MONTE CARLO, Monaco, July 22 – Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt might be the main drawcard for Friday’s Diamond League meeting, but eyes will also be on Australian Steve Hooker’s season debut in the men’s pole vault.
Reigning double world and Olympic sprint champion Bolt will race the 100m in another test of his form ahead of the August 27-September 4 world championships in Daegu, South Korea.
The 24-year-old, the 100m world record holder in 9.58 seconds, will face compatriots Nesta Carter and Michael Frater as well as France’s European champion Christophe Lemaitre and Portugal’s Nigerian-born veteran Francis Obikwelu, the world 60m indoor champion.
Hooker, however, will be up against an even stronger field, the current world, Olympic and Commonwealth champion admitting that he was throwing himself “in at the deep end”.
“Monaco will be my absolute first competition since last October,” said the 29-year-old, whose opponents will include the French trio of Renaud Lavillenie, Jerome Clavier and Romain Mesnil, 2003 world champion Giuseppe Gibilisco of Italy, and 2007 world champion Brad Walker of the United States.
“It is jumping straight in at the deep end, I guess. But there’s no better place to start than against the best in the world in a competition that’s virtually a world championships final.”
Hooker added: “I’ve been missing the adrenalin of competition, that feeling of being out there and being competitive.
“First, it’s Monaco. I had thought about doing Paris but, in the end, the decision was that I needed to get some training done. The Diamond League in Paris had tough conditions, it wouldn’t have been an ideal way to start as it turned out.”
Friday’s outing, Hooker predicted, “will be good. There’s no better place to start. I always go into my first competition aiming to get a big result and that’s how I’m going to be approaching this one. I’m going to go out and have a good crack at it”.
The promised duel in the men’s triple jump between world indoor champion Teddy Tamgho and reigning world outdoor gold medallist Phillips Idowu will not go ahead after the Frenchman’s season was cut short with a fractured ankle.
Idowu will not be able to take his outing at the Louis II stadium easily, however, with in-form Ukrainian Sheryf el-Sheryf in the mix.
The Simferopol-born El-Sheryf, whose father is Syrian, stormed to victory in last week’s European under-23 championships where Tamgho got injured, jumping a best of 17.72m: only Tamgho, with 17.91m, has managed better this season.
“I trained for this result for the last three years,” the 22-year-old El-Sheryf said of his win in Ostrava. “Now I am looking forward to Korea and I would really like to win a medal there.”
In what promises to be a fine evening of top-class athletics, in-form American Morgan Uceny, with Diamond League victories in Lausanne and Birmingham to her name, goes up against Bahrain’s double world champion Maryam Jamal in the women’s 1500m.
The Kenyan trio of Eliud Kipchoge, Isaiah Koech and Lucas Rotich will attempt to keep Mo Farah of Britain, Kenya-born American Bernard Lagat and Australian Craig Mottram at bay in the men’s 5000m.
And reigning triple world champion Allyson Felix faces American compatriot Carmelita Jeter in the women’s 200m.
Other star turns include world record holder David Rudisha of Kenya going in the men’s 800m and Croatia’s Blanka Vlasic appearing in the women’s high jump.