They’re calling it the London Anniversary Games. This week’s Diamond League meet bears extra significance, the first world-class track and field competition held at London’s Olympic Stadium since the flame was extinguished last summer.
Several track and field stars are either injured or pretty much done for the season after failing to qualify for the world championships (Aug. 10-18, Moscow). Most of those still standing will compete in London on Friday or Saturday, including Usain Bolt, Allyson Felix, Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis.
Here’s a chronological rundown of key events to watch (coverage begins on Universal Sports on Friday, 3 p.m. ET):
Women’s 1,500 meters (Friday, 3:36 p.m. ET)
Mary Cain is the headliner here. Cain, 17, the sensation of the indoor season, makes her senior European debut in the event in which she qualified for worlds.
Cain made the U.S. team by finishing second in a tactical final at nationals in Des Moines, Iowa, in June to training partner Treniere Moser, who is running the 3,000 on Friday.
She has a great chance of winning this race given the highest-ranked woman (according to IAAF) in the field this year is No. 16 Mary Kuria of Kenya (4:03.56). Cain is No. 24 at 4:04.62.
Also in the field is American Morgan Uceny, who was the world No. 1 in 2011 but finished eighth at nationals.
Men’s 100 meters (Friday, 4:48 p.m. ET)
A lot has changed since Bolt last ran a 100, winning the Jamaican nationals on June 21 to qualify for worlds.
Now out of the picture are Olympic silver medalist Yohan Blake (injury), American record holder Tyson Gay (drug test) and former world record holder Asafa Powell (drug test).
The consensus is only one man is left to challenge Bolt in Moscow, if anybody, and that’s 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlin, who is not in this field in London.
However, there are two men in Friday’s 100 who have run faster than Bolt this year — countryman Nesta Carter and British upstart James Dasaolu.
Carter, a longtime partner on Jamaica’s 4×100 relay squad, is suddenly the active 2013 world leader with a 9.87, but he didn’t make the Jamaican team for the 100 at worlds. Dasaolu became the second fastest Brit ever (behind 1992 Olympic champion Linford Christie) when he ran a 9.91 at British nationals earlier this month.
Still, it would be surprising to see Bolt lose here, two weeks before the world championships. He may even have his eyes on Gay’s fastest time this year of 9.75, a time we may see expunged pending his drug-testing case.
Women’s 100-meter hurdles (Saturday, 9:11 a.m. ET)
American fans must get up bright and early to catch a glimpse of the biggest female track and field star of the 2012 Olympics — heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis.
Ennis has been battling an Achilles injury since the spring, putting major doubt into her status for not only this meet but also the world championships.
She appears ready to go after setting a personal best in the javelin at a low-key meet earlier this week. Ennis is also in the long jump field Saturday.
Another Olympic champion on the way back from injury is the London gold medalist in this event, Australian Sally Pearson. Pearson, like Ennis, has been set back since the spring. Her ailment has been a hamstring.
Dominant in 2011 and 2012, Pearson has been slow in a handful of meets over the last two months. Her season’s best — 12.67 — is well off her personal best (12.28) set at 2011 worlds and even farther behind the world leader for 2013, U.S. champion Brianna Rollins (12.26). Rollins pulled out of Monaco last week because she her managers didn’t want her to face Pearson before worlds, according to Australian reports.
Rollins is not in the field Saturday, but the third- and fourth-place finishers from U.S. nationals are — Nia Ali and Kellie Wells. They, along with Brit Tiffany Porter, will give Pearson more than enough competition.
Men’s 110-meter hurdles (Saturday, 11:07 a.m. ET)
This event has been one of the most exciting and star-studded of all of track and field for the last few years. We’ve seen the balance of power shift from China to Cuba to three different American men.
Saturday’s showdown will be overwhelmingly red, white and blue. In the field are 2013 U.S. champion Ryan Wilson, former American record holder David Oliver, 2011 world champion Jason Richardson and 2012 Olympic champion Aries Merritt.
All four men are going to worlds, so this should be a nice Moscow preview. 2008 Olympic champion Dayron Robles was originally in this event, but as of Thursday afternoon was no longer on the entry list.
The top non-American here is another Cuban, Orlando Ortega, who ran a 13.08 in Eugene, Ore., in June. Only Oliver has run faster this year.
Women’s 100 meters (Saturday, 11:20 a.m. ET)
This sprint isn’t getting the pre-meet talk because it doesn’t include Bolt or a British star, but it just may be the best field of the competition. All the major players going into worlds are here.
From the U.S., there’s national and NCAA champion English Gardner and 2011 world champion Carmelita Jeter. They could both use impressive times here, given Gardner ran an 11.32 in her European pro debut earlier this month (after winning nationals in 10.85). Jeter hasn’t gone sub-11 since her quadriceps injury in Shanghai in May, which caused her to skip nationals in June.
The favorites lead with two-time reigning Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, who won in Paris on July 6 in 10.92 (into a slight headwind). There’s also world leader Kelly-Ann Baptiste of Trinidad and Tobago. Baptiste has run a 10.83 this year but no other times sub-11. If Fraser-Pryce beats Baptiste here, there’s no doubt who the favorite is going into Moscow.
Notables: Felix takes on a field including Americans Shalonda Solomon, LaShauntea Moore and DeeDee Trotter in the women’s 200 (Saturday, 10:27 a.m. ET). … Farah, fresh off breaking the British 1,500 record last week, could very well break the nation’s 31-year-old record in the 3,000 meters (Saturday, 11:32 a.m. ET).