Olympic champion Nancy Jebet Langat takes a surprise win in the women's 1500m (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Hengelo, The Netherlands

Solid face-offs on tap in Hengelo – preview – IAAF World Challenge

Six reigning Olympic champions and four 2009 World champions top the entries for Sunday's Fanny Blankers-Koen Games in Hengelo, an IAAF World Challenge meeting.

The Beijing champions on the men's start list are World 110m Hurdles record holder Dayron Robles of Cuba, who arrives after a convincing victory in Ostrava; Kenyan Brimin Kipruto in the 3000m Steeplechase; long jumper Irving Saladino of Panama, who was forced to pull out of IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai with a slight injury; and Estonia's Gerd Kanter in the Discus Throw.

Kenyans Pamela Jelimo and Nancy Langat, the Olympic 800m and 1500m champions respectively, return to action in their events.  Langat impressed in Doha earlier this month, winning over a strong field with a world-leading 4:01.63.

Among the World champions expected are Maryam Jamal of Bahrain in 1500m, Cuban Yargelis Savigne in the Triple Jump, Russian Yaroslav Rybakov in the High Jump, and long jumper Dwight Phillips of the USA.
 
Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, who set the World record in the 5000m with 12:37:35 in Hengtelo six years ago, was forced to scratch due to injury, and isn’t expected compete until later in June. That leaves James Kwalia of Qatar, the 5000m bronze medallist at last year’s World Championships, as the favourite in the 3000m.

A very interesting event for the Dutch spectators will be the men's 800m. Two-time World indoor champion Abubaker Kaki of Sudan will be challenged by Dutchmen Bram Som and Arnoud Okken, who both are in very good shape and preparing for the European Championships in Barcelona later in the summer.

In the steeplechase, Kipruto will take on fellow Kenyan Richard Matelong, the Olympic bronze medalist and silver medallist in Berlin last year. Matelong has a personal best of 8:00:89, just two seconds better than his compatriot.
 
In the men’s high Jump, World champion and three times World silver medallist Rybakov can possibly inspire Dutchman Martijn Nuijens (5th in Berlin) to improve his personal best of 2.29m.

For Olympic champion long jump Irving Saladino  the pitch in Hengelo has no secrets. The athlete from Panama has very good memories of Hengelo, where he set his personal best of 8,73m in 2008. His opponent is Phillips, the reigning World champion, whose personal best is just one centimetre better. Interesting for the Dutch public is Ignisious Gaisah of Ghana, who lives part of the year in The Netherlands and on the comeback from a serious injury.

As Dutch discus thrower Rutger Smith is not able to compete, the locals will certainly support the up-and-coming Erik Cadee, who has a personal best of 66.20. But that’s far short of the bests produced by Kanter (73.38m) and the 2000 and 2004 Olympic champion, 38-year-old Virgilius Alekna of Lithuania who has a career best of 73.88m and still going strong.
 
Highlights in the women's events will be the longer track events. The 800m features a confrontation between 20-year-old Olympic champion Jelimo , whose star rose two years a ago in Hengelo, and her compatriot Janeth Jepkosgei, who won silver in Beijing. Jepkosgei took an impressive win in Shanghai. Also of interest is Dutchwoman Yvonne Hak who won last night in Ostrava clocking 2:00:53. 

Olympic and World championships bronze medallist Meseret Defar of Ethiopia is the hot favourite in the 5000m. her primary opponent is Florence Kiplagat, who won the Bupa 10Km road race in Edinburgh earlier this month.

In the 1500m, Langat and Jamal will face off for the second time this season.

Wim van Hemert for the IAAF