Russell, Spencer in Diamond showdown
Young Jamaican hurdler Janeive Russell faces another tough test as she hunts her second straight win on the Diamond League circuit against a strong field at today's Golden Gala Diamond League stop in Rome, which includes circuit standout Kaliese Spencer among the threats.
Elaine Thompson lines up in the women's 100m, with Kimberly Williams shaking off a hamstring injury to join Shanieka Thomas in the women's triple jump, while World Championships finalist Federick Dacres, in the discus, and national record holder Rusheen McDonald, in the 400m, sign off Jamaica's involvement in the meeting, set for Rome's Stadio Olimpico.
Wayde van Niekerk, the world champion over 400m, will also make his first major appearance in the event this season after posting 44.11 at a small South African meet almost a month ago, and American Justin Gatlin returns to the scene of his only victory over Usain Bolt in the 100m, looking for his fourth straight win of the season.
After turning back a strong field at the Rabat Diamond League a few weeks ago, Russell, who comes into this meet as the second-fastest woman in the world over the 400m hurdles, with a time of 54.16, will face another challenge this time around.
The 22-year-old will face four-time Diamond race winner in the event and Commonwealth champion Spencer, with world leader Georgeanne Moline and fellow early season pacesetters Eilidh Child, Cassandra Tate, and Wenda Theron Nel all present for what should be an explosive contest.
SEEKING TO IMPROVE
Spencer is coming off a second-place finish at the Ostrava Golden Spike meet on May 20 and will be hoping to improve her times, with a modest 55.02 seconds being her best mark coming into this race.
Thompson, who had a positive opening to her 200m campaign at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene last weekend with a 22.16 third-place finish, will look to continue her unbeaten start in the 100m, where English Gardner - the winner in Eugene - Michelle-Lee Ahye and Barbera Pierre will provide the main challenge.
In her twelve 100m runs since the beginning of 2015, Thompson has only suffered two losses - both of them being second-place finishes.
Two Jamaicans will contest the women's triple jump with Williams, who had to skip the Doha Diamond League because of a hamstring concern. She is eager to get in the sandpit, with the National Senior Championships just a few weeks away. She will have Thomas for company, but they will both have to find something special to stop runaway Diamond Race leader Caterine Ibarguen, who is the only woman in the field to have already jumped over 15 metres this season.
Dacres, whose 68.02m makes him the fourth-best man in the discus this season, will make his Diamond League, debut with world leader Piotr Malachowski (68.15m) being the only man lining up against him to have bettered his distance this year.
McDonald has looked nothing like the man who ran 43.93 seconds at the World Championships since that first round run and has started the season in pretty poor condition, with fifth-, seventh- and eighth-place finishes and a pedestrian 45.90 seconds being his best efforts to date.
Today, he faces world champion van Niekerk, with Isaac Makwala and Deon Lendore being the other class athletes in the field.
Though not a Diamond League event here, the men's 100m should provide some amount of interest, with Gatlin set to be tested by fellow 2016 sub-10 club members Akani Simbine and Femi Ogunode, while 100m World Championships bronze medal winner, Trayvon Brommel, faces Christophe Lemaitre, and Diamond race leader Alonso Edward in the 200m.