Yumileidi Cumbá celebrates winning silver in Olympia (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Olympic Champion Cumbá - World leader Gregorio to highlight Rio de Janeiro Grand Prix II - PREVIEW

Once again, Brazil welcomes the world of Track and Field with 2 events that have become classics in the IAAF calendar. An intense week of athletics that begins this Sunday, 15 May in Rio de Janeiro, with a Grand Prix II meeting, and ends the following Sunday, 22 May, in Belém with a Grand Prix competition.

Shot Put Olympic champion, Cuban Yumileidi Cumbá will be the most decorated athlete to participate both in Rio and Belém, where she will face very tough competition.

It will be the second time that the “Cidade Maravilhosa” hosts the GP II. After a trial at the “Complexo Miécimo da Silva”, now the competition returns to the “Estádio Célio de Barros”, in the famous Maracanã complex.

Maracanã has also been the venue of several editions of the “Grande Prêmio Brasil de Atletismo”, that has now found its home in Belém.

The programme will also have sprinting and jumping events, which is where the strength of Brazilian athletics is nowadays.

Brazil Vs the World in sprint races

The 100m will cast 2 athletes placed in the top-20 of the IAAF World Rankings: Jamaican Michael Frater (17) and Brazilian Vicente de Lima (18).

Both reached the semi-finals at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, but the 22-year-old Jamaican has had a better beginning of the season, clocking 10.09, when finishing third in Kingston this past Saturday, 7 May.

De Lima ran 10.32, and also competed this past weekend in Londrina, State of Paraná, clocking a hand-timed 10.0 (wind 2.0).

Americans JJ Johnson, Brian Lewis, and Brazilians André Domingos da Silva, Raphael de Oliveira and Cláudio Sousa complete the line-up.

In the 200m JJ Johnson is featured as the top name, due to his 8th place in the IAAF World Rankings. Another top-10 will be Bahamian Dominic Demeritte, who is currently in 10th.

JJ has a personal best of 19.88 (back from 2001), and reached to final of the 2003 IAAF World Championships (finished 6th in 20.47), but couldn’t make the US Olympic Team for Athens, since he was 5th at the Trials. So far, he ran 20.75w in 2005.

Demeritte, the 2004 IAAF World Indoor champion, looks forward to a good 2005 season, after only reaching the quarter-finals in Athens. Last weekend he ran 20.64 in Athens, Georgia.

Other entries will be Jamaican Christopher Williams, American Jimmie Hackley, and 4 Brazilians: Vicente de Lima, André Domingos da Silva, Bruno Pacheco and Jorge Célio Sena.

The third sprint event to be contested will the 400m headed by Davian Clarke. The 29-year-old Jamaican was sixth at the Athens Olympic Games in a personal best of 44.83. His first outdoor race of 2005 was last Saturday in Kingston, where he finished 5th in 45.34.

Along with Clarke, who is 7th in the IAAF World Rankings, Canadian Tyler Christopher, Americans Leonard Byrd and James Davis, and Jamaican Michael McDonald will compete. So far, the best time of the season for these challengers belongs to Byrd, who clocked 45.65 in Durham on 9 April.

Africans favourite in middle distance events

The 800m will have a pretty even field, headed by Kenya’s Nicholas Wachira, Brazil’s Osmar dos Santos and South Africa’s Werner Botha.

The latter is currently 4th in the 2005 World Lists, with a 1:45.62 time, obtained in Pretoria, on 18 March.

Wachira, the 1999 IAAF World Youth champion and 2000 IAAF World Junior champion, will make his 2005 outdoor debut in Rio, after clocking 1:47.90 indoors in Madrid on 24 February.

The 36-year-old veteran dos Santos, ran 1:46.91 in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, but will surely animate the race with his typical front-running style.

In the 1500m Kenyan William Chirchir leads the pack, with a 12th place in the World Rankings and a 3:37.58 time, that sets him in the 6th spot of the 2005 World lists.

Here, the African presence will be strong, with 2004 IAAF World Junior champion Abdelaati Iguider (MAR), Kenyans Benson Esho (second to Iguider in Grosseto) and Suleiman Simotwo.

Iguider and Esho still belong to the junior category, since they were both born in 1987. Iguider hasn’t had a good outdoor season, but has a pb of 3:35.53. Esho hasn’t competed outdoors yet, but Simotwo was second last Saturday 7 May in Nairobi, at the AAC meet. There he recorded the second time of the 2005 lists, 3:35.5.

The 110m Hurdles promises to be an exciting race. Brazilian Olympic finalist Matheus Inocêncio leads the field, which includes American Joel Brown, and other South American specialists such as Márcio Simão de Souza, Anselmo Gomes da Silva, Eder Antônio Souza and Tiago Castelo Branco (BRA), Paulo César Villar (COL) and Jackson Quiñónez (ECU).

World leader Gregorio takes on US trio of Davis, Bell and Lister

Other high quality event will be the Triple Jump, were Brazilian Jadel Gregório stands out as the favourite.
The tall (2.02m) jumper from Jandaia do Sul will have 3 tough American opponents: Walter Davis, Kenta Bell and Melvin Lister, along with Frenchmen Julien Kapek and Sébastien Pincemail.

Gregório is the 2005 World leader, with a 17.71 jumped achieved in São Paulo, on 30 April.

Bell has jumped 16.90 last weekend in Modesto, while Davis, Lister, Pincemail and Kapek and are yet to record outdoor performances. Lister was the indoor leader with 17.62m, and also took the US indoor title.

Promising women’s 200m

Cydonie Mothersill of the Cayman Islands, Jamaicans Beverly McDonald and Peta-Gaye Dowdie and South African Geraldine Pillay lead the field of the women’s 200m.

27 year-old Pillay has had a brilliant beginning of the season, with pbs of 11.07 and 22.78. Mothersill will mark her 2005 debut at the distance after races at 100m (11.34) and 400m (54.01). The 35-year-old McDonald also ran twice, with times of 11.21 (100m) and 23.47 (200m), while Dowdie has a 200m season’s best of 23.36.

The 400m will cast Aliann Pompey (GUY), Estie Wittstock (RSA) and Donna Fraser (GBR), all semi-finalists in Athens.

The best time of the season belongs to Wittstock (52.21), while Fraser and Pompey will have their first official full lap of the season in Brazil.

Ireland’s Karen Shinkins (53.04 in ’05), Poland’s Malgorzata Pskit, and Brazilians Maria Laura Almirão (52.90 in ’05), Geisa Coutinho and Amanda Fontes Dias will complete a quality field.

Guyana’s Marian Burnett leads the 800m pack, with her 2:02.13 time, set last Saturday in Kingston.

Brazil’s Luciana Paula de Azevedo (2:03.39 in 2005), Jamaica’s Michelle Ballentine (2:03.68 in Osaka, on 7 May), and Surinam’s Letitia Vriesde (40 years of age; 2:03.8 in Londrina on 7 May), will surely guarantee a quality race. Tina Paulino (MOZ) and Brazilians Luciana Mendes, Rejane da Silva and Christiane Ritz dos Santos shall also take part on the 2-lap race.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase as well

The longest event on the programme will be the 3000m Steeplechase. Jamaican Korine Hinds, number 2 in the 2005 World lists (9:51.12) is the most heralded of all the participants. Another Jamaican, Mardrea Hyman, an accomplished 1500m runner who switched to the Steeplechase this season (pb of 10:02.88) is also confirmed, as well as María Peralta (ARG), Brazilians Sabine Heitling, Patrícia Lobo and Gisele de Jesus.

Golding-Clarke and Demus lead Hurdles events

Olympic finalist, Jamaican Lacena Golding-Clarke shall be the main figure of the 100m Hurdles.

Lacena, wife of Davian Clarke, ran 12.72 on 7 May in Kingston, a mark which places her second in the year World lists behind 2003 World champion Perdita Felicien (CAN), who beat her in Jamaica.

Poland’s Aurelia Trywianska, fifth at the 2003 IAAF World Championships, will make her 2005 outdoor debut in Rio, and represents the strongest opposition to Golding-Clarke, along with Haitian Nadine Faustine-Parker (13.21 this season), Jamaican Andrea Bliss (13.26), and Brazilian Maíla Machado (13.27).

The 400m Hurdles will feature the clash between US’s Lashinda Demus and Natalya Torshina-Alimzhanova.

22-year-old Demus is the World Junior record holder, and has represented the US in Athens where she reached the semi-finals. She has a pb of 53.43, and holds the number 2 spot in the World’s lists with 55.23.

Torshina-Alimzhanova, who also made it to the semi-finals in Greece, has a 54.50 pb and will make her 2005 debut at the distance in Rio.

The rest of the line-up will be completed with Brazilian athletes, headed by South American record holder Lucimar Teodoro (55.94 in 2004; 57.80 in 2005), and followed by Isabel Rocha Silva, Perla Regina dos Santos, Evelyn Santana and Luciana França.

The only jumping competition on the women’s programme will be the Triple Jump. Jamaican Trecia Smith is the best ranked in the world (4th), and holds the second spot in the year lists (14.33m, 7 May in Kingston). The 29-year-old finished 4th in Athens, and has a personal best of 15.16m.

Olympic champion heads Shot Put line-up

Cumbá leads the field in the Shot Put. The 30-year-old from Guantánamo comes from a wonderful season, where not only did she improve her personal best to 19.97, but most importantly, she won the historic competition in Olympia.

So far, Cumbá has competed twice in 2005, both in Havana, with 18.24 and 18.80 results. The latter ranks her 3rd in the 2005 Lists.

Along with Cumbá, Cuba will have another thrower, Misleydis González. The tall and thin 26-year-old had a major breakthrough last summer, when she overtook many athletes with better credentials to finish 7th in Olympia.

Europe will be represented by Natalya Kharaneko (BLR) and Oksana Zaharchuk (UKR).
22-year-old Kharaneko holds a better pb than Cumbá (20.04 from 2004), but was 5th in Olympia, while Zaharchuk didn’t advance to the Olympic final and has a 19.05 pb (2004).

New Zealand’s Valerie Adams Vili, the 2005 leader with a pb of 19.32 will also make the competition in Rio and interesting one. The 20-year-old was 8th in Olympia, and her youth (already a IAAF World Youth and World Junior Champion) shall make her a key figure in the years to come at this event.

Eduardo Biscayart for the IAAF