Tim Montgomery crosses the line in world record (allsport) © Copyright
General News Milano

Fiona May and Tim Montgomery to highlight the Notturna di Milano

Tim Montgomery, the 100 metres world record holder, is the big star of the sixth edition of the Notturna di Milano meeting, scheduled on 3 June 2003 at the Arena Civica stadium and valid as one of the two Italian legs of the IAAF Grand Prix 2 circuit together with the Memorial Nebiolo in Turin (6 June).

The 100 metres will also feature the 2002 IAAF World Cup winner Uchenna Emedolu of Nigeria with his PB of 10.06, the South African Morne Nagel, the sensation of the 2002 indoor season with 7 victories in 8 meetings in the 60 metres and Deji Aliu, a former World Junior Champion in the 100 metres in Lisbon 1994, Greg Saddler (USA) and the Italian sprinters Francesco Scuderi (who recorded a good wind-assisted 10.19 during the first stage of the Italian Club Championships in Rome two weeks ago) and Andrea Colombo.

It will be a great spectacular in two rounds with heats at 20.30 and the final one hour and a half later. “Montgomery himself asked us to assemble heats and final in the same evening. We were forced to change the timetable and include two 100 metres races with sixteen athletes instead of a single eight men sprint dash. This indicates that the slight tendon injury that might have forced Montgomery to miss the Milan meeting and pulled him out of the IAAF Super Grand Prix Prefontaine Classic meeting in Eugene (Oregon) has been healed and the US star is now in good form”, said Gianni Demadonna, the athletics director of the meeting.
 
Montgomery wants to make the most of the only European race in his build-up to the US Championships in Palo Alto (19-22 June), valid as Trials for the World Championships in Paris and where “the first three make the team” rule will apply.

The man, who took one hundredth of a second off Maurice Greene’s previous world record by clocking 9.78 during the Grand Prix Final in Paris Charlety and won the Overall IAAF Grand Prix Rankings to take home a cheque for 250,000 USD has had an up and down start to the  season with an unexpected defeat at the Banamex meeting in Mexico City against the sensational Canadian Macrozonaris (10.03 to 10.04) and a victory in the Osaka IAAF Grand Prix with 10.04 over the seasonal 100 metres world leader Patrik Johnson of Australia (9.93 in Mito) and will use the fast Milan track as a springboard for another succesful season on the road to Paris.

Milan has built up the tradition of a fabulous 100 metres show in the short history of the meeting which is growing in popularaty over the years. “Donovan Bailey, former world record holder in the 100 metres with 9.84, competed here in the first edition of our meeting in 1998. One year later we invited Maurice Greene who ran 10.16 on 9 June 1999, one week before smashing the world record with 9.79 in Athens. This year the Milan spectators will admire Tim Montgomery in the blue riband athletics event.”, said a proud Franco Angelotti before journalists during the press conference one week before the meeting. Tim will hold his press conference at the Monza motor racing circuit, famous for its Formula 1 Grand Prix. “What a special and symbolic place is it for a press conference with Montgomery. The fastest man in the world in the temple of motor racing.”
 
But Montgomery in the 100 is not the only highlight of the Notturna. The Milan meeting will have much more to offer, starting from the much-awaited comeback of Fiona May after giving birth to her daughter Larissa in July 2002. Fiona tested her form on 4 May in a low-key meeting in Pavia where she leapt a windy 6.34 and will continue her campaign in Trento on Saturday before moving to Milan.
 
This return to the competitive runway aroused great enthusiasm among youngsters who have always seen Fiona as an example for her determination.
The comeback will be far from easy. Maureen Higa Maggi of Brazil who leapt 6.90 in Sao Caetano Do Sul on 27 April and won the Belem Grand Prix meeting with 6.80 and set the South American record in the triple jump with 14.53; Niki Xanthou of Greece (PB 7.03), second at the Athens World Championships in 1997; Olga Rublyova (second at the European indoor championships in Vienna 2002); Jackie Edwards from Bahamas (PB 6.80); the 2002 World Junior champion Adina Anton of Romania; Viktoria Vershinina of Ukraine and the Italian triple jump hope Simona La Mantia (neo Italian under-23 record holder in the triple with an excellent 14.21 set in Palermo at the Italian Interclub Champs two weeks ago) complete the line-up.
 
The Milan organizers want to make their meeting a springboard for rising stars who are now known only to athletics fans but have a great potential to become the big names in the years to come. Middle distance events includes the 1500, with the reigning 800 metres world junior champion Alex Kipchirchir who ran a sensational 3:32.95 in the under-23 race during the IAAF Golden League meeting in Zürich last August, the 1500m under-18 world champion Isaac Songok (World youth best holder over the mile distance with 3:34.56 – Linz 2001), the reigning Commonwealth champion Mike East of Great Britain, French athletes Fouad Chouki (3:33.93) and Nadir Bosch, Germans Wolfram Müller and Franek Heschke and the major hopes of Italian middle distance running Christian Obrist (seventh in the 1500 at the European Championships in Munich and with a PB of 3:35.74 set in Zürich 2002) and Lorenzo Perrone (tenth in Munich in the 1500).

In the 5000 metres, Mark Bett of Kenya with a PB of 12:55.63 set at the Oslo Golden League meeting in 2000, Benyamin Mayo, winner last year in Milan with 13:07 and a 13:02.28 performer, the Ethiopian Abyote Abate (PB 13:00.36 set in Rome in 2001), the Lausanne World Junior Cross Country champion Eliud Kipchoge (PB 13:13.03 set at the ISTAF GL meeting in  Berlin in 2002) and the World Cross bronze medallist Solomon Bushendich and the Kenyans Moses Mosop, Abel Cheruiyot and David Kilel  will try to attack the world seasonal best set by Abraham Chebii in Eugene on Saturday (13:08.10). The 5000 metres race has a good tradition in the Milan meeting. In the 1999 edition Salah Hissou defeated the former world record holder Daniel Komen and a high-quality field with 12:52.53.

Italy is rediscovering the passion for high jump especially after the recent victory of the 23 year-old Alessandro Talotti in the first edition of the European indoor Cup last February in Leipzig over the russian Yarolav Rybakov with a 2.28 clearance. Talotti, also a surprising fourth placer in Munich with 2.27 and coached by the former italian record holder Luca Toso (2.32), will try to clear the 2.30 metres barrier for the first time in his career in a high-quality competition which also features the World Junior silver medallist Jermaine Mason (2.31 this year at the Grand Prix in Belem), the Birmingham World Indoor bronze medallist Gennady Moroz of Belarus, the junior Jaroslav Baba (2.32 in the 2003 indoor season), the European junior champion Andrei Chubsa of Belarus (winner last year at the Stockolm DN Galan GP with 2.32), the Olympic bronze medallist Abderrahmane Hammad, Poland’s Gregorz Sposob (2.30 PB) and the other Italians Andrea Bettinelli (2.30 indoor in 2002) and the twin brothers Nicola and Giulio Ciotti.
 
Italian athletics fans hope that the Milan IAAF Grand Prix will prove to be inspiring for some young national athletes as has happened in past editions of this meeting when some good athletes came to the fore and revealed their potential. For instance Fabrizio Donato set the national Triple Jump record here with 17.60 when beating his compatriot Paolo Camossi (17.45) in 2000, or Marco Torrieri revealed his potential as the future hope of Italian sprint by beating Shawn Crawford in the 200 metres in 2001. This year the Triple Jump is not in the timetable so Italian hopes for some good results are set on the young sprinters Stefano Dacastello (semifinalist at the World Indoors in Birmingham) and Alessandro Cavallaro (a former European junior champion in 1999) who will face the South African Shervin Vries (20.20 so far this season), the Jamaican Ricardo Williams and 400 metres runners Byrd and the Polish Marcin Jedrusinki, european under-23 champion and the France’s Leslie Djhone (20.51 in the indoor season).

The 800 metres race has always been a magic event in the Milan Arena Civica stadium since the late thirties when the German Rudolph Harbig beat Italy’s Mario Lanzi and set a legendary world record with 1:46.6. This tradition continued in 1973 when Marcello Fiasconaro led from gun to tape and smashed the world record with 1:43.7 (which is still the Italian record ex-aequo with Andrea Longo’s 1:43.74 set in Rieti 2000). The Milan 2003 two lap event features William Yiampoy, fourth at the World Championships in Edmonton and credited with a PB of 1:42.91 set last year in the great Rieti race where five men went under 1:43.15. The Olympic bronze medallist Said Guerni of Algeria, Burundi’s Patrick Nduwuimana, who ran 1:42.81 in the Zürich Golden League meeting, France’s Florent Lacasse and Nicolas Aissat, Belgium’s Joeri Jensen and the Italian Christian Neunhauserer are also in the starting list.

Fabrizio Mori is currently suffering from a tendon injury and may undergo surgery and consequently miss the season. The reigning 400 metres hurdles Olympic champion Angelo Taylor is the most recent entry and will replace the injured James Carter. Taylor will compete against Kemel Thompson and Neil Gardner of Jamaica and the Russian Ruslan Maschchenko.

The 100 and 200 metres european bronze medallist Manuela Levorato will also miss the Milan meeting because of injury. Chandra Sturrup, Olympic champion with the 4x100 relay for Bahamas, the Nigerians Endurance Ojokolo and Mercy Nku and the German Sina Schielke, a former european junior champion in the 100 and the 200 metres in 1999 and Finland’s Johanna Manninen (european junior champion in the 100 in 1997), the 2001 200 metres world indoor champion Juliet Campbell of Jamaica will contend for victory  and aim for a clocking under the 11.10 barrier.

Christine Amertyl produced a great surprise at the 2003 World Indoors in Birmingham by winning the silver in the 400 metres with 51.11. In Milan she will challenge Senegal’s World outdoor champion Ami Mbake Thiam, the European indoor champion Natalya Antyukh and the former World Indoor champion Sandie Richards of Jamaica.
Natalia Torshina of Kazakistan, currently third in the IAAF World Ranking and the 2000 US Trials winner Sandra Glover, Jamaican Debbie Ann Parris, fifth in Edmonton, Poland’s Anna Olichwierczuk Jesien, bronze at the Europeans in Munich and Monika Niederstatter (fourth in Munich) are the main challengers in the 400 hurdles.

The women’s pole vault features six women who cleared 4.50 or more including the German Ivonne Buschbaum (bronze at Munich last summer and a PB of 4.64) and Christine Adams (PB 4.66 indoor), Rogowska, sixth at the World Indoors in Birmingham, and Elisdottir of Iceland (sixth in Edmonton).
Merima Denboba, sixth in Lausanne at the World Cross Country Championships in the short course race and the other Ethiopian Meselech Melkamu, Isabella Ochichi (PB 8:37.66), Alice Timbilil, winner at the Kenyan Cross Country Trials and at the Cinque Mulini this winter and Dorcus Inzikuru from Uganda, a former World Junior champion in Santiago de Chile 2000 in the 5000 metres, will sompete in the 3000 metres.

The meeting which assembles 22 finalists from the World Championships in Edmonton and 40 athletes in the first 20 places in the IAAF World Rankings in their disciplines, will follow a pre-event program of youth events which starts from the early hours of the afternoon on 3 June.