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The biggest event on the international track and field calendar this year is the world championships, happening July 15-24 at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus. On Saturday, we’ll get a sneak preview of the worlds when several top contenders compete in this week’s Diamond League meet at the same venue.
Here are the top three things to watch at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, which can be seen live from 4-6 p.m. ET on the CBC TV network, CBC Gem, the CBC Sports app and CBCSports.ca:
1. Andre De Grasse takes on a star-studded field in the men’s 100m (5:52 p.m. ET).
The main event of the meet features the reigning men’s 100m world champion (Christian Coleman of the U.S., who was banned from the Tokyo Olympics for missing drug tests) and the silver and bronze medallists from last summer’s Olympics (American Fred Kerley and Canada’s De Grasse). The entire 200m podium from the Tokyo Olympics is also represented with De Grasse and Americans Kenny Bednarek and Noah Lyles lining up for the 100 in Eugene.
Throw in American sensation Erriyon Knighton, who seems poised to own the 200m for years after placing fourth in Tokyo as a 17-year-old, and Trayvon Bromell, who was favoured to win the Olympic 100m before flaming out in the semis, and that is a lot of big names. The only glaring absence is reigning Olympic 100m champ Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Italy, who withdrew earlier this week due to an injury.
De Grasse is the defending Prefontaine Classic 100m champion. He won last year’s race, held just a couple of weeks after the Olympics, in a blistering (though wind-aided) 9.74 seconds. But the Canadian star is off to a slow start this season, placing fourth in both of his Diamond League races. He opened with a disappointing 20.14 in the 200 two weeks ago in Qatar (Lyles won in 19.72), then ran a sluggish 10.24 in the 100 last weekend in England (Canada’s Aaron Brown won in 10.13).
We’ve seen this before, though. Big Race ‘Dre saves his best for the brightest stages, and it’s hard to argue with the results: he’s reached the podium in all seven of the individual events he’s entered at the world championships or Olympics, including his gold in the 200m in Tokyo. Question is, will Saturday’s elite field bring out the best in De Grasse, or does he hold back for the much bigger meet happening at Hayward Field in a couple of months? Read more about the athletes to watch in the men’s 100 at the Prefontaine Classic in this preview by CBC Sports’ Doug Harrison.
2. Elaine Thompson-Herah headlines the women’s 100m (4:33 p.m. ET).
Two-thirds of the 2021 Olympic podium are in this race. Thompson-Herah, who pulled off her second consecutive 100-200 double gold in Tokyo, is joined by fellow Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the bronze medallist. Also competing is Briana Williams, who helped Thompson-Herah, Jackson and the great Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (not entered in Oregon) win the 4×100 gold in Tokyo. At last year’s Prefontaine Classic, Thompson-Herah won the 100 in 10.54 — the second-fastest women’s time in history, and just 0.05 of a second off Florence Griffith Joyner’s now 34-year-old world record.
Another interesting athlete in the women’s 100 is Sha’Carri Richardson, the 22-year-old American who was banned from the Tokyo Games because of a positive test for cannabis at the U.S. trials.
3. Moh Ahmed is among the top contenders in the men’s 5,000m (4:10 p.m. ET).
The Canadian, who won silver in this event at the Tokyo Olympics and bronze at the last worlds, faces some stiff competition. Ahmed’s opponents include Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega, who took silver at the ’19 worlds, and the United States’ Paul Chelimo, a two-time Olympic medallist. Olympic champ Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda is not competing.
Other Canadians competing:
Gabriela DeBues-Stafford will run in the women’s 1,500 at 4:49 p.m. ET. She finished fifth in this event at the Tokyo Olympics. Charles Philibert-Thiboutot and Will Paulson will run the prestigious Bowerman mile at 5:39 p.m. ET.
There’s no decathlon in the Diamond League, but Canada’s Damian Warner is competing in the highly regarded Hypo Meeting in Austria this weekend. The Olympic gold medallist is trying to win it for the sixth consecutive time and seventh in his career.