Usain Bolt heads list of track stars in Zurich
AFP · 28 Aug 2013, 19:10
Published: 28 Aug 2013 19:10 GMT+02:00
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Fans at the Letzigrund Stadium will witness 17 new world champions, 17 world leaders, 15 reigning Olympic champions, and 5 current world record holders in action.
Bolt, who will race the 100 metres, will be joined by teammate Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who also won the sprint double at this month's World Athletics Championships in Moscow.
Reconfirming his credentials as one of global sports' biggest draws, Bolt visited the Swiss headquarters of football's world governing body, FIFA, ahead of the track meet.
The 27-year-old self-avowed Manchester United fan was invited to attend next year's World Cup by FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
"For years, he has dominated speed events," said Blatter.
"I'm very proud that this great gentlemen is here today," he said.
"He also showed again recently that the 4x100 metre (relay) is very important to him, which proves that he is a team player, just like in football."
Back on the track, there is a rare clash of two queens of long-distance running, Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar.
The Moscow worlds were deprived of a head-to-head after the Ethiopian federation decided neither would be entered for the 5,000- and 10,000-metre double.
As it was, Defar won the 5,000-metre title and Dibaba the longer distance. Thursday's race will be their first competitive outing at a meet in seven years.
"The 5,000 metres will be a nice races," said Defar.
"But it's my fourth race in two weeks so I'm a bit tired," she said.
"I expect a tactical race because there are too many good runners in the field."
Other recently-crowned world champions on show include American 400-metre runner LaShawn Merritt, Kenyan duo Asbel Kiprop (1,500 metres) and Ezekiel Kemboi (3,000-metre steeplechase), American David Oliver (110-metre hurdles) and in-form Ukrainian high jumper Bohdan Bondarenko.
Bondarenko is coming increasingly close to challenging the 2.45-metre world record set by Cuban Javier Sotomayor, having three times attempted it since July.
"My goal is the world record," acknowledged the Ukrainian.
"In order to tackle it, I will have to concentrate on my jump 100 percent," he said.
"The thing is, at this height, there are many different kinds of emotions that interfere with your concentration.
"This makes an attempt at the record mentally difficult."
The Zurich meet is host for the first of two finals for the 2013 IAAF Diamond League series as 16 Diamond Race winners will be crowned.
The Diamond Race finals for the other 16 disciplines will be contested at the Diamond League meeting in Brussels on September 6th.