Visa Championship Series points leader and world record holder Justin Gatlin returns to his birthplace on Saturday to headline the Reebok Grand Prix in New York City, the fourth stop of the 2006 Visa Championship Series.
The only East Coast meet that offers head-to-head competition among world class athletes, the Reebok Grand Prix will be broadcast live Saturday on ESPN2 from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Eastern Time.
Gatlin has enjoyed an amazing 2006 outdoor season highlighted by equaling the world 100m record of 9.77 seconds May 12 at Doha, Qatar. Last week Gatlin grabbed the lead in the 2006 Outdoor Visa Championship Series with his blistering run of 9.88 seconds in cold and wet conditions at the Nike Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon.
Born in Brooklyn, Gatlin will compete outdoors in New York for the first time ever at Icahn Stadium. He'll be challenged by reigning world indoor 60m gold medalist Leonard Scott, 2004 Olympic relay gold medalist and 200m silver medalist Bernard Williams and Tyson Gay, who ran a season's best of 10.04 seconds with his third-place finish May 21 at the adidas Track Classic in Carson, California.
The only men's field event of the day will be a star-studded affair featuring three of the world's finest shot putters. Reigning World Outdoor champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist Adam Nelson will take on reigning World Indoor champion Reese Hoffa and 2004 World Indoor champion Christian Cantwell, who won last weekend's Nike Prefontaine Classic with the farthest throw in the world this year of 22.17 meters/72 feet 9 inches. Cantwell currently owns three of the top four throws in the world this outdoor season and is second, behind Gatlin, in the Visa Championship Series standings.
The men's 200 meters should boil down to a battle between 2005 World Outdoor Championships silver medalist Wallace Spearmon and Jamaica's Usain Bolt, who between them own the three fastest times in the world this season. Spearmon ran the year's fastest time of 20.06 seconds in winning at the adidas Track Classic, while Bolt owns the second and third fastest times in the world this year of 20.08 and 20.10.
A quartet of highly accomplished Americans will headline a strong field in the men's 400 meters. 2005 World Outdoor Championships silver medalist Andrew Rock is the favorite after posting his best time of the outdoor season of 44.83 seconds from his win at the adidas Track Classic. Rock will be challenged by 2004 Olympic silver medalist Otis Harris and Olympic bronze medalist Derrick Brew. World indoor record holder and 2005 Visa Champion Kerron Clement, the reigning USA 400m hurdles champion, also could be a factor. Jamaicans Davin Clarke and Jermaine Gonzalez could challenge for top honors.
Reigning U.S. Indoor and Outdoor 800m champion Khadevis Robinson is off to a fine outdoor season highlighted by his April 15 win at the Mt. SAC Relays. Robinson crossed the line first to win the 800 meters in 1 minute, 44.88 seconds, the third-fastest time in the world this season. He'll be challenged by 2004 Olympian Derrick Peterson, 2004 Olympic Trials finalist Sam Burley, 2004 Olympian and NCAA champion Jonathan Johnson and 2005 USA Outdoor Championships third-place finisher Kevin Hicks.
Star power in the men's 1,500 meters will be provided by Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain, the world outdoor champion at 1,500 and 800 meters. Ramzi's winning time of 3 minutes, 32.34 seconds last month at the adidas Track Classic is the fastest time in the world this season and the fastest time ever on American soil. Australia's Mark Fountain, who owns the fourth-fastest men's 1,500m time in the world this season of 3:36.08, will look to give Ramzi a strong challenge, as will New Zealand's Nick Willis, who finished fourth at the adidas Track Classic with a seasonal best time of 3:37.07.
Ethiopia's Gebre Gebremariam leads the men's 5,000-meter field following a strong 2005 campaign where he placed fourth at the World Athletics Final and ended the season ranked #7 in the world by Track & Field News. Additional international standouts in the field include Gebremariam's countryman Abebe Dinkessa, Kenyans Benjamin Limo, Jonas Cheruiyot, Boaz Cheboiywo, Mike Kigen and Micah Kogo along with Ireland's Alistair Cragg and Kazuyoshi Tokumoto of Japan. The U.S. contingent will be led by Jorge Torres, who placed fourth at the 2005 USA Outdoor Championships and Jonathon Riley, who placed fifth at that event.
One of the most competitive events on Saturday figures to be the women's 400 meters, where reigning World Outdoor champion Tonique Williams-Darling of the Bahamas is the favorite after posting the third-fastest time in the world this year of 50.28 seconds on May 13. 2005 NCAA Outdoor champion and 2005 World Outdoor Championships finalist Monique Henderson leads a talented U.S. quartet that includes 2006 World Indoor 4x400m relay gold medalist Mary Danner, 2003 World Outdoor Championships 4x400m relay gold medalist Demetria Washington and 2005 USA Outdoor Championships 400m fourth-place finisher Moushaumi Robinson.
Following impressive wins earlier this year at the adidas Track Classic and in Osaka, Japan, Australia's Sarah Jamieson is the class of the field in the women's 1,500 meters. Jamieson, who placed fourth at last week's Nike Prefontaine Classic in the fourth-fastest time in the world this year of 4 minutes, 3.13 seconds, also owns the fifth-fastest time globally this season from her win in Osaka in 4:03.51. China's Liu Qing, who finished fourth at the adidas Track Classic in 4:08.97, will give chase, along with U.S. standouts Carrie Tollefson, Mary Jane Harrelson and Tiffany McWilliams.
Three-time USA Outdoor 5,000m champion and 2004 Olympian Marla Runyan headlines the women's 5,000 meters as she continues her return to competition following the birth of her daughter Anna Lee on September 1, 2005. Earlier this year, Runyan won the 10,000 meters in cold and windy conditions at the Oregon Invitational Distance Carnival in her home town of Eugene, Oregon. Her winning time of 32 minutes 11.92 seconds is the fastest by an American this season. Reigning U.S. 10,000m champion Katie McGregor also is in the field, along with 2005 USA Outdoor Champs 10,000m runner-up Blake Russell. International competitors include Marie Davenport (IRL), Genzebe Dibaba (ETH), and China's Jin Yuan and Xing Huina.
Many of America's finest women pole vaulters will compete on Saturday led by two-time Olympian and reigning USA Indoor champion Kellie Suttle. Also look for 2005 USA Indoor Champs third-place finisher Jenn Stuczynski, whose best performance this outdoor season came with her win at the Mt. SAC Relays with a clearance of 4.47 meters/14 feet, 8 inches. 2004 Olympian and three-time USA Outdoor runner-up Jillian Schwartz is in the field, along with 2005 USA Outdoor Championships sixth-place finisher April Steiner and 2003 NCAA Outdoor champion Becky Holliday.
Fields for the men's 400m hurdles and women's 100 meters, 200 meters and 100m hurdles will be announced by meet organizers on Friday.