Track & Field Stars Head to 'Diamond League' Meets
BATON ROUGE – Former LSU Track & Field stars are sure to shine across Europe in the coming days as five Tigers and Lady Tigers are set to compete in IAAF Diamond League meetings being held Thursday in Lausanne, Switzerland, and Saturday in Paris, France, as the competition heats up on the professional circuit this summer.
Newly-crowned U.S. 200-meter champion Kimberlyn Duncan is among the headliners in Lausanne as she makes her Diamond League debut following a historic senior season with the Lady Tigers in 2013.
Duncan is a favorite to win the women’s 200 meters in Lausanne on Thursday evening as she enters the meet as the No. 4-ranked 200-meter sprinter worldwide this season with a top wind-legal time of 22.35 seconds. She raced to a top wind-aided time of 21.80 to claim the U.S. crown over reigning Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix (21.85w) at the USA Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 23.
Providing the challenge for Duncan in her first career IAAF Diamond League race will be Americans Carmelita Jeter and LaShauntea Moore. Jeter is the reigning World Championships silver medalist and Olympic bronze medalist in the event, while Moore followed Duncan in sixth place in the 200-meter final at the USA Outdoor Championships nearly two weeks ago.
Also joining Duncan during Thursday’s action in Lausanne are former Tiger national champion and three-time Olympic medalist Richard Thompson and Lady Tiger hurdle great Lolo Jones.
Thompson, who will make his fourth career appearance in the 100-meter dash at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics later this summer, joins a loaded field on Thursday night as he will line up alongside the likes of American world leader Tyson Gay. Thompson is a former Olympic silver medalist in the event as one of the world’s fastest men.
Thompson earned a return trip to the World Championships nearly two weeks ago with his runner-up finish in the 100-meter final at Trinidad & Tobago’s Sagicor National Open Championships. That’s where he clocked a seasonal-best wind-aided time of 9.91 for one of the world’s fastest times this season under all conditions.
Gay recently captured the U.S. crown in the men’s 100-meter dash with his world-leading time of 9.75, while Thompson will also compete with American Michael Rodgers (9.96) and Jamaicans Kemar Bailey-Cole (9.96), Nickel Ashmeade (9.99) and Asafa Powell (10.02) to highlight Lausanne’s Diamond League meeting.
Jones will also compete in one of the marquee events of Thursday’s competition as she joins a field in the women’s 100-meter hurdles that features all three medalists from the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Jones, who is the No. 4-ranked sprint hurdler in the world with a seasonal best of 12.50 in the 2013 campaign, will compete alongside the likes of Australia’s Olympic gold medalist Sally Pearson and the American duo of silver medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson and bronze medalist Kellie Wells. Wells ranks No. 5 worldwide in the event with a best of 12.54, while Harper-Nelson follows at No. 6 with a best of 12.60 this season.
Thursday’s women’s 100-meter hurdles in Lausanne also features World Championships qualifier Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin of the United States as each rank No. 3 and No. 7, respectively, in the world rankings for 2013.
Former Lady Tiger national champion and reigning World Championships bronze medalist Kelly-Ann Baptiste of Trinidad & Tobago is a star attraction in Paris’ Diamond League meeting on Saturday as she will line up as a world leader in the women’s 100-meter dash for the 2013 season. Baptiste set a personal best and broke her own Trinidad & Tobago national record with a winning 10.83 at the Sagicor National Open Championships on June 22 to earn a return trip to the World Championships for the third time in her career.
Baptiste will compete for the title in Paris alongside two-time Olympic 100-meter gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (10.93) of Jamaica and newly-crowned U.S. champion English Gardner (10.85).
Like Duncan, fellow LSU senior and NCAA Outdoor champion Damar Forbes will make his IAAF Diamond League debut this weekend as he takes flight in a competitive men’s long jump in Paris on Saturday. He is coming off a personal-best performance at the Jamaican Senior Championships as he defended his Jamaican long jump title with a career-best jump of 27 feet, 0 ¾ inches for the No. 9-ranked jump worldwide in 2013.
It’s a long jump field that also boasts a pair of Olympic champions, including reigning gold medalist Greg Rutherford of Great Britain and 2004 gold medalist Dwight Phillips of the United States. Rounding out the field are a pair of 27-foot jumpers during the 2013 season with Russia’s Godfrey Mokoena (27-2 ¾) and France’s Salim Sdiri (27-0) ranking among the world’s best.
LSU’s quartet of Baptiste, Duncan, Forbes and Thompson are each preparing for a trip to Moscow, Russia, later this summer as they represent their countries at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics being held on Aug. 10-18.