World 5000m Champion Almaz Ayana may have fallen short of erasing the women’s World Record (WR) at the IAAF Diamond League in Rabat, but she will certainly set her sights on breaking the Golden Gala Meeting Record (MR) of 14:32.57 set by Tirunesh Dibaba in 2008.
Ayana has churned out outstanding performances in every meet she has competed in this season, and the Diamond League in Rome won’t be an exception when she competes on Thursday, June 2nd.
The Ethiopian legend opened her Diamond League season in Doha where she set a World Lead (WL) of 8:23.11 in the 3000m, before going on to record the fifth-fastest time in history of 14:16.31 in the 5000m in Rabat.
With the absence of rivals Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt, World 400m men’s Champion Wayde Van Niekerk, will be favoured to win his event when he opens his Diamond League campaign against a respectable field.
The South African will be coming into the race as the fastest in the field with a Season’s Best (SB) of 44.11s, but will have other stiff competitors in Grenada’s Bralon Taplin (44.41s), Qatar’s Abdalleleh Haroun (44.81s) and former African Record holder Botswana’s Isaac Makwala (45.15s).
In the sprint events, the women’s 100m has been churning out fast times at various meets since the beginning of the year.
The most recent of such performances was at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene where English Gardner clocked 10.81s to defeat a stacked field that featured World Champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce amongst others.
Gardner will hope to record her first Diamond League victory this year when she faces World 200m Silver medallist Elaine Thompson of Jamaica, who has already recorded a wind-assisted time of 10.71s.
American duo of Trayvon Bromell and Ameer Webb will be in the spotlight when they go against each other in the men’s 200m.
Bromell who has a Personal Best (PB) of 20.03s, will be gunning for his first sub-20s, while new sensation Webb will be going into the race with confidence after his surprise win in Doha, where he set a Personal Best (PB) of 19.85s.
Other competitors expected to aim for the maximum points are 2015 Diamond Race winner Alonso Edward of Panama, and World Leader in the 100m, Qatar’s Femi Ogunode.
South Africa’s Caster Semenya has enjoyed an unbeaten run in the 800m this year. The former World Champion already leads the Diamond Race standings after victories in Doha and Rabat, setting new SBs on each occasion.
She will be aiming for the same feat when she faces a stacked field that consists of 2015 World Medallists Marina Arzamasova, Melinda Bishop and Eunice Sum, not forgetting World Indoor Champion, Francine Niyonsaba who gave her a scare in Rabat.
Conseslus Kipruto has been the man to beat in the 3000m Steeplechase this year. The Kenyan, who is currently the World Leader, will be aiming for his third consecutive victory in the Diamond League against his compatriots Jairus Kipchoge Birech and Ezekiel Kemboi.
Meanwhile in the Men’s 110 Hurdles, Spaniard Orlando Ortega will be aiming for all points available as he hurdles against Frenchmen Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, Dimitri Bascou, Garfield Darien and Wilhem Belocian.
In the Field events, the spotlight will be on World Triple Jump Champion Caterine Ibarguen as she aims for her 33rd consecutive victory in four years at the Golden Gala.
The Colombian will hope to wave off the challenge from Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas, three-time European Champion Olga Saladukha of Ukraine and Olympic Champion Olga Rypakova of Kazakhstan.
Olympic Champion Barbora Spotakova will be opening her 2016 season in Rome against strong opponents that comprise of World Champion and Silver Medallist Katarina Molitor of Germany, and South Africa’s Sunette Viljoen respectively.
Valerie Adams will be seeking to build upon her win at the Rabat Diamond League against a field that includes Doha winner, USA’s Tia Brooks, and Hungary’s Anita Marton.
Great Britain’s Greg Rutherford will also open his Diamond League campaign in Rome, competing against the top five in the world this year: Marquise Goodwin (8.45m), Rushwahl Samaai (8.38m), Mike Hartfield (8.34m), Fabrice Lapierre (8.31m) and Luvo Manyonga (8.30m).
Piotr Malachowski and Fedrick Dacres are two of only three athletes to have thrown above the 68m mark this year in the men’s Discus. They will be favourites for the win when they face other top throwers in Victor Hogan, Philip Milanov and Robert Urbanek.