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Track stars head to Spain for Beijing tune-up

2 July 2008

By Ted Greener

Many athletes who have qualified to compete in the upcoming Beijing Olympics are scheduled to take part July 5 in the 2008 Meeting de Atletismo Madrid Grand Prix Series in Spain.

World champion Nelson Evora of Portugal headlines the men's field in the triple jump. Other competitors include Nathan Douglas of Great Britain, a silver medalist in the 2006 European Championships, and Jules Lechanga of France, whose best jump this season is 17.07 meters.

In the discus throw, Lithuania's Olympic, world and European champion Virgilijus Alekna will take on Spain's Mario Pestano, first-place finisher in the 2005 Mediterranean Games, and Frank Casañas, who used to compete for Cuba but now wears the red and yellow for Spain, among others.

Manuel Martinez, the Spanish record holder in the shot put, will be on hand competing as the clear-cut favorite in the event.

Francis Obikwelu of Portugal, the Olympic silver medalist in the 100 meters, will face off against Kim Collins of Saint Kitts and Nevis, a world champion in 2003.

For the women, current Olympic champion in the high jump Yelena Slesarenko of Russia and Spanish record holder Ruth Beiti will square off as the favorites in the event. Also, Cuban javelin thrower Osleidys Menendez looks to break her world record of 71.70 meters in Madrid.

The 800-meter race will feature 2000 Olympic champion Maria Lourdes Mutola of Mozambique and Hasna Benhassi of Morocco, who won a silver medal in the Athens games.

The meet is one of the last opportunities for track and field competitors to achieve qualification standards for the Beijing Olympics.

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