Gay and Gatlin test waters ahead of Olympics
US sprint heavyweights Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin will go head-to-head in the Diamond League meeting in Paris on Friday, with home hope Christophe Lemaitre also hoping to show his form ahead of the fast-approaching London Olympics.
Gay and Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion coming back from a doping ban, have both qualified for the US team for the July 27-August 12 Games, coming through unscathed from their notoriously tough national trials in Eugene last week.
And Lemaitre, 22, arrives on the back of having sealed his second European 100m title.
But Gay, the US national record holder and second fastest man of all-time at 9.68sec, said he was confident heading towards the London Games after a slow return from a hip injury that required surgery.
“I feel pretty good, considering I came back and made the team. I was under a lot of stress, mentally and physically, early in the season, but I feel a lot better now,” said the double sprint champion from the 2007 Osaka worlds.
“In March I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to go to the trials, I was in so much pain. But then after running a few races I was feeling a lot better.
“We’re just focusing on the gold medal. First to make the team, then getting the medal. And just trying to stay positive about everything.”
Lemaitre, French record holder in the 100m (9.92), said it would be tough coming back into competition after the Europeans in Helsinki.
“I went home and did a few training sessions and I feel good,” he said.
“But it’s very special for me to run in front of a French crowd. We’re very lucky here in Paris to have this Diamond League meeting, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Apart from Lemaitre, home fans will also delight in seeing Renaud Lavillenie in the pole vault, fresh from defending his European title in Helsinki.
Lavillenie will be up against German rival Bjorn Otto on Friday, and fans can only hope that the duo reproduce that classic of a competition in the Finnish capital.
On that night, the Frenchman held his nerve at 5.97m as gamesmanship over vaulting heights increased, the German left to take home silver, albeit with a new personal best of 5.92m.
Seven other recently-crowned European champions will be on show, including German shot putter David Storl, also the reigning world champion, who will be up against a raft of the best US throwers.
In other events, Kenyan world record holder David Rudisha will go up against Ethiopian Mohammed Aman and Kenyan Leonard Kosencha, both 18 years old, in the men’s 800m, knowing that a win would count for a lot before London.
In the 5000m, Kenenisa Bekele faces Kenyan-born American Bernard Lagat in a crowd-pleaser that will also act as an Ethiopian trial of some sort. Behold the final straight between two fast finishers! Australian Sally Pearson, who scorched to the fourth best time in history (12.28sec) when she won the 100m hurdles at the Daegu worlds, will also be in action.
But she faces competition from US-born Briton Tiffany Porter, athlete and American Kristi Castlin, this season’s revelation with a time of 12.56sec at Oslo.