Gianmarco Tamberi in the high jump at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London (© Getty Images)
Freshly crowned world indoor high jump champion Gianmarco Tamberi will take on an outstanding field that includes former global champions Bogdan Bondarenko and Mutaz Essa Barshim at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea, the fifth stop of the 2016 IAAF Diamond League series, set for Rome's Olympic stadium on Thursday (2 June).
As the Italian record-holder, Tamberi figures prominently in what is expected to be one of the evening's most anticipated clashes. But the 23-year-old, who leaped 2.37m outdoors last year and 2.38m indoors this year, faces a daunting task in defending his home turf, coming up against Barshim and Bondarenko, respectively the second and equal-third highest jumpers in history.
Barshim, Qatar's Asian record-holder at 2.43m, set Rome's meeting record in 2014 when he topped 2.41m, one of five occasions in which he cleared the event's magical 2.40m barrier that season alone. Still just 24, Barshim is also the Olympic bronze medallist, 2013 world silver medallist, 2014 world indoor champion and a two-time Diamond Race winner.
Bondarenko has cleared 2.40m seven times in his career, topped by his 2.42m Ukrainian record in 2014. He won the world title in 2013, the European crown in 2014, and struck world silver last year in Beijing. Bondarenko lifted the Diamond Trophy in 2013, and he is currently second in the 2016 Diamond Race standings after his victory in Rabat eight days ago.
But the Stadio Olimpico spotlight will shine most brightly on Tamberi, who last year rose to the event's upper echelon after improving to 2.37m and then reaching the World Championships final in Beijing where he finished eighth.
This year he was unbeaten in five competitions indoors, a season capped by his world indoor title in Portland and a 2.38m leap, the highest in the world indoors this year.
Rome will be his second 2016 outdoor appearance where he'll look to improve markedly on his 2.25m leap at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rabat earleir this month, where he finished sixth.
The Stadio Olimpico, host to the 1960 Olympic Games, is no stranger to the high jumping elite and top-notch competition. At the 1987 IAAF World Championships, Patrick Sjoberg, Igor Paklin and Gennady Avdeyenko all cleared 2.38m, at the time the best mass-quality high jump competition ever, while Stefka Kostadinova set a world record in the women's event.
Organisers and Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
2016 IAAF Diamond League calendar
6 May – Doha, QAT
14 May – Shanghai, CHN
22 May – Rabat, MAR
28 May – Eugene, USA
2 Jun – Rome, ITA
5 Jun – Birmingham, GBR
9 Jun – Oslo, NOR
16 Jun – Stockholm, SWE
15 Jul – Monaco, MON
22-23 Jul – London, GBR
25 Aug – Lausanne, SUI
27 Aug – Paris, FRA
1 Sep – Zurich, SUI
9 Sep – Brussels, BEL