Zurich: Full Preview

Zürich’s 1.4 Million purse attracts all-star Osaka cast - IAAF Golden League
Thursday 6 September 2007
Zürich, Switzerland - The IAAF World Athletics Tour and IAAF Golden League reopen for business tomorrow at the Weltklasse Zürich meeting after taking a break during the 11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Osaka, Japan (25 Aug to 2 Sep). Many of the heroes of those nine days of competition have flown straight to Switzerland and will be aiming to prove that Zürich continues to live up to its reputation as the ‘World Championships in one night’.

New Stadium, New Regime, New Ideas

Tyson Gay (USA)
(Getty Images)

This week we have already focused on the fall of the old and the rise of the new Letzigrund stadium - click here for previous story - a miraculously fast process which has seen this temple to Athletics reborn.

And with the change in venue comes a change in direction for the meeting too. EAA President Hansjörg Wirz has handed over the reins as director to new boss Patrick Magyar, and with this change of regime has come an accelerated move away from appearance fees to prize money. As such the total purse on offer to successful athletes has doubled in comparison with 2006, and now approaches US$ 1.4 million.

At the centre of attention for the new organisers has been to improve the show for both TV and stadium audience alike. In that quest there has been a reduction in the number of events from 23 last year to 16 in 2007, with the emphasis on exciting duels rather than paced record attempts.

Bernard Lagat (USA)
(Getty Images)

Ok that’s the advertisement out of the way! Now what can the capacity crowd of 26,500 spectators in the long-sold out arena look forward to seeing on Friday evening?

In the hunt for US$ 1 Million

Three remain in the hunt for US$ 1 Million Jackpot prize, a share of which goes to any athlete who wins his or her event at all six IAAF Golden League meets in 2007. With three meets still to be contested, three female athletes remain on the campaign trail – Sanya Richards (400m), Michelle Perry (100m Hurdles) and Yelena Isinbayeva (Pole Vault).

Sanya Richards (USA)
(Getty Images)

Click here for previous story

Holders of 13 World Championship titles on show

Eleven Osaka individual event champions covering the ownership of 13 newly minted World Championship golds have flown direct from Japan to Switzerland. Of the two double title winners in Osaka, both American, Tyson Gay (100m / 200m) and Bernard Lagat (1500m / 5000m), the former runs here in the 100m, and will face silver medallist Derrick Atkins of the Bahamas, and another four of the finalists.

>>UPDATE: Fri 7 Sep - Tyson Gay has withdrawn from the individual 100m citing post Osaka tiredness but will still run the 4x100m Relay<<

Michelle Perry (USA)
(Getty Images)

Lagat will attempt the non-championship distance of 3000m. The former Kenyan whose Osaka accomplishment connects him uniquely at global championship level with the legends of Paavo Nurmi and Hicham El Guerrouj, will have the 5000m bronze medallist Moses Kipsiro of Uganda to contend as well as USA’s Matt Tegenkamp, 4th in Osaka, and Ethiopia’s Tariku Bekele who finished 5th. Look out for Australia’s Craig Mottram who set back by the heat in Japan will be looking to make amends for his lowly 13th place in the cooler conditions in Zürich.

Solo sensation

While most eyes in the Letzigrund will no doubt follow Gay, hopeful that he will produce a World 100m record run to match or better Asafa Powell’s 9.77 dash performed here last summer, there are many pundits will greet the appearance of Kenya’s Janeth Jepkosgei with even greater anticipation.

Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS)
(Getty Images)

The 24-year-old blew her 800m opponents aside in Osaka with a run of such dominance that ‘gun to tape’ doesn’t quite sum up the brilliance of her successful execution of her campaign to become World champion. Jepkosgei’s 1:56.04 national record performance on 28 August was one of the most graceful and at the same time courageous solo middle distance championship victories in the history of our sport. The strength of Jepkoskei’s race belied the frailty of her tall, slender frame, which to the casual observer seems so thin that you would imagine in the slightest wind she would break in two.

Her aim for Zürich is suggested to be a 1:54 clocking - click here for previous story - and while we should caution that the emotional and physical tiredness surrounding her victory in Osaka is likely to make that feat impossible, no none should totally discount the possibility.

Bronze medallist Mayte Martinez of Spain and another three from the Osaka final will also toe the line tomorrow.

Christine Ohuruogu (GBR)
(Getty Images)

Carter’s back to take-on Bolt and Spearmon

Back to our Osaka double duo again, and even without Gay who sensibly will not double up in Zürich after his exertions in Osaka, the men’s 200m which sees Usain Bolt and Wallace Spearmon rejoined in battle is sure to be a highlight of the evening. In particular, the silver and bronze medallists will be challenged by Xavier Carter, who is returning for his first 200m since an injury sustained at the USA champs denied him what seemed a certain spot in the national squad for Osaka. Carter who is the third fastest man of all time (19.63) behind Michael Johnson (19.32) and Gay (19.62) will be eager to make up for lost opportunities. Is he fit enough, is another question altogether.

Martin Rodney, Marvin Anderson and Christopher Williams, respectively fourth, sixth and seventh in Osaka make the 200m one of the strongest line-ups in Zürich.

Maryam Yusuf Jamal (BRN)
(Getty Images)

With Lagat absent from the 1500m, this race is wide open. After his nervous 8th place disappointment American Alan Webb will surely be looking for a barnstorming response to his critics who will need that level of triumph to forgive the manner of his Osaka defeat, considering that Webb continues to lead the world season list at 1500m (3:30.54) and is second over 800m (1:43.84).

The women’s 1500m pitches the entire World podium against each other once more. Bahrain’s Maryam Jamal, takes on Eastern Europe’s Yelena Soboleva (RUS), the world season leader, and Iryna Lishchinska (UKR).

Xiang and Campbell absent but Perry takes on all challengers again

Brad Walker (USA)
(Getty Images)

No Liu Xiang who is already back in China but USA’s silver and bronze medallists Terrence Trammell and David Payne, and Cuba’s Osaka fourth placer Dayron Robles will ensure that the 110m Hurdles will be of a very high quality though the men are likely to be overshadowed tomorrow by their female counterparts in the women’s 100m sprint hurdles.

World champion Michelle Perry, an IAAF Golden League Jackpot contender, takes on the entire field from the final in Osaka. Can runner-up Perdita Felicien of Canada or Jamaica’s bronze medallist Delloreen Ennis-London upset the two-time champion’s fortunes? Perhaps even stronger pressure will come from European titleholder Susanna Kallur of Sweden who was so unlucky to come away from Osaka without a podium credit.

The women’s 100m dash is without the World champion Veronica Campbell who will return to Europe for the Brussels meet next Friday. Narrowly beaten in Osaka, 2005 World champion Lauryn Williams will take on compatriot Carmelita Jeter, the bronze medal surprise of last week.

Tero Pitkamaki (FIN)
(Getty Images)

Lost opportunities

Tomorrow will be a matter of trying to make up for lost opportunities for 2006 World Athlete of the Year, Sanya Richards. A non-qualifier for the US 400m squad, Richards finished a distant fifth in the 200m in Osaka. She has only one remaining goal in 2007 that of securing her second piece of the IAAF Golden League Jackpot after taking a share of the 2006 pot. It will be no easy task as she must defeat Osaka champion Christine Ohuruogo (GBR) and bronze medallist Novlene Williams (JAM), as well as another four Osaka finalists and 2001 World champion Amy Mbacke Thiam (SEN).

Much like her fellow Jackpot contenders, Yelena Isinbayeva will reencounter most of her fellow Osaka finalists when she tries to secure her fourth successive Golden League meet win. But here the comparisons end as at today’s press conference we were informed by the meeting director Patrick Magyar that such is the Russian World, Olympic and European champion’s dominance of the women’s Pole Vault event that most national bookmakers refuse to give any odds against Isinbayeva losing, considering it a near impossibility!

Nelson Evora (POR)
(Getty Images)

Nevertheless, there remains a pack of vaulters who continue to hope that one day they might emulate some of the Russian’s achievements and perhaps even beat the World record holder. These challengers in Zürich include Osaka silver and bronze medallists, Katerina Badurova (CZE) and Svetlana Feofanova (RUS).

The men’s vault will be centred on American Brad Walker who in Osaka secured the outdoor crown to go with his World Indoor title from last year. Danny Ecker, Germany’s bronze medallist and another six of last week’s 12 strong World Champs final will contest first spot in Zürich.

Osaka line-ups repeated

Blanka Vlasic (CRO)
(Getty Images)

The remaining three events of the infield programme are graced with not only their respective World champions but also the full medal podium in each competition. The men’s Triple Jump offers Nelson Evora (POR), Jadel Gregorio (BRA) and Walter Davis (USA), the Javelin Throw boasts Tero Pitkämäki (FIN), Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR) and Breaux Greer (USA), and the women’s High Jump presents Blanka Vlasic (CRO), and the joint silver medallists Anna Chicherova (RUS) and Antonietta Di Martino (ITA). All three events have a depth of field which makes them virtually a repeat of the Osaka line-ups.

The Zürich Trophy, a relay event which the organisers hope will become the flagship of the new stadium and the redesigned Weltklasse Zürich will end the programme tomorrow.

Chris Turner
IAAF Editorial Manager

LIVE Radio commentary – At all IAAF Golden League meetings in 2007, fans of athletics around the world are able to listen to LIVE English language commentary a service which can be accessed through the IAAF Radio banner on the IAAF Golden League site or simply click here

The live streaming from Zürich, Switzerland on 7 September will be 19.30 – 22.00 local time (GMT +2hrs).

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