Tyson Gay en route to his 9.79 victory in Brussels (Jiro Mochizuki) © Copyright
General News Zagreb, Croatia

Gay vs Carter, and Vlasic’s homecoming the focus in Zagreb – IAAF World Challenge

A 100m showdown between Tyson Gay and Nesta Carter, the year’s two fastest men, and Blanka Vlasic’s first homecoming of the week will take centre stage at the 60th edition of the Hanzekovic Memorial in Zagreb on Wednesday.

Both Gay, the U.S. record holder, and the rapidly-improving Carter will arrive in the Croatian capital for the final IAAF World Challenge Meeting of the season as the co-world leaders at 9.78. Gay’s performance came at the London Samsung Diamond League fixture on 13 August, which he nearly replicated in Brussels last Friday when he clocked 9.79 to capture the Diamond Race Trophy in the event.

Carter, a member of Jamaica’s gold medal winning 4x100m Relay squad at the 2008 Olympics, has been the season’s biggest surprise in the event after improving his career best in three of his last four appearances over the past 21 days. Entering the season with a 9.91 best set last year, the 24-year-old clocked 9.86 in Nottwil, Switzerland, on 8 August, went a notch faster to 9.85 behind Gay in Brussels, and dashed significantly faster still in Rieti last Sunday where he blazed a 9.78 to suddenly become the fourth fastest man in history.

But Gay, who is still targeting his 9.69 US record, which came late in the season last year, is clearly the man to beat.

“I think it’s possible to run faster if the conditions are right,” Gay said. While the forecast isn’t quite summer-like, temperatures are expected to still be in the upper teens at race time, considerably warmer than in Gay’s previous two outings.

Others to watch include American Rae Edwards, who will represent the North & South American squad at the IAAF / VTB Bank Continental Cup in Split, Croatia, next weekend,

Vlasic begins important week at home

The men’s 100m aside, the spotlight will domestic fall clearly on Vlasic, the Croatian heroine who, after finishing a perfect seven-for-seven in the Samsung Diamond League series, begins what will arguably be one of the most important weeks of her athletics career.

Zagreb has already proved memorable for the reigning World champion indoors and outdoors, playing host to the 26-year-old’s first career two-metre leap back in 2003, as well as her most recent national record, a sensational 2.08m clearance one year ago which gave her sole possession of the No. 2 position all-time. Zagreb will also be Vlasic’s final outing before her appearance next weekend in Split, her hometown, where she’s been busy as the Continental Cup’s poster girl.

On paper, her chief opposition hails from Russia: Svetlana Shkolina, who’s jumped 1.98m this season, and Irina Gordeyeva, who’s gone 1.97m.

Cantwell vs Hoffa in the Shot Put

Another athlete arriving with the Diamond Race Trophy in his carry-on baggage is Christian Cantwell, who will lead a strong field in the men’s Shot Put. Shot putters enjoy competing often, and yet again most of the best in the world will gather in Zagreb where Cantwell won last year with a 22.16m bomb, the farthest put in 2009. The American, who arrives as the world leader with 22.41m from Eugene, will take on compatriots Reese Hoffa (22.16m SB) and Cory Martin (22.10m SB, PB), two of the other three 22-metre men this season. Hoffa has defeated Cantwell twice this season, most recently in Brussels last weekend. Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski of Poland is also in the field.

Men’s Hammer Throw Challenge finale

The men’s IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge will reach its climax in Zagreb, with most of the world’s leading throwers on hand.

Dilshod Nazarov of Tadjikistan, Hungary’s Krisztián Pars and Sergej Litvinov of Germany currently occupy spots one, two and three in the Challenge standings and are expected to figure prominently in the competition as well. Arriving with the best momentum however is 2004 Olympic champion Koji Murofushi of Japan who after a three-month break, returned to competition in Rieti last weekend where he produced the season’s two farthest throws: 80.99m and 80.96. Nazarov (80.11m) and Slovak Libor Charfreitag (80.59m), the European champion, are other 80-metre throwers in the field.

[Click here for the men’s Hammer Throw Challenge standings]
Perkovic leads the Discus Throw field

The women’s Discus Throw will certainly grab quite a bit of attention with Zagreb native Sandra Perkovic leading the field. The rising star illustrated maturity well beyond her 20 years throughout the season, collecting key victories in New York and Brussels and taking surprise European gold. In Brussels, she improved her own national record to 66.93m to currently sit in the No. 2 spot on the season’s world list. Veterans Nicoleta Grasu (63.78m SB) of Romania and Czech Vera Pospisilova Cechlova (63.40m SB) are most likely to rain on her victory parade at Mladost Stadium.

Iran’s Ehsan Hadadi (68.45m SB) leads the men’s field which also includes Croatia’s Roland Varga (67.20m SB) and Spaniard Frank Casanas (65.11m SB).

Wilson and Jones lead the sprint hurdles

Named to honour Croatia’s inter-war hurdler Boris Hanzekovic, the men’s 110m Hurdles is the meeting’s signature event, and again a solid field has been gathered. The fastest in the field this year are American’s Ryan Wilson (13.12) and Joel Brown (13.24) but the start list also includes Great Britain’s European champion Andrew Turner, Jamaican record holder Dwight Thomas, and Petr Svoboda, the Czech record holder.

In the women's 100m Hurdles race, American Lolo Jones and Canada's former World champion Perdita Felicien figure prominently. Jones, the twice World indoor champion, will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing fifth place finish in Brussels last weekend which knocked her out of the Diamond Trophy chase. Felicien brings better momentum to Zagreb after a runner-up finish in Berlin and a third place showing in Brussels where she clocked 12.68, her second fastest run of the year. Derval O'Rourke, who lowered her own Irish national record to 12.65 in Barcelona to take European silver, will also be in the hunt.

Over the full lap hurdles, Diamond Race winner Kaliese Spencer of Jamaica tops the women’s field, where she’ll face Rieti winner Sheena Tosta while South African LJ van Zyl is the man to beat on the men’s side.
Quick 800m races in the works

Both 800m contests could be quite fast as well. American Nick Symmonds is the fastest in the field courtesy of his 1:43.76 career best in Rieti in Sunday and will start as the man to beat. European bronze medallist, Adam Kszczot and Czech Jakub Holusa are the primary challengers.

Four women in the women’s field, Jamaican Kenia Sinclair, Russia’s Tatyana Andrianova, Lucia Klocová of Slovakia and American Morgan Uceny have all dipped under two minutes this year.

Savigne and Phillips tops in the horizontal jumps

World champion Yargelis Savigne, who also clinched the Diamond Race Trophy last week in Brussels, is the class of the women’s Triple Jump field. Still the season’s only 15-metre jumper courtesy of a 15.09 leap in Monaco, the Cuban has won all but two of her nine meets this season.

In the men’s Long Jump, the clear favourite is World champion Dwight Phillips who like Savigne, won the Diamond Race and with a season’s best of 8.46m is more than 20cm clear of the rest of the field.

Elsewhere in the sprints

The women’s 200m is shaping into a battle between Yelizaveta Bryzgina (22.44 SB, PB) of Ukraine, the European silver medalist, and Americans Connie Moore (22.40 SB, PB) and Marshevet Myers, who took a high profile victory in the London 100m last month.

Debbie Dunn, the world leader at 49.64, leads the 400m field where she’ll take on Jamaican Shericka Williams (50.04 SB), the reigning Olympic silver medallist and winner this year at Gateshead. Dunn continues to race well, taking victories this season in Lausanne and more recently in Berlin.

The men’s full lap features a Brussels rematch between Costa Rican record holder Nery Brenes, and Belgian record holder Jonathan Borlée (44.71). Brenes, the Central American and Caribbean Games champion with a 44.84 career best, produced the second sub-45 of his career to win in Brussels last Friday clocking 44.92, well ahead of the quickly closing Borlée.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF