Tatyana Lebedeva leads a Russian sweep in the women's Long Jump (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Milan, Italy

Lebedeva the standout attraction in Milan

Reigning World and Olympic Long Jump champion Tatyana Lebedeva is the stand-out name of the Notturna di Milano International meeting scheduled on Wednesday 2 July.

The Milan meeting will make its return on the international athletics calender after two years of absence. Last year the Milan played host to a successful edition of the European Cup First League on the new track of the Napoleaonic Arena Civica Gianni Brera.

On Wednesday the old Milan arena, where many memorable athletics feats were achieved during the last century like the famous 800 metres clash between Rudolph Harbig and Mario Lanzi in 1939, or the World 800m record of Marcello Fiasconaro (1:43.7) in 1973 or the World record set by Edwin Moses in the men’s 400m Hurdles (47.13) in 1980, will be in the spotlight again for a great night of Athletics.

Tatyana Lebedeva, the reigning World champion  in the Long Jump but also a two-time World champion in the Triple Jump, will take part in her second triple jump competition of the summer after leaping to 14.59m in Dessau in Germany in June after undergoing surgery on her Achilles tendon last autumn.

Lebedeva, who famously won the $1Million Golden League Jackpot in 2005, also set a Long Jump season’s best of 6.88m at the Znamenski Memorial Memorial in Zhukovskiy, Russia on 16 June.

The Russian who is also World indoor record holder in the Triple Jump (15.36m), will take on reigning Olympic champion Francoise Mbango from Cameroon, who returned to competition this year after injuries in the last couple of seasons, with a fine win at the African Championships in Addis Ababa (14.76) on 4 May.

The other top names are Sudan’s Yamilé Aldama (PB 15.29) and Italian record holder Magdelin Martinez (PB 15.03) in what is the overwhelmingly best line-up of the night.

Feofanova vs Golubchikova

Russia is set to dominate another high-quality field  which has been assembled for the women’s Pole Vault which features former World champion and record holder Svetlana Feofanova and this year’s European Cup winner Yuliya Golubchikova who vaulted 4.73m at the European Cup in Annecy recently. 

The other highlight of the evening will be on the track in the men’s 1500 metres where this year’s World Indoor champion Deresse Mekonnen will go for a 3:32 time. The young ethiopian, who was born in 1988, finished third in the famous Dream Mile in the Oslo’s Bislett Games in 3:49.72 ( 6 June).

Britons headline in the one lap races

The men’s 400m will feature Britain’s Martyn Rooney, the fastest European 400 metres sprinter this summer with 45.19 in Geneva and the winner of the European Cup winner in Annecy, while there is also a ‘B’ race which features South Africa’s Paraolympic 200m champion Oscar Pistorius.

In the women’s 400 metres, Britain’s Nicola Sanders, the World silver medallist in Osaka (49.65) who like Rooney won this year’s European Cup race in Annecy, takes on the current world season leader Amantle Montsho of Botswana who ran a sensational 49.83 secs when winning the African title in Addis Ababa.

Home record hopes

The focus of Italian fans will be on new Italian record holder Libania Grenot, a 24-year-old cuban born athlete who grabbed the headlines last weekend when she broke the Italian record with 51.05 at the Top Club Challenge in Florence indicating that she might be able to dip under 51 seconds against stronger opposition in Milan. Grenot, who competed for Cuba at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, has become Italian citizen since her marriage to Silvio Scaffetti in September 2006. 

Another genuine Italian record attempt will be in the women’s 100m Hurdles where 26-year-old Micol Cattaneo, a semi-finalist in the 60m Hurdles at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, will try to break Carla Tuzzi’s long-standing national record of 12.97. Cattaneo ran 12.98 with -1.3 m/s headwind at the European Cup in Annecy and will pursue the A-qualifying standard for Bejing against 2006 World Indoor champion Derval O’Rourke from Ireland and Nevin Yanit from Turkey (PB 12.76). 

High jumper Antonietta Di Martino will return to the Milan stadium where she first set her 2.03m national record during the European Cup First League a height she equalled later in the season when she won the World silver medal in Osaka.

Di Martino, who showed progress at the European Cup in Annecy jumping 1.95 for second place, will come up against Russians Svetlana Shkolina (1.96) and Viktoriya Klyugina (1.97). “I am peaking my form after a hard period of training. I began feeling very well in Annecy,” said Di Martino.
 
European Indoor Shot Put champion Assunta Legnante, who competes for the local Italgest athletics team which organizes the Milan meeting, will be looking for a confidence-boosting result ahead the Olympic Games in Beijing. 

The Milan meeting will be an important competition for some italian athletes who are doing very well this season. Elisa Cusma, who qualified for the the 800 metres final at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia after improving the long-standing national indoor record of former Olympic 1500m champion Gabriella Dorio (2.00.36 in the semifinal), will come up against  Moroccan Amina Ait Hammou in the two-lap race. Cusma set a SB of 1:59.76 in the Oslo Bislett Games.

The men’s 100 metres is set to be a british affair between sprint hopes Craig Pickering, European Indoor silver medallist, and Silmeon Williamson, the reigning European U23 champion.

Ivet Lalova from Bulgaria starts as favourite in the women’s 100 metres.  
 
The 5km Race Walk will offer the chance of a final test before Beijing to double World 50km bronze medallist Alex Schwazer and reigning Olympic 20km champion Ivano Brugnetti. The latter will be extra motivated after his wife Cristina gave birth to their second daughter Federica last week.
       
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF