Victorian stars including Sam Baines, Collis Birmingham and Eleanor Patterson will welcome some of Australia’s and the world’s best such as Olympic champion Sally Pearson, Australia’s fastest women Melissa Breen and current 110m hurdles world champion David Oliver to Albert Park for the IAAF Melbourne World Challenge this Saturday.
Melbourne, the first of 15 world challenge meets around the world sets up some tantalising head-to-head competition, no more so than the men’s 110m hurdles with Baines, Oliver and New South Wales young gun Nicholas Hough set to resume battle.
Baines ran a personal best of 13.69 at the Sydney Track Classic last weekend and matched it with Oliver for the first six flights of hurdles before the Olympic medallist showed his class to move clear of Baines and Hough to win in a world lead of 13.38.
Nunawading sprinter Hana Basic will head into the weekends women’s 100m off the back of clocking an 11.64 at the Australian Junior Championships and securing automatic selection for the IAAF World Junior Championships later this year in the U.S.
Diamond Valley Athletics Maddison Coates will get her first opportunity to compete in a IAAF meet in Melbourne after an impressive season that included a silver medal (11.75) in the under 18 100m final last Sunday at the Australian Junior Athletics Championships.
Victorian 100m and 200m champion Ashleigh Whittaker (11.54) impressed at the Sydney Track Classic to finish fourth behind Pearson, Breen and Papua New Guinea’s Toea Wisil.
The three Victorians will have the task of chasing down Canberra’s queen of sprint Breen who has stated her ambition to eventually break the 11 second barrier.
Victoria’s depth in middle distance running will be evident tomorrow night with a mixture of world and Olympic representatives competing in the 800m, 1500m and 5000m events.
Ballarat’s Collis Birmingham returns to Melbourne off the back of an impressive first up world indoor campaign that included making the 3000m final.
All eyes will be on the battle between Birmingham and Kenyan James Magut.
Magut ran 3:53.73 in the one mile at the Perth Track Classic back in February and was made to work for his 1500m (3:38.58) win at the Sydney Track Classic last weekend ahead of Victorian Institute of Sport athlete Jeff Riseley (3:38.90).
With Riseley chasing a Commonwealth Games ‘A’ qualifier and U.S 800m star Duane Solomon the men’s 800m is setup for a gripping contest with 2013 worlds representative Alex Rowe coming off an impressive 1:46.22 in Sydney.
Add into the mix New South Wales Joshua Ralph who steps up from the 400m in Sydney and there is a good chance we could see the first ‘A’ qualifier ahead of next month’s Australian Athletics Championships and Commonwealth Games selection trials.
Both Victorians Kelly Hetherington (2:02.15) and Katherine Katsanevakis (2:02.81) came close to the Commonwealth Games ‘B’ standard of 2:02.10 at the Sydney Track Classic last weekend after stepping up after run 2:03’s at the Victorian Open Championships at the start of the month and if the weather holds up they could be on for ‘B’ standards.
Kenyan Eynice Sum will once again be chased and add to that 18-year-old New South Wales rising talent Georgia Wassall who was outstanding in Sydney to clock the ‘B’ standard in 2:01.78.
The middle distance battle will continue in the women’s 1500m where worlds finalist Zoe Buckman will take on Kenya’s Mercy Cherono.
Cherono was in a class of her own in the women’s 5000m event last weekend at the Sydney Track Classic; winning in a meet record of 15:04.07 she will drop down to 1500m to compete against Buckman and fellow Victorian Melissa Duncan and Kaila McKnight.
Buckman came close to the ‘A’ standard at the Perth Track Classic in February running a time of 4:07.56 and along with keeping an eye Cherono will be hoping to crack 4:07.00.
World youth champion Eleanor Patterson produced a meet record and world junior qualifier to win the women’s high jump with the bar at 1.89m before attempting 1.92m at the Australian Junior Athletics Championships last week and will head into the Melbourne meet as favourite with New South Wales Amy Pejkovic currently the next best with a ‘B’ standard of 1.87.
Other Victoria’s to watch out for:
Essendon pair Liam Adams and Mitchel Brown set to line up against Ben St Lawrence and Kenya’s Isiah Koech
Iain Douglas taking on US super star LaShawn Merritt and Commonwealth Games gold medallist John Steffensen
VIS athlete Damian Birkinhead to face off with New Zealand shot put national record holder Tom Walsh
Kathryn Mitchell continues her battle with 2013 Moscow worlds silver medallist Kim Mickle
Jess Gulli comes off a 53:39 in the 400m at the Sydney Track Classic to compete in the 400mH in Melbourne
Kim Mulhall will test herself against one of the worlds best women throwers in New Zealands Valerie Adams who heads to Melbourne after winning gold in the shot put at the world indoor championships in Sopot, Poland.
Emily Lawson was one of Victoria’s standouts at the recent Australian Junior Athletics Championships and will line up against U.S star Natasha Hastings in the 200m.
Tickets for the IAAF Melbourne World Challenge this Saturday 22 March are available online via the Ticketmaster Australia website.