Amantle Montsho (L) of Botswana and Allyson Felix of United States compete in the women's 400 metres final (Getty Images) © Copyright

Liu Xiang, Kipruto, Felix and Montsho top the bill in Kawasaki - PREVIEW - IAAF World Challenge

The Seiko Golden Grand Prix in Kawasaki, Japan, takes place on Sunday afternoon 6 May 20012, featuring eleven men’s events and seven women’s events. Kawasaki is situated between Tokyo and Yokohama.

The Seiko Golden Grand Prix is an IAAF World Challenge meeting.

There will be four standout names on show. Liu Xiang, 2004 Olympic and 2007 World 110m Hurdles champion, is back into top form this season having already taken silver at the World Indoor Championships in March, and set an Area indoor record for the 60m Hurdles earlier in the indoor season. The Kawasaki meeting will be his 2012 outdoor opener.

Birmin Kipruto, the 2008 Olympic and 2007 World 3000m Steeplechase champion, will have stiff competition. His main challenger is likely to be Jonathan Ndiku, 2008 and 2010 World Junior champion. Twenty-year-old Ndiku, improved his personal best by 10 seconds last year and may be ready to improve it by a large margin again this season. Roba Gari who was fifth at 2011 World Championships should also be competing for the top spot on the podium.

Allyson Felix, three-time World 200m champion (2005-2009), and Amantle Montsho, 2011 World 400m champion are the headline attractions from the women’s side of the programme.

Montsho showed she was in good shape yesterday in Fukuroi (3 May), improving her personal best at 200m to 22.89 in the Shizuoka International. Montsho should dominate the 400m in Kawasaki, as her nearest opponents Joanne Cuddihy and Mary Wineberg, first and second at the one lap in the Shizuoka International, are not in Montsho’s class.

Felix will be running the 100m, rather than her specialty of 200m, and thus may have competition from Ivet Lalova, who was only eighth at 60 metres at the 2012 World Indoor Championships. Japanese fans will be looking for a national record from Chisato Fukushima. Fukushima recorded a 60m national indoor record in Istanbul, but Fukushima has yet to run a satisfactory outdoor race this year (11.34 at 100m and 23.12 at 200m).

The men’s 100m is shaping up well. Kim Collins, 2003 World Champion, and Mike Rodgers, 2010 World Indoor silver medallist are the top international names but there is significant local interest too in the guise of Ryota Yamagata. The 19-year-old improved his 100m personal best from the 10.23 recorded last year to 10.08 in the Oda Memorial in Hiroshima on 29 April. He was fourth at 100m in the 2009 World Youth Championships, and perhaps will be able to further improve his 100m personal best in Kawasaki.

Another Japanese runner to look out for is Takayuki Kishimoto. He improved his personal best at 400m Hurdles from 49.27 from 2011 to 48.88 in the Shizuoka International in Fukuroi on 3 May coming from behind to defeat Johnny Dutch, the 2008 World Junior Championships silver medallist. Kishimoto, the 2011 World University Games silver medallist, also competed in the 2011 World Championships but failed to advance out of the semis. After setting his personal best in Shizuoka, Kishimoto said, "Not only I am determined to go to the Olympics, but I consider the Olympics to be the race of redemption after what happened in Daegu last year." He races against Dutch again on Sunday.

On the Javelin runway, Japan’s Genki Dean improved his personal best from 79.26 to 84.28m in the Oda Memorial in Hiroshima on 29 April. It was the second longest throw ever by a Japanese. In Kawasaki, he will be chasing Antti Ruuskanen, who has a personal best of 87.33, Stuart Farquhar, who won with a PB of 86.31 in Hiroshima, and World junior record holder Zigismunds Sirmais. Yukifumi Murakami, the bronze medallist at the 2009 World Championships, will also compete in Kawasaki.

The first meeting of the 2012 IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge is scheduled in Kawasaki and 2000 Olympic champion Szymon Ziolkowski, Marcus Esser (4th in 2011 World Championships), 2011 Pan American Games champion Kibwe Johnson, and 2006 and 2010 Asian Games champion Dilshod Nazarov are the top names. Unfortunately, 2004 Olympic champion Koji Murofushi will not compete in Kawasaki for he is in the middle of hard training phase in San Jose. Recently in an interview in San Jose, Murofushi said, "I am working both consistently throwing over 80m as well as extending the longest throw."

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF