Hayward Field, which will host the rescheduled 2021 World Championships in July, will be an arena of stunning races this weekend.
The Prefontaine Classic Eugene Diamond League, which is happening tomorrow in the Hayward track and field in Oregon, Eugene, is seemingly shaping up into a World Championships curtain-raiser.
A fierce, star-studded field, blended with rising stars, has been assembled in Eugene, signalling huge surprises in track and field. Oregon will host the World Championships from July 15 – 24.
Athletes who clashed in the 2021 Olympic Games are eying history in Eugene, barely two months to the World Championships.
The head-to-head contests will begin even before the main races, with World Record attempts in 5000m (both men and women) and women’s 2 Mile races.
Tomorrow morning, Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda and Letesnbet Gidey of Ethiopia will be attempting to break their own 5000m world records in an appetiser, hours to the competitions.
For starters, the Prefontaine Classic Eugene Diamond League is iconic, observers say.
The Classic race started in 1973 as a Hayward Restoration event, and two years later, the meet was founded and renamed the “Bowerman Classic” in honour University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman.
Later, according to the race’s history, following the tragic death of Oregon’s 24-year-old Steve Prefontaine in a car accident on May 30, 1975, the meeting was named the ‘Prefontaine Classic’ in memory of the fallen athlete.
Prefontaine was a Pan American 5000m champion and Munich Olympic 5000m finalist.
He trained under the close eye of coach Bowerman (1911-1999) at the University of Oregon.
The Bowerman Mile is the flagship event of the Prefontaine Classic and one of the world’s most prestigious track miles.
We look at the expected head-to-head contests at the historic Hayward Field at the University of Oregon.
Faith Kipyegon vs Laura Muir (women’s 1500m)
A clash between two-time 1500m Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon and two-Olympic silver medallist Laura Muir of Great Britain is likely to be a marquee event.
The duo clashed at the 2020 Olympic Games and an indefatigable Kipyegon triumphed while Muir won a silver.
Kipyego won 1500m at the 2017 and 2019 Prefontaine Classic races and is the 2021 Diamond League trophy winner. She is eying a third win in Eugene.
Muir secured Diamond League trophies in 2016 and 2018. In 2020, Muir broke Kelly Holmes’ British 1,000m record in a time of 2:30.82.
In February 2019, she broke the 31-year-old British indoor mile record held by Kirsty Wade by more than five seconds, stopping the clock at the world third-fastest time of 4:18.75 at the Birmingham Indoor Grand Prix.
Olympic 1,500m bronze medallist Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia will also be in action.
Timothy Cheruiyot vs Ingebrigtsen
Fireworks are expected in the Bowerman Mile where world 1500m champion Timothy Cheruiyot will be renewing his rivalry with Ingebrigtsen brothers Filip and Jacob of Norway.
Jacob beat Cheruiyot at the Tokyo Olympic Games, winning gold as the Kenyan star brought home silver.
Last year, Jakob solidified his claim as world’s top miler with a dominating win at the Prefontaine Classic. He returned to the Hayward Field for the first time since 2018 and did not disappoint, producing an outstanding win.
Cheruiyot has his work cut out as he seeks to reassert his Diamond League dominance. He has held the Diamond League trophy since 2017, but he needs a win to maintain the favourite tag in the third leg of the season.
Abel Kipsang factor
Apart from the Ingebrigtsens, Cheruiyot will be battling for honours alongside rising star, Abel Kipsang who is expected to continue with his winning streaks.
Cheruiyot, a reigning Diamond League Champion, suffered a surprise defeat to Kipsang at the Diamond League season opener in Doha.
Kipsang, who is fresh from clinching the 1500m title at the Alexander Stadium; the venue for 2022 Commonwealth Games track and field events in July and August, is not about to lower the momentum this season.
Kipsang beat a star-studded field in Birmingham to win in 3:35.15, beating Mohamed Katis (3:35.62) of Spain, Australia’s Oliver Hoare (3:35.76) and Michale Rozmyz (3:35.86) of Poland.
Kipsang holds the fastest time of 3:31.01 this season and a win in the Bowerman Mile will propel him to the list of top Diamond League racers this year.
Joshua Cheptegei vs Benson Kiplangat (5000m world record)
Cheptegei of Uganda and Kiplangat have been assembled for an attempt to break the former’s world record of 12:35.36 set in August 2020 at the Diamond League opener in Monaco.
He chipped 1.99 seconds off Kenenisa Bekele’s previous mark of 12:37.35 set in May 2004.
Kiplangat booked a place in the athletics history books last year when he claimed victory at World Under-20 championships in Nairobi.
Kiplagat, 18, produced a tactical display in the World Under-20 championships, defeating race favourite and experienced track star Tedese Worku of Ethiopia.
Olympian Daniel Simiu and Boston University Last Chance Qualifier (2019) winner Edward Cheserek are also in the mix.
Beatrice Chepkoech vs Peruth Chemutai (Steeplechase)
3000m steeplechase World record holder Beatrice Chepkoech will face-off with Olympic champion Peruth Chemutai from Uganda.
Both Chepkoech and Chemutai and taking to Hayward Field their enviable CVs in the water and barrier race.
Chepkoech is the world record holder and the reigning World Champion, while Chemutai has the Olympic title. Chepkoech finished seventh at the Tokyo Olympics.
Word Under-20 champion Jackline Chepkoech, former Youth Olympic Games 2,000m champion Rosefline Chepngetich and two-time world under-20 champion Celliphine Chepteek Chespol will also be in contention.
Norah Jeruto, who raced to a 3000m steeplechase victory at the Prefontaine Classic Eugene Diamond League, will seek to defend her title.
Bethwel Birgen vs Paul Chelimo (5000m)
Bethwell Birgen, a 1500m specialist, will be competing in the 5000m.
Birgen’s personal best of 3:30.77 minutes in the 1500m ranks him among the top 50 in the distance, while his indoor best of 3:34.65 is in the top 20.
He is the 2017 World Indoor winner.
Chelimo won bronze at the 2020 Olympic Games and had settled for silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
He took part in 3000m at the 2018 USA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico in a time of 7:57.88.
Birgen and Chelimo will also have Ethiopian Selemon Barega and Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda to contend with.