All eyes will be on Dafne Schippers and Sifan Hassan at the 36th edition of the FBK Games, an IAAF World Challenge Meeting in the Fanny Blankers-Koen Stadium in Hengelo, on Sunday (11).
Both Dutch stars are in a good form, as they illustrated by winning their respective events in the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome on Thursday. Their performances were a relief for both athletes who had to struggle with some injury problems in the 2016 Olympic year.
Race director Ellen van Langen, the 1992 Olympic 800m champion, has assembled an impressive field that includes six Rio Olympic medallists and 11 from the 2015 IAAF World Championships.
Schippers, the reigning world 200m champion and European record holder, will start in the shorter dash on Sunday. She clocked 10.99 to win in Rome on Thursday and earlier clocked 10.95 in Azusa, USA. That makes her the clear favourite in a race against Nigerian Blessing Okagbare and Desiree Henry of Great Britain. Henry is one of Schippers’ training partners at the Dutch Olympic training centre in Papendal under coach Rana Reider.
Hassan bringing fine momentum to the line
Hassan has had a successful season so far. In Eugene she set a 14:41.24 Dutch record in the 5000m and in Rome won convincingly over her favourite 1500m distance with a world-leading 3:56.22, just shy of her 3:56.05 national record.
The 1500m will be a Dutch festival in Hengelo, with Maureen Koster, who was fourth at this distance at the World Indoor Championships last year, also toeing the line. The race also inclused four women with sub-4:05 credentials: Laura Weightman, Winny Chebet, Zoe Buckman and Nelly Kipkosgei.
It will be interesting to see how Lydia Jele can perform in the 400m. With her PB of 50.32, set at altitude in Pretoria, she is the fastest in a field which also includes Canadian Olympian Carline Muir, Emily Diamond and Justyna Swiety.
Cindy Roleder, the European champion and 2015 world silver medallist, heads the field in the 100m hurdles, which includes Alina Talay and the fast Dutch heptathlete Nadine Visser.
Beitia vs Lasitskene in the high jump
An interesting battle will be seen in the high jump, where Olympic champion Ruth Beitia takes on 2017 world leader and reigning world champion Mariya Lasitskene, along with Germany’s Marie-Laurence Jungfleisch.
In the pole vault Sandi Morris, Rio silver medallist of Rio, is the favourite. She’ll be looking to bounce back from a sub-par 4.55m performance in Rome.
The third world champion in Hengelo will be Katharina Molitor in the javelin throw. Sunette Viljoen, the Rio silver medallist, is also in this field, together with European champion Tatsiana Khaladovich.
Four Ethiopian trials races for London on the programme
The FBK Games will start on Saturday night, when the stadium hosts three Ethiopian trials races for the upcoming world championships, the 800m and 1500m for the men and 10,000m for the women. The latter will feature Gelete Burka, the world silver medallist two years ago.
The men’s trial race in the 10,000m will be part of the programme on Sunday. The field includes Ethiopians Yigrem Demelash and Abadi Hadis and Polat Kemboi Arikan, the European champion.
Anasso Jobodwana, the 2015 world bronze medallist, will run his first 200m outside of South Africa this season. His PB of 19.87 makes him the favourite in a field that includes the most popular male athlete in The Netherlands, Churandy Martina, and his British training partner Adam Gemili, who was fourth in Rio.
Reigning Olympic champion and double world 400m hurdles champion Kerron Clement will start in the flat 400m. It will be interesting to see how fast he is in a race against European champion Martyn Rooney and Dutchman Liemarvin Bonavacia.
The men’s 800m includes Dutchman Thymen Kupers, who is already qualified for the world championships, who’ll have plenty of company to produce a sub-1:45 race, including Kenyans Timothy Kitum, Nicholas Kipkoech and Leonard Kosencha.
Kejelcha to make 1500m debut
Yomif Kejelcha, the world indoor 3000m champion, will make his 1500m debut. Bethwell Birgen, who was third in Doha, the fastest 1500m race this season, Vincent Kibet and Homiyu Tesfaye are also in the field.
Germany’s Gregor Traber returns to Hengelo to defend his 110m hurdles title. This time David Omoregie and Antonio Alkana seem to be his main competitors for a place on the podium.
Manyonga returns to action
In the long jump it will be a battle between silver medaillists. The start list features South African Luvo Manyonga, who was second in Rio last year; Fabrice Lapierre, who was second at the 2015 World Championships and at the 2016 world indoors; and Michel Tornéus, runner-up at the last indoor and outdoor European championships. Another silver medallist on tap in Dutch favourite Ignisious Gaisah, who was second at the 2013 World Championships.
Manyonga is the clear favourite. He heads the word list with three jumps: 8.65m in Potchefstroom, 8.62m in Pretoria and 8.61m at the Shanghai Diamond League meeting. Fellow South African Rushwal Samaai might be the main contender. He jumped 8.49m in Potchefstroom this year.
Another world leader on the programme is Jamaican Fedric Dacres in the discus. He’s had a very strong start in 2017, throwing 68.88m and 68.67m in Kingston in February. Also in the ring will be Daniel Stahl, who’s thrown 68.36m this season, and Philip Milanov, the surprise 2015 world championships silver medallist.
After last year’s successful European championships in Amsterdam and with many Dutch athletes chasing London qualifying standards, organisers are expecting a well filled stadium.
Cors van den Brink for the IAAF