Allyson Felix of the United States celebrates winning gold in the Women's 200m Final on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 8, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Zagreb, Croatia

Five individual Olympic champions on tap in Zagreb - IAAF World Challenge

Five individual London Olympic champions will lead the fields at Tuesday's 62nd edition of the Hanzekovic Memorial in Zagreb, the penultimate stop on the IAAF World Challenge series.

Of those five, attracting the most attention will be hometown girl Sandra Perkovic, who at 22 became Croatia's first-ever Olympic gold medallist with her victory in the Discus Throw. Her 69.11m national record at London's Olympic Stadium last month was the grand highlight of a season in which she successfully defended her European title, lifted the Diamond Race Trophy in the event, won six of seven Samsung Diamond League meetings and 12 of 13 competitions in all.

She'll take on challengers led by Frenchwoman Melina Robert-Michon (63.98 SB) and Lithuanian Zinaida Sendriute (64.03m SB, PB). The Croatian's immediate target is her own 65.56m meet record she set in 2010.

Felix in first 200m race since London

Internationally, it will be Allyson Felix who’ll be stealing much of the spotlight. The 26-year-old American left London as the most decorated women’s track and field athlete, who after dominating the 200m, pitched in on the victorious 4x100m and 4x400m Relays as well. For good measure, she was fifth in the 100m where she clocked a 10.89 personal best.

This will be her first 200m outing since London and just her fourth competition over the distance this season, yet she leads the world at 21.69, half a second clear of the rest of the Zagreb field. With a 22.19 personal best this year, Aleksandra Fedoriva of Russia is the closest on paper. Also in the field are Jeneba Tarmoh (22.35 SB) and Charonda Williams (22.52 PB, SB) of the U.S.

Majewski vs Hoffa in the Shot Put

Back on the infield, the programme will feature yet another post-London showdown between two-time Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski (21.89m SB) of Poland and Reese Hoffa of the U.S., the London bronze medallist. Hoffa (22.00m SB) has been on a roll since London, winning each of his four competitions as well as clinching the Diamond Race Trophy.

The field also includes World indoor champion Ryan Whiting (21.66m SB) of the U.S. and Canadian Justin Rodhe (21.11m SB, PB), the fourth man in the field who has thrown beyond 21 metres this season.

Pars vs Kozmus

Similarly, the men's Hammer Throw, now a staple of the Zagreb meeting, pits Olympic champion Krisztian Pars of Hungary again Slovenia's Primoz Kozmus, the London silver medallist. Pars (82.28m SB) has been by far the most consistent thrower this season while Kozmus (79.36m) is still chasing his first 80-metre throw of the year. The situation was the same in Zagreb last year, and the Slovenian breached the barrier then. The field also includes two more of this season's 80-metre men, Pole Pawel Fajdek (81.39 SB, PB) and Kirill Ikonnikov (80.71 SB, PB) of Russia who was fifth at the Olympics.

Makhloufi tops 1500m field

Among the most anticipated races on the programme will be the men’s 1500m which features Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi in his second appearance since his surprise victory in London.

In Stockholm the 24-year-old was a close second to Ethiopian Mohammed Aman where he improved his PB to 1:43.71. His 1500m career best, 3:30.80, came in Monaco in late July.

He'll face a strong challenge from Kenya, led by Caleb Ndiku who clocked a near-PB 3:32.39 this season, and Gideon Gathimba (3:34.14). Look out for rising star Hamza Driouch of Qatar, who has a 3:33.69 personal best to his credit. This year's World junior champion, he won't turn 18 until October.

Briton Andy Baddeley (3:35.19 SB) and Yoann Kowal (3:35.03 SB) of France lead the European charge.

Bailey leads field of four sub-10 men in the dash

The schedule also includes 100m contests for both men and women.

In the men’s race, rising U.S. star Ryan Bailey, one of four 2012 sub-10 sprinters in the field, will start as favorite. Jamaican Nickel Ashmeade, who clinched the Diamond Race trophy in the 200m in Zurich last Thursday, is a late entrant and with a 9.93 career best this season, will arrive as a serious threat. Michael Frater, who like Bailey has a 9.88 personal best, has clocked 9.94 this season while Darvis Patton, a 9.89 runner at his best, has clocked 9.96 this year. Former World champion Kim Collins (10.05 SB) and Trell Kimmons (1002 SB) of the U.S. are also in the field.

In the women’s contest, Olympic 100m silver medallist and 4x100m Relay winner Carmelita Jeter (10.78 SB) leads the field. She’ll be looking to bounce back from a defeat in Zurich, but will have to fend off Jamaicans Sherone Simpson (11.01 SB) and Aleen Bailey (11.04 SB PB).

In the women’s 400m, Russian veteran Natalya Nazorova (50.00 SB) is the fastest in the field, although Jamaican Rosemarie Whyte (50.20 SB), who closed well to finish third in Zurich, has the strongest form at the moment.

Briton Martyn Rooney is the favourite in the men’s race.

Richardson the class of the high hurdles

The 110m Hurdles is the meet’s memorial event, and always draws a strong field. This year it’s reigning World champion and Olympic silver medallist Jason Richardson who’s the marquee name. Richardson was second in the meet last year, edged by Dayron Robles in a fast race, 13.00 to 13.04. His 12.98 personal best, set this year at the U.S. Olympic Trials, equals Mark Crear’s meeting record which has stood since 1999.

Jeff Porter, who improved all the way to 13.08 to take the third US Olympic team spot in June, will be looking for a strong finish to his season, one which hasn't quite lived up to his strong performance at the U.S. trials. U.S. record holder David Oliver has clocked 13.13 this year but didn't make the Olympic team and like Porter will be looking for some positive momentum to take him into next season. Ryan Braithwaite (13.23 SB) of Barbados, the 2009 World champion, and David Payne (13.32 SB) of the U.S., the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist, are also in the field.

Kellie Wells, the Olympic bronze medallist, paces the field in the women's 100m Hurdles. The 30-year-old improved her career best to 12.48 in London and most recently took home a victory in Berlin on Sunday.

Her U.S. compatriots Kristi Castlin (12.56 SB, PB), Ginnie Crawford (12.59 SB) and Queen Harrison (12.62 SB) are certainly within striking distance.

Mutai the focus in the Steeplechase

Elsewhere in the track, Olympic bronze medallist Abel Mutai (8:01.67 SB, PB) will have the target on his back in the men’s 3000m Steeplechase. At 8:03.43, his 19-year-old compatriot Jairus Biresh is close on paper, while Moroccan Brahim Taleb (8:10.20 SB), also an Olympic finalist, could be a factor. Hillary Yego (8:11.83 SB) set the 8:12.81 meeting record last year and returns to defend his title.

Twenty-four-year-old Russian Yelena Kofanova, who has improved to 1:57.77 this season, leads the women’s 800m field. With victories in Monaco and Padua and a third place showing in Lausanne, she's been running well over the past six weeks as well. Americans Maggie Vessey (1:59.98 SB) and Anna Pierce (2:00.49) and Jessica Smith (1:59.86 SB, PB) of Canada are expected to be in the mix.

In the women’s Long Jump, a pair of this season's seven-metre jumpers - Chelsea Hayes of the U.S. and Nastassia Mironchik-Ivanova of Belarus - will be the women to beat. Hayes has reached 7.10m and Mironchik-Ivanova 7.08m; the latter also finished seventh in the Olympic final. The field also includes Briton Shara Proctor (6.95m SB, PB), another London finalist, and Russian Darya Klishina who despite not making the Russian Olympic squad, has reached 6.93m this season.

And finally, in the men's Discus Throw, Pole Piotr Malachowski (68.94 SB) will be the man to beat.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF