Pawel Fajdek wins the hammer at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Osaka, Japan

Men’s Hammer Throw Challenge kick-off takes centre stage in Osaka

The start of the men's side of the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge will be among the chief highlights at the Seiko Golden Grand Prix, an IAAF World Challenge meeting, in Osaka on Sunday (20).

Heading the strong line-up is Poland's three-time world champion Pawel Fajdek who is a strong favourite to collect a fifth Hammer Throw Challenge title. The 28-year-old has already threatened the 80m-line this season, reaching 79.43m in Coral Gables, Florida, early last month and improving to 79.71 in Kielce, Poland, six days ago.

He'll face Nick Miller of Great Britain, the event's new rising star after his world-leading 80.26m national record to take the Commonwealth title last month. The 25-year-old has already added nearly three metres to his pre-2018 lifetime best, boding well so early in the season. 

Olympic champion Dilshod Nazarov and Poland's world and Olympic bronze medallist Wojciech Nowicki will be making their 2018 debuts.

Solid series of head-to-heads in the sprints

On the track, the strong focus will fall on the sprints.

In the men's 100m, world champion Justin Gatlin will take on compatriot Isiah Young, this year's Drake Relays champion at 10.02, and Japan's Yoshihide Kiryu, a world and Olympic 4x100m medallist, who joined the sub-10 club last year with 9.98.

In the 200m, Isaac Makwala will be the man to beat. The 31-year-old from Botswana started the year strong by taking the Commonwealth 400m title and clocking a 20.10 200m season's best in Gaborone, but arrives on the heels of back-to-back 400m defeats in Diamond League action. He'll face Chinese record holder Xie Zhenye and world long jump silver medallist Jarrion Lawson who'll be making his first start over the half lap distance since 2016, the year he won NCAA titles in the 100m, 200m and long jump.

Hill’s World Challenge debut

In the women's 100m, the spotlight will fall on Candace Hill's IAAF World Challenge debut. Three years ago Hill became the youngest woman to break the 11-second barrier in the 100m when she clocked 10.98, aged 16 years and four months. She went on to take the sprint double at the World U18 Championships that year, and the world U20 100m title the next. She's proceeded cautiously since, competing almost exclusively in smaller US competitions.

She'll face Aaliyah Brown, a 2017 world 4x100m relay gold medallist who's clocked 11.15 this season, and Tawanna Meadows, who ran 11.19w in early April.

In the 400m, Justyna Swiety-Ersetic of Poland, fourth at this year's World Indoor Championships, takes on Daina Harper of the US.

Queen Harrison of the US is the key name in the women's 100m hurdles in her first international start of the year. She'll face former NCAA standout Sasha Wallace.

Over the full-lap barriers, Canada's Sage Watson, who was sixth at last year's World Championships, is the favourite. She'll take on Joanna Linkiewicz of Poland, the 2016 European Championships runner-up, and Kemi Adekoya of Bahrain, the 2016 world indoor 400m champion.

Strong fields have been assembled in the javelin throw as well.

On the women's side, Lu Huihui of China returns to action after her victory in Shanghai last weekend with a 66.85m season's best. She'll face Germany's 2015 world champion Katharina Molitor and 2017 world finalist Liz Gleadle of Canada.

On the men's, Cheng Chao-Tsun of Chinese Taipei will make his season's debut. The 24-year-old stunned the throwing world last season when he broke the Asian record with a 91.36m effort to win the World University Games title before a boisterous home crowd last August. Czech Petr Frydrych, the 2017 world bronze medallist, and Commonwealth Games silver medallist Hamish Peacock of Australia are also in the field.

In the men's long jump, Australia's Commonwealth silver medallist Henry Frayne takes on China's 2016 world indoor bronze medallist Huang Changzhou and Jarvis Gotch of the US. The latter improved to 8.27m at the Mt. SAC Relays last month while Frayne reached his 8.33m season's best in the Commonwealth qualifying round before sailing 8.32m in the final.

Elsewhere on the infield, Australian Brandon Starc returns to action after taking the Commonwealth high jump title with a 2.32m lifetime best.

Xue Changrui, the fourth place finisher at last year's World Championships, tops the men's pole vault field. He'll face Scott Houston of the USA and Daichi Sawano of Japan. Ukrainian record holder Marina Kylypko, last year's European indoor bronze medallist, tops the women's field, which includes Kristen Hixson of the US. Both have 4.65m lifetime bests.

Back on the track, the standout name in the men's 800m is Timothy Kitum, the 2012 Olympic silver medallist. The men's 1500m field includes 2016 Olympic finalist Ryan Gregson of Australia. The women's 800m features Kenyan Emily Tuei, who clocked 1:58.25 at altitude in February.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF