Ukrainian high jumper Bogdan Bondarenko (© Getty Images)
For the third time this year, world high jump champion Bohdan Bondarenko will take on Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov when they compete at the Mohammed VI d'Athletisme IAAF World Challenge meeting on 8 June.
In their latest encounter earlier this week at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome, Bondarenko once again finished ahead of Ukhov. It was the second time this year that the Ukrainian had beaten the Russian record-holder, but that will only serve to motivate Ukhov.
In a year when a record five men have jumped higher than 2.40m, Ukhov has the best mark of 2014 with his European indoor record of 2.42m. In Rome, Bondarenko had three close attempts at what would have been a European record of 2.43m, but such is the quality of the event this year, all the top high jumpers have their eye on one goal – the world record of 2.45m.
In comparison, the African all-comers’ record of 2.38m looks a far easier target, and both athletes could end up bettering it.
Traditionally held in Rabat, this year the meeting has moved to the Grand Stade de Marrakech, venue for the IAAF Continental Cup later in the year. It also forms part of the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge and Tatyana Lysenko leads the field in the women’s hammer.
The Russian world record-holder has had a modest start to her season, but after opening with 67.35m in Tokyo, she has improved with every competition and most recently threw 70.62m in Adler.
Lysenko won’t be the only world and Olympic champion competing in the women’s throws in Marrakesh as New Zealand’s Valerie Adams headlines the shot.
At the very least, the 29-year-old will be looking to notch up her 49th consecutive victory, but she might also challenge the African all-comers’ record of 20.59m, which would see her improve on her own world-leading mark of 20.46m.
With Morocco’s fine tradition in middle-distance events, it’s no surprise that strong fields have been assembled in the 800m, 1500m and 5000m.
Moahammed Aman, world champion indoors and outdoors, will take on USA’s Duane Solomon in the 800m. Though Solomon finished ahead of his Ethiopian rival at the 2012 Olympics, Aman has won all 10 of their clashes since then and is favoured to win again in Marrakesh.
In the women’s two-lap race, Mediterranean Games champion Malika Akkaoui will lead home hopes when she faces European indoor champion Nataliia Lupu and Ethiopian record-holder Fantu Magiso.
As shown by his 1500m victory in Rome against a high-quality field, 2011 world silver medallist Silas Kiplagat is in the form of his life. The 24-year-old Kenyan has this year produced two of his five fastest performances ever over the metric mile and has finished no lower than second in all of his outdoor races.
Among those trying to stop Kiplagat in Marrakesh will be Ethiopian record-holder Aman Wote and 2012 world indoor champion Abdalaati Iguider.
In the women’s 1500m, world finalist Siham Hilali will be up against African champion Rabab Arrafi, who last month set a PB of 4:02.71 when winning in Beijing. The two Moroccans will take on European bronze medallist Anna Mishchenko and Russia’s Anna Shchagina.
Three-time world champion Ezekiel Kemboi failed to finish the 3000m steeplechase in Rome, but will aim to get back to winning ways in Marrakesh when he faces European rival Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad and Morocco’s world and Olympic finalist Hamid Ezzine.
Hopes are high that this year’s edition of the meeting will play host to Morocco’s first ever sub-10-second performance in the men’s 100m. South Africa’s Simon Magakwe, who recently broke the national record with 9.98, will be up against fellow sub-10 sprinters Kim Collins, Kemar Bailey-Cole and Walter Dix.
But the surprise package could be Panama’s Alonso Edward. The 24-year-old took silver in the 200m at the 2009 World Championships, breaking Usain Bolt’s world age-19 best with 19.81, but struggled with injury in the following years. Now back to his best, this year he has set a 100m PB of 10.02 and is undefeated in the 200m, recently winning in Rome.
After throwing a world-leading 89.21m in the javelin at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai, Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed picked up an ankle injury at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Beijing. If recovered, the African record-holder will be back in action in Marrakesh and will take on world bronze medallist Dmitri Tarabin and Latvian record-holder Vadims Vasilevskis.
Elsewhere, 2011 world cross-country champion Imane Merga will face Asian record-holder Albert Rop and world junior champion Muktar Edris in the 5000m, while Olympic finalist Georganne Moline takes on Jamaica’s Nickiesha Wilson and Ukraine’s Hanna Titimets in the 400m hurdles.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF