Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates victory and a new world record in the men's 4x100 metres relay final (Getty Images) © Copyright

Bolt leads cast of five Daegu World champions in Zagreb – PREVIEW - IAAF World Challenge

12 September 2011Usain Bolt’s first 100m outing since last month’s World Championships will take centre stage at the 61st edition of the Boris Hanzekovic Memorial on Tuesday (13) in Zagreb, topping what is arguably the finest collection of talent ever assembled in the Croatian capital.

Bolt, who defended his 200m crown in Korea and anchored the Jamaican 4x100m Relay quartet to a 37.04 World record, is one of five recently-minted World champions who’ll be on show at the final IAAF World Challenge meeting of 2011.

In his first 100m race since his false start disqualification in the Daegu final 15 days ago, Bolt will face among, other others, Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis, the surprise bronze medallist in Daegu, who improved his season’s best to 10.01 in Berlin on Sunday; Trinidad & Tobago’s national record holder Richard Thompson; and former World and Olympic champion Justin Gatlin of the U.S. Bolt’s immediate target is the 9.78 world lead set by his compatriot Asafa Powell in late June.

Jeter riding strong momentum

The women’s 100m is expected to be fast as well with 100m World champion Carmelita Jeter leading the field. Jeter, who also collected 200m silver and 4x100m Relay gold for the USA in Daegu, arrives after her near-PB 200m victory in Zurich on Thursday and as the world leader at 10.70. Her stiffest opposition is likely to come from Daegu finalist Ivet Lalova of Bulgaria, who’s also clocked sub-11 this year.

Can Pearson’s roll continue?

The sprint hurdles have long been the signature event in Zagreb, with this year’s no different, on both the men’s and women’s side.

The women’s race features Australia’s World champion Sally Pearson, whose sensational 12.28 victory in Daegu was one of the finest performances of the championships. The Australian followed up with another strong showing in Zurich where she clocked 12.52 to beat Olympic champion Dawn Harper, who collected bronze in Korea, by nearly three-tenths. Harper will also be returning to Zagreb, this time on the heels of her convincing 12.68 win in Berlin.

In the men’s 110m Hurdles, World champion Jason Richardson will square off against World record holder Dayron Robles, who was disqualified in the Daegu final but bounced back to win in Zurich over his American rival, 13.01 to 13.10. It was a season’s best for Robles and a near-PB for Richardson, illustrating that the pair are still in phenomenal form. The field also includes U.S. record holder David Oliver, who is looking to bounce back from a sub-par performance in Daegu and a third place finish in Zurich, and Briton Andrew Turner, the Daegu bronze medallsit.

Vlasic vs Chicherova, Round Two

The vociferous sell-out standing room only crowd will pay particularly close attention to the women’s High Jump where Croatian heroine Blanka Vlasic will take on Russian Anna Chicherova who beat her to Daegu gold.

Both cleared 2.03m in Korea – Vlasic despite carrying an injury – and both like competing in Zagreb. Vlasic cleared her PB and national record 2.08m here in 2009 while Chicherova’s pre-2011 PB of 2.04m also came here, in 2008. Yelena Slesarenko, the 2004 Olympic champion who finished fourth in Daegu, is also in the field.

Men’s Hammer Throw Challenge Finale

The men’s IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge will reach its crescendo in Zagreb again this season, with Krisztian Pars in the driver’s seat. The Hungarian, who took silver in Daegu, arrives with a lead of nearly six metres over Sergey Litvinov Jr., who won’t be competing in Zagreb. But Dilshod Nazarov of Tajikistan, currently third in the Challenge, and Slovenia’s Daegu bronze medallist Primoz Kozmus, will be.

Elsewhere in the sprints

The busy programme at the Sports Park Mladost also includes a women’s 200m and the 400m for both men and women.

In the shorter dash, Sherone Simpson and Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie are the marginal favourites, while in the 400m Anastasiya Kapachinskaya, Russia’s back-to-back World bronze medallist and more recently the winner in Berlin, will be the woman to beat. In the latter, reigning Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogo of Great Britain will be looking to salvage a down season that included a false start disqualification in the Daegu opening round.

The men’s 400m has the makings of a fast race, with LaShawn Merritt, the World championships runner-up, squaring off against Jamaican Jermaine Gonzales, who finished fourth in Deagu.

Middle distance action

The three middle distance races promise wide open affairs. In the women’s 800m, Maggie Vessey, who looked strong in her third place finish in Berlin, could be the woman to beat.

In the men’s 1500m, Kenyan Nixon Chepseba, who captured the Samsung Diamond Trophy in the event, is likely to be the man to watch despite his third place showing in Berlin on Sunday. Meanwhile the men’s 3000m steeplechase will likely provide yet another Kenyan tussle between teenager Hillary Yego, Haron Lagat, and Silas Kitum.

Gathering of big shots on the infield

The men’s Shot Put has produced some fireworks in Zagreb in recent years, and the potential for more this year is certainly in the cards.

Americans Christian Cantwell, Reese Hoffa and Ryan Whiting are still looking to bounce back from the disappointing U.S. shut out from the medal stand in Daegu, and should always be considered strong armed and dangerous. Whiting has shown the best recent form, finishing second in Zurich and taking his first victory on the circuit this season yesterday in Berlin. Daegu silver medallist Dylan Armstrong is also in the field, still the world leader, and most recently the winner in Zurich.

In the men’s Discus, the man with the target on his back will be Virgilijus Alekna of Lithuania, who secured the Samsung Diamond Race trophy in Zurich.

And finally, Yahya Berrabah of Morroco and Russia’s Aleksander Menkov, fourth and sixth respectively in Daegu, lead the field in the men’s Long Jump while Funmi Jimoh and Janay Deloach of the U.S., both Daegu finalists, lead the women’s. Menkov brings a good bit of momentum after beating World champion Dwight Phillips in Berlin.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF