Irving Saladino sails to victory again in Hengelo (organisers) © Copyright
Preview Madrid, Spain

Saladino and Lebedeva the standout attractions in Madrid – IAAF World Athletics Tour - PREVIEW

Largely due to the presence of Panama’s Irving Saladino and Russia’s Tatiana Lebedeva, the horizontal jumps will take centre stage at the ‘Meeting de Madrid 2009’ which takes place tomorrow 4 July.
The Meeting de Madrid 2009 is a Grand Prix status fixture as part of the IAAF World Athletics Tour 2009.

16 events are to be contest during a programme of three hours.

Saladino vs Mokoena, a rematch from the Beijing final

The 26-year-old Panamanian star is the reigning World and Olympic Long Jump champion and enjoyed a 21-event winning streak from July 2006 to May 2008.

However, Saladino suffered his last defeat as recently as last 7 June in Eugene when USA’s former Olympic and World champion Dwight Phillips successfully clashed with him with respective leaps of 8.74m and 8.63.

Saladino  who is 1.83m tall will be competing for the first time since then and should be eager to bounce back from that loss with a big leap in the ‘Moratalaz’ stadium.

In his first ever competition in Madrid, Saladino, who became the first Panamanian to capture an Olympic gold medal at any sport last year in Beijing, will take on a mighty field including South Africa’s Olympic silver medallist Godfrey Mokoena, holder of a season’s best of 8.33m, Senegal’s Beijing sixth placed Ndiss Kaba Badji (8.10), the Australian pair of Fabrice Lapierre (8.29) and Mitchell Watt (8.17), Britain’s World Indoor silver medallist Chris Tomlinson (8.23), and Hussein Taher Al-Sabee of Saudi Arabia (8.15).

The home crowd will have all eyes set on the 17-year-old Spaniard Eusebio Cáceres, who produced a major shock at the European Team Championships in Leiria by taking a surprise win in a PB of 8.00 to beat Portugal’s reigning Olympic and World Triple Jump champion Nelson Évora and Tomlinson among others.

Malachovski, Alekna, Casañas..thrilling men’s Discus

Also in the infield, Poland’s Beijing Olympics Discus silver medallist Piotr Malachowski – national record of 68.75 back in May and European Team Championships winner among his 2009 accolades – will face the fierce opposition provided by Lithuania’s living legend Virgilijus Alekna (67.62 SB), and Hungary’s Zoltan Kovago (67.64). However, the favourite for the crowd - in the absence of slightly injured Mario Pestano - will obviously be the Spanish Cuban-born Frank Casañas (67.17), fresh from a convincing 65.58m win at the Mediterranean Games on 1 July. The American duo of Jarred Rome (65.56) and Ian Waltz (64.47), runner-up and third respectively at the US Trials recently will also be on show.

Ismail, Mulaudzi, Chepkirwok…powerful 800m

Reigning World Olympic silver medallist Ahmed Ismail of Sudan will kick off the men’s 800m as the hot favourite. The 24-year-old ran a PB of 1:44.31 on 7 June in Ostrava and Saturday’s evening well might witness the Sudanese ace duck under the 1:44 barrier for the first time.

Trying to deny him top spot will be the 2004 Olympic silver medallist – and last year’s winner here in 1:43.64 - Mbulaeni Mulaudzi of South Africa. The 28-year-old reigning World indoor silver medallist grabbed the national title back in March with a remarkable 1:44.81 run and will be making his debut on the European tour as will Uganda’s Abraham Chepkirwok who set his 1:43.72 PB on this track last year.

Brazil’s Fabiano Peçanha, holder of a 1:44.81 SB,  Poland’s reigning European U-23 champion Marcin Lewandowski (1:45.03), Latvia’s 2008 World indoors 4th placed Dmitrijs Milkevics (1:45.21) and Hungary’s Tamas Kazi (1:45.55) should be regarded as dangerous outsiders.

In addition, all the Spanish elite will be in contention in the guise of European Team Championships’ winner Miguel Quesada, reigning European Indoor silver Luis Alberto Marco, Spanish champion Manuel Olmedo, national record holder at 1:43.83 Antonio Reina, and 1500m specialists Arturo Casado and Juan Carlos Higuero.

The men’s programme also includes a 100m with Nigeria’s World Indoor 60m champion Olu Fasuba vs Portugal’s European champion Francis Obikwelu, both hurdles events with Jamaica’s Isa Phillips (48.05 PB to take the National title last week) as the marquee athlete in the one lap over the barriers, the flat 400m featuring Ireland’s David Gillick looking for his first ever sub 45.00 clocking, and a 1500m with Portugal’s reigning European indoor champion Rui Silva among the entrants.

15.00m + Triple Jump for Lebedeva?

Russia’s Tatiana Lebedeva will make her Triple Jump debut in 2009 after a recent (1 July) appearance in the Long Jump where she produced excellent leaps of 6.93 and 6.90 in her series. Lebedeva, who will turn 33 years of age on 21 July, is the reigning Olympic silver medallist at both the Triple Jump and the Long Jump and will be looking to surpass the 15m barrier; what would mean a world leading mark in a below-par season for the event so far.

Multiple global medallist Yamile Aldama of Sudan (14.48 SB) and 2005 World champion Jamaica’s Trecia Smith, fresh from a 14.43 SB to take the national title in Kingston last week are also top entrants.

Benhassi and Rodríguez look set to rule middle distance events

Women’s middle distance events also provide star-studded fields. The marquee athlete in the 800m is Morocco’s reigning Olympic bronze medallist Hasna Benhassi, looking for improving on her season’s best of 1:59.55.

The 31-year-old will battle against Ukraine’s Yuliya Krevsun and Russia’s Yekaterina Kostetskaya, victor and runner-up respectively at the European Team Championships in Leira on 20 June, while the British contingent will be of the highest calibre featuring Jennifer Meadows, Marilyn Okoro  - 4th and 5th respectively at last year’s World indoors in Valencia - plus Jemma Simpson, the three of them in the hunt for their first sub 2:00 time this summer.

Christy Wurth-Thomas of the US – a top 1500 athlete who managed a runner-up place at the American trials in Eugene after recording a massive PB of 4:01.72 at the Prefontaine Classic one month ago has opted to contest the 800m (2:01.58 SB) on this occasion to strengthen even more the line-up.

The 1500m line-up offers the in-form Spaniard Natalia Rodríguez; the 30-year-old is having a brilliant 2009 with a European indoor 1500 silver medal and an outdoor 8:35:86 3000m world leading mark already to her credit.

Tomorrow marks her opening outing over the 1500m this outdoor season.
Rodríguez holds the Spanish record at 3:59.51 and has asked the organisers for a sub 4:00 pace despite the altitude of Madrid, 655 metres.

Chasing Rodríguez  should be her compatriot Marta Domínguez, who cruised to an impressive 9:16.50 3000m steeplechase clocking last Saturday in Málaga.

Christy Wurth-Thomas of the US is fresh from a runner-up place at the American trials on the same day (27 June) after recording a massive PB of 4:01.72 at the Prefontaine Classic one month ago.

Hrasnova and Beitia to excel in the infield

Martina Hrasnova of the Slovak Republic will be the woman to beat in the Hammer contest. The 26-year-old former World Junior silver medallist unleashed a huge 76.90m release in May for a PB and current world leading mark and has another three 74m + throws this season in which she should be eager to bounce back from her relatively modest eighth place at the Beijing Olympics.

The event also boasts Clarissa Claretti of Italy, fresh from a silver medal at the Mediterranean Games earlier this week , Moldova’s Marina Marghieva and Canada’s Sultana Frizell.

The Pole Vault promises to be a fight between Russia’s Aleksandra Kiryashova, who set a career best of 4.62 in Villeneuve d’Ascq earlier this week and the US duo of the evergreen former World record holder Stacy Dragila, already 38, plus Chelsea Johnson, 3rd (4.55 SB) and 2nd (4.60 SB) respectively at the US Trials last week in Eugene while Britain’s newly minted record holder at 4.55 Kate Dennison shouldn’t be write off for the podium spots.

The women’s programme also includes a High Jump contest led by Spain’s reigning European indoor medallist Ruth Beitia. The 30-year-old has already cleared 2.00 this season although it remains uncertain whether she will be fully recovered from her outing later today (3 July) at the AF Golden League meeting in Oslo.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF