Wednesday, 6th July 2022
<To guardian.ng
Search
Breaking News:

Gatlin in the shade of Kenyan steeplechasers

American sprint star Justin Gatlin might be used to hogging the limelight, but there's a strong chance he'll be overshadowed at Thursday's Diamond League meet in Rome by one of the strongest ever Kenyan steeplechase line-ups.
Justin Gatlin of the United States wins the 100 meter dash at Hayward Field on May 28, 2016 in Eugene, Oregon. Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images/AFP

Justin Gatlin of the United States wins the 100 meter dash at Hayward Field on May 28, 2016 in Eugene, Oregon. Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images/AFP

American sprint star Justin Gatlin might be used to hogging the limelight, but there’s a strong chance he’ll be overshadowed at Thursday’s Diamond League meet in Rome by one of the strongest ever Kenyan steeplechase line-ups.

With no less than 50 Olympic, world or European medallists or Diamond League winners at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea, the fifth leg of the 2016 IAAF Diamond League at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico will be another stage for fine-tuning ahead of the Rio Olympics in August.

Gatlin has form in the Italian capital, last year tying Maurice Greene’s record of four wins at the Golden Gala and breaking Usain Bolt’s meeting record with 9.75sec.

Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion who was banned for doping between 2006 and 2010, clocked a wind-assisted 9.88 seconds at Eugene last week.

The world number one took the tape ahead of Jamaican Asafa Powell and American Tyson Gay and will doubtless seek to extend that form heading into the Rio Games.

The 100m line-up also features Asian record holder Femi Ogunode, European record holder Jimmy Vicaut and South African record holder Akani Simbine.

But the blue riband event could well be eclipsed by the men’s 3000m steeplechase, which promises to be an electric race.

All three podium finishers from the 2015 Beijing world championships will be in Rome: four-time world champion and reigning Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi, Brimin Kipruto and Conseslus Kipruto.

To that trio are added two more Kenyans in the shape of Golden Gala record holder Paul Kipsiele Koech and Jairus Birech, winner of the two last editions of the Diamond Race who has announced he would this season target the world record set by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saeed Shaheen (7:53.63) in 2004.

Other stand-out events include the men’s high jump in which Italian all-comers record-holder Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar (2.41m) will come up against home hero and World Indoor champion Gianmarco Tamberi.

Also in the field are Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko, world champion in Moscow 2013 and European champion in Zurich 2014, and world silver medallists Zhang Guowei and Robbie Grabarz, who won at the Olympic Stadium in 2012.

South African sprinting sensation Wayde Van Niekerk has risen to fame as the only male athlete to have run the 100m sub-10sec, the 200m sub-20sec and the 400m sub-44sec.

And the world 400m champion will face Qatar’s world indoor silver medallist Abdelalelah Haroun, Botswana’s Isaac Makwala and Grenada’s Bralon Taplin over one lap.

The men’s 200m features American hopeful Trayvon Bromell, world indoor champion in the 60m and world bronze in the 100m, out to break the 20-sec barrier.

In-form South African Caster Semenya will race the women’s 800m having dominated her rivals in the Diamond League meets in Doha and Rabat.

In Rome she will be up against the Beijing worlds podium in Marina Arzamasova, Melissa Bishop and Eunice Sum, the top-two of the World Indoor Championships in Portland Francine Nyonsaba and Ajee Wilson and European champions Linsey Sharp and Selina Buchel.

Ethiopia’s world 5000m champion Almaz Ayana will try to better the Rome record of 14:23.46 set by compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba.