Yanmar Stadium will play host on Sunday to the second leg of the nine-leg IAAF World Challenge tour, as the Seiko Golden Grand Prix takes place in Osaka.
10 Australians travel to Osaka to compete across seven different events, with track and field disciplines well represented, featuring high jumper Brandon Starc, Anneliese Rubie (400m), Brittany McGowan (800m), Damien Birkinhead (Shot Put), Hamish Peacock (Javelin), Genevieve LaCaze (3000m), Jeff Riseley (800m), Jordan Williamsz (1500m), Matthew Ramsden (1500m), Ryan Gregson (1500m), Zoe Buckman (3000m).
Commonwealth Games champion Brandon Starc will use Osaka as his second competitive outing in Japan, following a second-place finish in Shizuoka, clearing 2.25m behind Japanese national team member, Naoto Tobe, who cleared 2.28m successfully. Starc and Tobe will face off again in Osaka, joined by 2.33m jumper Yu Wang (CHN).
Starc has an exciting season ahead of him, “The competitions I’m going to be doing are enough to keep me motivated. At this stage I have been confirmed for the Oslo (Diamond League), and the Ostrava and Madrid IAAF World Challenge meets, so they're pretty high calibre comps.”
“My goals for the remainder of the season would be to keep it consistent, push for the 2.30s and really make my mark in the high jumping world.”
Following a well-timed 51.51sec personal best in the Commonwealth Games semi-final progressing Rubie to her first international final, the 26-year old sprinter faces strong competition from six-time All-American, University of Arkansas graduate Daina Harper (USA), who leads the 400m field at 50.64sec. The one-lap sprint field is further buoyed by World Championship 4x400m relay bronze medallist Justyna Święty-Ersetic (POL, 51.15sec) and European Under-23 champion Gunta Latiševa-Čudare (LAT, 51.37sec).
Birkinhead leads a seven-strong shot put field, featuring three throwers who have exceeded the 20-metre mark, as the Australian record-holder returns to the ring after a fifth-place Commonwealth Games finish.
In what shapes up as a strong middle-distance meet, Australia’s third fastest 800-metre runner returns to his favoured two-lap distance, as Riseley looks to improve upon a seasons best of 1:46.35 in a field containing 2012 Olympic silver medalist Timothy Kitum (KEN), Diamond League meeting winner Abraham Rotich (BHR, 1:43.13), World Indoor finalist Mostafa Smaili (MAR, 1:45.05) and Japanese record-holder Sho Kawamoto (1:45.75).
LaCaze and Buckman will both race outside of their preferred events, seeded fourth and sixth respectively in a modest field including, top-seeded Japan-based Kenyan athlete Ann Karindi Mwangi top-seeded, an 8:43.54 performer, previously having placed seventh at the 2009 World Cross Country Championships. Former World Youth champion Shuru Bolo (ETH, 8:51.04) and in-form Romanian Claudia Mihaela Bobocea (8:51.58i) may keep the early pace healthy, as LaCaze and Buckman look to improve upon personal bests of 8:51.04 and 8:56.29 respectively.
Training partners Gregson and Williamsz return to racing, Gregson fresh off of a season’s best run in Shanghai, as Williamsz will look to improve following a frustrating trip to Doha, whilst Ramsden returns to competition following an injury layoff. The trio will have their hands full in a field containing World Junior medalist Anthony Kiptoo (KEN, 3:35.33), World Relays silver medalist Patrick Casey (USA, 3:35.32) and European Indoor medalist Filip Sasínek (CZE, 3:36.32). Without a pacemaker clearly listed in the field, this may provide an opportunity for Gregson and Williamsz to sharpen their tactical tools prior to further overseas competition, as Ramsden becomes reacquainted with the distance.
McGowan races three sub-two minute 800m competitors, as Commonwealth Games finalist Emily Cherotich Tuei enters fastest as a 1:58.25 performer. McGowan’s opportunity to improve upon a substantial personal best run of 2:00.24 at the Commonwealth Games selection trials is bolstered by the presence of African Championships finalist Noelie Yarigo (BEN, 1:59.12) and World Relays gold medalist Chrishuna Williams (USA, 1:59.59).
Otherwise notable contests in Osaka include a super fast 100m involving Justin Gatlin (USA, 9.74), Isaiah Young (USA, 9.97), Yoshihide Kiryu (9.98) and Ryota Yamagata (10.00), whilst Isaac Makwala (BOT, 19.77) races over 200m and Queen Harrison (USA, 12.43) appears in the 100m hurdles. Field fans will be treated to Jarrion Lawson (USA, 8.58m) in the long jump pit, hammer thrower Pawel Fajdek (POL, 83.93m) and Chao-Tsun Cheng (TPE, 91.36m) on the javelin runway where he will battle our own Hamish Peacock. The Tasmanian will be keen to continue his good form which secured him the silver medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April with a throw of 82.59m.
For further information visit the Seiko Grand Prix website.
Sean Whipp for Athletics Australia.