Diamond League 2011: Athletes to watch in Stockholm
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Usain Bolt intends to erase memories of last year's rare defeat Britain's stars may be at the World Championship trials in Birmingham this weekend but there is plenty to excite athletics fans in Stockholm.
Usain Bolt will hope to be as impressive in the 200m as he was in the 100m last week, 800m world champion Caster Semenya continues her comeback, while the race of the night looks to be in the 110m hurdles where David Oliver and Dayron Robles go head-to-head.
Olympic and world champion LaShawn Merritt returns to competitive racing after serving a 21-month drug ban. The 25-year-old American, who used a prohibited substance found in an over-the-counter medicine, faces tough competition on his comeback.
Lining up alongside Merritt is the fastest man in 2011, Rondell Bartholomew of Grenada. Others in the reckoning include world indoor champion Chris Brown, Jamaican record holder Jermaine Gonzales and Olympic 400m hurdles champion Angelo Taylor, who has a personal best in the flat race of 44.05 seconds.
Merritt still hopes to defend his Olympic title in London next year, challenging the International Olympic Committee's rule that any athlete who receives a drugs sanction greater than six months is automatically banned from the next Olympic Games. The Court of Arbitration is due to make a ruling next month.
South Africa's world champion Caster Semenya is in a highly competitive field that boasts 10 runners who have gone under 1:59.00 this season. Among them is Morocco's Halima Hachlaf, who ran a season's best time of 1:58.27 when winning in Oslo ahead of Semenya.
Kenia Sinclair of Jamaica has won over 800m and 1500m this season. She says the 1500m is her preferred distance but anyone who saw her storm to victory in the 800m at Eugene last month, beating Semenya into second place, knows she is a threat over two laps.
The USA have a strong presence in this race, headed by Alysia Montano, who booked her place at the World Championships by winning her national title.
Jeter is a firm favourite for the 100m.
Carmelita Jeter was in scintillating form last week in Monaco, winning the 200m ahead of three-time world champion Allyson Felix in a career-best time. The 31-year-old American switches her attention to the 100m this week and is firm favourite, with the stadium record of 10.90 seconds in her sights. Should she beat Irina Privalova's 1994 mark, she will be presented with a one-carat diamond worth several thousand pounds.
Fellow American Marshevet Myers and Jamaican Kerron Stewart will also have the record in their sights; both have run under 10.90 seconds this season. Watch out too for evergreen Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie, the 35-year-old who won Olympic silver with the Bahamas 4x100m relay team in 1996. She is still competing with the best some 15 years later.
Men's 110m hurdles final
Dayron Robles of Cuba set a stadium record in Stockholm three years ago, clocking 12.91 seconds - just outside his own world record time of 12.88.
His rival David Oliver of the USA is the quickest man in the world this year and the pair could well produce a duel every bit as gripping as their Paris race earlier this month. On that occasion, Robles clinched victory in a photo finish after both ended up with a time of 13.09 seconds. Oliver, who leads the Diamond League standings, will be intent on revenge.
Gay beats Bolt over 100m in Stockholm last season.
Usain Bolt is not used to being second best. Nonetheless, the reigning world and Olympic champion and world record holder at 100m and 200m comes to Stockholm hoping to erase memories of a rare defeat last year at the hands of Tyson Gay in the 100m.
"I will be back - and I will not lose," says Bolt, whose appearance fee is around £180,000 pounds if local media reports are to be believed.
With Gay injured, the Jamaican's biggest competition is likely to come from Panama's Alonso Edward, silver medallist behind Bolt at the 2009 World Championships. Norway's Jaysuma Saidy Ndure is another who has run under 20 seconds.