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Bolt, Mokoena in action

By Mark Etheridge

Seven reigning Olympic champions and a sprinkling of South Africans will line up for Wednesday’s 48th Golden Spike track and field meeting in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Topping the bill is the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt of Jamaica.

At last year’s Ostrava meeting Bolt was also in the spotlight, competing less than two weeks after first breaking the world 100-metre record.

At this meeting, he followed up with a super 19.83sec effort in winning the 200m.

This year he lines up as a triple Olympic gold medallist and world record holder.

He makes his third start of the season over 100m, his last being an average, by his standards, 10.00sec stroll in Toronto, Canada last Thursday.

Rain has been a factor in his last two outings though but weather forecasts say only a slight chance of rain is possible.

The meeting record belongs to Jamaican counterpart Asafa Powell who ran 9.85sec in rainy conditions four years ago. Organisers have dangled a $100,000 carrot if Bolt dips under his 9.69 record but even Bolt can’t be in that sort of form this early. Or can he?

Up against Bolt will be American Marcus Brunson and Asian record-holder Samuel Francis. Both have personal bests of 9.99 but are unlikely to live with Bolt.

Another Olympic champion is Cuban Dayron Robles whose 12.87sec in the 110m hurdles broke the world record here last season.

Also there is home town favourite and Olympic javelin champion and World record holder Barbora ┼ápot├íkov├í. She’ll face Olympic silver medallist Mariya Abakumova of Russia and German Christine Obergf├Âll, current world leader at 68.40m.

Another Beijing winner on show is Brimin Kipruto, who’ll face the man he succeeded as 3,000m steeplechase Olympic champion, Ezekiel Kemboi.

One of the more intriguing races of the evening could be the men’s 800 with World champion and Olympic bronze medallist Afred Yego and Olympic silver medallist Ahmed Ismael, both 800m specialists; Olympic 1500m silver medalist Asbel Kiprop, versatile Augustine Choge; and another pair of Kenyans, David Rudisha and Olympian Boaz Lalang.

World high jump champion Blanka Visic will be looking to return to her winning ways after taking a back seat to rising German start Ariane Friedrich in Berlin’s opening Golden League meeting on Sunday. Visic is the meet record holder here at 2.05m, and she’ll start as favourite yet again.

Barring late entries, the South African flag will be flown by Khotso Mokoena, LJ van Zyl and Robert Oosthuizen.

Olympic silver medallist Mokoena jumped consistently in Berlin, winning the long jump easily in a season-best 8.33m. According to rising German talent Sebastian Bayer, Mokoena looks fully capable of hitting 8.50m. French record holder (8.42m) Salim Sdiri, and Bayer, who etched his name into long jump history with his 8.71m leap at the European indoor championships, are also in the field. The target here is Cuban Ivan Pedroso’s meet record of 8.35m, set in 1998.

Van Zyl, who has opened his European campaign with two impressive sub-49sec efforts, will be up against Olympic 400m hurdles bronze medallist and 2005 World champion Bershawn Jackson who returns to action after his recent solid victory in Eugene, US. Other opposition appears to be Poland’s Beijing finalist Marek Plawgo, but two-time World and former Olympic champion Felix Sanchez are hovering.

Elsewhere, Zimbabwean Brian Dzingai leads the men’s 200m, and Boland’s Oosthuizen is the favourite in the men’s javelin.