NEW YORK: It will be only a week since the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, when several of the world’s top athletes head to the Icahn Stadium in New York this Saturday, June 11, to compete for points and money, and to sharpen their game in preparation for their national trials and ultimately the Daegu World Championships in August. The event: the adidas Grand Prix, a premier track-and-field showdown and the sixth stop on the international Samsung Diamond League circuit.
Culson, Perto Rico
Gordon, Trinidad & Tobago
Of course, the Caribbean contingent will be out in full force. Unlike previous years, though, Icahn Grand Prix staple Veronica Campbell-Brown (VCB) will noticeably be absent, for she has shut down racing until the Jamaica nationals. Hence there’ll be no clash in the marquee race between VCB and her main 200m rival, Allyson Felix, whom she defeated on US soil for the first time at Icahn last year.
With VCB out, the race will still be hot, for in comes Jamaica’s other sprint sensation Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce to take on Felix, the 2010 Diamond League Champion at both 200m and 400m. Fraser-Pryce, the reigning Olympic and World Champion at 100m will be joined by training partner Sherone Simpson (Jam), the 2008 Olympic 100m silver medalist; and veteran and 2001 World Champion Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie (Bah), who earned a fourth-place world-ranking in the 200m last year.
Other US representatives to join Felix in the 200m include Carmelita Jeter, number one over 100m in the world last year, and who clocked a world-leading 10.70 in Oregon where she defeated Fraser-Pryce and company; Shalonda Solomon and Bianca Knight who placed second to Jeter. Fraser-Pryce, who is expected top peak for the Jamaica trials and the World Championships, might just be gunning to turn the tables on Jeter.
Felix leads her rivals with a personal best (PB) time of 21.81secs and a season best 22.38.
The women’s 100m promises to be no stroll in the park either. The Jamaicans Schillonie Calvert and Samantha Henry, who are yet to break the 11secs barrier, will face a battery of formidable Americans in Muna Lee, Marshevet Myers and Lauryn Williams, who all have gone below 11 seconds.
Women's Sprint Hurdles Clash
Fans will also see a clash of three Titans in the women’s 100m hurdles. Jamaica’s 2009 World Championships gold medalist Brigitte Foster-Hylton (12.45 PB) will race against her compatriot Delloreen Ennis-London (12.50) and the American Lolo Jones, a two-time World Indoor Champion in the 60m hurdles, (12.43).
Missing from the line-up though, is the fierce American 2008 Olympic gold medalist Dawn Harper. However, the event promises to be just as exciting as it includes an in-form Kellie Wells of the US, who has a season best and PB world-leading 12.58secs. Foster-Hylton, Ennis-London and Jones have season bests of 12.99, 13.04 and 12.67, respectively.
The men’s 100m will be interesting. With a SB and PB of 9.95, new kid on the block Nickel Ashmeade has been creating a lot of buzz this season. He is ready to race his countryman and training partner Steve Mullings who owns the world-leading time of 9.80, and whom he defeated over 200m last month at the JN Jamaica International Invitational. The 21-year-old Ashmeade stunned a world-class field in Kingston with a 19.95 run.
Other athletes from the Caribbean who will face the starter in the men’s 100m are Jamaica’s Nesta Carter, Marvin Anderson and Michael Frater. Throw in T&T’s Richard Thompson, Marc Burns and Keston Bledman, and Americans Tyson Gay (Ashmeade’s training partner) and Trell Kimmons, and whoever reach the finals should set the track on fire.
Munro's crack 4x4 relay team, Jamaica
Puerto Rico’s quarter-mile hurdler and 2009 Worlds silver medalist Javier Culson is set to take on USA’s Trinidadian-born Kerron Clement, the 2007 and 2009 Worlds champion and 2008 Olympic silver medalist, and Bershawn “Batman” Jackson, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist. These three controlled the winners podium at the 2009 World Championships – Clement, gold; Culson, silver; Jackson, bronze – and finished last season as the three top-ranked hurdlers in the world.
Trinidad’s young star Jehue Gordon, as well as LJ Van Zyl, South Africa’s ace and the world’s top hurdler this year, are in the 400m hurdles race, too.
In addition to the 34 senior athletes from across the Caribbean region slated to compete at Icahn, Jamaica’s St. Jago High School girls will contest the Junior Girls sprint relay, while Medgar Evers of Brooklyn, a New York team of Caribbean runners, will take to the for the Youth Girls 4x400m relay.
Jamaica’s Munro College and Calabar High School will take on the American teams in the Junior Boys' 4x400m Relay to close out the meet. Here’s the complete list of senior Caribbean athletes for Icahn:BAHAMAS – Christopher Brown, M400m; Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie W200m; Leevan Sands, MTriple Jump; Tynia Gaither, Girls' Dream 100.DOMINICA – Erison Hurtault, M 400m.
GRENADA – Rondell Bartholomew M400m.GUYANA – Adam Harris, M100m; Deon Bascom, M800m National Race.
HAITI – Moise Joseph M800m National Race.JAMAICA – Brigitte Foster-Hylton and Delloreen Ennis, W100m Hurdles; Jermaine Gonzales, M400m; Jovanee Jarrett, WLong Jump; Kaliese Spencer, W400m; Kenia Sinclair, Grete Waitz W1500m; Mardrea Hyman, W3000m Steeplechase; Renaldo Rose, Nesta Carter, Nickel Ashmeade, Michael Frater and Steve Mullings, M100m; Ricardo Chambers, M400m; Samantha Henry and Schillonie Calvert, W100m; Sherone Simpson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, W200m; Sheree Francis, WHigh Jump.PUERTO RICO – Beverly Ramos, W3000m Steeplechase; Javier Culson, M 400m Hurdles.TRINIDAD & TOBAGO – Jehue Gordon, M400m Hurdles; Richard Thompson, Keston Bledman and Marc Burns, M100m; Renny Quow, M400m. All photos by DPalmer-TrackLife