ZAGREB, Croatia, (CMC) – History-making Barbadian sprint hurdler Ryan Brathwaite will be among the headliners at the 59th IAAF Zagreb Grand Prix today where close to 50 IAAF World Championship medallists will converge.
Brathwaite, 21, became the first Barbadian to win an IAAF World Championship gold medal when he captured the 110-metre hurdles in Berlin earlier this month.
He is the top entry in the men’s sprint hurdles.
Organisers moved quickly last week to secure Brathwaite’s appearance after injury ruled the Cuban Olympic champion and world record holder Dayron Robles out of his scheduled appearance here.
Brathwaite’s rivals in Zagreb will include the Berlin finalists Maurice Wignall of Jamaica and Czech Petr Svoboda, as well as Olympic bronze medallist David Oliver, who is on the rebound from injury.
Wignall, the reigning Commonwealth champion, and for several years the leading CARICOM sprint hurdler, lost his English-speaking Caribbean record of 13.17 seconds to Brathwaite when the young Barbadian clocked a personal best 13.14 to narrowly win gold in Berlin on August 20.
Brathwaite suffered a loss Friday in his first outing as World Champion when he finished third behind Jamaican Dwight Thomas (13.16) and American Terrence Trammell (13.17) at the Zurich Golden League meeting and will be anxious to rebound.
Jamaicans, including the superb 400-metre hurdles Olympic and World Champion Melaine Walker, will figure prominently in the other hurdles events.
Walker faces her arch-rival and Berlin runner-up Lashinda Demus, of the USA, in a field that includes Walker’s improving colleague Kaliese Spencer.
In the men’s 400-hurdles, Jamaican Isa Phillips will be in action trying to shrug off his disappointment of Berlin where he failed to reach the final after being one of the gold medal favourites.
His rivals will include American Bershawn Jackson and the Dominican Republic’s two-time world champion Felix Sanchez.
In the women’s sprint hurdles, Olympic champion Dawn Harper, of the USA, narrowly beaten by Jamaican World Champion Brigitte Foster-Hylton in Zurich on Friday, defends her title against Jamaican Delloreen Ennis-London, who took bronze in Berlin, and Irishwoman Derval O’Rourke, who took fourth in Berlin with a national record 12.67.
The sprints are proliferated by Caribbean entries.
Veronica Campbell-Brown, the two-time defending Olympic 200-metre champion, who left Berlin empty-handed by her standards – without a gold medal — returns to Zagreb to defend her 100-metre title from a year ago.
The Jamaican took silver in the 200 and fourth in the 100 in Berlin and her challengers will include her colleague Simone Facey, who took gold in the 4×100-metre relay in Berlin.
The men’s 100-metre field includes Berlin finalists Marc Burns, of Trinidad and Tobago and Darvis Patton, of the USA, along with US champion Mike Rodgers and Jamaican Berlin relay gold medallists Steve Mullins and Michael Frater.
Jamaican Shericka Williams is favoured for the women’s 400 metres after silver at the Beijing Olympics last year and another runner-up result in Berlin.
Williams clocked a personal best and near national record 49.32 seconds as runner-up to American Sanya Richards in Berlin on August 18.