The annual meeting in Rieti, now part of the IAAF World Challenge, celebrates its 40th anniversary this weekend. Kenya’s new 800m World record holder* David Rudisha and US record holder and Olympic 110m Hurdles bronze medallist David Oliver will lead the annual parade of stars on Sunday afternoon (29) at the town’s Raul Guidobaldi Stadium.
Looking for “something great”
Rudisha will be gunning for another fast time one week after breaking the 13-year-old World 800m record held by Dane Wilson Kipketer, with a 1:41.09 achieved at the Berlin World Challenge meeting last Sunday. Rudisha has fulfilled last year’s promise to return to Rieti where he set the then African record of 1:42.01 in a memorable race. The Kenyan has lowered thisAarea record time twice this year to 1:41.51 in Heusden Zolder and now the 1:41.09 in Berlin, and a serious attempt to break the 1:41 barrier at Rieti’s famous “temple” to middle-distance running is within his reach.
“I will return to achieve something great”, said Rudisha last year. His friend and pacemaker Sammy Tangui is charged to pace him in the first 400 metres at a mind-boggling 48.5. The world seasonal best time has been set nine times in the history of the meeting.
Rudisha will face Boaz Lalang, second in the Berlin World record race, and European gold and silver medallists Marcin Lewandowski from Poland and Britain’s Michael Rimmer.
Oliver looking for 6th sub-13 of season
David Oliver comes to Rieti after a fabulous season in which he’s achieved five races under 13 seconds at the 110m Hurdles. The fast Rieti track may see another World record attempt by the red-hot hurdler. He set his last sub-13 sec at the Zürich Samsung Diamond League meeting where he clocked 12.93 and won the Diamond Trophy to crown an impressive Diamond League campaign in which he won four other times in Shanghai, Eugene, Paris, Monaco and broke the US record in Paris with 12.89, missing Dayron Robles’ world record by 0.02 sec.
On the Rieti track, Oliver takes on fellow American Ryan Wilson, Jamaican record holder Dwight Thomas, Britain’s European champion Andy Turner, who won in Barcelona in 13.28, and Czech Petr Svoboda. The Rieti meeting record set by Briton Colin Jackson with 13.07 in 1994 is certainly under threat.
Lemaitre and a celebration of Italy’s quartet
The men’s 100 metres, another traditional highlight of the Rieti meeting, features France’s 20-year-old Christophe Lemaitre, who dipped under 10 seconds with his 9.98 at the National Championships in Valence. In Barcelona, Lemaitre scored an historic hat-trick winning 100m, 200m and 4x100 relay and was the super-star of the European Champs.
The young Frenchman will square off against Jamaican Nesta Carter, who clocked 9.86 in Nottwil, a time bettered only by Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay this year. Mike Rodgers who beat Lemaitre in Villenueve D’Asq on Tuesday, Olympic silver medallist Richard Thomson of Trinidad and Tobago, also compete in the 100 metres line-up.
Rieti will also celebrate the Italian sprinters Roberto Donati, Simone Collio, Emanuele Di Gregorio and Maurizio Checcucci who won the 4x100 relay silver medal at the European Championships in Barcelona with 38.17. That performance broke the long-standing national record of 38.37 set by Stefano Tilli, Pierfrancesco Pavoni, Carlo Simionato and Pietro Mennea when they won the silver medal at the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki. Rieti will mark a special home-coming meeting for Collio and Donati who live in Rieti and train everyday on the Guidobaldi track.
Spearmon, Spencer, Murer… on show
Wallace Spearmon, who clocked 19.79 in Zürich to win the Samsung Diamond League in the 200 metres, is another Diamond Trophy winner to compete on Sunday. He will face twice Olympic 400 metres Hurdles champion Angelo Taylor who clocked his 200 metres PB of 20.34 in Shanghai in May.
Olympic silver medallist Sherone Simpson and World 200m bronze medallist Debbie Ferguson McKenzie are the top names in the women’s 100 metres, while in the women’s 400m Hurdles, the Diamond League winner Kaliese Spencer will try to attack her recent PB of 53.33 sec set in Zürich and will be pushed by Czech record holder Zuzana Hejnova.
A very fast men’s 3000 metres race is expected as it features world season leader Tariku Bekele, who won in Berlin last Sunday with 7:28.99. Olympic silver and bronze medallists Eliud Kipchoge and Edwin Soi from Kenya, USA’s Chris Solinski and Bernard Lagat the reigning IAAF World Indoor champion also start. World junior champion Mercy Cherono and World silver medallist Sylvia Kibet are the top names in the women’s 3000 metres.
In the men’s 1500m, Silas Kiplagat, who improved dramatically from 3:34 to a world seasonal best of 3:29.27 in the Monaco Samsung Diamond League meeting, will attempt to go faster against a very strong opposition led by Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop and 2009 world seasonal leader Augustine Choge.
Fast times are also expected in the 1500 metres with world seasonal leader Anna Alminova from Russia (3.57.65 in Paris), World champion and Rieti meeting record holder Maryam Yusuf Jamal from Bahrain and US pair formed by Anna Pierce and Shannon Rowbury.
Fabiana Murer, the IAAF World Indoor champion and Samsung Diamond League winner, will be in the spotlight in the women’s Pole Vault, watched by Yelena Isinbayeva, who has taken a year off from competitions, and will a special guest spectator this weekend in Rieti.
The men’s High Jump is expected to provide a Russian battle between World outdoor champion Yaroslav Rybakov and World Indoor champion Ivan Ukhov.
Local fans will have their eyes on hero Andrew Howe, who has returned this year from serious injury problems with an encouraging fifth place with 8.12 at the European Championships in Barcelona. Howe will face strong opposition from European silver medallist Kafetien Gomis from France, European Indoor champion record holder Sebastian Bayer from Germany, and European Team Cup winner Pavel Shalin from Russia.
Another highlight for Italian fans will be the women’s 400 metres where Libania Grenot, who finished fourth in both the 400 metres with 50.43 and the 4x400 relay at the European Championships, will face European gold medallist Tatyana Firova and Berlin World silver medallist Sherika Williams from Jamaica.
The official programme of the Rieti meeting will be opened this year on Saturday afternoon (28) when the three qualifying throws of both men’s and women’s Hammer Throw competitions valid for the Hammer Throw IAAF Challenge will take place.
The first three rounds scheduled on Saturday afternoon will serve to qualify the four best throwers in both men and women categories for the final three rounds scheduled on Sunday afternoon during the main Rieti meeting. It will be the penultimate leg of the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge before the final held in Zagreb on 1 September.
The local headliner will be Nicola Vizzoni who won the European Championships silver medal with 79.12m, ten years after winning the Olympic silver medal in Sydney. Vizzoni will meet again the entire podium from Barcelona led by gold medallist Libor Charfreitag from Slovakia and bronze medallist Kristian Pars from Hungary plus Challenge leader Dilshod Nazarov from Tajikistan. Rieti also welcomes the return of 2004 Olympic champion Koji Murofushi who holds the Rieti meeting record with 82.62 set in 2007 when he beat Belarus’Ivan Tikhon by just one cm.
The women’s Hammer Throw will be highlighted by the presence of Berlin World champion Anita Wlodarczyk who broke her own World record this year with 78.30m. The Pole, who is currently second in the Hammer Throw Challenge, will make an attempt to break the meeting record held by Cuban Yipsi Moreno who threw to 74.71 in 2008. Moreno will be also in the field as well as European bronze medallist Tatyana Lysenko from Russia.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
*NOTE: World record subject to usual ratification procedures