Thiago Braz in the pole vault at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview São Paulo, Brazil

Braz and Wlodarczyk return to action in Brazil

Brazil’s Olympic pole vault champion Thiago Braz da Silva highlights the field of athletes who will compete on Saturday (3) at the Grande Prêmio Brasil de Atletismo, part of the IAAF World Challenge, at the Arena Caixa in São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo.

The 23-year-old from Marília will contest his first competition on Brazilian soil since his triumph in Rio, where he set a South American record of 6.03m. Braz competed three times indoors in 2017, with a season’s best of 5.86m. He opened his outdoor campaign with a 5.60m clearance at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai, but failed to register a mark two weeks later in Eugene at the following leg of the IAAF Diamond League.

Argentina’s world and Olympic finalist Germán Chiaraviglio will be his main contender. The 30-year-old has a personal best of 5.75m, while his season’s best of 5.60m is equal to Braz’s.

Wlodarczyk returns to Brazil

Besides Braz, the Brazilian Grand Prix – which is also part of the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge – will display another Olympic Champion: Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk. The two-time world and Olympic champion is back in Brazil where, besides winning the gold medal, she set a world record of 82.29m, which she later improved to 82.98m at the end of the 2017 season.

Wlodarczyk has already had three competitions in 2017, with a best performance of 79.73m, so far the world-leading mark. Her main rival will be USA’s Gwen Berry. The 27-year-old comes to Brazil after improving the North American record to 76.77m.

Although Braz was the host nation’s hero at last year’s Olympic Games, Darlan Romani also produced a special performance last August. The 26-year-old shot putter improved his national record to 20.94m in the qualification and to 21.02m at the final, where he placed fifth, reaching a milestone for Brazilian throwers at the Olympic Games.

After a promising start to 2017, throwing 20.93m in Gainesville in April, Romani looks set for another good season. His main contender in São Bernardo do Campo will be Congo’s Franck Elemba, who finished one place ahead of Romani at the Rio Games with 21.20m. Elemba’s best throw of 2017 so far is 20.86m, set indoors in February, while 20.72m is his best outdoors.

In the men’s 3000m steeplechase, 18-year-old Moroccan sensation Abdelkarim Ben Zahra, sixth at the 2016 World U20 Championships, will test Brazil’s Olympic finalist Altobeli da Silva. Ben Zahra set a personal best of 8:30.76 last weekend in Oordegem, while 26-year-old Altobeli ran 8:26.30 in the Olympic final and 8:39.68 this season.

The men’s triple jump will be another interesting event, where Colombia’s Jhon Fredy Murillo will face Nigeria’s Tosin Oke. Murillo finished fifth at last year’s Olympic Games with a national record of 17.09m and has a season’s best of 16.95m. 2012 Olympic finalist Oke, now 36, jumped 16.70m in Clermont last month.

Eduardo Biscayart for the IAAF