After witnessing highly attractive duels between global athletics stars in the first two legs of the IAAF Diamond League, the series will now head over to North America, as the Hayward Field in Eugene is set to host a muster of top athletes.

The event is the 44th edition of the Prefontaine Classic, which has been known to have favourable wind conditions, and athletes would be looking to capitalize on that in order to churn out impressive times in their respective events.

Sprints

If what we witnessed in Doha was a spectacle in which six of the eight athletes on parade all broke 11s, the women’s 100m race in Eugene is surely set to go a notch higher as the reigning World Champion in the event, Tori Bowie, is set to join the stellar cast in Eugene.

Bowie is the 200m queen at the Pre Classic, and the three-time winner is itching for her first win in the 100m on the same track where she set her Personal Best (PB) of 10.78s to make the Olympic team enroute a Silver medal in Rio. The American would look to put to a halt the early season form of Ivorian, Marie Josee Ta Lou, who emerged tops in Doha while setting a World Lead WL of 10.85s.

Also in the lineup are the duo of Olympic Champion Elaine Thompson, and reigning World Champion in the 200m, Dafne Schippers. Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor, who is running her fastest ever, including a Texas Relays 100m win (10.72w) and an African Record of 22.04s in the 200m earlier in Texas, might have something special up her sleeves too.

The women’s 400m race has to be among the most anticipated events of the day, with the winners of the last three major Athletics events set to feature. Home favourite, Allyson Felix definitely stands out of the pack, as she would hope her experience counts when she faces familiar rivals in Olympic Champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo, as well as London 2017 World Champion, Phyllis Francis.

Although featuring only in the half-lap event where she has been dominant, Miller-Uibo has been the most active this season amongst her challengers, and she would hope to continue the momentum.

Diamond Trophy holder Noah Lyles has never lost a race in the Diamond League and will face a litmus test when he squares up against his countryman Christian Coleman in the men’s 200m. Coleman will be making his much anticipated IAAF Diamond League debut after making quite a name for himself with success at both the outdoor and indoor IAAF World Championships in the last nine months.

After being schooled by Steven Gardiner while racing in the last two Diamond League meetings, Botswana’s Isaac Makwala steps down to run in the 200m with Commonwealth Games champion Jereem Richards also featuring on the start list.

Hurdles

Like in Shanghai, the men’s 110m Hurdles will pit against each other the crème de la crème of the event . Jamaica’s Omar McLeod has reigned supreme in most of the duels against his major challengers, and should be the favorite once again.

World record-holder, Aries Merritt, and World Indoor Champion Andrew Pozzi, are the names that would look to usurp the Jamaican on the day.

After narrowly winning her first major race in Shanghai, Olympic Champion in the women’s 400m Hurdles Dalilah Muhammed will hope to assert her authority as one of the event’s best racers when she comes up against two-time World Champion, Zuzana Hejnova, and compatriot Shamier Little who is another athlete on the start list to have broken 53s in her career.

Another mouth-watering contest to watch out for will be the men’s 3000m steeplechase. With the Kenyans being dominant in the event over the years, one name stands out amongst the pack. Conseslus Kipruto has been peerless over the past 24 months, and he would look to prove his class once again.

He however faces opposition in the duo of Morocco’s World Silver medallist, Soufiane El Bakkali, as well as Evan Jager of USA.

Middle Distance and Long Distance

After making headlines in Doha when she stormed to victory in the 1500m, setting a National Record (NR) in the process, South African’s Caster Semenya will this time race in her signature event, which is the 800m.

The recently crowned Commonwealth Games Champion in the event will once again face off against familiar competitors who have been trying to hand her a defeat since 2015. Margaret Wambui, Francine Niyonsaba and Ajee Wilson are those names that would be looking to break her winning streak.

In the women’s 5000m race, World Indoor Champion over the 1500m and 3000m, Genzebe Dibaba will once again clash with Kenya’s Hellen Obiri. Both athletes have had interesting battles over the years, but Obiri, who came out flustered in Doha, will aim to make amends for her poor outing on the opening leg of the league.

America’s Jenny Simpson is the favourite heading into the women’s 1500m race, but Britain’s Laura Muir might have other ideas.

Field Events

The men’s Javelin throw will be the first Field event of the meet. With German thrower Thomas Rohler taking the first victory in Doha, albeit by just 22cm, his compatriot Johannnes Vetter would look to exact revenge on his country man when they face off once again.

In the men’s Shot Put, Olympic Champion Ryan Crouser, alongside Tom Walsh, missed out on the Diamond Trophy last season when Darrell Hill shocked everyone to win with a PB in Brussels.

Both will be keen to make amends this season, but Hill will not be the only one standing in their way. 2015 Diamond Trophy winner Joe Kovacs also launches his campaign in Eugene, with David Storl also enjoying an impressive run.

After he claimed victory on his home turf, Diamond Trophy winner Mutaz Essa Barshim would aim to consolidate on his win. However, he once again faces neutral athlete Danil Lysenko who edged him to GOLD at the World Indoor Championships early this year.

It will be another duel between Katerina Stefanidi and her US rival Sandi Morris in the women’s Pole vault. The Greek star has claimed Olympic and World Championships GOLD in the last two years, as well as winning back-to-back Diamond Trophies.

Morris though has always stayed within her sights, clearing the 5m mark for the first time in Brussels in 2016. After victory in Doha, she may feel that 2018 is her year. The win puts her top of the standings, three points ahead of Stefanidi, and with a home advantage in Eugene, she has the chance to build a considerable lead this weekend.

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There are very few things in life that make me happy, but talking and writing Sports has to be at the top. I honed my broadcasting skills at the University of Lagos Radio Station and have free-lanced for platforms like Top Radio and Superscreen TV amongst others. Deji loves running commentaries on Football matches and Athletics, and is now a Junior Sports Writer at Making of Champions. He hopes to become a Sports Agent in the future.

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