As is customary sprinting events will feature prominently when the Jamaica International Invitational Meeting, the first of the IAAF World Challenge series, kicks off on Saturday (19) in Kingston.
The women’s 100m is one of the marquee events and double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson is the main protagonist. Thompson, who clocked 10.93 to secure third at the opening IAAF Diamond League Meeting in Doha, will be looking to rediscover her winning ways at one of her favourite hunting venues.
Seeking to spoil Thompson’s ambitions and extend her wait are recent Commonwealth Games finalists Christania Williams and Gayon Evans, who were silver and bronze medallists respectively and Natasha Morrison who placed fifth.
Shericka Jackson will look to continue her impressive season against a stellar cast in the women’s 200m. Jackson, who recently revised her PB to 22.14, could be engaged in a stirring showdown with Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor, the current world leader with 22.04.
Adding lustre to this contest are three formidable Americans in 400m world champion Phyllis Francis, who steps down in distance, as well as Kyra Jefferson, the NCAA record-holder and London World Championships finalist Kimberlyn Duncan.
Kim Collins comes out of retirement to compete one final time on Jamaican soil in the men’s 100m. The 2003 world champion will match strides with world indoor 60m bronze medallist Ronnie Baker, the first man to dip below 10 seconds this season, and perennial sprinter Mike Rodgers whose 10.03 (+1.9 m/s) on 28 April sits joint fifth on the world lists.
The Jamaican challenge will be spearheaded by Julian Forte, a semi-finalist at last year’s World Championships, and world indoor semi-finalist Everton Clarke. Also in the mix is Jamaican-born Swiss sprinter Alex Wilson.
Clement to face Hyde and Culson
Five years have elapsed since double world and Olympic champion Kerron Clement last competed in Jamaica. On that occasion he lost by a whisker to Justin Gamon in an enthralling 400m hurdles race with both men registering 49.23. Notwithstanding, Clement has more pleasant memories of Kingston, one of which dates back to 2008 when he set the existing meeting record of 47.79.
Finishing sixth in his 2018 season opener at the IAAF Doha Diamond League in a pedestrian 50.19 was perhaps due to race rustiness. The veteran hurdler will need a more robust approach to thwart the challenge from Jaheel Hyde, a two-time world U20 champion and Puerto Rican Javier Culson, a two-time world silver and Olympic bronze medallist.
It’s quite conceivable though that, on current form, the man to watch is Bahamian Jeffery Gibson, silver medallist at the Commonwealth Games.
In the women’s one lap obstacle event, Janieve Russell, the Commonwealth Games champion, leads a horde of Jamaicans including world bronze medallist Ristananna Tracey, Rio finalist Leah Nugent, Rushell Clayton and the enduring Kaliese Spencer. They will square off with the super talented Ashley Spencer, who secured Olympic bronze in Rio.
The men’s 400m should be an intriguing encounter with world championships finalist Demish Gaye and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Javon Francis trying to defend home turf against Grenada’s Bralon Taplin and Belgium’s Kevin Borlee. Conversely, the form book indicates American Paul Dedewo, the only athlete in the field to breach the 45 second barrier this season, could upstage his more illustrious opponents.
Women’s IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge commences
Action on the infield could share the spotlight with track events, with the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge, the first of nine meetings spanning the globe, taking centre stage.
Two years ago only a sprinkling of spectators witnessed U.S. record holder Gwen Berry, swinging her hammer out to 73.82m and establishing the meeting record, due to the event’s early start at 2:00 pm.
This year the event will commence later allowing for a bigger crowd to cheer Berry who leads a US quintet comprising current world number two DeAnna Price who threw a personal best of 75.96m recently. They will be joined by compatriots Jessica Ramsey, Jeneva Stevens and former US record holder Amanda Bingson whilst Hungary’s Reka Gyuratz, the 2013 IAAF World U18 champion, is the lone non-American in the ring.
Thomas-Dodd commands the shot put attention
Another riveting field event expected to attract a glued local audience is the women’s shot put where Danniel Thomas-Dodd, Jamaica’s national record holder and recently minted Commonwealth Games champion, is the star attraction.
Thomas-Dodd, the first Jamaican woman to win a medal of any colour at a global shot put event, will renew battle with Canada’s Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Brittany Crew and Trinidad & Tobago’s record holder Cleopatra Borel.
In the long jump pit, Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta, making her seasonal outdoor debut, could face a stern test from Canada’s world leader Christabel Nettey (6.92m) and Chanice Porter, the 2011 world U18 champion whose 6.75m PB on 5 May ranks ninth on the world lists. Great Britain’s Lorraine Ugen, a two-time world championships finalist, will also be on the runway.
Noel Francis for the IAAF