The 1999 Grand Prix I circuit gets going to the sound of the Samba in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, 25 April and will also showcase the return to the throwing circle of reigning World and Olympic shot put champion Astrid Kumbernuss (GER).
Kumbernuss missed the competition circuit last year, as she awaited the birth of her first child, Philip, born on 7 July, but has been back in serious training since October. "We planned it this way," said Kumbernuss when she announced her pregnancy. "1998 is not so important as the following years."
This year Kumbernuss’ focus is on the World Championships in Seville in August and one of her strongest rivals, Connie Price Smith (USA), will also be in Rio on Sunday. Their showdown could be the prelude to an exciting series of encounters this season.
In the men’s 400m hurdles, 20-year-old rising star Angelo Taylor (USA) will face stiff competition from seasoned campaigners Samuel Matete from Zambia and Dinsdale Morgan (JAM). The American youngster was second in last year’s IAAF outdoor lists and could pose a serious threat this year.
World and Olympic Champion high hurdler Allen Johnson (USA), will be doubling up in Rio by running in the 200m as well as the 110m hurdles, with only Duane Ross likely to threaten in Johnson’s speciality event. In the 200m, Johnson, who clocked a best of 20.34 for the distance last year, looks outclassed by Chile’s Sebastian Keitel, who had a great 1998 season, and will also be challenged by fellow US athlete Tony McCall and local star Claudinei da Silva.
Look for some fireworks, too, in the women’s triple jump, with a star field including world champion Sarka Kasparkova (CZE), Rodina Mateescu from Romania and Bulgarians Teresa Marinova and Maria Dimitrova. Rio is the first serious outing for all of them this season and competition will be fierce in an event which scores for the Grand Prix in 1999.