Meselech Melkamu en route to her 29:53.80 performance in Utrecht (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
General News

Van Zyl, Melkamu and Wlodarczyk returning to Ostrava - IAAF World Challenge

Ostrava, Czech RepublicRedhot LJ Van Zyl, distance ace Meselech Melkamu and World Hammer Throw champion Anita Wlodarczyk have joined the list of headliners for the 50th jubilee edition of the Golden Spike - IAAF World Challenge - in Ostrava, Czech Republic on 31 May.

Van Zyl, a 2005 World Championships and 2008 Olympic finalist in the 400m Hurdles, has been on an early season tear. The 25-year-old broke the South African record in his specialty with a 47.66 run in February and last weekend registered a big breakthrough in the flat 400m, clocking 44.86 at altitude in Germiston. Both performances are early season 2011 world leading performances.

Van Zyl will be making his third appearance in Ostrava after finishing second in 2006 and taking a victory in 2007. He's set to take on European champion Dai Greene of Great Britain with the 48.10 meeting record owned by Felix Sanchez as his target.

“I really like the track in Ostrava. It’s fast, and there is always a vibrant atmosphere in the stadium," said van Zyl, who plans to open his international season at the opening 2011 Samsung Diamond League meeting in Doha on 6 May.

"Training has been going very well this winter. I have improved both my PBs for the 400m Hurdles and 400m during the South African athletics season. Therefore, I am hoping to continue with this form towards the rest of the outdoor season, and specifically the World Championships in Daegu."

Melkamu targeting fast 10,000m

Another familiar face to Ostrava fans will Ethiopian Melkamu, the reigning World silver medallist in the 10,000m and African record holder in the event. The 25-year-old will compete in Ostrava's municipal stadium for the seventh time since 2004 - she's only missed 2005 since - and again in the Zatopek Memorial 10,000m. She's taken home two victories (5000m and 10,000m), one runner-up finish and a pair of third place showings after her debut here in 2004 as a junior where she finished 13th in the 1500m. Last year she won the 10,000m in 31:04.52, a performance which held up as the fastest of the 2010 season.

“I’m currently training well. I like the track, the organization and the spectators in Ostrava very much and I hope to run a fast race," said Melkamu, who broke the African 10,000m record in Utrecht in 2009 with a 29:53.80 run making her the second fastest ever. "Last year I ran the fastest time of the year 2010 in Ostrava, but I’m focusing to run much faster this year.”

Prior to Ostrava, Melkamu is planning to contest the 5000m at the Samsung Diamond League meet on 15 May.

Wlodarczyk vs Heidler in the Hammer Throw

On 30 May, the day prior to the main programme, the focus will as has become tradition in Ostrava, fall on the hammer throwers as part of the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge. In the women's event, Wlodarczyk, the World record holder at 77.96m, will again battle Germany's Betty Heidler, the reigning World silver medallist and European champion to lift the Kamila Skolimowska memorial trophy.

In the men´s competition European champion Libor Charfreitag of Slovakia will face one of his main rivals, Krisztian Pars of Hungary, the bronze winner at last year's European championships and fresh European Cup Winter Throwing gold medalist. Both meet records, women's 76.59m and 80.71m for the men, will be under threat.

Organisers and Bob Ramsak for the IAAF