• Intriguing Athletics on the Cards
TOP class athletics for the 2015 season has begun to unravel. This is particularly, a great year for the sport as athletes are targeting for heroic performances at the upcoming IAAF world athletics championships scheduled for Beijing in China on 22-30 August.
Although it is still early in the season, there has been brilliant
athletics in some of the events at the recent Prefontaine Classic
meeting in Eugene, Oregon in the USA.
As in the past years, the organisers of the 41st edition of the competition, maintained their reputation assembling the best athletes in most of the disciplines.
And, bearing in mind, this was only the third round of the 14 Diamond League series, where some of the athletes were competing for the first time this year on the international stage.
Nonetheless,the two-day event at the Hayward Field, was quite entertaining with tight and close finishes for the top honours.
Setting the stage on day one, was the men’s tough 10 000m race. It was packed with extremely talented runners from east African countries, mainly Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda.
But the Africans, never lived up to expectations, as they were rolled over by Mo Farah, a British star athlete who is a double 5 000 and 10 000m Olympic champion at the 2012 Games in London.
The runner dictated the pace upfront, although the lead changed on a number of times, before he accelerated towards the end to win in a superb time of 26minutes 50.97seconds.
The Kenyan duo of Paul Tanui and George Kamorowro, a world half marathon and world cross country champion, were overpowered to finish second and third position respectively.
There was excellent achievement for Cameron Levins of Canada, a fourth finisher who set a national record of 27minutes 07.51seconds. He seemed ready to take on the best competitors stride for stride.
The women’s 100m and men's 200m also provided centre stage attraction. A field comprised of elite sprinters in Carmelita Jetter of the USA, Shelly Ann-Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, Muriel Ahoure of the Ivory Coast and Blessing Okagbare-Ighononour of Nigeria – can hardly be short of a thriller.
Uncertainty had hung on the current form of Fraser-Pryce who stumbled to a rare and disappointing fifth position on the opening leg of the League in Qatar last month.
Okagbare-Ighonour had a flying start in Qatar with a clean victory.
However, the Jamaican sprint queen, who is both an Olympic and world champion, turned on the tables in Eugene with a narrow win. She stopped the watches in 10.81seconds, sharing the same time with second placed Muriel Ahoure – a double 100 and 200m silver medalist at the last world championships in Moscow.
Although tainted by his doping offence, Justin Gatlin of the USA, roared to victory in a season’s world leading time of 19.68seconds. He was too supreme for the entire field.
Chasing behind was South Africa's Anaso Jobodwana, who was well beaten, but recorded a personal best of 20.04seconds.The more mature and seasoned athlete, Nickel Ashmeade of Jamaica finished third position and others had no answers at all.
Gatlin,the current season's fastest athlete over 100 and 200m, is a dangerous threat to world's acclaimed sprint champion Usain Bolt of Jamaica. Bolt has a large following of fans from around the globe. His next head-on-clash with Gatltin, is bound to create big head-lines.
Tyson Gay,another USA athlete, who is coming back to the sport after a doping violation as well, won his 100m race in fast time of 9.88seconds. He put himself to be very much on the spotlight this season.
Field events were by far no exception in providing splendid results, particularly the men's pole vault and men’s high jump events.
French pole vaulter, Renaud Lavilienie kept the crowd spell- bound when he attempted to jump over a massive 6.16m. Despite the failure, he was an impressive winner clearing the bar at 6.05m.
A flamboyant character, Barshim Essa Mutaz of Qatar, sparkled in the high jump, sailing over the bar in a perfect 2.41m win. The Qatarian signalled excitement by beating his chest and raised his hands up and down like a flying hawk.He may as well, be tipped for a medal at the forthcoming world championships in Beijing.
Additional quality performances at the Prefontaine Classic were that of Kenyan Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi - winning the men's 3 000m steeplechase in 8minutes 01.71seonds, Ethiopia's Genezebe Dibaba - taking the women's 5 000m in 14minutes 19.76second and Frenchman Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, winning the men's 110m hurdles in 13.06seconds.
Article by Geshom Nyathi, a Zimbabwean freelance journalist based in England