US sprinter English Gardner in action in the 100m (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Madrid, Spain

Fierce 100m fights in prospect in Madrid, home star Beitia set to shine

Both 100m events should provide the main highlights on Saturday (11) at the Meeting de Madrid, an IAAF World Challenge event and Spain’s most prestigious track and field competition.

The women’s short sprint promises to be a close battle between Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson and USA’s English Gardner. They already offered a magnificent spectacle at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene at the end of May when both were credited with PBs of 10.84 with the victory going to Gardner by centimetres.

More recently, 23-year-old Gardner took silver at the US Championships after lowering her PB to 10.79 while the in-form Thompson is fresh from a comfortable 11.11 win in Lignano on Tuesday. Watch out too for Barbara Pierre as the US sprinter has won in Madrid in the past two years and will be fired up after failing to make the final at the US Championships.

The men’s side features no fewer than four athletes who have ran faster than 10 seconds this season, headed by USA’s 30-year-old Michael Rodgers, who has a season’s best of 9.90 and finished third at the US Championships in Eugene. He will line up alongside compatriots Clayton Vaughn and Diondre Batson, both of whom have run faster than 9.95 this year.

Trying to deny success to the US trio will be a Jamaican contingent comprising Andrew Fisher, Julian Forte and twice Olympic and world 4x100m champion Michael Frater. Qatar’s newly-minted Asian record-holder Femi Ogunode should also be a factor, although he has not raced over 100m since setting his PB of 9.91 on 4 June.

Haroun continues to push the limits

Abdalelah Haroun, also from Qatar, is the man to beat in the men’s 400m. The rising sprint star set an Asian record of 44.27 last Sunday in La Chaux-de-Fonds but the 18-year-old will face tough opposition in the guise of US champion David Verburg. The world 4x400m champion set a PB of 44.41 at the US Championships and backed it up with 44.81 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris last Saturday.

Saudi Arabia’s Youssef El-Masrahi, holder of a 44.59 season’s best, is also in the one-lap event along with Jamaica’s 44.60 man Rusheen Mc Donald and Trinidad and Tobago’s 2009 world bronze medallist Rennie Quow, who clocked 44.72 in Szekesfehervar on Tuesday.

World leaders on the infield

There will be an interesting rematch between the top two US shot putters, Joe Kovacs and Christian Cantwell. The former is the world leader this season thanks a 22.35m and the 26-year-old underlined his good form in Eugene to clinch the US title ahead of 2009 world champion Christian Cantwell, 21.84m to 21.64m.

But earlier this week in Sotteville-les-Rouen, Cantwell comfortably defeated Kovacs, 21.06m to 20.38m. Another win from the 34-year-old Cantwell will even their head-to-head record for 2015.

Spain’s European silver medallist Borja Vivas will be hoping to improve on his relatively modest season’s best of 20.26m.

Also on the infield, home star Ruth Beitia is the standout name thanks to a her world-leading high jump performance of 2.00m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome and 1.97m victory in New York. The 36-year-old double European champion’s stiffest rivals should be St Lucia’s Jeannelle Scheper and Nigeria’s Doreen Amata.

The women’s triple jump is also shaping well with Bulgaria’s Gabriela Petrova and Israel’s Hanna Minenko as the main favourites. The 23-year-old Petrova landed her first major medal at the European Indoors in Prague earlier this year and has added more than half a metre to her pre-2015 best, jumping 14.64m in June. Similarly, Minenko took bronze at the European Indoors with a national record of 14.49m and leapt a PB of 14.61m last month.

Kenya’s Job Kinyor should stamp his authority on the men’s 800m, having been the only athlete in the field capable of breaking the 1:44 barrier so far this season, but the European challenge will come from Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Amel Tuka after the European under-23 bronze medallist clocked a huge national record of 1:44.19 last week. Spanish record-holder Kevin Lopez will also be in contention and will want to better his season’s best of 1:45.59.

Another notable entrant on Saturday night’s programme is Jehue Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago. Although the world 400m hurdles champion does not seem to be in the same kind of form which led him to the Moscow gold two years ago, the 23-year-old should be eager to improve on his 49.22 season’s best.

Weather forecasters predict another hot day on Saturday. Even with the action being held between 9-10pm, the thermometer isn’t expected to go down from 36C.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF