Coleman, Baker renew rivalry in Rome Diamond League

Rome (AFP) –


US sprinters Christian Coleman and Ronnie Baker are set to renew their rivalry on Thursday as the Diamond League heads to Rome for the fourth in the 14-leg IAAF series.

Coleman -- who finished between Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt in the 100m at the world championships last August and went on to win the world indoor 60m title in February with a new world record -- lost his outdoor 100m season opener to Baker in Eugene, Oregon, last weekend.

But as the Eugene race was not a Diamond Discipline the Golden Gala in the Italian capital will offer Coleman a first chance to pick up points on the Road To The Final.

US 60m indoor champion Baker, who holds the 2018 world best of 9.97sec, defended his 100m crown in a 2.4m/sec wind-aided 9.78 -- the fastest time run this year.

Coleman was second best in 9.84, but the 22-year-old said he was still working his way back into shape after a minor leg injury kept him from competing in Shanghai earlier this month.

Among the US duo's challengers will be Turkey's Ramil Guliyev, South African Akani Simbine and American Michael Rodgers.

South African world champion Luvo Manyonga headlines a star-studded men's long jump in the Italian capital. Manyonga, 27, has already jumped 8.56m this season as he pushes to better the long-time world record of 8.95m achieved by American Mike Powell back in 1991.

Compatriot Rushwal Samaai, Cuba's world indoor champion Juan Miguel Echevarria, American Marquis Dendy and Olympic champion Jeff Henderson are among his chief rivals.

American world pole vault champion Sam Kendricks' bid for back-to-back wins will be challenged by Poland's Piotr Lisek, third last weekend, with Brazil's Olympic champion Thiago, pushing for a way back after he no-heighted in Eugene.

World 100m and 200m women's silver medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou won in Eugene, where she ran 10.88 in the 100m to defeat the world and Olympic champions Tori Bowie and Elaine Thompson.

Ta Lou, a 29-year-old from the Ivory Coast, moves up to the 200m in Rome where Shericka Jackson, 23, of Jamaica looks her strongest rival.

In the women's steeplechase, US world champion Emma Coburn faces a huge challenge from the Kenyan trio of Beatrice Chepkoech, Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi and Celliphine Chepteek Chespol, all of whom have run faster than her personal best of 9:02.58.

"I'm look forward to seeing the fruits of the last six weeks of training. It's my first time in Rome and I'm really excited about it," said Coburn.

US athletes are favourites in the 100m hurdles: Olympic champion Brianna McNeal, who has already run 12.43 this year, Sharika Nelvis, Jasmin Stowers and 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper Nelson, who will retire at the end of this season, are the strong quartet on show.

Croatia's world and Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic looks favourite in the women's discus with Russian Mariya Lasitskene dominant in the women's high jump winning the past two world titles.

In the women's discus Croatian star Sandra Perkovic returns to the Olympic Stadium aiming to win for the third time.

"I've had some problems lately, but I'm convinced they won't stop me from doing well tomorrow," said the Olympic, world and European champion who has won the Diamond League title in her discipline for six years.

The men's discus sees some big names jostling for their first points with German brothers Robert and Christoph Harting, Olympic champions in 2012 and 2016 respectively, up against Lithuania's world champion Andrius Gudzius and four-time Diamond Trophy winner Piotr Malachowski of Poland.

Norway's world 400m hurdles champion Karsten Warholm will be challenged by a field that includes Olympic champion Kerron Clement of the United States, Kenya's 2015 world champion Nicholas Bett and Qatar's Abderrahman Samba, winner in Doha this month.

The women's 400m hurdles will be a showdown between Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad and two past Rome winners Georganne Moline and Janieve Russell, who will aim at winning her third consecutive race after Eugene.