One of the biggest rivalries in athletics will resume at the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix in Birmingham on Sunday, 30 June, when Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Carmelita Jeter clash for only the second time this season in what should be one of the highlights of the seventh IAAF Diamond League meeting of 2013.
The world’s leading women sprint stars are just two of the 11 reigning Olympic champions and 30 London 2012 medallists who’ll be vying for points and personal bests as the Diamond League gets back on track following a short break for national championships and European team competitions last weekend.
The other London 2012 gold medallists on the bill at Alexander Stadium are Aries Merritt, Sally Pearson, Felix Sanchez, Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford, Christian Taylor, Sandra Perkovic, Jennifer Suhr and Nesta Carter.
While Fraser-Pryce comes fresh from winning the Jamaican 200m title in a world-leading 22.13, Jeter will make her first appearance on a track since hobbling over the 100m finish line with a hamstring injury in Shanghai six weeks ago when Fraser-Pryce took victory in 10.93.
There was much mutual admiration between the pair before that race with Fraser-Pryce praising her US rival for “raising the bar” of women’s sprinting with her 2009 PB of 10.64, the second-quickest 100m of all time.
“That’s where I want to go,” she said. “Carmelita has raised the game, and I want to go there too.
“The good thing about Carmelita and I is that whenever we compete it is always a very good race.”
Another “good race” between the two is in prospect in Birmingham where both trained last summer before London 2012 when Fraser-Pryce flew to her second Olympic 100m gold leaving the World champion with silver.
But Jeter turned the tables when they returned to Birmingham a couple of weeks later, beating the double Olympic champion with a blistering 100m in 10.81.
This time they’ll go head-to-head over 200m with Fraser-Pryce leading the world rankings by 0.18 seconds from Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare, who’s also in the field along with Sherone Simpson and Ukraine’s Mariya Ryemyen.
Fraser-Pryce clinched Olympic silver at this distance last summer, when Jeter took bronze, and claims to be particularly “excited” about her half-lap form this year.
For her part, Jeter is feeling her way back to fitness with an eye on August’s World 100m title defence in Moscow having missed the US Trials in Des Moines last weekend.
Pearson continues comeback
It’s a similar story in the women’s sprint hurdles where Olympic champion Sally Pearson makes only her second appearance over the barriers having suffered her own share of injury problems this year. The Australian, who dominated the event last season, ran an Olympic record to win gold in London last summer, and matched the meeting record of 12.48 when she last raced here in 2011.
After clocking 12.67 to win in Ostrava on Thursday, Pearson will be looking for another fast time on Sunday when she’ll face 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson. After only running the heats at the US Trials, Harper will be in Moscow thanks to a wild card entry having won the 2012 Diamond Race. No doubt both will feel they have something to prove following Briana Rollins’ sensational American record of 12.26 in Des Moines.
Others in the line-up include Kellie Wells and Kristi Castlin, fourth and sixth in that gob-smacking US championship final, plus Britain’s Olympic finalist and World indoor silver medallist Tiffany Porter.
There are quality fields in the one-lap hurdles too, not least the men’s event where the three London Olympic medallists take on the Britain’s reigning World champion Dai Greene on his own turf. Greene will be looking to improve on a somewhat lacklustre display at the European Team Championships in Gateshead in what will be a severe test of his World Championship credentials.
Olympic champion Felix Sanchez is making his first appearance at the event this year after clocking a 200m Hurdles PB at the Manchester City Games, while the Olympic silver medallist and Diamond Race leader, Michael Tinsley, runs his eighth competitive hurdles race of 2013 having posted the world’s fastest time of 47.96 to win the US title a week ago.
London 2012 bronze medallist Javier Culson is also in form and the Puerto Rican will be looking for his first win of the year having twice clocked 48.36.
Farah and Rutherford hoping for a Super Sunday
Two of Britain’s trio of Olympic champions will also be on show too, with organisers no doubt hoping for some of their ‘Super Saturday’ magic to rouse the Birmingham crowd. Yet, both Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford will have to overcome stiff opposition to win their events.
Farah bounced back from defeat in Eugene earlier this month with a jaw-dropping last lap of 50.89 to win the 5000m in Gateshead. The World champion was an equally dominant winner of the Two Miles in Birmingham last year, but he’ll need to be on top form this time when he takes on a trio of the most talented Ethiopians in Hagos Gebrhiwet and Yenew Alamirew, the world numbers one and two this year, plus Ibrahim Jeilan, the man who beat him to the World 10,000m title in Daegu two years ago.
Rutherford, meanwhile, faces four-time World champion and 2004 Olympic champion Dwight Phillips, Russia’s European indoor champion Aleksandr Menkov, and fellow British record-holder Chris Tomlinson.
British hopes will be high in the women’s 400m too where former World and Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu takes on the in-form Botswanan Amantle Montsho, new US champion Natasha Hastings and Jamaican champion Novlene Williams-Mills.
Young talents feature in 100m and 800m
While it lacks the biggest of the big name stars of world sprinting, the men’s 100m still boasts four men who have run sub-10 this year, plus the World youth record-holder Yoshihide Kiryu.
The 17-year-old Japanese prodigy clocked 10.01 in April and will make his first Diamond League appearance in a field that includes US pair Isiah Young and Michael Rodgers, Jamaican Nesta Carter and Zimbabwe’s Gabriel Mvumvure, all under 10 in 2013, plus former World champion Kim Collins and Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut.
The men’s 800m could be the pick of the middle distance races with two young stars in the line-up who have dipped below 1:44 this year – Ethiopia’s 19-year-old World indoor champion Mohamed Aman, who clocked 1:43.78 in Ostrava, and 20-year-old Kenyan Jeremiah Mutai.
It’s a former Ethiopian, Abeba Aregawi, who’ll be favourite for the women’s 1500m. The adopted Swede is unbeaten this year, leads the Diamond Race for this event, and tops the world rankings with her 3:56.60 national record from Doha, the quickest season’s best in the field by almost five seconds.
Kenya’s 2008 Olympic champion Nancy Langat is next quickest with 4:01.41 but there’ll be great support for the British trio of Lisa Dobriskey, Hannah England and Laura Weightman.
World leader Lydia Chepkurui heads a quality women’s 3000m Steeplechase field with fellow Kenyan Milcah Chemos and Ethiopian pair Sofia Assefa and Hiwot Ayalew among the six athletes who have broken 9:20 this year.
Excitement expected in jumping events
Quality is the watchword in the jumps too, with the women's Pole Vault perhaps the pick of the crop. Olympic champion Jenn Suhr faces World champion Fabiana Murer in the women’s Pole Vault, although Cuba’s world No.1 Yarisley Silva is the only woman to reach 4.90m outdoors this year.
In the men's High Jump, US champion and Olympic silver medallist Erik Kynard takes on Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz of Britain, USA’s World champion Jesse Williams, Bohdan Bondarenko of Ukraine and Russia’s World silver medallist Aleksey Dmitrik.
World and Olympic champion Christian Taylor returns to the Triple Jump after long jumping at the US trials (he finished sixth). He will take on World indoor record-holder Teddy Tamgho. For the first time this year, Taylor is expected to compete off a full approach.
Another world leader, Ryan Whiting, will be favourite for the Shot Put against fellow American Reese Hoffa, with Germany’s World champion David Storl and Poland’s two-time Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski providing the main European challenge.
Vitezslav Vesely heads a Europe-heavy Javelin field. The Czech leads the Diamond Race and will be aiming to continue his superiority over Norway’s former Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen.
Current Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic looks to continue her winning form in the women’s Discus. The Croatian is unbeaten in four meetings and leads the world after throwing 68.48m in New York.
Aries Merritt, the Olympic 110m Hurdles champion and World record-holder, is on the tentative comeback trail after suffering with injury since Shanghai when he pulled out of a rain-washed race against World champion Jason Richardson. Merritt returned to action in Des Moines, posting his fastest time of the year in his semi-final, 13.09, before scraping into the US Moscow team in third place.
Merritt’s opponents here, in one of the non-Diamond races on the programme, include world No.2 Orlando Ortega of Cuba, 2009 World champion Ryan Braithwaite of Barbados and new Trinidadian record-holder Mikel Thomas.
The women’s 400m Hurdles is largely set up as an all-British clash between Perri Shakes-Drayton and Eilidh Child after both set PBs in Gateshead last weekend – Shakes-Drayton in the flat 400m, Child with a Scottish record over the hurdles.
The home crowd will have raised expectations of Jessica Judd too, the 18-year-old who thrilled in Gateshead with a gritty 800m win against more experienced opposition. Her chief rivals here are likely to be Russia’s Yelena Kotulskaya and Ethiopia’s rising star Fantu Magiso.
Teshome Dirirsa, another talented Ethiopian youngster, features in the 1500m. The 2011 World Youth champion faces Morocco’s World indoor champion Abdelaati Iguider and compatriot Aman Wote who have both run under 3:34 this year.
Matt Brown for the IAAF