Bolt the star attraction at Anniversary Games


The Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games kick off at the Olympic Stadium this evening, with many of 2012’s star names on show. Usain Bolt will be hoping to recreate his golden moment from three years ago when he goes in the 100m, but given his ‘slow’ season’s best so far of 10.12s, he will have a real battle on his hands. A number of men in the field have broken ten seconds this year, including team-mates Kemar Bailey-Cole and Nesta Carter, along with Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut, who recently clocked 9.86s at a Diamond League event in Paris a few weeks ago, which is a joint European record.

Unusually, the women’s equivalent has no Jamaicans in the starting line-up, and, in the absence of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, it looks set to be an open contest. Blessing Okagbare and English Gardner have been the two standout runners in 2015 with season’s bests of 10.80s and 10.79s respectively. There is also considerable British interest, with the likes of Jodie Williams and Desiree Henry competing alongside Dina Asher-Smith, who stormed to a British record time of 11.02s in Hengelo, two months ago. She will hope to dip under the eleven-second barrier this time around in front of a home crowd.

Following his epic world-record run at the Olympics three years ago, David Rudisha will hope to get back to the sort of form that made him the undisputed king over the distance. Three men in the starting line-up this time have run quicker than the Kenyan this season, including Botswanan Nijel Amos, who is the fourth-fastest man of all time over the distance, and, at 21, still has plenty of time to mount an assault on the Kenyan’s world record. Elsewhere in the field, 19 year-old Kyle Langford will be hoping to build his victorious performance at the British Championships in Birmingham and a star-studded field will be the perfect opportunity to see how he compares to the world’s best.

In the 100m hurdles, the only Brit with a genuine chance of winning in London is Tiffany Porter, who is knocking on the of the 12.50-second mark. The dominant force in the field is Jasmin Stowers who has slashed her PB dramatically this year, bringing it down from 12.71s to 12.35s. The men’s sprint hurdles is very open, with the two fastest runners being Cuban sensation Orlando Ortega and Frenchman Pascal Martinot-Lagarde. Olympic Champion Aries Merritt has not recaptured the form he displayed a few years ago, but his season best of 13.12s puts him among the contenders. Lawrence Clarke is the leading Great British hopeful, but he will need to run out of his skin to win.

Mo Farah will look to put the furore surrounding coach Alberto Salazar behind him as he goes into the 3000m as favourite. However, he will face fierce competition from Ethiopian Yenew Alamirew and long-time adversary Bernard Lagat.

World Champion Zuzana Hejnova will be the favourite in the women’s 400m hurdles, but Eilidh Child could definitely be in the running for a top-three finish after a series of impressive performances over the past few years.

There is great anticipation around the high jump, as Mutaz Barshim looks to again eclipse the world record of 2.45m, held by Javier Sotomayor since 1993. Barshim is the only athlete to have jumped over 2.40m this term and is the second-highest jumper in the world. American Erik Kynard is the man most likely to challenge the 2013 World Championship silver medallist, while Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz also competes.

Greg Rutherford will be gunning for gold as he returns to the venue where he enjoyed his most precious sporting moment. His main competitors on current form will be South African Zarck Visser and American Marquis Dendy. On the women’s side Janay Deloach Soukup is the only person in the line-up to have jumped 7m, but she faces tough competition from the likes of Shara Proctor, Lorraine Ugen and heptathlete superstar Katarina Johnson-Thompson.

Valerie Adams could stake a claim for being one of the most dominant athletes of all time across any sport. However, she is likely to face a number of threats during this meet, with the most serious of those coming from Michelle Carter, who only just missed out on a medal at the World Championships in Moscow two years ago.

Finally, Goldie Sayers is competing in the javelin in a world-class field that features world record holder Barbora Spotakova, and the three throwers who have thrown the furthest this year, Sunette Viljoen, Kimberley Mickle and Karen Winger.

Despite the rain, two days of action-packed athletics is guaranteed.

Alex Bowmer

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