At the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene, which opens with a handful of events on 30 May and continues with the main programme on 31 May, all eyes will be on the men’s 800m, specifically for the return of world record-holder and Olympic champion David Rudisha.
The Kenyan, who missed most of the 2013 season and the Diamond League season opener in Doha with a knee injury, will be making his Prefontaine Classic debut and is looking to confirm his fitness against a loaded field.
He will be up against Ethiopia's Mohammed Aman, who won gold in Rudisha's absence at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Botswana’s Nijel Amos, the 2012 Olympic silver medallist and world junior record-holder at 1:41.73, Abubaker Kaki of Sudan, who has beaten Rudisha five times in 13 meetings, world leader Duane Solomon, who could be looking to challenge the US record of 1:42.60, and two-time European indoor champion Adam Kszczot.
The 800m is the penultimate event on the programme and will be followed by the meeting’s signature event, the Bowerman Mile. This year’s field boasts a stunning collection of talent and is led by world champion Asbel Kiprop. The Kenyan has broken 3:50 in the mile five times in Eugene and is the current 1500m world leader with his 3:29.18 clocking in Doha.
He will oppose Kenya’s Silas Kiplagat, who beat Kiprop by 0.05 to win last year’s race, world indoor champion Ayanieh Souleiman, Ethiopian 1500m record-holder Aman Wote, 2012 world indoor bronze medallist Mekonnen Gebremedhin, world bronze medallist Johan Cronje, two-time world silver medallist Matthew Centrowitz and European champion Henrik Ingebrigtsen.
But the Bowerman Mile has some competition in the most-loaded-middle-distance-event category at this year's Pre Classic as the women's 1500m will trot out its deepest field of talent ever.
Leading the way will be 23-year-old Swede Abeba Aregawi, the world champion indoors and out. Aregawi won the 2013 Diamond Trophy and her personal best of 3:56.54 is the fastest in the field.
Kenya’s world junior champion Faith Kipyegon is not far behind with a PB of 3:56.98. Compatriot Hellen Obiri, who powered Kenya to a world record in the 4x1500m at the IAAF World Relays last weekend, is the defending champion, having won last year's title in a US all-comers record of 3:58.58.
World 800m champion Eunice Sum and 2008 Olympic 1500m champion Nancy Langat are Kenya's other entrants, while the US fans will have plenty to cheer in the presence of 2011 world champion Jenny Simpson, world 800m bronze medallist Brenda Martinez, and five-time national champion Treniere Moser.
It’s going to be young talent versus veteran ability in the men’s 5000m, which boasts nine runners with PBs faster than 13 minutes.
The fastest in the group is world silver medallist Hagos Gebrhiwet of Ethiopia, who ran a world junior record of 12:47.53 last year. He will be challenged by world junior champion Muktar Edris, world bronze medallist Isiah Koech, and Albert Rop of Bahrain, whose 12:51.96 ranks behind only Gebrhiwet and Koech on the world all-time junior list.
Yenew Alamirew took the Diamond Race lead with his 5000m victory in Shanghai and will look to add to his points total here. The older class is led by USA’s 39-year-old Bernard Lagat, who is seeking his first 5000m win at the Pre Classic, and defending Pre Classic champion Edwin Soi.
Loaded field events
The women’s high jump looks set to be another competitive event. Headlining the field will be Olympic champion Anna Chicherova and world champion Svetlana Shkolina, whose last defeat was in August 2012.
Co-holders of the current world indoor title, Mariya Kuchina and Kamila Licwinko, are also in the field, as are world silver medallist Brigetta Barrett, European bronze medallist Irina Gordeeva, world junior champion Alessia Trost and Diamond Race leader Ana Simic of Croatia.
Once again, the world’s leading pole vaulters will find themselves looking up to world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie. The four-time Diamond Race winner’s primary competition figures to come from world champion Raphael Holzdeppe, world indoor champion Konstadinos Filippidis, two-time world indoor silver medallist Malte Mohr, world indoor bronze medallist Jan Kudlicka and 2007 world champion Brad Walker, who set his US record of 6.04m in Eugene.
The women's discus will feature one of the sport's most dominant figures in the form of Croatia's Sandra Perkovic will look to build upon her world-leading 70.52m victory at the Diamond League meeting in Shanghai.
Among the women looking to knock Perkovic from her perch will be 2011 world silver medallist Nadine Muller, who has thrown 67.30m this year, and fellow German Julia Fischer, who has improved to 66.46m this year. The top US contender is Gia Lewis-Smallwood, the only woman in the world to defeat Perkovic last year.
The men’s shot will once again be a US vs the world affair. Former world champion Christian Cantwell is back in form after a lengthy recovery from shoulder surgery and is undefeated this year. Two-time world indoor champion Ryan Whiting, 2007 world champion Reese Hoffa and Joe Kovacs round out the US contingent.
Two-time Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski and back-to-back world champion David Storl are the two internationals capable of challenging for the win.
More than just the distance events
While the Pre Classic has earned its reputation as a distance runner’s meeting, in recent years it has also become ground for spectacular hurdles showdowns, and this year should be no different.
World champion David Oliver, twice a winner at Pre, will take on Olympic champion and world record-holder Aries Merritt, 2011 world champion Jason Richardson and world silver medallist Ryan Wilson. Decathlon world record-holder Ashton Eaton and world indoor champion Omo Osaghae are also in the field.
World and Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce hasn’t raced against Olympic 200m champion Allyson Felix since last year’s World Championships 200m final when Felix pulled up injured. Their only other encounter of 2013 was over 100m at the Pre Classic.
This year they will meet over 200m and will be joined by Murielle Ahoure and Blessing Okagbare, the world silver and bronze medallist respectively, as well as US champion Kimberlyn Duncan and world finalist English Gardner.
In the men’s 100m, world leader Justin Gatlin will oppose world bronze medallist Nesta Carter, former US champion Mike Rodgers and world finalist Nickel Ashmeade. Jimmy Vicaut and Simon Magakwe, both of whom have run sub-10-seconds this year, could also pose a stiff challenge.
The field for the women's 400m features a confluence of familiar faces and championship medallists, including Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross, world indoor champion Francena McCorory and 2011 world champion Amantle Montsho. Jamaican duo Novlene Williams-Mills and Stephenie Ann McPherson are both in great form and could challenge for the victory.
One of the most accomplished athletes in the world will headline the women’s long jump. USA’s Brittney Reese, winner of six consecutive global titles indoors and outdoors between 2009 and 2013, will take on world indoor champion Eloyse Lesueur, Olympic bronze medallist Janay DeLoach Soukup and two-time European indoor champion Darya Klishina.
With current Diamond Race leader Kemi Adekoya absent from the 400m hurdles in Eugene, Jamaica’s Kaliese Spencer could move into the overall lead with a victory here. But a trio of strong US women – including 2011 world champion Lashinda Demus, Olympic finalist Georganne Moline and NCAA champion Kori Carter – will be looking to score valuable points too.
Elsewhere, world champion Vitezslav Vesely will take on two-time Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen and reigning Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott in the javelin. Olympic champion Christian Taylor will face world indoor champion Lyukman Adams and world silver medallist Pedro Pablo Pichardo in the triple jump. And world champion Milcah Chemos will be up against world silver medallist Lidya Chepkurui, Olympic silver medallist Habiba Ghribi and world leader Emma Coburn in the 3000m steeplechase.
Record attempts in non-Diamond-Race events
On Friday night, the eve of the main competition, all eyes will be on Olympic silver medallist Galen Rupp as he looks to challenge his own US record of 26:48.00 in the 10,000m. But winning won’t be a cakewalk as he faces five other sub-27-minute runners, including world bronze medallist Paul Tanui and world junior champion Yigrem Demelash.
For the first time in the meeting’s history, there will be a women’s two-mile race. In an ideal race, both the US all-comers’ record (9:10.47) and even the world record (8:58.58) could be under threat, with the likes of world silver medallist Mercy Cherono and Olympic silver medallist Sally Kipyego in the field.
Although not part of the Diamond Race in Eugene, the men’s 400m boasts one of the strongest fields. World champion LaShawn Merritt will be up against Olympic champion Kirani James in what will be their first clash of 2014.
Joe Battaglia for the IAAF