Antonietta Di Martino at the Golden Gala press conference in Rome (Golden Gala) © Copyright
General News

A slew of stars and exciting match-ups confirmed for Rome’s Golden Gala - ÅF Golden League

The 29th edition of the Rome Golden Gala, the third leg of the ÅF Golden League, was been officially launched today at the traditional press conference less than one month to go before the major Italian athletics meeting scheduled on Friday 10 July at the Rome Olympic Stadium.

Antonietta Di Martino, the World silver medallist in Osaka 2007 and Italian high jump record holder with 2.03m, took part in the press conference held in the new Press Conference Room of the Olympic Stadium.

“I have always dreamed to compete at the Golden Gala since I was a child,” said Di Martino. “This meeting gives me more thrills than the World Championships. This year I want to improve my Golden Gala PB of 1.95m”.

Di Martino hoping to shine in comeback season as women’s High Jump takes centre stage

After a difficult 2008 season in which she struggled to return to two metres form, Di Martino changed her coach last winter. She left her lifetime coach Davide Sessa and is now followed by her boyfriend Massimiliano Di Matteo with the supervision of National Team Coach Angelo Zamperin. Di Martino has recently returned to her best, last week clearing 1.98m (after a clean sheet up to that height) at the Memorial Primo Nebiolo in Torino before three decent but unsuccessful attempts at 2.00m showing that she is back to the form which propelled her to silver in Osaka.

“I changed my jumping shoes and for this reason I picked up a small foot injury, but it is not serious. I will skip the first Golden League meeting in Berlin as a precaution but I will return to competition next week for the European Team Championships in Leiria. Then I will compete at the Mediterranean Games in Pescara from 30 June to 2 July. After Rome I may compete in Paris on 17 July and will jump in Milan for the Italian Championships, the final test before the World Championships in Berlin,” concluded Di Martino. 

The Golden Gala will be one the major events of a busy sport summer season for the Italian capital highlighted by the UEFA Champion’s League final between Barcelona and Manchester United on 27 May and the Swimming World Championships in the second part of July.

The women’s High Jump will be in the spotlight at the Rome meeting. On the runway where Stefka Kostadinova broke the World record clearing 2.09m at the 1987 World Championships in Rome, the event will be again one of the most-awaited events of the Golden Gala this year.

“The women’s high jump has always had a special significance in Rome,” said Rome Golden Gala Meeting Director Luigi D’Onofrio. “Di Martino is one of the most popular athletes in Italy. She will face (World champion) Blanka Vlasic and many of the best specialists in the world apart from Ariane Friedrich who will take part in the World Students Games in Belgrade in the same week. Overall 26 Olympic medallists from Beijing will compete in Rome.”

World seasonal leader Vlasic, who cleared 2.05m at the Doha IAAF Super Grand Prix meeting, has won the last three editions of the Golden Gala in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and will be looking for her fourth consecutive win in Rome.

“We can confirm other big names like Yelena Isinbayeva who set one of her three World records at 5.03m last year in Rome, the big Javelin Throw clash between Andreas Thorkildsen and Tero Pitkämäki, Kenenisa Bekele in the 5000 metres. Despite the economic crisis which has affected some organizational aspects of the Golden Gala, we are sure that our meeting will live up to its tradition, ” D’Onofrio said.

Powell vs. Martina in the 100m

Asafa Powell, who won the Golden Gala in 2006 and 2007 and is co-holder of the meeting record with Maurice Greene at 9.85, will run the 100m against two men who have broken the 10 seconds barrier this season: American Mike Rodgers, the winner in New York and Eugene this year, and Churandy Martina of the Dutch Antilles, fourth at the Olympic Games and winner in Hengelo in 9.97. 

Phillips vs. Saladino

Apart from the Golden League disciplines, Rome will have much more to offer to the Italian crowd. Among the non-Golden League disciplines the men’s Long Jump will feature the re-match of the fabulous Eugene Prefontaine Classic between the last two Olympic champions, Dwight Phillips and Irving Saladino. Phillips, also twice world champion in 2003 and 2005, jumped a sensational 8.74m in Eugene, equalling the fifth best performance outdoors in history and beating Saladino who jumped 8.63m, the second best performance in his career. Unfortunately Italian crowd will miss the biggest Italian athletics star Andrew Howe who is sidelined by injury problems on his tendon but still hopes to recover in time to compete at the World Championships in Berlin.

Kiprop returns to defend at 1500m

Kenyan Asbel Kprop, the Olympic silver medallist in the 1500m and winner at last year’s Golden Gala, will be looking for his second win in Rome in a tough battle against compatriot Haron Keitany who ran an impressive 3:30.90 in Doha in May. The women’s 3000m Steeplechase will be contested for the first time in the history of the Golden Gala and to mark the first ever race in this event Italian organizers have invited reigning Olympic champion and World record holder Gulnara Samitova Galkina, the first woman in history to break the nine-minute barrier with 8:58.81in Beijing.   

Richards vs. Felix at 400m

Olympic 4x400m champion and 400m bronze medallist Sanya Richards, three times winner in the Golden Gala and twice Golden League Jackpot winner in 2006 and 2007, will be challenged by twice 200m World champion Allyson Felix, winner in the one-lap race last year.

The Golden Gala will be a tough test for some of the best Italian athletes including 800m European indoor bronze medallist Elisa Cusma, the winner in Thessaloniki on Tuesday in 1:59.83, and 400m Olympic semi-finalist Libania Grenot who broke the national record of 50.83 in the Beijing semifinals.

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF