Asher-Smith looking to keep momentum in Rome Diamond League

Rome (AFP) –


Britain's Dina Asher-Smith will be looking to continue her astonishing start to the season and build towards the world championships in Doha next September when she takes to the track for the women's 100 metres at the Diamond League meeting in Rome on Thursday.

Asher-Smith, the triple European champion, underlined her world title ambitions by leaving the reigning Olympic and world champions in her wake with a stunning 200m victory in Stockholm last week.

The 23-year-old British sprinter pulled away from 2016 double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson to finish in 22.18sec, with the Jamaican trailing in her wake with 22.66 and former world champion Dafne Schippers way back in third in 22.78.

Thompson, 26, will be looking to hit back, along with Ivory Coast's Marie-Josée Ta Lou, a double 100m and 200m silver medallist at the 2017 worlds in London, who is making her first international appearance of the year.

"The world championships are a very long time away," said Asher-Smith, looking towards the September 28-October 6 competition in Doha.

"While it's good to be in good shape now, it's important I stay in good shape and continue to progress.

"I need to run faster by September because I know everyone else will too."

Two other Americans cannot be ruled out -- Olympic 4x100 gold medallist English Gardner and Shanghai 100m winner Alecia Hobbs.

- Lyles v Norman duel -

The men's 200m features a duel between Noah Lyles, winner of the past two Diamond League trophies over the distance, and fellow American Michael Norman, the 400m winner in Stockholm.

One-lap sensation Norman equalled his personal record over 200m in Osaka, Japan on May 19 with 19.84.

World 200m champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey will also line up in Rome, the fourth in the 14-leg Diamond League series with the final race in Brussels on September 6.

"Frankly I'm stunned by my times since the beginning of the season, I didn't think I could go fast, so early," Norman told AFP.

"At the same time I have trained very well, continuously, without a hitch, with a lot of recovery to cope with this extended season," he added.

In the 400m hurdles American Raj Benjamin, who equalled Edwin Moses? historic 47.02 career best last year, will be in the spotlight.

Benjamin ran his Diamond League race in Shanghai, where he set the second best performance of his career with 47.80.

The line-up also features Ireland's Thomas Barr, the only rival in the Rome race to have dipped under 48 seconds, with the other US hurdler Kenny Selmon.

In the 1500m, Ethiopian world record holder Genzebe Dibaba looks set for a duel with European champion Laura Muir of Scotland.

Dibaba won the Olympic silver medal in Rio, and the world title in Beijing 2015.

Muir has beaten Dibaba only once but she has remained unbeaten in the 1500m since the European Championships in Berlin.

Also competing are American former world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Jenny Simpson, winner in Rome four years ago, and Shanghai winner Rababe Arafi from Morocco.

Czech two-time Olympic javelin champion Barbora Spotakova, 37, makes her first Diamond League appearance since winning the 2017 final, as she returns following the birth or her second child last year.