Caster Semenya on her way to winning the 800m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene
The women who swept every medal at the Rio Olympics and last year’s World Championships top a formidable 800m field at the Prefontaine Classic, the third stop of the 2018 IAAF Diamond League, in Eugene on 26 May.
No one is more dominating at the moment than Caster Semenya. The 27-year-old from South Africa has a 22-meet winning streak that stretches back to late 2015. In Rio she became the event’s first two-time Olympic gold medallist and last summer in London joined Maria Mutola as the only three-time world champion.
A two-time IAAF Diamond League winner, Semenya owns impressive range as she added a bronze in the 1500m at London and last week lowered her national record to 4:00.71 as part of a successful Commonwealth Games golden double. Her 400m PB of 50.40 came in 2016 and last year she set the 600m world best of 1:21.77. Last year she also lowered her 800m best to 1:55.16 to move to No. 6 on the all-time world list.
Semenya won last year’s Pre Classic over a similarly loaded field.
She'll be joined by Francine Niyonsaba, who turns 25 on 5 May. Last month she won a second successive world indoor 800m title and is at the moment Semenya's closest rival, finishing second behind her in both Rio and London. Niyonsaba was only 20 when she won the 2013 Pre Classic with a still-standing Hayward Field record of 1:56.72 but first captured attention as a 19-year-old when she finished fifth at the 2012 London Olympics for Burundi.
Ajee’ Wilson, who will turn 24 on 8 May, will start for the first time in Eugene as the US record holder. Last year she improved to 1:55.61 and went on to take bronze at the World Championships. Last month she finished second behind Niyonsaba at the World Indoor Championships.
While that trio will rightly attract the most attention, Hayward Field fans will welcome the return of Raevyn Rogers, who capped her Oregon career in thrilling fashion last June and won The Bowerman Award as the nation’s top female collegian. An hour after winning her third NCAA outdoor 800m title, the 21-year-old took the baton on anchor leg for the Oregon 4x400m relay quartet. Oregon needed a victory to win the team title; Rogers delivered with a 49.77 split to cap off a collegiate record for good measure.
The field also includes 22-year-old Margaret Wambui, who finished just out of the medals in last year’s World Championships, but her bronze in Rio was Kenya’s first Olympic medal in this event since 2008, when Pamela Jelimo struck gold.
Habitam Alemu is the youngest in the field at 20. The Ethiopian record holder was a semifinalist at both the Rio Olympics and London World Championships, and more recently finished fourth in Birmingham last month.
Two-time European champion Selina Buchel of Switzerland is also in the field.
Organisers for the IAAF
2018 IAAF Diamond League calendar
4 May – Doha, QAT
12 May – Shanghai, CHN
26 May – Eugene, USA
31 May – Rome, ITA
7 Jun – Oslo, NOR
10 Jun – Stockholm, SWE
30 Jun – Paris, FRA
5 Jul – Lausanne, SUI
13 Jul – Rabat, MAR
20 Jul – Monaco, MON
21-22 Jul – London, GBR
18 Aug – Birmingham, GBR
30 Aug – Zurich, SUI
31 Aug – Brussels, BEL