Pawel Fajdek, winner of the hammer in Turku (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Madrid, Spain

Infield takes centre stage in Madrid

The Meeting de Madrid 2017 has attracted a host of top performers with local stars such as Olympic high jump champion Ruth Beitia and Olympic 110m hurdles silver medallist Orlando Ortega set to star alongside world champions Pawel Fajdek and Caterine Ibargüen at the IAAF World Challenge meeting on Friday (14).

Fajdek remains unbeaten so far this season with nine victories to his name, topped by a world-leading 83.44m in Ostrava last month, only 49 centimetres shy of his career best. The 28-year-old Pole, who is also the European champion, will take on Pavel Bareisha of Belarus and Italian veteran Marco Lingua as he looks to extend his lead in the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge.

Ibarguen, the Olympic triple jump champion, holds a season’s best of 14.78m, set when finishing second at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome. The 33-year-old Colombian, who this year will be aiming for her third consecutive world title, will face opposition from Portugal’s European champion Patricia Mamona.

Spanish fans will cheer on Ortega in the men’s high hurdles. The Olympic silver medallist has a personal best of 12.94 and a season’s best of 13.15, the same as in-form Hungarian Balazs Baji, who recently lowered his national record.

On the infield, all eyes will be on Spain’s best ever female athlete, Ruth Beitia. Already 38, the Olympic and European champion has sustained some niggles which have hampered her performances this summer campaign after taking the silver medal at the European Indoor Championships. Beitia has not gone higher than 1.92m outdoors this year but she is still determined to bounce back and shine again at the IAAF World Championships in London.

US duo Liz Patterson and Inika McPherson, who finished second and third at the recent US Championships, should be a factor in the contest. Watch out too for Ukraine’s Oksana Okuneva, whose season’s best of 1.95m is the best of all the entrants.

Makwala targets 44.00

The men’s 400m could be one of the highlights on Friday evening thanks to the presence of Botswana’s Isaac Makwala. The 30-year-old is fresh from a season’s best of 44.08 in Lausanne, not far off his 43.72 PB from 2015. Makwala, who is also entered in the 200m, will be joined over the one-lap contest by his compatriot Karabo Sibanda, who finished fifth at the Rio Olympics in 44.25 aged just 18, and USA’s Vernon Norwood, who finished fourth in Lausanne last week in 44.47.

Spain’s Samuel García, who recently set a big PB of 45.00, will chase the 28-year-old national record of 44.96.

Spanish long jumper Eusebio Caceres recently managed a season’s best of 8.31m and so will try to challenge his PB of 8.37m when he lines up alongside South Africa’s Zarck Visser and USA’s Mike Hartfield.

USA’s Quincy Downing, whose recent PB of 48.13 makes him the third-fastest man in the world this year, will be the athlete to beat in the men’s 400m hurdles. 2005 world champion Bershawn Jackson, Puerto Rico’s two-time world silver medallist Javier Culson and Spain’s European silver medallist Sergio Fernendez are also in the line-up.

Olympic 4x400m champion Courtney Okolo missed out on the US team for the World Championships, but rebounded with a season’s best of 50.29 last Sunday in London. In Madrid she will face US compatriot Daina Harper, who has improved to 50.64 this year.

Burka-Gebru-Lozano showdown

Ethiopia’s 2008 world indoor 1500m champion Gelete Burka has showed good form this season, winning over 10,000m in Hengelo with 30:40.87. But it might not be so easy for her to take the win over the shorter distance of 3000m in Madrid where she will face compatriot Azmera Gebru, who last week set a 5000m PB of 14:57.38, and in-form Spaniard Ana Lozano, the winner at the recent European Team Championships.

There will also be an interesting men’s 800m race as Spanish record-holder Kevin López will try to better 1:45 in front of his home crowd. He will face strong local opposition from European indoor silver medallist Álvaro de Arriba and Daniel Andújar, but perhaps the favourite is USA’s world indoor bronze medallist Erik Sowinski, who owns a 1:44.66 season’s best.

Two-time world champion Mohammed Aman, Burundi’s world indoor silver medallist Antoine Gakeme, Kenya’s Job Kinyor and Egypt’s Mohamed Hamada are also in the field.

Weather forecasters predict a hot day with temperatures reaching 40C by the start of the event.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF

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