Track and Field: Prefontaine Classic

Justin Gatlin (Scott Olmos-US PRESSWIRE)

The 34th edition of the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea is shaping up to be a star-studded meeting with one of the best fields ever. Watch on Thursday, June 5th at 2 PM ET LIVE on Universal Sports.

Each of the 18 disciplines (nine men events and nine women events) feature at least one Olympic, World or European champion or world-record holder. Today we preview the sprint and hurdles events.

Men’s 100 meters: Justin Gatlin is still the best US sprinter. Gatlin, a former Olympic and World champion, improved his world lead to 9.87 seconds in Beijing after his sensational 9.92 in Shanghai. Last year he beat world-record holder Usain Bolt by clocking a 9.94.

Men’s 200 meters: Christophe Lemaitre won three European gold medals in Barcelona 2010. After clocking 20.30 last Sunday, he will run his first 200m in the Rome Olympic Stadium. He will face Moscow World bronze medalist Curtis Mitchell, Berlin 2009 World silver medalist Alonso Edward (the best sprinter so far this season), reigning European champion Churandy Martina and 2004 World Junior champion Andrew Howe from Italy, who has a 20.28 PB and clocked 20.31 three years ago in the Olympic Stadium.

Men’s 400 meters: LaShawn Merritt, who has won two Olympic gold medals and six World gold medals (four with the 4×400 relay), has already clocked 44.14 in Ponce and 44.44 twice. He won last year’s edition with a 44.96, but he clocked 44.37 and 44.44 on the Rome track. This year he’s only lost against Dominican Republic’s Luguelin Santos, an Olympic silver medalist in London and World bronze in Moscow. The two 400m sprinters will renew their battle in Rome. Merritt leads 11-2 in their head-to-head clashes. Others who could challenge the two favorites are Pavel Maslak, the reigning European champion, and 4×400 Olympic silver medallist Bryshon Nellum.

Women’s 100 meters: Two-time Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is the most titled sprinter in the history of the 100 meters. Her best time in Rome is 10.91, but she is looking for her first win in the Olympic stadium. In 2009, she was beaten by her compatriot Kerron Stewart (10.75). They will square off again this year. Fraser-Pryce won her last 11 clashes against her rival. Apart from the two Jamaican stars, the lineup also features Americans Tianna Bartoletta, Barbara Pierre, Octavius Freeman, Janeba Tarmoh and Alexandria Anderson.

Women’s 100-meter hurdles: All of the hurdlers who won the most important titles in the last five years will be in Rome, including Brianna Rollins, the world gold medalist in Moscow, 2012 Olympic gold medalist Sally Pearson, who clocked a seasonal best of 12.59 this year, and 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medalist Dawn Harper.

Women’s 400-meter hurdles: Italian record holder Yadisleidy Pedroso (54.54) will face a world-class field including American Lashinda Demus, the world champion in Daegu and Olympic silver medalist in London. Demus set the meeting record by clocking 52.82 in 2006.

(From Diamond League Rome Press Release)