01 MAY 2014 Preview Kingston, Jamaica

All eyes on Fraser-Pryce at IAAF World Challenge meeting in Kingston

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce wins at the 2013 Jamaica International Invitational meeting in Kingston (Anthony Foster)Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce wins at the 2013 Jamaica International Invitational meeting in Kingston (Anthony Foster) © Copyright

The 100m clashes, with multiple world and Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce against the talented Blessing Okagbare and the Jamaican pair of Nesta Carter and Warren Weir versus US sprinter Justin Gatlin, will highlight the Jamaica International Invitational, an IAAF World Challenge Meeting, on Saturday (3).

Much of the attention is focused on the diminutive powerhouse Fraser-Pryce, who is having her first serious outdoor outing of the year – not counting the special 60m she ran in Kingston back in February – after a super-successful indoor season which culminated in her winning the 60m title at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in March in a world-leading time of 6.98. 

Inevitably, her continued success at the highest level means that Fraser-Pryce is running with a metaphorical target on her back.

"Jamaica is a country of champions," said Okagbare, one of Fraser-Pryce's regular rivals on the international circuit. "Everyone knows about their prowess and their enviable successes on the track, but I'm determined to compete on the big stage and prove myself."

The US-based Nigerian laid down the gauntlet and added that she believes Fraser-Pryce is beatable on her home soil, despite the fact that the statistics point to the Jamaican being the heavy favourite.

In addition to Fraser-Pryce’s plethora of medals from major championships, including winning three golds at last summer’s IAAF World Championships in Moscow, the 100m head-to-head record between the pair is 12-3, Okagbare’s last win coming at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London just before Moscow 2013.

Adding competitiveness to the 100m field will be Jamaica’s Kerron Stewart, and two quick US sprinters, English Gardner and Alexandria Anderson, the latter pair finishing first and second in the 2013 US Championships and both running well under 11 seconds last season.

Weir aiming to dampen US sprinters' ambitions

In the men’s 100m, Kemar Bailey-Cole and Walter Dix will be added to the field to face Gatlin, Carter and the world and Olympic 200m silver medallist Weir, who has indicated he intends to run more 100m races in the future.

"I will be in Jamaica and I am just really looking forward to getting things going there," said world 100m silver medallist Gatlin ahead of his first solo outing over 100m this year.

The men's and women’s 400m races are the night’s other hot events.

Jamaica’s Stephenie McPherson, who won in Kingston 12 months ago, will try to upstage USA’s Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross and world indoor champion Francena McCorory.

"I am very excited to come back to Jamaica," said Richards-Ross recently. "It's going to be my first meet and I am looking forward to competing. I'm not sure where I will be at that point but I'm hoping to have a great showing there to prepare myself for the remainder of the season and the 2015, 2016 seasons."

Jamaica’s rising quarter miler Javere Bell and his comaptriots will be hoping to match strides with Olympic bronze medallist Luguelin Santos of Dominican Republic and the USA’s world champion LaShawn Merritt over one lap of the National Stadium.

The women’s 200m will feature Jamaica’s Anneisha McLaughlin against US sprinters Kimberlyn Duncan and Jeneba Tarmoh.

Jamaica's Olympic 110m hurdles bronze medallist Hansle Parchment, who opened with a world-leading run of 13.14 at the Drake Relays in the USA last Saturday, faces world silver medallist Ryan Wilson and world indoor champion Omo Osaghae, as well as another local man, Andrew Riley. 

The field events will have some interesting battles of its own, especially the men's shot put, which will feature USA's top throwers in Reese Hoffa and Christian Cantwell, world champions in 2007 and 2009 respectively, along with two-time world indoor champion Ryan Whiting.

They will take on locals Odayne Richards and Raymond Brown, who were both members of Jamaica’s World Championships team in 2013.

The women’s discus will have USA's Gia Lewis Smallwood and Whitney Ashley while their countrymen Will Claye and Michael Hartfield will be the top names in the men’s long jump.

“We anticipate a good turn out from the crowd and good performances from the athletes, which we hope will include world-leading times,” said meeting director and sprint legend Don Quarrie.

“The sprinting events are our major events, which everyone anticipates, but there are other major events. The shot put is filled with talents, which shows we are hosting field eventers in Jamaica,” he added.

Anthony Foster for the IAAF