Tori Bowie (right) wins the 200m at the 2016 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene (© Kirby Lee)
An all-star clash in the women’s 200m will be the headline attraction on the third stop of the IAAF Diamond League at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene on Friday and Saturday (26-27).
As always, the meeting will gather the world’s best athletes to compete in the historic surroundings of Hayward Field, with the main programme on Saturday preceded by a short Friday evening session dedicated to women’s events.
However, it is the women who will once again take centre stage on Saturday afternoon when double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson seeks to consolidate her position at the head of the IAAF Diamond League standings when facing one of the strongest 200m fields ever assembled.
Chief among her rivals is Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands, the world champion who won the Diamond Trophy over 200m last year but had to settle for silver at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Schippers started the season in promising form, but was no match for Thompson when they clashed in Doha earlier this month, the Jamaican powering to victory in 22.19 to Schippers’ 22.45.
Thompson followed that up with a 22.09 win at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Kingston last weekend, and with a clocking of 10.78 to her name for 100m already this year – which she ran at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai on 13 May – she will prove a worthy favourite in Saturday’s contest.
However, such is the calibre of the field that 2012 Olympic 200m champion Allyson Felix is deemed an unlikely winner, despite having three world titles to her name in the event and having opened her season impressively with a clocking of 11.07 for 100m in Kingston last weekend.
Then there is the woman who denied Felix an Olympic 400m gold in such dramatic fashion in Rio last year, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, who has been in sparkling form so far this season. The 23-year-old Bahamian clocked a windy 200m time of 21.90 (3.1m/s) in Clermont last month, and couldn’t have been more impressive when winning the 400m in Shanghai in a world-leading 49.77.
It will be no surprise, however, if the fifth name we get to is the one who springs an upset. Tori Bowie claimed an Olympic bronze medal over 200m last year, and the 26-year-old has started the season in flying form, clocking 22.09 for 200m (-0.3m/s) in Gainesville last month.
The field is rounded out by a sprinter well known to those at the University of Oregon, former student Jenna Prandini, along with 2012 European 100m champion Ivet Lalova-Collio and Marie-Josee Ta Lou, who was fourth in the Olympic 200m final.
De Grasse, Muhammad and McLeod top the sprints bill
Canadian 22-year-old Andre De Grasse will look to prove he is the future – and indeed the present – of sprinting when he takes on Justin Gatlin over 100m on Saturday afternoon.
De Grasse, the Olympic bronze medallist over 100m, finished just behind Gatlin in the 100m final in Rio, with just 0.02 separating them at the line. And though he endured a disappointing start to his IAAF Diamond League campaign – finishing fifth over 100m in Doha in 10.21 – he bounced back in fine style in Kingston last weekend, winning the 200m in 20.14.
Olympic 400m hurdles champion Dalilah Muhammad will be hoping to maintain her dominance in her first race of the season, but it will be a tough one as the US hurdler takes on two-time world champion Zuzana Hejnova and world leader Georganne Moline, who clocked 54.10 earlier this month. Sara Petersen and Ashley Spencer, the Olympic silver and bronze medallists respectively, will also be in opposition.
Omar McLeod is another Olympic gold medallist who will be on display. Though the men’s 110m hurdles will not be an IAAF Diamond League event here, the Jamaican will nonetheless be keen to continue his dominance over rivals such as world record-holder Aries Merritt, 2013 world champion David Oliver, Olympic bronze medallist Dimitri Bascou and European indoor champion Andrew Pozzi.
The men’s 400m is headlined by 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt, while the women’s 100m sees Tianna Bartoletta line up against world indoor champion Barbara Pierre, Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown and a host of the world’s top sprinters.
The women’s 100m hurdles will be an all-US affair, save for the presence of 2012 European champion Alina Talay of Belarus, who will have it all to do to defeat US stars Jasmin Stowers, Nia Ali and Dawn Harper Nelson, among others.
Farah, Centrowitz, Kiprop and Dibaba the distance stars on show
As befitting an event named after the late US runner Steve Prefontaine, this year’s meeting has once again gathered several of the world’s best distance-running exponents.
Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba will be the first of those into action, chasing the world record in the women’s 5000m on Friday night, a non-IAAF Diamond League event, where her older sister Tirunesh’s mark of 14:11.15 will be the target. The home crowd will have plenty to cheer for, too, as USA’s Molly Huddle goes after Shannon Rowbury’s North American record of 14:38.92.
The following afternoon, four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah takes to the track in the 5000m, lining up against a mammoth field of 28 other athletes, half of whom have a global medal to their name either in track, cross country or the road.
His chief threat is likely to be Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor, one of the few athletes to give Farah a hard race in a major championship final, finishing runner-up over 10,000m in Beijing two years ago. Kamworor’s most recent outing was when retaining his title at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in March, and he will be joined by Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeilan, the last man to defeat Farah in a global track final, as he did over 10,000m at the World Championships in Daegu in 2011.
The Bowerman Mile is once again set to provide a fitting climax to proceedings as Olympic 1500m champion Matthew Centrowitz takes on 2008 Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop on the track of his alma mater.
Centrowitz impressed last week in his first 1500m outing of the season, clocking 3:33.41 at Occidental College, California, and handing Farah a comprehensive defeat. Kiprop, meanwhile, prepared in more creative fashion, competing in a 3000m steeplechase in Kenya last week, dropping out just after 2000m.
The race favourite, however, may well be his fellow Kenyan Ronald Kwemoi, who displayed an impressive turn of speed to win the 3000m in Doha in 7:28.73 earlier this month, along with world leader Elijah Manangoi.
The women’s 1500m, a non-IAAF Diamond League event, will see British star Laura Muir take on a host of the home nation’s leading women, such as 2011 world champion Jenny Simpson, Shannon Rowbury and Brenda Martinez. The race favourite, however, may well be Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya, who cruised to victory in 3:59.22 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai on 13 May.
Olympic champion and world record-holder Ruth Jebet will compete on Friday night in the women’s steeplechase, where she should have another tough race with Kenyan pair Celliphine Chespol and Beatrice Chepkoech both set to compete.
The women’s 800m is also loaded, with the first seven athletes home in the 2016 Olympic final gathered together once again. They are headed by Caster Semenya, who has been as unstoppable this year as she was in 2016, but she’s likely to face stiff competition from Kenya’s Margaret Wambui and Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba, who trains at Hayward Field as part of the Oregon Track Club.
Crouser, Beitia, Taylor and Braz look to continue golden runs
The fans will have plenty to draw their eyes towards the in-field on Friday and Saturday with a host of Olympic gold medallists on display.
The men’s shot put features a heavyweight clash – in all senses – between world champion Joe Kovacs and Olympic champion Ryan Crouser. Kovacs made a statement of intent last week with a whopping effort of 22.57m in Tucson, by far the longest throw in the world this year, but Crouser, still only 24, may well be capable of matching that. He threw 22.52m to defeat Kovacs in Rio and will be hoping to confirm that form in Saturday’s clash.
The men’s pole vault is loaded with quality, with Brazil’s Olympic champion Thiago Braz taking on 2012 champion Renaud Lavillenie of France, along with world champion Shawn Barber of Canada and US star Sam Kendricks, who has cleared 5.88m this year. However, they all may have to play second fiddle to Armand Duplantis, the 17-year-old US-based Swede who cleared a world U20 record of 5.90m last month.
The women’s long jump, slated for Friday evening, will feature Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta and silver medallist Brittney Reese, along with three other seven-metre jumpers in the form of Darya Klishina, Shara Proctor and Blessing Okagbare.
The women’s high jump sees Olympic gold medallist Ruth Beitia face US star Vashti Cunningham, who at 19 is half the Spaniard’s age. Cunningham has cleared 1.94m already this year, a world outdoor lead.
Christian Taylor will be the star on show in the men’s triple jump, the two-time Olympic gold medallist facing a gathering of his strongest rivals such as US compatriots Will Claye and Chris Benard.
The women’s javelin features a clash between the two women who have earned the past three Olympic titles as Olympic champion Sara Kolak of Croatia takes on world record-holder and two-time Olympic gold medallist Barbora Spotakova.
Each of the competitors in this weekend’s IAAF Diamond League events will be seeking to score points, available to those in the top eight of each discipline, to qualify for the IAAF Diamond League finals in Zurich (24 August) and Brussels (1 September), where the winners of each discipline on those evenings will be crowned IAAF Diamond League champions and earn $50,000 along with the Diamond Trophy.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF