Seven London 2012 Olympic Games gold medallists, including Grenada’s 400m star Kirani James, will be in action at the 52nd Ostrava Golden Spike meeting on Thursday (25).
However, the IAAF World Challenge meeting really gets underway 24 hours earlier on Wednesday (26) afternoon with two contests that form part of the 2013 IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge.
In the women’s competition, Germany’s World record holder Betty Heidler faces Poland’s former World champion and Heidler’s predecessor as the World record holder Anita Wlodarczyk; while Hungary’s 2013 world Leader and London 2012 Olympic Games gold medallist Krisztián Pars is the favourite among men.
James, returning for a second time to Ostrava after competing in the IAAF World Youth Championships six years ago, confessed he almost did not recognize the reconstructed City Stadium.
“I have the best memories for Ostrava 2007, when I basically launched my athletic career as 14-year-old boy, but now the stadium looks completely different,” he joked, surveying the work done in the last 12 months in the 15,000 capacity arena.
“My target is to run the best race possible in actual weather and other conditions,” he added, knowing that wet weather is forecast for Thursday night.
Nevertheless, come rain or shine, James has to have a good chance of attacking the oldest meeting record, which has stood to Cuba’s Alberto Juantorena at 44.70 since 1976,
“There have been many chances to break our oldest meeting record, but nobody, including Jeremy Wariner or Lashawn Merritt has managed to improve it. Who else could break it, if not Kirani this year?” commented the meeting manager Alfons Juck.
However, James will have to keep an eye on the local star name and European 400m champion Pavel Maslak who is motivated to go under 45 seconds for the first time this year.
Bekele back after nine years
The strong men´s 5000m field is led by Ethiopia’s multiple Olympic Games and World Championships winner Kenenisa Bekele, who will be aiming to go under 13 minutes after failing to finish his last race over the distance in the Dutch town of Hengelo earlier this month.
Bekele returns to Ostrava for the first time since setting a 10000m World record of 26:20.21 in 2004.
His compatriot and current Olympic 10000m champion Tirunesh Dibaba will aim at improving her own meeting record of 31:03.37 over 25 laps of the track.
Australia’s Olympic and World 100m Hurdles champion Sally Pearson will face Great Britain’s Tiffany Porter and Belarus’ Alina Talay over the barrier while Czech record holder Lucie Skrobakova will try to improve her season’s best of 12.79.
Despite the withdrawal of Kenya’s David Rudisha, due to injury, the men’s 800m still has a classy look about it and contains Ethiopia’s 2012 World indoor champion Mohamed Aman while the women´s 1500m can boast of Bahrain’s Maryam Jamal, a former double world champion at the distance, on the start line.
After Usain Bolt decided to stay in Jamaica with his coach for an extra week to focus on training before coming to Europe again, the meeting organisers have cancelled the 4x100m Relay, there will now be three 100m races in a row with the top name being Jamaica’s former World record holder Asafa Powell.
The meeting organizers are hoping that Pearson will be able to break the meeting record of 12.65, first achieved by Poland’s Grazyna Rabsztyn in 1980, then equalled by Jamaica’s Brigitte Foster-Hylton in 2003 and last year by Porter.
The women’s 400m Hurdles will be a clash of home stars with 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist Zuzana Hejnova against her local rival and 2012 European Athletics Championships silver medallist Denisa Rosolova.
The stellar field event of the meeting, for both men and women, will be the Pole Vault.
Russia’s queen of the event, Yelena Isinbayeva, returns for the first time since 2007, and also for her European 2013 debut.
Both Isinbayeva and Cuba’s Yarisley Silva could potentially attack Stacy Dragila’s meeting record of 4.83m from 2004, which at the time was a World record.
Lavillenie looking for meeting record
France’s 2012 Olympic Games and European gold medallist Renaud Lavillenie will return to Ostrava where last year he opened his outstanding season with a meeting record of 5.90m.
The strong field includes Germany’s Bjorn Otto and Raphael Holzdeppe, who were the silver and bronze medallists behind Lavillenie in both Helsinki and then London.
Czech Republic’s reigning European champion Vitezslav Vesely carries local hopes in the Javelin, and event which always gets an enthusiastic audience in Ostrava, but he could be challenged by Ukraine’s Oleksandr Pyatnytsa or Russia’s Dmitry Tarabin.
Germany’s Robert Harting, Poland’s Piotr Malachowski and Estonia’s Gerd Kanter should also provide an entertaining Discus competition and they will be bidding to improve on the meeting record of 68.06m, held by Cuba’s Luís Delís since 1983m.
For first time in 22 years, the women’s Shot Put returns to the programme and the circle will be graced by New Zealand´s 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games winner Valerie Adams.
"It will be my first opportunity to compete in the Golden Spike of Ostrava. Over the years there have been many great throwers come from this region and I might even get a chance to meet the legendary Helena Fibingerova," said Adams.
A galaxy of stars will also be competing in the two 3000m Steeplechase races.
The women´s field has Kenya’s Milcah Chemos and Russia’s former Olympic champion Gulnara Galkina while Kenya’s prodigious 18-year-old Conseslus Kipruto will be the runner to watch in the men’s race.
Zuzana Trojakova (organisers) for the IAAF