Brigetta Barrett, winner of the High Jump at the 2013 US Championships (© Getty Images)
The women’s High Jump contest should be one of the main attractions at the ‘Meeting de Madrid 2013’, an IAAF World Challenge meeting and Spain’s most prestigious athletics event, thanks to the presence of USA’s London 2012 Olympic Games silver medallist Brigetta Barrett and Croatia’s two-time former World champion Blanka Vlasic on Saturday (13).
The 22-year-old Barrett made a major breakthrough last season when she bagged a relatively unexpected silver medal in London after improving her career best to 2.03m in the thrilling final won by Russia’s Anna Chicherova.
After a relaxed indoor campaign due to finishing off her degree at the University of Arizona, Barrett is again enjoying a fantastic outdoor season and lands in Madrid as the current world leader with a best of 2.04m set in Des Moines when she took the US title three weeks ago.
Her last appearance came at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris where she had a 1.98m clearance, which was still enough to take second on countback from Vlasic.
Vlasic missed the Olympic Games last summer through injury but the 29-year-old has bounced back this outdoor season, and she managed to get over the 2.00m barrier in the German town of Bühl last month.
The Croatian should have nice memories of Madrid as she set what was then a national record of 2.05m there back in 2007, before failing three times at the World record height of 2.10m.
In addition to Barrett and Vlasic, the home crowd will be delighted to have Ruth Beitia, Spain’s reigning European champion both outdoors and indoors, also on show on Saturday.
The 34-year-old jumper narrowly missed a medal in London will be eager to prove she’s still a force in the event in front of her many fans in the Spanish capital.
Storl looking for a big toss
Reigning World Shot Put champion David Storl is still rounding into form this outdoor campaign; the holder of an impressive career best of 21.86m when taking the Olympic Games silver medal in London last summer, the 22-year-old German surpassed 21 metres for the first time in 2013 last Sunday when he won the national title in Ulm with 21.04m.
However, Storl will not start the contest as the leading performer this year as that honour goes to Bulgaria’s 2004 World junior champion Georgi Ivanov who set a national record of 21.06m on the home soil of Burgas in May.
Czech Republic’s Martin Stasek, USA’s Joe Kovacs and Spain’s newly-minted Mediterranean Games champion Borja Vivas add depth to a quality line-up.
The sprint events also offer classy fields as the men’s 100m is headed by Jamaica’s 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships 60m silver medallist Nesta Carter.
The 27-year-old double (2008 and 2012) Olympic Games 4x100 Relay gold medallist had to settle for fourth at the Jamaican Championships recently but has clocked 9.97 this year.
The other sub-10 sprinter in 2013 on show will be Zimbabwe’s US-based Gabriel Mvumvure, who managed a big best of 9.98 last month. Watch out as well for US sprinter Mookie Salaam, fresh from a fifth place in Des Moines with 10.01, and Saint Kitts and Nevis’s Antoine Adams, the author of career bests of 10.01 and 20.13 very recently, the latter being a national record albeit set at altitude.
The women’s 100m also looks good thanks to the presence of Jamaica’s Sherone Simpson and the USA’s Barbara Pierre, the holder of an impressive personal best of 10.85 in the semifinals in Des Moines although she had to settle for fifth in the final, as well as the latter’s compatriot and 2005 World champion Lauryn Williams.
Hall, Johnson, Montano: a vast array of American talent
The men’s 400m features three finalists from the US Championships: Arman Hall, Josh Mance and Manteo Mitchell.
The 19-year-old Hall, the 2011 World Youth Championships gold medallist, lowered his best to 44.82 in Des Moines.
Trying to deny the top spot to the US athletes will be a member of Bahamas’ victorious 2012 Olympic Games 4x400m quartet, Ramon Miller, who joins Hall as the only contenders in Madrid to have ducked under 45 seconds this year after having run 44.93.
The men’s Long Jump promises to be a wide contest as the entry list include South Africa’s Zarck Visser and Germany’s Alyn Camara, who can both boast season’s bests of 8.29m. Australia’s 2010 World indoor gold medallist Fabrice Lapierre and Greece’s Louis Tsaoumas are also in the field and very good jumpers on their day.
US 800m runner Brandon Johnson, who secured his Moscow berth by placing third in Des Moines in a best of 1:43.97, should be the man to beat in an interesting 800m, but the 28-year-old will face tough opposition from Poland’s 2010 European champion Marcin Lewandowski, Colombia’s Rafith Rodriguez and local star Kevin Lopez.
Newly-minted US 800m champion Alysia Montano will try to take revenge from Morocco’s Malika Akkaoui, who went past her in the final few metres in Paris last Friday, although both ran fast times of 1:57:64 and 1:57.75, which was a career best for Akkaoui.
The women’s Javelin’s contest should be dominated by the German pair of 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist Linda Stahl and her compatriot Katharina Molitor, who have both thrown beyond 65 metres this season.
Many athletes will be shopping for sun cream on their arrival in Madrid as weather forecasters predict a very hot day with the thermometer rising as high as 36 degrees Celsius.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF