Cape Town - All
eyes will be on world champion Wayde van Niekerk who leads a full-strength
South African onslaught on Thursday night as he makes his highly anticipated
international season debut at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome.
Niekerk, who clocked 44.11 seconds at the ASA Open Championships in
Bloemfontein last month, is the fastest man in the field this season for the
faces a line-up including in-form Bralon Taplin of Grenada, who set a personal best of 44.41 in Tempe last month, former World Championships relay silver
medallist Rusheen McDonald of Jamaica and African champion Isaac Makwala of
Niekerk will be joined by seven other SA athletes at the fifth leg of the
top-flight international track and field campaign.
Semenya, the fastest woman in the world this year with a 1:56.64 season's best,
is the firm favourite for the women's 800m race after winning the IAAF Diamond League
contests in Doha and Rabat last month.
strongest opposition could come from IAAF World Indoor champion Francine
Niyonsaba of Burundi and Kenya's Eunice Sum, the former IAAF World Outdoor
Viljoen, the top-ranked women's javelin thrower in the world this year,
spearheads the entry list after launching a 65.14m seasons' best to secure
victory in Doha, although she must contend with expected challenges from former
World Championships gold medallist Christina Obergfoll and reigning world
champion Katharina Molitor, both representing Germany, as well as world record
holder Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic.
the men's long jump, Ruswahl Samaai, fresh off his personal best leap of 8.38m
in Rabat less than two weeks ago, and Luvo Manyonga - bouncing back from a
minor ankle injury which delayed the start to his international season after
producing an impressive 8.30m effort in the domestic campaign - will turn out
among the favourites.
will be up against the American trio of Marquise Goodwin, Michael Hartfield and
Jarvis Gotch, who have all gone over 8.30m this year, along with IAAF World and
Olympic champion Greg Rutherford of Great Britain and Australian Fabrice
Lapierre, the former IAAF World Indoor champion.
record holder Akani Simbine returns from a minor injury setback to open his
international campaign in the men's 100m sprint.
set a new SA mark of 9.96 at the ASA Night Series meeting in Pretoria in March,
Simbine will hope to make a statement against a world-class field that includes
controversial American Justin Gatlin (9.94) and Nigerian-born speedster Femi
Ogunode (9.91), now competing for Qatar, who have also dipped under 10 seconds
Victor Hogan boasts the third best throw this year in the men's discus line-up, after setting a 67.62m career record at the national championships in
Stellenbosch in April.
taken third place at the Diamond League opener in Doha last month, he will be
eager to continue building on a breakthrough season. He faces the likes of
Olympic gold medallist Robert Harting of Germany and Polish world champion
Nel, one of six women in the 400m hurdles who have dipped under 55 seconds
this season, meets a quality line-up led by World Championships bronze
medallist Cassandra Tate of the United States, and Commonwealth Games champion,
Kaliese Spencer of Jamaica.