The Melbourne Track Classic kicks off the 2023 World Athletics Continental Tour Gold at Inner-city Lakeside Stadium Thursday, February 23.
World 100 meters champion Fred Kerley will headline the 200 meters in his first race of the season. Kerley won the 100 meters silver medal behind Marcell Jacobs at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021 and the Diamond League title in Zurich later that year. Kerley improved his PB to 9.76 in the semifinal of the US Championships in Eugene before winning the final in 9.77.
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At last year’s World Championships in Eugene, the US sprint star set his third consecutive sub-9.8 second performance clocking 9.79 in the heats before winning the gold medal in the 100 meters in 9.86 ahead of Marvin Bracy and Trayvon Bromell.
Kerley is one of the three sprinters to have run sub-10 in the 100 meters, sub-20 seconds in the 200 meters, and sub-44 seconds in the 400 meters. Wayde Van Niekerk and Michael Norman are the only two sprinters to achieve this feat.
Kerley set his PB of 19.76 in the 200 meters at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Nairobi in 2021 and placed third in 19.83 at the US Championships in Eugene last June, qualifying for the World Championships in Eugene.
Kerley did not get through to the final in the 200 meters at the World Championships in Oregon after straining his hamstring and will be looking to bounce back from this disappointment when he lines up in Melbourne against top Australian sprinter Rohann Browning, who clocked 10.01 in the 100 meters at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and won two national titles in 2019 and 2021, 200m world under 20 bronze medallist Calab Law and Australian 200 meters champion Aidan Murphy. Browning will also line up in the 100 meters.
Fred Kerley: “It is nice to open my season with the 200 meters because I got injured in the semifinals at the World Championships. I am excited to come and show my talent to the Australian people”.
Men’s discus throw:
Last year’s Commonwealth Games gold medallist Matthew Denny will compete in front of his home fans in the men’s discus throw. Denny, who won the World under 18 gold medal in Donetsk 2013, placed fourth at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021 with 67.02m and sixth at the World Championships in Eugene in 2022 with 66.47 before winning the Commonwealth Games gold medal with 67.26m in Birmingham last August. The Australian thrower threw 63.15m at Geelong’s John Landy Field in 2017 when he was 20. He started his 2023 season with a throw of 64.39m in Adelaide on 11 February.
Women’s long jump:
US long jumper Tara Davis Woodhall will clash against Australia’s Brooke Bushkuehl in the long jump. Davis-Woodhall leads 2-0 in her head-to-head clashes. At the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Davis Woodhall finished sixth with 6.84m, one place ahead of Bushkuehl, who jumped 6.83m. In their only meeting last year in Chula Vista, Davis Woodhall took the win with a wind-assisted 7.24m, while Bushkuehl finished second with her lifetime best and the legal World leading mark of 7.13m. Davis won the World under 18 gold medal in Cali in 2015, the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor titles in 2021, and the National indoor title in Albuquerque with 6.69m last week. Bushkuhel placed fifth at the World Championships in Eugene in 2022 with 6.87m.
Women’s high jump:
Nicola Olyslagers will lead the line-up in the women’s high jump. The Australian high jumper started her season with a 1.98m clearance in Canberra last January. Olyslagers won the Olympic silver medal in Tokyo 2021 with a national record of 2.02m and placed fifth in World Championships in Eugene with 1.96m. The Australian jumper won the second Diamond League competition of her career in Paris in 2021 with 1.98m.
Erin Shaw will debut on home soil after clearing 1.90m twice during the indoor season in Hustopece and Udine. The 18-year-old Australian rising star, who placed fourth at the World Under 20 Championships in Cali, trains with Eleanor Patterson and Brandon Starc under the guidance of Australian coach Alex Stewart. Patterson cleared 1.93m in Udine but picked a foot injury and has been forced to pull out of the Melbourne meeting.
Australian middle distance star Ollie Hoare will make his domestic debut on the track in the John Landy Mile after winning the bronze medal in the mixed relay at last Saturday’s World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst. Hoare won the gold medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in the 1500 meters, improving his lifetime best to 3:30.12. Hoare recently finished third in the Wanamaker Mile in New York in 3:50.83. He set the Oceanian outdoor record in the mile clocking 3:47.48 in Oslo last year.
Hoare will face 2016 Olympic 1500m champion Matt Centrowitz, Sam Tanner from New Zealand, and Australian rising star Cameron Myers.
Men’s 3000 meters:
Australia’s Stewart McSweyn will compete in the men’s 3000 meters after winning the bronze medal in the mixed relay at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst with his teammates Hoare, Jessica Hull, and Abbey Caldwell.
McSweyn set Oceanian records in the 1500m with 3:29.51 in Monaco in 2021 and in the 3000m with 7:28.02 in Rome in 2020.
Women’s 1500 meters:
Jessica Hull will take on 2017 world 3000m steeplechase champion Emma Coburn, last year’s NACAC Championships Heather MacLean, Medina Eisa, and Melknat Wudu from Ethiopia, who finished first and second in the 5000m at the World Under 20 Championships in Cali 2022. Hull finished seventh in the 1500m World Championships final in Eugene with 4:01.82 and sixth in the 3000m at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade 2022.
Coburn won the Olympic bronze medal in Rio 2016 and two world medals (gold in London 2017 and silver in Doha 2019) in the 3000 meters steeplechase.
Women’s 3000 meters:
Linden Hall from Australia will clash against Prisca Chesang in the women’s 3000 meters. Hall finished sixth in the 1500m Olympic final in Tokyo in 3:59.01 and fourth in the Commonwealth Games final over the same distance in Birmingham last year. Chesang won two consecutive bronze medals in the 5000m at the World under 20 Championships in Nairobi 2021 and Cali 2022.