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Caribbean stars to challenge the world`s best at the Athens Grand Prix

2 July 2007

By Gary Smith

The national championships, which produced several impressive performances, are now over in the Caribbean and, after a brief rest, some of the region’s best will now turn their attention back to the international circuit as they vie for more glory at the IAAF Athens Grand Prix in the Athens Olympic Stadium on Monday.

Campbell goes for sprint double , faces Edwards again

Heading the list of competitors is Olympic champion Veronica Campbell, who has scheduled another 100-metre square-off this season with her main challenger Torri Edwards, the American 2003 world champion.

Edwards defeated Campbell at Home Depot Center during the adidas Track Classic to end the Jamaican’s streak at the meeting.

However, Campbell turned the tables on her American rival in the Randall’s Island Ichan Stadium at the Reebok Grand Prix, Track & Field meet on 2 June, when winning in another sub-11 close encounter.

“I am very happy to be back in Athens. The conditions are great for great records,” Campbell said at the news conference on Sunday.

Both sprinters are in tremendous form this season. Of the six sub-11 seconds accomplished this season already, they are responsible for five, with Campbell posting three - including a world-leading 10.89 seconds at the Jamaica Championships. Edwards’ best this season is 10.90.

Joining the pair will be Belgian European champion Kim Gevaert, who ran an impressive 11.13, virtually on her own late last month, as well as Me Lisa Barber, the other sub-11 seconds runner this season, Debbie Ferguson from Bahamas, and American Brianna Glenn, who both captured wins over the weekend.

Campbell will return to try for the double against another strong lineup, which also includes the in-form Caymanian Cydonie Mothersill.

Thomas seeking form; Adkins to test Pickering’s speed

The duo will do battle with Ferguson, an Olympic bronze medallist in this event in 2004, American Rachelle Boone-Smith, Gevaert and St Vincent and the Grenadines Natasha Mayers.

The men’s 100m will feature Jamaican world championships finallist Dwight Thomas, desperately searching for his 2005 form.

However, the crowd will be eager to see the clash between British rising star Craig Pickering and Bahamian 2007 first sub-10 sprinter Derrick Atkins.

The race will also feature European indoor multi indoor 60m champion Jason Gardner (BRI), Olympic silver medal winner Francis Obikwelu (POR) and Marlon Devonish (BRI).

Big names and rising stars set for exciting clash

There will also be watchful eyes on the men’s and women’s 400m Hurdles, the women’s Triple Jump, the men’s Long Jump and women’s 800m run.

The women’s obstacles will see Jamaican champion Melanie Walker coming face-to-face with Olympic gold medallist Fani Halkia of Greece on her home turf.

“I am very pleased that I will participate in Tsiklitiria this year,” Halkia said. “It is my first event and I hope that everybody will come to see us because we definitely need their support. Great show will be given since the weather is appropriate for all track and field events.”

American World leaders Tiffany Ross-Williams and Sheena Johnson and Barbadian record holder Andrea Blackett will also run.

The men’s equivalent sees world champion Bershawn Jackson clashing with reigning Olympic champion Felix Sanchez from the Dominican Republic, South Africa’s Louis Van Zyl, American champion James Carter and Kenneth Ferguson.

The women’s two-lap race has nothing short of talents. Jamaican Kenia Sinclair the second fastest this season, at 1:58.61, setup a date with Kenya’s Janeth Jepkosgei, the African and Commonwealth champion, Russia’s European champion Olga Kotlyarova and Olympic silver medallist Hasna Benhassi of Morroco.

Smith and Beckford heading for the sands

The field events are also expected to be exciting. World champion Trecia Smith of Jamaica faces Russian two-time world champion Tatyana Lebedeva, who had been concentrating on the Long Jump this year.

Cuban world silver medallist Yargelis Savigne, who currently leads the world with a mark of 14.99m, will also jump in Athens. In Smith’s first competition this season, she won the Jamaican championships with a leap of 14.35m.

In the men’s long jump a rejuvenated James Beckford (8.37m) comes up against current world leader, Greece’s Luis Tsatoumas (8.66m), Italian prodigy Andrew Howe (8.25m) and Ghana’s world indoor champion Ignisious Gaisah.

Cuban duo Luis Felipe M?liz (8.20) and Wilfredo Mart?nez (8.17) and Ukraine’s former European champion Olexiy Lukasyevich (8.11m) completes the top contenders in the strong lineup going for glory in the sands.

Others down to compete at the meeting are: Cuban world indoor silver medallist Dayron Robles who will match-up with USA’s Dominique Arnold in the men’s 110m hurdles, and Olympic champion and World record holder Osleidys Menendez of Cuba, competes in the women’s Javelin Throw. Surprised world championships silver medallist V?ctor Moya of Cuba will feature in the men’s High Jump.

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