby.

Kirby Lee for the IAAF

Click here for Start Lists