WITH rain in the forecast and Asafa Powell out of the running of this afternoon’s JN Jamaica International Invitational track and field meet at the National Stadium, fireworks are still expected.
After all, there is the mercurial Usain Bolt and a host of most of the island’s top athletes and a number of international world leaders down to compete.
The day’s activities should start at 5:45 pm with a development segment, before the big guns bow into action at 7:00 pm.
Bolt, the double World Record holder at sprints, is expected to make his first appearance in an individual event this season in the 100m.
In addition to Bolt, World Championships 100m gold medallist Yohan Blake as well as world leaders Americans sprinter Carmelita Jeter, quarter-miler Sanya Richards-Ross, long jumper Brittney Reese and shot putter Reece Hoffa have been confirmed to take part in the meet.
Three weeks ago after running the anchor leg on the Racers team that clocked 37.82 seconds at the UTech Track and Field Classic, the fastest relay ever on local soil, Bolt had declared himself fit and ready to go.
“I felt all right, comfortable, smooth, not as smooth as I would normally feel, but I have a few months to get ready and a lot more running to go, so I look forward to getting better,” Bolt said then.
With the now infamous false start disqualification in the 100m final at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea still in his mind, Bolt told journalists he would be working on fixing that part of his race.
With Blake down to contest the 200m, Bolt’s main competition is expected to come from IAAF World Indoor 60m silver medallist Nesta Carter, Antiguan Daniel Bailey and Trinidad’s Olympic Games 100m silver medallist Richard Thompson.
Blake will be running the 200m for the first time since he blazed the second fastest time ever over the distance, 19.26 seconds at a meet in Brussels last year and based on his effortless 9.90 seconds over the 100m last year, a fast time is expected.
Former 100m world record holder Powell was expected to challenge Blake over the 200m, but pulled after feeling the effects of a long-standing groin injury, which he did not want to run the risk of aggravating so close to the Olympic Games.
Nickel Ashmeade, last year’s winner, will run his first 200m of the season here today, while Norway’s Jaysuma Saidy Ndure, World University Games gold medallist Rasheed Dwyer and Warren Weir should be in the mix.
Jeter, who will be seeking her third straight win, leads the female 100m where she will face Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, joint Olympic Games silver medallists Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart, Trinidad’s Kelly-Ann Baptiste and Bahamian Debbie Ferguson McKenzie.
Richards Ross, the World Leader in the 400m, who is seeking her first Olympic individual gold medal and will seek to atone for a disappointing fifth place last year.
Richards Ross, who timed in 49.5 seconds on the anchor leg of the USA team that won the 4x400m at last weekend’s Penn Relays, has not won on Jamaica soil in a number of years and will face the top-three from last year’s event led by Novlene Williams-Mills as well as Rosemarie Whyte and Kaliese Spencer.
Two-time World Indoors and 2011 Word Outdoor champion Reese has been one of the most consistent female athletes in the world over the past three years and a 7.12m world best in the long jump.
Americans Brianna Glenn and Janay Deloach as well as Jamaicans Jovanee Jarrett — all seeking the Olympic A qualifying standard of 6.75m — will also compete.
World and Olympic champion Melaine Walker will open her season in the 400m hurdles and will go up against World Championships semi-finalist Ristananna Tracey as well as Shevon Stoddart, Nickiesha Wilson and Stephanie McPherson.
Bershawn Jackson of the USA leads the men’s field that will include the veteran Danny McFarlane who has reversed his retirement plans, national champion Leford Green, Josef Roberson and Isa Phillips.
Canada’s Pricilla Lopes-Schllep, who was second in Guadeloupe on Tuesday in her first race back after giving birth, will face former World champion Brigitte Foster-Hylton, Vonette Dixon and last year’s surprise winner Tiki James in the 100m hurdles.
Today’s meet will be the first step on the road to a place in the Olympic Games in London later this year and the top athletes will be using this event to judge their preparation.
Meet organisers are reporting that for the third year running the grandstand of the National Stadium has been fully sold out and Dennis Gordon, media relations liaison for the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that all invited athletes had arrived in the island and they were expecting another worldclass event.
Read the rest of this story on the Jamaica Observer