Fresh from her heroics at the FBK Games in Hengelo, world record-breaker Sifan Hassan will again take centre stage at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea, a Wanda Diamond League meeting, in Florence on Thursday (10).
Dutch world champion Hassan, who improved the global 10,000m record to 29:06.82c on Sunday (pending ratification), will give herself a speed test in the Italian city, stepping down to her other world title distance, the 1500m, where another exceptional challenge awaits.
The other contenders include the Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon, also in brilliant form after a commanding win in the 800m at the previous Wanda Diamond League meeting in Doha, and the European champion Laura Muir, undefeated outdoors this year at this distance.
But having won the world titles over 10,000m and 1500m a week apart in Doha in 2019, Hassan will fancy her chances at taking this double too.
On the 40th anniversary of Sebastian Coe’s monumental world 800m record, also set in Florence, it is fitting that the middle distance events will command the spotlight.
The men’s 5000m and 3000m steeplechase also promise to be outstanding races based on the quality of the fields assembled.
Uganda’s world 5000m record-breaker Joshua Cheptegei heads a stacked 5000m field that includes seven sub-13-minute men, among them the Ethiopian duo of world champion Muktar Edris and Hagos Gebrhiwet, as well as the Norwegian boy wonder Jakob Ingebrigtsen, European champion but yet to prove he can mix it with the world’s very best over this distance. This is his opportunity.
Spain’s Mohamed Katir, who was an impressive winner of this event at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Gateshead last month, will also contend.
Cheptegei returns to this distance for the first time since he set the world record in Monaco last year. He has made no secret of his desire to turn his dominance of the clock over 5000m and 10,000m in the past two years, into two Olympic gold medals in Tokyo in August.
The steeplechase line-up is equally formidable, featuring three of the first four from the 2019 World Championships podium from Doha, Kenyan winner Conseslus Kipruto, Morocco’s bronze medallist Soufiane El Bakkali and fourth-placed Getnet Wale.
Another athlete who will bring outstanding form to Florence is the world 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith, who will have her first outing over her preferred distance this year, coming off a dominant display over 100m at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Hengelo.
Waiting for her will be the dual world champion Dafne Schippers, world bronze medallist Mujinga Kambundji and the highly-regarded Marie-Josee Ta Lou.
In the men’s 100m, Akani Simbine, who inspired South Africa to victory in the 4x100m at the World Athletics Relays in Silesia last month, returns to Europe to take on a field that includes four other sub-10-second performers.
A warm evening in early summer in Italy promises to provide perfect conditions for the sprints, and will give world leader in the 100m hurdles Jasmine Camacho-Quinn every chance of improving her personal best of 12.32 and extending her unbeaten run this year.
Olympic 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod is also rounding into form after a 13.08 clocking in Hengelo and will take on world bronze medallist Pascal Martinot-Lagarde.
Following her 54.33 400m hurdles season-opener in Hengelo last weekend, Femke Bol will look to go even quicker in Florence when she takes on Olympic silver medallist Sara Slott Petersen, the winner in Gateshead, and Ukraine’s Anna Ryzhykova.
In the men’s 400m, world silver medallist Anthony Zambrano takes on Botswana’s Isaac Makwala, European champion Matt Hudson-Smith and Italian record-holder Davide Re.
Florence is not only likely to be faster, but higher too, with world-class fields assembled in both the women’s pole vault and men’s high jump.
The pole vault will feature Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi on the comeback trail from injury where she will face world champion Anzhelika Sidorova and in the in-form Holly Bradshaw.
In the high jump, world champion Mutaz Essar Barshim of Qatar will compete in Europe for the first time in two years, taking on the early season pacesetter Ilya Ivanyuk (2.37m) and the home favourite Gianmarco Tamberi.
The only horizontal jump programmed, the women’s long jump, will be similarly intriguing as world champion Malaika Mihambo takes on a high-quality field including fellow seven-metre jumpers Chantel Malone and Nastassia Mironchyk-Ivanova, two-time world triple jump champion Caterine Ibarguen, world indoor champion Ivana Spanovic and world silver medallist Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk.
For stronger (to complete the Olympic motto), look to the men’s shot put and the women’s discus.
New Zealand’s 2017 world shot put champion Tom Walsh will face the leading thrower in Europe this season, Poland’s Michal Haratyk, who has a best mark of 22.17m this year.
Cuba’s world discus champion Yaime Perez will look to extend her unbeaten run this year, taking on the dual Olympic discus champion Sandra Perkovic again after a narrow victory in Hengelo.
Nicole Jeffery for World Athletics