06 JUL 2012 Preview Madrid, Spain – Newly

K. Borlée, Beitia, Hooker, the standout attractions in Madrid - PREVIEW - IAAF World Challenge

Ruth Beitia wins the European title in Helsinki (Getty Images)Ruth Beitia wins the European title in Helsinki (Getty Images) © Copyright
minted European High Jump champion Ruth Beitia of Spain and Belgian 400m star Kevin Borlée will attract main attention at the 'Meeting de Madrid 2012’, which is part of the IAAF World Challenge, on Saturday (7) at the Moratalaz Municipal Sports Centre. In addition, a star-studded line-up have been assembled in the men’s Long Jump as part of the 16-event programme.

Borlée to confirm top form

Belgium’s reigning World bronze medallist Kevin Borlée should provide one of the main highlights in the men’s 400m. Despite being in the form of his life, as his recent 44:56 national record in Brussels confirmed, the 2010 European champion didn’t defend his title at last week’s European championships in Helsinki. Actually, the Belgian ace only contested the 4x400m event where he anchored his country to the gold medal following an impressive closing leg.

Borlée likely keeps nice memories from the Moratalaz track as he already won here last year in a then career best of 44.74. However, the 24-year-old will face stiff opposition from Britain’s Martyn Rooney, fresh from a narrow win in 45.93 at the British champs in Birmingham. The 2010 European bronze medallist has raced up to three times under the 45s barrier earlier this season. Also Jermaine Gonzales, who came third at the Jamaican championships in Kingston last weekend with a SB of 45.18, will challenge. Holder of an impressive 44.40 time, the 27-year-old current World 4x400m bronze medallist should be eager to dip under 45s for the first time this campaign.

Wide open Long Jump

The Long Jump might well be tipped as a triangular Australia-Great Britain-Spain encounter as each country provides two top specialists in the guise of Australia’s reigning World silver medallist Mitchell Watt (SB of 8.21) and 2010 World indoor champion Fabrice Lapierre (8.09), Britain’s newly-minted National record holder (8.35) Greg Rutherford and Chris Tomlinson (8.01) plus the home pair of Luis Felipe Méliz, fresh from taking silver at last weekend’s European Championships thanks to a 8.21 leap and former European Junior record holder Eusebio Cáceres, who took fifth on that occasion in a SB of 8.06. But all these men could be upstaged by the presence of South Africa’s current Olympic silver medallist Godfrey Mokoena, holder of a 8.29 season’s best.

Another interesting event is the men’s 800m. Spain’s newly-minted European 1500m bronze medallist David Bustos will be in contention alongside his fellow countrymen Kevin López, the reigning European U-23 silver medallist (SB of 1:45.58) and Luis Alberto Marco (1:45.14). However, the fastest entrant this year is Cuba’s Maurys Surel Castillo, (SB of 1:44.89) who is Marco and López’s training mate in Seville while America’s Tyler Mulder (1:45.02 for fifth at the US trials) is another man to watch out.

Will Madrid witness Hooker’s renaissance?

Australia’s reigning Olympic Pole Vault champion Steve Hooker has admitted he lacks confidence due to the knee injury which has prevented him shining the last couple of seasons. Coming barely four weeks prior to the London Olympics, tomorrow’s outing in Madrid should provide a clear hint of Hooker’s current fitness and his chances to defend his Olympic crown. The Aussie, who will turn 30 years of age next 16 July, vaulted a SB of 5.72 indoors in Perth but has only been successful over 5.42 in the outdoor season. Hooker’s main opponent is Cuba’s World silver medallist Lazaro Borges (SB of 5.70).

The Shot Put victory should go to either Russ Winger or Joe Kovacs, both from the US and holder of respective season’s best of 21.08m.

The Hammer Throw entry list for this competition which is part of the season long IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge includes two 80m + throwers this year such as Hungary’s World silver and European gold medallist Krisztián Pars (82.28) and the still only 23-year-old Pawel Fajdek whose 81.39 ranks now third on this year’s world list.

On the shortest events of the evening Cuba’s 20-year-old Orlando Ortega, who set a massive PB of 13.09 in late May is the favourite in the 110m Hurdles ahead of America’s Ryan Wilson (13.20), while Kemar Bailey Cole is the quickest 100m starter after placing fifth at the recent Jamaican trials in a PB of 10.00.

Beitia is the marquee athlete – Women’s events

Spain’s Ruth Beitia finally conquered gold an outdoor major championships last weekend in Helsinki and the 33-year-old jumper should be delighted to perform in front of the home crowd on her first appearance after her European title. Beitia is aiming to improve on her SB of 1.97 while her fiercest rival on paper will be Bulgaria’s Venelina Veneva (1.95).

The 800m is also shaping well with no less than seven women having ducked under the 2:00 barrier this season headed by the Russian pair of Tatyana Markelova (1:58.55) and Svetlana Cherkasova (1:59.03) plus America’s Molly Beckwith (1:59.18), who just missed an Olympic spot when she came fourth at the US trials in Eugene a fortnight ago.

Twice World Indoor 60m hurdles champion Lolo Jones of the USA will be the woman to beat in the 100m Hurdles. Jones is fresh from securing her Olympic berth thanks to a third place in Eugene and targets an improvement on her 12.75 season’s best. Her fellow American Nia Alli (8th at the trials) promises to be her toughest opponent having clocked 12.78 so far this year.

In the infield Cuba’s former (2007 & 2009) World Triple Jump champion Yargelis Savigne is another standout athlete although the 27-year-old is still far from her usual 15m + performances, having reached 14.35 this outdoor season. Ukraine’s Ruslana Tsyhotska (14.53) holds the farthest leap among tomorrow’s entrants.

Weather forecasters predict a very sunny day with a 30º-32ºC temperature by the time of the competition.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF