World & Olympic champs headed to Rome
There's less than a week to go until the Samsung Diamond League heads to Rome (ITA) and it is already promising to be a world-class affair with several world and Olympic champions signed up.
The star name is undoubtedly Usain Bolt (JAM), who will make his outdoor seasonal debut in the 100m. The triple world and Olympic gold medallist will face stiff competition from European champion Christophe Lemaitre (FRA) and compatriot Asafa Powell. Powell leads the 100m Diamond Race, having secured maximum points at last week's meet in Shanghai (CHN)
Bolt only ran the shorter of the sprints on four occasions in 2010, with his last coming in Stockholm (SWE) when rival Tyson Gay (USA) defeated him. A recurring back problem kept him out of action for the remainder of the year but the Jamaican insists he is now "fit and ready."
And it won't just be Bolt who will be looking to lay down an early marker in a season that climaxes with the IAAF world championships. The remainder of the Rome startlist is littered with key head-to-heads and stars looking to shine, including French pole-vaulter Renaud Lavillenie.
One of Steve Hooker's main rivals for gold in Daegu had an unconvincing start to the season, when he finished fourth in Doha (QAT) last month. The European champion should be favourite at the Compeed Golden Gala, but may be pushed by fellow Frenchman Romain Mesnil.
Kenyan David Rudisha returns to the track for the first time since he competed in both Melbourne and Sydney as part of the Australian Athletics Tour. The 800m world record holder was absent in Doha, when Asbel Kiprop finished first and Michael Rimmer (GBR) in second, both will line-up with Rudisha in Rome.
Elsewhere, one of the standout track battles will be between American pair Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross who will both run in the 200m and 400m.
Richards-Ross spent a majority of 2010 injured and in her absence the three-time 200m world champion Felix stepped up, and dominated, the one lap. Both are integral members of the USA 4x400m relay team but until Daegu may spend a majority of time going head-to-head.
Meanwhile Sally Pearson's rivals face a second Samsung Diamond League showdown, following on from Doha where American Kellie Wells was victorious with a world-lead time of 12.58. A trio of fellow Americans in Danielle Carruthers, Lolo Jones and Virginia Powell-Crawford followed behind her, respectively, and all four will line up in Rome.
Finally, Dani Samuels might be absent from the discus startlist but the current top three throwers in the world, with Sandra Perkovic (CRO), Yanfeng Li (CHN) and Yarelis Barrios (CUB) all due to compete.
The Compeed Golden Gala, Round 3 of the Samsung Diamond League, will be held in Rome on Thursday, May 26.
With thanks to Zarah Al-Kudcy