EUGENE, USA, May 25 – South Africa’s Caster Semenya will be among a rich array of African stars who will descend on Eugene, USA, for the third meeting of the IAAF Diamond League on Friday and Saturday when Hayward Field hosts the 44th edition of the Prefontaine Classic.
The women’s 800m should be riveting race, with the all-conquering Semenya facing the three women who have given her most to think about in recent years: Margaret Wambui (Kenya), Francine Niyonsaba (Burundi) and American Ajee Wilson.
The 27-year-old South African has not been beaten since 2015, though, and after coming off a highly-impressive victory over 1 500m in Doha earlier this month, will likely have her eyes trained on her South African record of 1:55.16.
The women’s 100m is just as loaded, pitting Olympic champion Elaine Thompson of Jamaica and world champion Tori Bowie of USA against each other.
Ivorian and world indoor 60m champion Murielle Ahoure, should also be in the shake-up, along with Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor.
Another African in the spotlight will be Botswana’s Isaac Makwala. Famous for his 400m exploits, he will try his hand in the 200m.
But he will face competition from another rising US sprint star, 20-year-old Noah Lyles. He has won all three of his IAAF Diamond League races to date, most recently in Doha where he set his PB of 19.83.
In a town like Eugene, which has a long-running love affair with distance running, there will be no shortage of masters of the endurance craft to delight the fans, with the men’s steeplechase looking a particularly captivating contest.
Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto has been nigh-on invincible in the event over the past two years, winning everything in sight in a variety of ways with class, charisma and no shortage of confidence.
However, the 23-year-old faces what may prove his toughest assignment of the year, with world silver medallist Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco and Olympic silver medallist Evan Jager of USA in opposition, along with a host of fellow Kenyans looking to take his throne.
Lots of attention will also be on Kenyan-born Edward Cheserek, who will make his much-anticipated outdoor debut in the men’s two miles, a non-scoring event, after a stunning indoor campaign that saw him clock a 3:49.44 mile.
In his four years at the University of Oregon, Cheserek became the most successful distance runner in NCAA history so will have plenty of support from local fans as he takes on a field that includes world 5 000m champion Muktar Edris of Ethiopia and Olympic medallists Paul Chelimo and Paul Tanui of Kenya.
The women’s 5 000m features a high-calibre clash between Kenya’s Hellen Obiri and her Ethiopian rival Genzebe Dibaba.
Obiri is the fifth-fastest of all time at the distance and arrives after a recent victory at the Commonwealth Games.
She holds the narrow 8-7 edge against Dibaba in their match-ups, though Dibaba has been imperious so far in 2018, having won double gold at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham over 1 500m and 3 000m.
The meeting will conclude with the Bowerman Mile, a race named in honour of the legendary late coach whose statue stands trackside at Hayward Field, and it’s a suitably sterling field.
Kenya’s Elijah Manangoi and Timothy Cheruiyot, the training partners who went 1-2 at last year’s IAAF World Championships, should prove formidable.
In the men’s 800m Kenya’s Emmanuel Korir will prove a tough problem to solve for his competitors, have been highly impressive when winning on his seasonal debut in Doha earlier this month.
However, Nijel Amos Botswana, the 2012 Olympic silver medallist who trains locally with the Oregon Track Club, should be up to that task if he has fully recovered from the injury which saw him trail home eighth in the Commonwealth Games final last month.