23 MAY 2013 Preview New York, USA

Rudisha out to repeat, Richards-Ross and Vlasic return in New York – PREVIEW – IAAF Diamond League

David Rudisha, unstoppable in New York (Victah Sailer)David Rudisha, unstoppable in New York (Victah Sailer) © Copyright

The 2013 IAAF Diamond League will make its third stop of the season at the adidas Grand Prix at Icahn Stadium, where dozens of Olympic and World Championships medallists will take to the renovated track in search of points towards the season-long Diamond Race as well as qualifying marks for this summer’s IAAF World Championships.

In what is perhaps the showcase event of the meeting, five of the top seven finishers from last year’s Olympic Pole Vault final will compete in the second Diamond League competition of 2013. The headliner will be USA’s Jenn Suhr, the Olympic champion and World indoor record-holder, who set a season’s best of 4.80m in Michigan earlier this month.

Suhr’s principle opposition looks to come from Cuba’s Yarisley Silva, the Olympic silver medallist who cleared a world-leading 4.85m to beat Suhr at the Drake Relays last month. Not to be discounted are World champion Fabiana Murer of Brazil, who will be making her 2013 season debut, European champion Jirina Svobodova, and European indoor champion Holly Bleasdale of Great Britain.

By his lofty standards, David Rudisha did not wow anyone with his recent victory in Doha. With no one in the field for New York possessing a time this year within one second of his 1:43.87 from Doha, it appears the Olympic champion will once again be racing the clock, as he did at this meeting last year when he ran 1:41.74 to win by three seconds.

The field includes Kenya’s Timothy Kitum who won Olympic bronze in 1:42.53 last year, but the 18-year-old finished last in Doha in 1:46.54. South Africa’s Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, the 2009 World champion and 2004 Olympic silver medallist, will make his return after a 2012 season curtailed by injury.

Perkovic, Reese and Whiting look to repeat Doha victories

If the Diamond League season opener in Doha is any indication, the women’s Discus could be a one-woman show all summer. Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic of Croatia was thoroughly dominant in her first competition of 2013, throwing a world-leading 68.23m.

World and Olympic champion Brittney Reese has set her sights on the American Long Jump record of 7.49m set here in New York in 1994 by Heptathlon great Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Reese took a step towards that goal in Doha, where she set a PB and world-leading 7.25m.

While it may seem a foregone conclusion that Reese will extend her lead in the Diamond Race standings, she faces a formidable field. Heading that group will be World silver medallist Olga Kucherenko of Russia, who jumped 7.00m indoors in January. The US tandem of Janay DeLoach Soukup and Funmi Jimoh should never be discounted as both were close to seven metres in Doha. And there is Great Britain’s Shara Proctor, the World indoor bronze medallist, who opened with 6.82m in Doha.

The battle for the Diamond League’s lord of the ring honours shifts to New York after a rousing start in Doha, where USA’s World indoor champion Ryan Whiting set a PB of 22.28m, making him the 12th-best performer in history.

Whiting will once again be matched against Reese Hoffa, who handed Whiting his only loss of 2013 at the Drake Relays in April. Also in the circle will be Poland’s Tomasz Majewski, winner of the last two Olympic gold medals, 2009 World champion Christian Cantwell and Canadians Dylan Armstrong and Justin Rodhe, both with 21-meter-plus pedigree.

Gay and Richards-Ross return to New York

At this time last year, Tyson Gay wasn’t sure what to expect from his surgically repaired hip. Now Gay returns to a venue where he has always performed well, and this time he appears to be 100% healthy. He ran a world-leading 9.86 to win the 100m in Kingston, and then followed that up a week later with a wind-aided 19.79 in the 200m at a low-key meeting in Florida.

While the two preeminent figures in men’s sprinting – World-record-holder Usain Bolt and World champion Yohan Blake – are both nursing injuries, it will be up to Nesta Carter to carry the torch for Jamaica here. Carter finished third in Doha in 9.99, the fourth-fastest time in the world this year. Gay will also be challenged by his Olympic teammate Ryan Bailey, who will be looking for drastic improvement on his season’s best of 10.18.

The women’s 400m will feature the last two Olympic champions as well as the last three World champions. Headlining will be USA’s Sanya Richards-Ross, the 2009 World champion and 2012 Olympic champion, who will open her season one year after running the fastest 200m time of her career here.

Richards-Ross is coming off surgery in the off-season to correct a right toe problem and will have to be sharp if she is going to beat World champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana, who looked strong when beating Allyson Felix in Doha in 49.88.

Great Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu, the 2007 World champion and 2008 Olympic gold medallist, finished third in Doha in 50.53. Rounding out a field that rivals the depth of a championship final will be Jamaica’s Novlene Williams-Mills and Shericka Williams, and American Francena McCorory.

Taylor and Vlasic hoping for big jumps

World and Olympic Triple Jump champion Christian Taylor competed off a shortened approach in Doha and still managed to win. But his 17.25m is not a measurement likely to satisfy someone who spoke openly about breaking the World record. It’s also not likely going to be a good enough mark here to out-distance the likes of Great Britain’s Phillips Idowu, the 2009 World champion who is making his season debut, Haiti’s Samyr Laine, who jumped 17.36m in April, or France’s Benjamin Compaore, who was runner-up to Taylor in Doha with 17.06m.

Gone are the days when the High Jump was dominated by Croatia’s Blanka Vlasic, who has not competed since September 2011. Vlasic contracted a serious bacterial infection in her left take-off foot after undergoing surgery to shave part of her achilles tendon, a procedure required after a bone fragment in her ankle broke off and embedded into the tendon. This will be her first meeting back, and even she is uncertain of what her future now holds.

In her absence, USA’s Brigetta Barrett has emerged as someone with the physical tools – she is 6ft 4in (1.93m) with unbound athleticism – to challenge Stefka Kostadinova’s World record of 2.09m, a mark Vlasic came tantalizingly close to in 2009. Last summer, Barrett upped her PB to 2.03m in winning Olympic silver in London and has already cleared 1.99m this season, second in the world only to Anna Chicherova’s 2.02m.

Doha distance winners Aregawi, Gebrhiwet and Chepkurui out for another win

The US audience will get its first glimpse at emerging middle-distance star Abeba Aregawi of Sweden in what could be a runaway victory for the 27-year-old. In Doha, she crushed Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba and Faith Kipyegon of Kenya to win in 3:56.60.

Based on PBs, the closest runners to Aregawi in this field are Ibtissam Lakhouad of Morocco (3:59.35), who failed to finish in Doha, and World indoor 3000m champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya (3:59.68). Mary Slaney’s US all-comers’ record of 3:58.92 could be in jeopardy.

The hottest US middle-distance prospect at present is Brenda Martinez, who ran a solo 4:04.86 at Mt SAC, and 1:59.59 for 800m on the non-curbed track in San Diego. Meanwhile, Morgan Uceny is looking to recover from her fall in the Olympic final last summer and 2009 World bronze medallist Shannon Rowbury is after the ‘A’ standard of 4:05.50.

The largely East African field in the men’s 5000m features five athletes with personal bests under 13 minutes. The favourite is perhaps 19-year-old Ethiopian Hagos Gebrhiwet, the World junior record-holder, who destroyed the field in Doha, winning the 3000m with a PB of 7:30.56. His 5000m PB of 12:47.53 is slightly slower than that of countryman Dejen Gebremeskel, who has also looked spectacular in 2013. Olympic silver medallist Gebremeskel, who clocked his PB of 12:46.81 in Paris last year, has run well in New York before, winning in 2011 in 13:05.22 and finishing third in 2009 in 13:03.13.

Top Kenyans in the field include Vincent Chepkok, the 2011 World Cross bronze medallist, and African champion Mark Kiptoo. The race also features the return of Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeilan, who has not completed an international-calibre track race since his surprise 10,000m gold at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu.

Two weeks ago in Doha, Lidya Chepkurui covered the final 1000m of the 3000m Steeplechase in a blistering 2:57.32 to pull off a stunning victory in world-leading 9:13.75, a PB by more than a second. It was such a show of speed that on paper, the only woman who appears capable of giving Chepkurui a run for her money is Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa, who finished a distant second in Doha in 9:14.61.

Campbell-Brown 200m favourite, close finishes expected in Hurdles events

In the women’s 200m all eyes will be on Veronica Campbell-Brown as she prepares to defend her World title this summer in Moscow. The Jamaican opened her season with 23.18 into a headwind in The Bahamas in April, and more recently won the 100m in 11.01 at the Jamaica Invitational.

Her primary competition should come from 2008 Olympic silver medallist Sherone Simpson of Jamaica, who finished third in Kingston in 22.83 and second in Doha in a wind-aided 22.73. The field also includes USA’s Bianca Knight and DeeDee Trotter.

There is potential for a blanket finish in the men’s 400m Hurdles as well as a commanding early lead in the Diamond Race standings. In Doha, USA’s Michael Tinsley took victory in 48.92. Another win would give the Olympic silver medallist a commanding eight points in the standings.

But victory isn’t likely to come easily. Tinsley will find himself matched up with Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson, the two-time World silver medallist, and USA’s Johnny Dutch, who beat Culson in Ponce, running a world-leading 48.02. Also figuring to challenge will be Cornell Fredericks, who ran 48.78 to win the South African title in April, and Omar Cisneros of Cuba, who finished third behind Dutch and Culson in Ponce in 48.92.

The 110m Hurdles field lost its marquee attraction when Olympic champion and World record-holder Aries Merritt was forced to withdraw with a hamstring injury he suffered in Shanghai last weekend, leaving the New York race wide open. Cuba’s Orlando Ortega has the fastest time in the field this season at 13.17 followed by 2009 World champion Ryan Brathwaite of Barbados and USA’s Antwon Hicks at 13.25.

The women’s Javelin will make its 2013 Diamond League debut in New York, which can be a favourable place to throw depending on which way the winds are blowing. Sunette Viljoen of South Africa discovered that last year, when she set a meeting and African record of 69.35m. The 29-year-old is back this year and will look to improve on her season’s best of 61.87m.

The favourite appears to be Russia’s World champion Mariya Abakumova, who threw a world-leading 69.34m in March but struggled earlier this week at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Beijing, where she registered just two legal throws with a best of 60.26m. If those struggles continue, Germany’s two-time World and Olympic medallist Christina Obergfoll (64.53m this season) and Vira Rebryk of Ukraine (64.30m) will vie for the victory.

Joe Battaglia for the IAAF