10.81 world leader for Carmelita Jeter in Kingston (Errol Anderson - The SportingImage.net) © Copyright
Preview 8 June 2012 – New York, USA

High powered head-to-heads dominate the New York marquee - PREVIEW - Samsung Diamond League

New York, USAThe three fastest women of 2012, in absolute terms, are all here and racing each other on Saturday at the adidas Grand Prix, the sixth stop of Samsung Diamond League series.

2011 World Champion Carmelita Jeter (10.81) of the U.S., Kelly-Ann Baptiste (10.86) of Trinidad and Tobago, the bronze medalist from Daegu, and another American, Allyson Felix (10.92), who has a few World Championships of her own, are all running the 100m at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island in New York City. None of the three are women who particularly like to lose, but all of them are risking a loss here to improve their chances of victory at the London Olympics.

"I thrive on competition," Felix told reporters on Thursday. "It teaches you to run under pressure."

"It’s about being able to replicate practice under pressure. Whoever does it best will win in London," Bapiste said.

With all the talk of London, Beijing Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has a lane in this race as well, and the stands at Icahn will be packed with a largely Jamaican crowd who will be in her corner.

Richardson, Merritt and Oliver square off

The clash of women’s sprinters isn’t the only loaded event in the fixture which dates back to the stadium’s opening in 2005. The men’s 110m Hurdles will feature the World Champion, Jason Richardson, and the World Indoor Champion, Aries Merritt, along with 2010’s leader in that event, David Oliver, three men likely to face off again in the final of the U.S. Olympic Trials. The race is missing World Record holder Dayron Robles only because Robles opted not to risk racing on a minor injury.

"Every week is an Olympic preview," grinned Richardson. "Our competition isn’t each other," said Oliver. "Our competition is those barriers."

The men’s High Jump will also have a World champion, Jesse Williams, and World Indoor Champion, Dimitrios Chondrokoukis of Greece. Perhaps more to the point, Chondrokoukis currently shares the Diamond Race lead with Briton Robbie Grabarz at one win apiece, with Williams standing second; all three will be hoping to leave New York as the clear leader. Williams has the highest PB in the group at 2.37m, but two other entrants - Andra Manson and one Donald Thomas, the 2007 World Champion from The Bahamas– have 2.35m career bests and might wish to establish themselves as contenders this year as well.

Defar and Dibaba tangle over 5000m

The women’s 5000m will see a rare non-championship meeting between Ethiopia’s much-decorated duo of Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba. Dibaba, the World record holder and double Olympic gold medallist in Beijing, is hoping to impress Ethiopian team selectors; Defar will take the opportunity to close the gap on Diamond Race leader Vivian Cheruiyot. Defar’s 14:35.65, set nine days before this race in Rome, was just a few hundredths behind Cheruiyot’s world-leading 14:35.61.

In 2006, Defar produced a prodigious last-lap sprint to capture the World record in this event at this track, but Dibaba’s subsequent lowering of the mark to 14:11.15 may be more than either woman will be looking for this Saturday. Dibaba’s injuries in 2010 and 2011 have put her on a different footing, and it’s not inconceivable that the former rivals might work together towards their respective goals. What’s more, each is one of the few women capable of setting a good pace for the other.

Rudisha targeting 1:42, but with an eye on Kaki

Another World Record holder in New York will be David Rudisha, the 800m World champion now focused entirely on Olympic gold. Watching the Games in 2008 after sitting out the Kenyan team trials with an injury, Rudisha said, was "tough", but "I am in better shape now than in 2008," he reminded the press. Rudisha set 1:42 as a goal for New York – "I would like to improve" on the 1:43.10 he ran in Doha – but he will also need to beat rivals like Alfred Kirwa Yego, Abubaker Kaki, and Boaz Lalang.

Rudisha called Kaki "a great rival" in Friday’s press conference, citing Kaki’s talent and hard work, but also called him a friend, with the pair meeting for dinner when Kaki trained near Rudisha’s home in Kenya. Rudisha also conceded that he was excited simply to be in New York for the first time. Saturday will mark the first time an 800m World record holder has raced in the United States since Sebastian Coe in 1984 – before Rudisha was born.

Spotakova, Murer, Adams and Savigne star on the infield

The field events will have yet another World Record holder, Czech Barbora Spotakova in the women’s Javelin Throw. Spotakova will lead a quartet of top women in the field events, including New Zealander Valerie Adams (Shot Put), Brazil’s Fabiana Murer (Pole Vault), and Cuban Yargelis Savigne (Triple Jump). The latter three have all been World champions at one time, Murer winning her title just last year.

Spotakova and Savigne should both make significant improvements on the event records; with the women’s javelin rarely held here, Spotakova has thrown more than ten meters beyond the event record already this year. Her competition is most likely to come from South African Sunette Viljoen, whose best this year is within a metre of Spotakova’s.

Adams and Murer will have a tougher time with the meet records, although Adams already holds shot mark. If Murer could make a run at Jenn Suhr’s 4.88m from 2007, she would also get a world leader and a PB from the clearance. She may have to get that high to better Pole Monika Pyrek, whose season is just getting underway.

So far in 2012, Adams has no peers, but 2011 World Championships bronze medalist Jill Camarena-Williams will try her best to unseat the Kiwi.

Savigne may not even be the favorite to win her event, with two-time World Championships silver medalist and 2010 World Indoor champion Olga Rypakova entered.

Simpson to test her speed against rising star Magiso

A World Champion is entered in the women’s 800m, but not the 800m World champion. Jenny Simpson, the 1500m World champion from Daegu, will be stepping down in distance to work on her speed in anticipation of a hotly contested Olympic Trials later this month. With a 2:01.20 PB, however, Simpson is far from the class of the event, with 2012’s newcomer Fantu Magiso of Ethiopia and Simpson’s countrywoman Maggie Vessey both sporting 1:57 PBs.

The men’s 400m will be 2004 Olympic champion and two-time World champion Jeremy Wariner’s chance to make his case that he is still a contender for an Olympic medal. Wariner, whose season so far has been overshadowed by the likes of LaShawn Merritt, claims his training this year is comparable to 2007, when he won his second World Championship. He will need to improve on his 44.96 season’s best (which dates back to April) to compete with the young Luguelin Santos, whose 44.45 is #2 on the world list this year.

Should either of those two to fail to "execute," a term the sprinters have been using a lot this week, Tabarie Henry and Christopher Brown each have the wheels to run them down. Former 400m Hurdles World Champion Bershawn "Batman" Jackson is also in the field, sharpening his flat speed without barriers to contend with.

Watt vs Rutherford in the Long Jump

In the men’s field events, the highlight should be the meeting of Australia’s mercurial Mitchell Watt, 2011’s top-ranked long jumper, and Briton Greg Rutherford, whose 8.35m leap is the list leader for 2012. The meet record is almost certain to go down here as well. This will be Watt’s first outdoor competition outside Australia this season as he tries to carry the momentum of his 2011 season into the Olympic Games.

Competition will open on Saturday with the men’s Discus, where Lawrence Okoye has the best mark coming in (68.24m) with Zoltan Kovago right behind (68.21m). Opening salvos in this event will begin at 10:30 AM.

The women’s 400m hurdles will feature Kaliese Spencer, a two-time World Championships finalist with a 54.39 seasonal best. The next-best seasonal mark in the field is 2010 U.S. champion T’erea Brown at 54.88.

Blake looking to capture the 100m spotlight

Non-Diamond-Race events of interest on the schedule include the men’s 100m, women’s 200m, and men’s 1500m. The men’s 100m features reigning World champion Yohan Blake, who will be running in the shadow of his own training partner, Usain Bolt. In 2008, Bolt previewed his astounding Olympic campaign with a 9.72 World Record at this meet, but Blake, who may have the most credible chance of taking Bolt’s crown in London, refuses to project finishing times, insisting like Baptiste and Felix that the race is all about "executing" and not worrying about time.

In the women’s 200m, 400m World champion Sanya Richards-Ross will sharpen her speed. "If I can PB in the 200m, that shows me I’m ready to run my best at the 400m," Richards-Ross said. Richards-Ross trains with Clyde Hart, the former coach of all-time great 200m/400m sprinter Michael Johnson, and Hart’s 400m stars often race the shorter distance at this point in the season.

A women’s 400m will feature Novlene Williams-Mills, who ran 49.78 last weekend in Eugene, as well as Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu. In the men’s 1500m, evergreen Bernard Lagat, the two-event World champion in 2007, will race Augustine Choge and Craig Mottram.

Parker Morse for the IAAF

Click here for timetable and start lists