Elaine Thompson-Herah, the Olympic 100m and 200m champion, will be among 10 Jamaicans who will compete at the Wanda Diamond League in Rome on Thursday.
As the fifth meeting in this season’s Diamond League, the meet takes place just five weeks out from the World Athletics Championships Oregon22.
There will be 10 individual Olympic gold medallists from Tokyo who will aim to reign supreme.
Two of those reigning Olympic champions – Thompson-Herah and Shaunae Miller-Uibo – go head-to-head in the women’s 200m.
Sprint star Thompson-Herah completed a sprint treble in Tokyo, winning the 100m and 200m as well as the 4x100m, while Miller-Uibo claimed the 400m crown. Now they meet as part of a stacked field for the half-lap event, lining up alongside US sprint legend Allyson Felix, Britain’s world champion Dina Asher-Smith, Jamaica’s Olympic 100m bronze medallist Shericka Jackson, world indoor 60m champion Mujinga Kambundji, Ivory Coast’s multiple world medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou, Britain’s Beth Dobbin and Italy’s Dalia Kaddari.
The 2019 Diamond League 100m champion Asher-Smith set the 200m meeting record last year, clocking 22.06 in Florence.
Thompson-Herah ran a couple of 200m races in Kingston in May but has focused on the 100m in international competition so far this season, clocking 10.79 at the Diamond League meeting in Eugene at the end of last month and 10.83 to win in Rabat.
Miller-Uibo, meanwhile, races her first half-lap of the season after clocking 49.91 for 400m in April and then finishing third in Doha. When it comes to head-to-heads, Miller-Uibo leads their 200m outdoor final career clashes 5-1, but Thompson-Herah’s one win came on the biggest stage – at the Olympics in Tokyo.
“I’m not 100% but I think I am a true fighter,” Thompson-Herah explained at the pre-event press conference. “I opened my season at Mt SAC and I got a rotator cuff. You need your arms to run and every time I race I have discomfort, but I have to race, I need to see where I am at.
“Every season speaks for itself,” she added. “Even though last year was spectacular, and I’d love to repeat that this year, I am in no rush – my biggest aim is to taste that World Championships gold that I don’t have.”
Could a meeting record – and the event’s first sub-22-second women’s 200m – be on the cards?
“You never know,” said Miller-Uibo. “This is a great line up of girls and I think we’re all going to push ourselves to run a pretty decent time and put on a great performance. We’ll try to surprise the crowd tomorrow (Thursday).”
Jamaica’s Natoya Goule will face Athing Mu in the women’s 800m.
USA’s Mu is also just getting her season started and after a win in Texas in April, she races her first international 800m of the year in Rome. Such is the standard, four of the entrants have PBs under 1:57 and eight have broken the two-minute barrier this season.
Olympic champion Mu had been due to renew her rivalry with Tokyo silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson at last month’s Diamond League in Eugene but explained how she wouldn’t be racing there as she was “still getting back into my rhythm of things” after contracting COVID. So the US athlete’s race in Rome, which comes the day after her 20th birthday and is her first Diamond League outside of the US, will be eagerly anticipated, particularly as Hodgkinson recorded a world-leading 1:57.72 when winning in Eugene.
“I’m excited to be here,” said Mu, speaking at the pre-event press conference on her birthday. “I feel like this is the beginning to my professional career, so to say. To experience it here in Rome for the first time, it’s going to be something I remember for the rest of my career as the first overseas Diamond League that I have competed in.”
On how fast she might be able to run, Mu added: “I just came back from being sick so just coming out here is me seeing where I am at physically and getting ready for championship season. I don’t really have a specific time in mind but hopefully it’s fast and under two minutes.”
And that world record of 1:53.28 remains an overall aim. “Who doesn’t want to have a world record under their belt?” she said. “I think as time goes, and we keep competing with super great athletes like Keely Hodgkinson and we test one another, I think it will definitely come with time. The talent that we have in the 800m this past year and the coming years is really great and I think we’ll continue to push each other.”
The field also includes Uganda’s world champion Halimah Nakaayi, Cuba’s Rose Mary Almanza, Renelle Lamote of France, Australia’s Catriona Bisset and Britain’s Olympic fourth-place finisher Jemma Reekie.
The Jamaican pair of Janieve Russell and Rushell Clayton will come up against Femke Bol in the women’s 400m hurdles.
Bol has picked up from where she left off last season, the Olympic 400m hurdles bronze medallist and European record-holder proving she’s still a formidable force with a 36.86 world 300m hurdles best last week in Ostrava. She went on to win the 400m hurdles in a meeting record of 53.94 at a wet FBK Games in Hengelo and later explained how she hopes to run faster in better conditions in Rome.
Ukraine’s Anna Ryzhykova was second in 55.62 in Hengelo, while USA’s 2015 world silver medallist Shamier Little was also in action, and they all clash again in Rome.
An Olympic champion headlines the women’s 100m hurdles and Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho-Quinn will be looking to continue her fine form, fresh from wins in Eugene and Ostrava. The world leader, who set the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea meeting record of 12.38 when the event was held in Florence last year, will again have to overcome a tough field in order to triumph. She lines up alongside USA’s world champion Nia Ali, Jamaica’s Olympic bronze medallist Megan Tapper and 2015 world champion Danielle Williams, European indoor champion Nadine Visser of the Netherlands and Poland’s Pia Skrzyszowska.
Jamaica’s Christopher Taylor will face a tough field in the men’s 400m. The field includes Grenada’s multiple Olympic medallist Kirani James, who is back in Italy for the first time since 2009, when he became the 200m and 400m World U18 Champion in Bressanone.
USA’s Michael Cherry and Vernon Norwood, plus Isaac Makwala of Botswana are also down to compete.
Schedule for Jamaicans at Rome Diamond League
Women’s 400m hurdles – 1:03 pmJanieve RussellRushell Clayton
Men’s 400m – 1:13 pmChristopher Taylor
Women’s 800m – 1:42 pmNatoya Goule
Women’s 200m – 2:08Shericka JacksonElaine Thompson-Herah
Women’s 100m hurdles – 2:37 pmMegan TapperBritany AndersonDanielle Williams