01 JUN 2012 Preview Eugene, USA

Stacked fields of talent await Eugene’s Hayward Field - PREVIEW - Samsung Diamond League

Carmelita Jeter - 10.70 in Eugene 2011 (Kirby Lee)Carmelita Jeter - 10.70 in Eugene 2011 (Kirby Lee) © Copyright
Meeting Director Tom Jordan obviously subscribed to the mantra 'something for everyone’ when compiling this year’s Prefontaine Classic - Samsung Diamond League meeting in Eugene, Oregon this weekend (1 / 2 June).

So deep are the fields in every event that the expected 12,000 spectators won’t want to visit the concession stands for fear of missing any of the action. But it is the distance events which honour the memory of the late Steve Prefontaine who died in a car crash in 1975 which particularly standout.

Among Jordan’s many advocates is American 1500m/5000m record holder, Bernard Lagat, who will line up in the Bowerman Mile on Saturday (2). The 37-year-old Kenyan born runner is delighted that Athletics Kenya is holding their national Olympic 10,000m trials on Friday night (1) at Hayward Field. And, Jordan has been able to attract many other East African stars to this year’s competition.

"I think first of all Eugene is a great city," Lagat declares. "A lot of people realise this. All these Kenyans want to run here because this is not an ordinary meet. This meet has a big history and people get to understand right away. They want to come back."

"The Mile is going to be stacked, I am going to be part of it and I am looking forward to it. I don’t think I have been in a race like this for a while. l don’t know how I will perform as I am a 5000m runner running against milers.

"My training has been going well. I did some good training in Flagstaff from April to the first week of May. Last Sunday I ran a 2000m time trial in under 5 minutes. I got help from my training partners. That’s a good indication my strength is there. I am not so sure about speed yet. I will run as hard as possible. I will run tough."

Asbel Kiprop, the reigning World and Olympic champion, and Silas Kiplagat, the 2011 World silver medalist, lead the field. Both have run under 3:30 already this season for 1500m.

Farah returns to his record venue

Another of Kenya’s finest, Augustine Choge, who took home the 3000m silver medal from the 2012 World Indoor Championships, has been Lagat’s house guest since the Samsung Diamond League meeting in Shanghai (19 May). He wanted to adapt to the Pacific Coast time zone. On Saturday he will face a 5000m field of incredible proportion.

Mo Farah is the reigning World champion at the distance. Last year in this meeting he led nine men under 27 minutes with his European 10,000m record of 26:46.57. This year he tackles not only the very dangerous Choge but the reigning Olympic champion and world record holder Kenenisa Bekele.

Bekele made his way to Eugene by way of an arduous journey from Addis, with stops in Frankfurt and San Francisco and was visibly tired when he arrived at his hotel. Folks are wondering if he is ready to face such stiff opposition in his battle to regain his old form.

Farah, on the other hand, might well be in the best shape of his life having run 1500m in 3:34.66 and 5000m in 13:12.87 all in the space of ninety minutes at the Oxy Meet in California. Last Sunday (27 May) he won the London 10km in a jog (29:21) on a two day whirlwind trip home to London. Two years ago he moved to Portland to train with coach Alberto Salazar so Hayward Field is a comfortable distance from his new home.

Masai vs Kipyego

The distance running on schedule continues with Linet Masai and Sally Kipyego the favourites in the women’s 3000m. The latter took the silver medal at the 2012 World Championships 10,000m behind Vivian Cheruiyot. She has already run 14:43.11 for the 5000m all alone at the Payton Jordan Invitational. Meanwhile Masai the 2009 World 10,000m champion is a seasoned competitor with a personal best at 3000m of 8:38.97.

World champions Murer and Chicherova ready for take-off

The women's vertical jumps are likely to provide spectators with some excellent performances. American Pole Vault record holder Jennifer Suhr, the Beijing Olympic silver medallist, takes on 2011 World champion Fabiana Murer of Brazil, as well as the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Svetlana Feofanova. Poland’s Anna Rogowska, the 2009 World champion, is another legitimate contender.

Defending World champion Anna Chicherova, who cleared a marvellous 2.07m last season leads a fine women's High Jump field. She faces Chaunte Lowe of the U.S. and Germany’s Ariane Friedrich. The latter was 3rd in the 2009 World Championships while Lowe won the 2012 World Indoor championships. Both have a personal best of 2.05m.

Loaded sprint hurdles

With the past two Olympic champions Dayron Robles 2008 – a doubtful starter due to visa problems - and Liu Xiang 2004 as well as Jason Richardson, who surprisingly won the 2011 World championships, the men’s 110m Hurdles is another loaded event. Each of them will have to be at their best to hold off Aries Merritt, the cousin of LaShawn Merritt, and David Oliver.

Kaki promises much

Although the World record holder David Rudisha is absent the men's 800m is, nevertheless, stacked. The winner is likely to draw a large measure of confidence going into the London Olympics from overcoming this incredible field. Mohamed Aman (Ethiopia), who handed Rudisha his only defeat of 2011, the 2004 Olympic champion Yuriy Borzakovski of Russia and 2009 World champion, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi of South Africa, are all confirmed, plus last year's Pre classic winner, Abubaker Kaki of the Sudan. Kaki struck silver last year in Daegu and has two world indoor titles to his credit.

"Training is going well," says Kaki who has spent the last two weeks training at the Nike centre in Portland. "This year I am o.k. I am prepared. Everything is good. If I feel good I can run 1:43 or 1:42 fast. I feel good.

"This year there has been a big difference in my training. I went to Kenya and this was the first time I have been to Kenya. It was very nice for training."

While all these athletes will earn the crowd’s praise it is Nick Symmonds of the U.S. who will draw the most support. The perennial American champion runs for the Oregon Track Club.

Home World champion Simpson to star

Several women entered in the 1500m are chasing Olympic standards. That could make things very interesting in this race. Jenny Simpson was the surprise 1500m winner in the 2011 World Championships and has proven experience plus a personal best of 3:59.90. Shannon Rowbury who has a 4:05.90 so far in 2012 and Britain’s Jemma Simpson will make it a race.

Canadian athletics officials will be watching how NCAA cross country champion Sheila Reid performs. A year ago she also achieved the 1,500m/5000m double at the NCAA championships.

Chemos, the favourite

A glance at the world lists gives an indication of how the women’s 3000m Steeplechase is progressing. If the conditions are right we may well see a time close to 9 minutes on the Hayward Field track. The five fastest women of 2012 will all line up to do battle.

Milcah Chemos of Kenya leads the world with her 9:15.81 set in winning the Shanghai Diamond League meeting. She was the bronze medallist in this event in both the 2009 and 2011 World championships. Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa was not far behind Chemos in Shanghai finishing in 9:16.83. Chemos’s teammate Lydia Chepkurui has little international experience but having run 9:22.66 in Shanghai something about her says she could surprise

Felix vs Jeter at 200m

Former three-time World 200m champion Allyson Felix contests her first 200m of the season against fellow American Carmelita Jeter the 2011 World 100m champion. This matchup is sure to be another nail biter as Felix ran a personal best 100m in Doha (10.92 seconds), while Jeter ran a world leading 10.81 seconds in Kingston.

Although Felix hasn’t decided on whether she will double at the US Olympic trials - she was a silver medalist over 400m at last year’s world championships - the 200m at which she took bronze in Daegu behind Jeter, and gold medallist Veronica Campbell-Brown is definitely her main event. No doubt she will be keeping an eye on the results of the women’s 400m here.

Williams-Mills, the main threat to Montsho?

The 26-year-old who trains under veteran coach Bobby Kersee was beaten over 400m in Daegu last year by Botswana’s pride and joy, Amantle Montsho, who is back to defend her women’s 400m meet title in Eugene.

The American trio of Sanya Richards-Ross, Natasha Hastings and Dee Dee Trotter will make this a race one to remember. But it’s Novlene Williams-Mills (Jamaica) who leads the world list with 49.99 seconds.

Dix at the double

Usain Bolt may well be focused on the European meetings at this point but the men’s sprint events in Eugene will be tremendous as well. Justin Gatlin, who has a 9.87 seconds clocking over the 100m distance to his credit, will face his American compatriot Walter Dix as well as Nesta Carter of Jamaica.

Dix it bears mentioning, claimed the silver medal behind Yohan Blake at the 2011 world championships and was the Olympic bronze medalist in Beijing. So easily forgotten were those who finished in Bolt’s wake. He is also entered in the 200m where he will face Wallace Spearmon, Shawn Crawford and Norwegian Jaysuma Saidy Ndure. Dix has a personal best in the distance of 19.53 seconds.

Merritt leads the world

The men’s 400m features the gold and silver medalists from the 2011 World Championships. LaShawn Merritt leads the world with 44.19 seconds but the man who defeated him in Daegu, Grenada’s Kirani James is also running as well as ever. Not to be forgotten is a healthy Jeremy Wariner. Up until two years ago he was the dominant 400m on the planet. With a 44.96 early season performance can he challenge these other two?

Armstrong takes on the very best

Last year’s Samsung Diamond League winner in the Shot Put, Dylan Armstrong of Canada, was the winner in Hengelo last weekend with 21.44m his season’s best, and will be challenged by a strong field including America’s Reese Hoffa the world leader with 21.73m and Christian Cantwell the 2009 World champion, and Poland’s Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski. Armstrong’s training partner Justin Rodhe, has also thrown a personal best of 21.11m and without pressure might enjoys himself with the big boys.

Veselý and Brown-Trafton on form

In the Javelin Throw, the standout name of the season so far is Czech Vítezslav Veselý, who has already won in Shanghai and Ostrava beating the top echelons of the event and on current form is the firm favourite, even with Germany’s reigning World champion Matthias De Zordo in the field. Early world season leader the New Zealander Stuart Farquhar with 86.31m to his name is also to watch.

USA’s Olympic Discus champion Stephanie Brown-Trafton is currently in the form of her life with a PB of 67.74 to her credit this year already. Yarelis Barrios, who was second behind her at the Beijing Olympics, has thrown further this year (68.03) and with her Cuban counterpart Denia Caballero (65.60) will challenge hard.** However, its perhaps Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic, the winner in Shanghai with 68.24, who starts as marginal favourite.

Idowu takes on Taylor once more; Reese already over 7m this year

The men’s Triple Jump features 23-year-old Osviel Hernandez (Cuba)** who has already leapt 17.49m this year who takes on Britain’s Philips Idowu, the 2009 World champion, who was the victor in difficult conditions in Shanghai, USA’s Christian Taylor the 2011 World Champion. Will Claye, who was bronze medallist behind the latter two in Daegu, is also in the field.

Since winning the 2009 World Championships in the women’s Long Jump Brittney Reese of the USA has won two World Indoor titles as well as successfully defending her outdoor crown last year in Daegu. She leads the world lists with 7.12m but cleared 7.23m to win the World Indoors in Istanbul this past March.

Reese can expect the defending Olympic champion Maurren Maggi of Brazil to be ready this time out. Of course Janay DeLoach silver medalist in Istanbul bears watching. She has reached 6.79m outdoors this year, and won in Shanghai.

Once again, if the weather cooperates, America’s finest athletics fans will be treated to a display of world class competition. There is indeed, something for everyone.

Paul Gains for the IAAF

NOTE - as with their compatriot Robles, visa problems for the Cuban squad make them doubtful starters in Eugene