US trio bound for Melbourne World Challenge

Ballarat 400 metre rising star Sam Baird has the potential to line up against Beijing duel gold medalist LaShawn Merritt at next month’s IAAF Melbourne World Challenge on Saturday 22 March at Lakeside Stadium.

Athletics Australia has confirmed six-time world champion Merritt will be joined by fellow US sprint stars David Oliver (110m hurdles) and Mike Rodgers (100m) for meets in both Sydney and Melbourne.

Confirmation of Baird’s inclusion will be later this month when the World Challenge start list is released.

Oliver heads to Melbourne as world champion and will test the likes of returning Old Melburnians hurdler Sam Baines who clocked an Australian Commonwealth Games ‘B’ standard with a run of 13.84 seconds at last weekend’s High Velocity meet.

2008 Olympic bronze medalist Oliver is excited to return to Australia and only has good memories of his time down under.

“Australia is one of my favourite destinations, and I am pumped to get back out there again,” Oliver said.

“I had the chance to run in Melbourne and Sydney back in 2009 and it was great.”

“The exciting thing for me is that this time I’m coming out as the world champion and I hope to take the Aussie contingent to qualifiers for the Commonwealth Games when we race.”

“I want to test them, and make sure they are on form ahead of the Australian Trials.”

2012 Olympic champion Sally Pearson and 2013 world championships men’s 4×400 metre relay team members Alex BeckTristan Thomas and Craig Burns are all confirmed for the first World Challenge meet of 2014.

2013 world championships 100 metre finalist Rodgers has a personal best of 9.85 seconds and was a member of the US silver medal winning 4×100 metre team in Moscow last year.

“It will be my first time in Australia. I've heard so much about it from other athletes and I am looking forward to getting some sun on my back after a cold old winter in the USA and Europe,” Rodgers said.

“2013 was in many ways my best year. I was consistent and come the close of the calendar was ranked No.3 in the world. I know that sprinting requires patience and I feel that my very best years are still in front of me. I am consistently running under 10 seconds and firmly believe that I have a date with my destiny in 2016.”

The IAAF Melbourne World Challenge is the first of a 15-meet series held across the globe, with Australia and the world’s best athletes set to compete at Lakeside Stadium on Saturday 22 March.

For more information on the National Athletics Series, incorporating the Australian Athletics Tour, please click here.

To purchase tickets please follow this link to the Ticketmaster website.