Lausanne, SwitzerlandThe Stade Olympique de la Pontaise is set to celebrate a fabulous night of action on Tuesday 6 July for the Athletissima IAAF Super Grand Prix meeting.
In the city, where the International Olympic Commitee and Olympic Museum are based, this meeting has assembled an impressive array of World and Olympic champions with just a month and a half to go to the beginning of the Olympic track and field programme in the Greek capital.
El Guerrouj – to get back on course?
The attempt by quadruple World 1500 metres champion Hicham El Guerrouj to get his season back on track after his shock 8th place 1500m defeat on Friday night in Rome at the hands of Rashid Ramzi from Bahrain, should be the highlight of the Athletissima meeting.
Ramzi who was orginally scheduled to run 800m in Lausanne will now not compete at all but definitely facing El Guerrouj at 1500m will be the Kenyans, Alex Kipchirchir the World Junior Mile record holder, Bernard Lagat (3:30.81 in Rome), the brothers William and Cornelius Chirchir, and Timothy Kiptanui. The 2003 World Indoor champion Driss Maazouzi from France will also run.
Mutola aims for own meet record
Then there is the presence of World and Olympic champion Maria Mutola in the women's 800m. "Million Dollar Mutola” will try to dip under her own meeting record of 1:56.25 she set in 2002. She will pursue a fourth win at the Athletissima meeting after those collected in 1996, 2002 and 2003.
Among others in the field are the 2003 World championships fourth placer Amina Ait Hammou from Morocco (PB 1:57.82 set in 2003), the Russians Olga Raspopova, winner at this year's European Cup in Bydgoszcz, and Svetlana Cherkasova, who ran her seasonal best of 1.58.53 in Tula.
Cloete continues with Slesarenko tussle
The double World champion and 2003 Athlete of the Year Hestrie Cloete will take part in the women’s High Jump.
Cloete will clash against the world seasonal leader and World Indoor champion Yelena Slesarenko who cleared 2.04 to win the European Cup in Bydgoszsz. A quick re-match for the pair following their first fabulous battle in the TDK Golden League meeting in Rome which ended with the win of the south-African on countback with 2.03.
Other 2 metres high jumpers are on show in Lausanne are Blanka Vlasic from Croatia (2.01 PB), Inga Babakova (PB 2.05), Vita Palamar (PB 2.01) from the Ukraine, Viktoria Styopina (PB 2.00) and Monica Iagar from Romania (PB 2.03 indoors).
Lebedeva against quality triple jump field
If we are talking about top notch jumping well we can ask for no better than the talent of Russia’s reigning women’s World outdoor and indoor champion Tatyana Lebedeva in the Triple Jump.
Lebedeva, currently leads the world outdoor seasonal list with 15.34 set in the Iraklion Super Grand Prix meeting on Sunday. Lebedeva will face the Sudanese Yamilè Aldama (SB 15.21 in Rethymno). Lausanne also brings together the world silver medallist and African record holder Francoise Mbango Etone from Cameroon, the 2004 European Cup winner Anna Pyatykh, (PB 14.85). Among a very deep field the 2003 world indoor bronze medallist Kenè Ndoye from Senegal who was second in Iraklion with her national record of 15.00 also starts.
Sanchez and Johnson to offer Hurdling display
The double World 400m Hurdles champion Felix Sanchez, and the quadruple World 110 metres Hurdles gold medallist and 1996 Olympic champion Allen Johnson, will also star in Lausanne.
La Pontaise saw Johnson take a 13.06 win ahead of Stanislav Olijars from Latvia, second in 13.08, a national record. Johnson is back from a memorable photo-finish win against the Chinese Liu Xiang in 13.11 in Rome and will use Lausanne as the last test before the Olympic Trials in Sacramento. There is no Chinese participation here but Oljiars returns and along with Maurice Wignall from Jamaica, Ladji Doucourè from France, USA’s Ron Bramlett and Duane Ross, and Sweden’s Robert Kronberg, will be Johnson’s opposition.
Felix Sanchez has taken four convincing victories in Ostrava, Bergen, Eugene and Rome so far this season and is set to continue his winning streak in Lausanne. Sanchez, who ran his seasonal best of 48.12 at the Prefontaine meeting in Eugene, won in Lausanne last year in 47.80 on a rainy day and may dip under the 48 seconds barrier for the first time this season.
Sanchez's most notable rivals on Tuesday are the South Africans Lewellyn Herbert and Alwyn Myburgh, the Jamaicans Danny McFarlane and Ian Weakley, and the 2001 world bronze medallist Dai Tamesue from Japan who ran a great first 300m in Rome.
800m – three World champions
The men’s 800m presents a clash between three World champions. The Swiss hero André Bucher, the 2001 World champion won in Lausanne in 2000 and 2001 and will battle against 2003 World outdoor champion Said Guerni from Algeria, and South Africa Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, 2004 World Indoor champion in Budapest last March.
The Spaniard Antonio Manuela Reina (1:44.30 set in Zaragozza), Hezekiel Sepeng from South Africa (1:43.94 in Rome), Olympic silver medallist in 1996, the Kenyan William Yampoi (first in the B race in Rome in 1:44.29), the Italy’s Andrea Longo (fifth in Rome in 1:44.48) are among the other interested parties.
Fast dashes awaited
The brand-new track which will be inaugurated this year is set for something special when the sprinters will line-up for the women's 100 metres dash. The European record holder Christine Arron (10.73) and the 200m European champion and world bronze medallist Muriel Hurtis, are the principal combatants.
Asafa Powell, second in the world seasonal list with the new Jamaican record of 9.91 during the National Championships in Kingston is the favourite in the men’s 100 metres. Also in the line-up is Aziz Zakari from Ghana who won in Rome in 10.10.
Portugal’s Francis Obikwelu will double up by running the men’s 100m and 200m.
Bekele – Injured
The Athletissima meeting was to be highlighted by the appearance of World 5000 and 10,000 metres record holder Kenenisa Bekele in the former event, in what was to have been his last competive outing before the Olympic Games.
However, Bekele in the last hour (1800hrs CET) has today had to withdraw due to the recurrence of an old Achilles injury in his left leg.
The remaining field is still top notch including Ethiopia's Sileshi Sihine, who was second in the Rome Golden League meeting with 12:47.04, the junior Mulugeta Wondimu (second in Hengelo in 13:01.28), Markos Geneti, and Abyote Abate (PB 13:00.36).
The Kenyan challenge is led by John Kibowen, fourth placer at the World Championships in Paris (12:54.07 - PB), the 2001 World champion Richard Limo (12:59.37 in Rome on Friday), and Benjamin Limo, the World silver medallist in the 5000 metres in Seville 1999.
Many more great names too...
Alleyne Francique from Grenada, World Indoor champion in Budapest and world seasonal leader with 44.47 clocked in the Osaka GP meeting goes in the men’s flat 400m.
European champion Glory Alozie from Spain, will highlight the women’s sprint hurdles after her Spanish record of 12.56 in Gateshead and 12.69 victory in Rome.
Surprise 2003 World champion Tatyana Tomashova of Russia goes in the women’s 1500m, while Kenyan 3000 metres steeplechaser Ezekiel Kemboi, the meeting record holder with 8:10.32, will pursue a sub 8 minutes time in his discipline.
World champion Sergey Makarov and his fellow Paris medallists Andrus Värnik and from Estonia, and Boris Henry from Germany, go against world seasonal leader Alexandr Ivanov (87.73) in the Javelin.
The men's Pole Vault features the World Indoor champion Igor Pavlov from Russia, reigning Olympic champion Nick Hysong, Australia's Dmitri Markov who was the World champion in Edmonton, and the reigning European champion Alexandr Averbukh from Israel.
The World silver medallist James Beckford from Jamaica heads the men’s Long Jump line-up, an event in which much of the interest will focus on Brazil's triple jump hero Jadel Gregorio. The Brazilian as well as tripling to a 17.72 world season's best, has also long jumped 8.22m this year.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF