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200m cracker! - Fastest women to set Weltklasse meet alight

Published:Thursday | September 1, 2016 | 9:00 AM
Elaine Thompson grits her teeth and finds something extra to outlast her great rival, the Netherlands' Dafne Schippers, and win the women's 200m final at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Campbell-Brown
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ZURICH, Switzerland:

With the clock ticking on Usain Bolt's career, track and field has begun its frantic search for the next generation of superstars - someone or something to fill the inevitable void that will be left by the Jamaican sprinter.

It might be said that Bolt's larger-than-life persona will prove impossible to replicate, but one thing that is expected to keep fans on the edge of their seats in the coming years is the rivalry between freshly minted Jamaican sprint queen Elaine Thompson and her Dutch rival, Dafne Schippers.

The pair will again come face-to-face in the highlight of today's Weltklasse Zurich 2016 Diamond League stop in Switzerland.

With Schippers already wrapping up the 200m Diamond Race, it's the coming together of last year's 200m gold and 100m silver medal winner from the World Championships and the double sprint Olympic champion that will form the headlines going into this one.

Add to that the presence of speedy veterans - Allyson Felix (USA) and another Jamaican, Veronica Campbell-Brown - both of whom have points to prove after less-than-perfect outings in Rio de Janeiro.

Today's contest at the Letzigrund Stadium has served up enough talking points to take the world's attention away from Bolt - for now anyway.

But just how interesting can this rivalry prove to be?

Thompson knows that Bolt's name belongs by itself but is also aware that it's up to her and the others to keep putting down good performances even as she calls for more support for female stars.

"Usain (Bolt) is Usain, and it's up to us women to go out and compete just as well ... . We look forward to some support - like we see with the men," Thompson told reporters yesterday.

"For me, it's always fun. I always look forward to competition. It's the fun part of my job. I really like to run against Elaine. We are the same age and she is very good," added Schippers.

The Dutch star ended 2015 without a loss to Thompson, highlighted by her 21.63 seconds gold medal run in the 200m final at the World Championships, where the Jamaican took silver in 21.66. Those were the fourth and sixth fastest times ever recorded in the event.

This year, Thompson had her way, beating Schippers and everyone else to gold in the Olympic 100m final in a time of 10.71 before taking gold in the 200m in a stride-for-stride sprint to the line with Schippers to become the first woman since American Florence Griffith-Joyner (Flo-Jo) in 1988 to win the 100m-200m double at the Olympic Games.

It was also her first 200m win over Schippers after five previous attempts.

In addition to continuing that rivalry, Thompson says she is looking to test herself against Felix, who was, of course, missing from the event in Rio.

"I'm really motivated coming here. It's a good line-up. Looking back at the 200m final in Rio, the only person that was missing would be Allyson Felix, and to be lining up with her for the second time ever; running with her is a big motivation. It will be exciting for sure," Thompson said.

It should also be exciting to see what Olympic 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod can do against a good field in the men's 100m.

McLeod is the first sprint hurdles specialist to break 10 seconds in the 100m, with a time of 9.99 in April this year.

"I'd definitely like to try some more 100m races," he said minutes after becoming Jamaica's first gold medallist in the 110m hurdles.

He gets his chance against a field that includes countryman Asafa Powell, who is chasing his 98th sub-10-second clocking and who is still in with a shot at winning the Diamond Race, sitting in fourth place with six points.

Powell would need to win and hope that Diamond leader Ben Youssef Meite (CÙte d'Ivoire), who is on 16 points, finishes third or lower, with American Mike Rodgers (12 points) and Churandy Martina (eight points) also in the mix.

Like the women's 200m, this is also the finale for the men's 100m, with points being doubled at this stage. So a win now brings 20 points, with second place carrying 12.

 

UNSTOPPABLE

 

There's no stopping world record holder Kendra Harrison in the women's 100m hurdles, with her unassailable 50 points tally making this a mere opportunity for her to underscore her dominance this season.

But it does present a strong test for Jamaica's Megan Simmonds, who will be looking to better last week's seventh-lace finish at the Lausanne Diamond League meet. The USA pair of Dawn Harper-Nelson and Jasmin Stowers adds to what should be an interesting event as is normally the case in the 100m hurdles.

Olympic finalist Aisha Praught will feature in the 3000m steeplechase, where 19-year-old Olympic champion and world record holder Ruth Jebet (Bahrain), on 36 points, and Ethiopia's Hyvin Kyeng (32 points) will battle for the Diamond.

Olympic 100m finalist Christania Williams will line up alongside Jeneba Tarmoh and Barbara Pierre in the pre-programme women's 100m.

With Renaud Lavillenie (men's pole vault), Schippers (women's 200m), Harrison (100m hurdles), Ivana Spanovic (women's long jump), and Sandra Perkovic (women's discus) already securing their Diamond trophies and US$40,000, 11 other Diamond Race winners are expected to be decided at today's meet, which also boasts 14 newly crowned Olympic champions.

 

Jamaicans' schedule:

 

Women 100m - 12:00 p.m.

Christania Williams

Women 200m - 1:34 p.m.

Elaine Thompson

Veronica Campbell-Brown

Women 100m hurdles - 2:12 p.m.

Megan Simmonds

Men 100m - 2:20 p.m.

Asafa Powell

Omar McLeod

Women 3000m Steeplechase - 2:36 p.m.

Aisha Praught