David Rudisha on his way to winning the 800m in Melbourne (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Melbourne, Australia

Rudisha set to return to Melbourne

World and Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha will headline the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Melbourne on 5 March.

It will be his fifth appearance at the meeting, following victories in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015. In each of those seasons, he went on to win a major title during the summer.

One week after racing in Melbourne, the world record-holder will then head to the west of Australia to compete at the Perth Track Classic on 12 March.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back to Australia,” said Rudisha. “It has played such an important part in my programme over the years and as I prepare for the Olympic Games again I am keen to duplicate the build-up that worked in 2012.

“Perth is somewhere that I haven’t competed before and I always look forward to running in a new city. I hear that the conditions are normally warm and that the track is fast so I am happy to have the chance to run there.

“Australia has some great 800m runners who are still looking to qualify for Rio. I’m sure we will have a good race and if I can assist in improving the qualifying opportunities for some of the younger runners then I am happy.”

In both Melbourne and Perth, Rudisha will be up against Australia’s best 800m runners, including national champion Jeff Riseley, national record-holder Alex Rowe, World Championships representative Josh Ralph and rising talent Luke Mathews, all of whom will be hoping to achieve the 1:46.00 qualifying time for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Rudisha is just one of a handful of international stars set to compete in Melbourne.

World indoor bronze medallist Tom Walsh of New Zealand will take on Australia’s Damien Birkinhead in the shot put. Walsh bettered his own Oceanian record to finish fourth at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 with 21.58m, and then improved on that mark two weeks later with 21.62m. Birkinhead is a more recent addition to the 21-metre club after throwing 21.21m last weekend in Hobart, just five centimetres shy of the national record.

“It’s fantastic that Damien has stepped up his throwing this year,” said Walsh. “I can see a great battle developing between us friendly rivals across the ditch. I’m hoping that we’ll push each other at the Melbourne meet, I am keen to win there again and nudge that area record out a little further.”

Like Rudisha, Commonwealth 1500m champion James Magut will compete in both Melbourne and Perth. The Kenyan has a PB of 3:30.61 and won in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney in 2014.

Kaliese Spencer is one of the most prolific athletes on the international circuit, but the Jamaican 400m hurdler has never competed in Australia. The Commonwealth champion will make her Southern Hemisphere racing debut in her specialist event in Melbourne, where she will take on eight-time Australian champion Lauren Wells.

Spencer’s Jamaican compatriot Christine Day will contest the 400m flat in Melbourne. The Commonwealth bronze medallist, who finished fourth at last year’s World Championships in a PB of 50.14, will line up against Australia’s Rio-bound duo Morgan Mitchell and Anneliese Rubie.

Organisers for the IAAF