Four Beijing champions on show in Belem

22.05.2009 World

The northern city of Belém, in the State of Pará, will serve as the venue of the “25th Grande Prêmio Brasil Caixa/Governo do Pará de Atletismo” on Sunday (24).

This will be the eighth time in which Belém hosts the Brazilian GP, where athletes from 33 countries are expected.

The Grande Prêmio Brasil Caixa/Governo do Pará de Atletismo is a Grand Prix status meeting as part of the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Tour.

The event will take place at the “Estádio Olímpico do Pará”, also known as “Mangueirão”, and marks the end of a cycle of fours events on Brazilian soil (Fortaleza, Rio de Janeiro and Uberlândia).

Belém will witness the presence of four Olympic champions crowned at the Beijing Games – Nélson Évora, Primož Kozmus, Maurren Maggi, and Valerie Vili – and two others from previous editions – Szymon Ziółkowski and Osleidys Menéndez.

Évora again to face red-hot Giralt

Portugal’s Évora, who is also the 2007 World champion in the Triple Jump, is starting over after not competing indoors this winter.

On 17 May Évora commenced his post-Olympic season with the World Championships in Berlin in mind, but only managed 17.11m for a third place. On 20 May in Uberlândia, Évora was also third, with 16.92m, but now he is hopeful of doing better. “These past meets have been very helpful. I’m sure that the warm conditions in Belém will result in much better marks,” the 25-year-old said.

After finishing fourth at the Beijing Games, 25-year-old Cuban David Giralt has been in supreme form. On 25 April, at the “III Juegos del ALBA” in Havana, Giralt set a PB of 17.62m, and then dominated all three Brazilian events in Fortaleza, Rio and Uberlândia, winning with 17.61m, 17.39m and 17.43m respectively. His compatriot Alexis Copello (17.62m in 13 March in Havana) has also been in good form, with fine marks of 17.41m (Fortaleza) and 17.20m (Uberlândia) more recently.

The “weather-friendly” conditions of Belém, added to the enthusiastic crown (over 30,000 people are expected), could result in a Cuban record for Giralt. The NR belongs to Yoelbi Luis Quesada, who set it at the 1997 IAAF World Championships in Athens with a 17.85m performance that earned him the gold medal.

Kozmus aiming to even the score against Nazarov

Slovenian Primož Kozmus will be looking for revenge over Tajikistan’s Dilshod Nazarov in the Hammer Throw after Naravov surprised him in Uberlândia with a victory and NR of 79.28m. Kozmus set a SB of 78.61m in Minas Gerais, and a performance over the 80m mark could be expected in Belém. Poland’s Szymon Ziółkowski, the 2000 Olympic Champion is also regaining form after a 75.95m SB in Uberlândia.

Maggi the crowd favourite

The only female Olympic Champion from Brazil, 32-year-old long jumper Maurren Maggi, will reappear in Belém after a convincing victory in Rio with 6.85m. At the “Cidade Maravilhosa” Maggi beat the 2009 world leader, American Brittney Reese, who has jumped 6.99m at the Super GP of Doha on 8 May. “I love competing in Belém,” said Maggi who holds the stadium record with 6.91m. “Like always happens here, I expect a filled stadium,” added the South American record holder.

Along with Reese (third in Rio with 6.70m) will be jumping her compatriot Grace Upshaw (6.80m this season), Brazilian Keila Costa (second in Rio with a SB of 6.78m), and Cuban Yargelis Savigne, the Triple Jump world leader, who was fourth in Rio with an SB of 6.59m.

Vili to close a very positive Brazilian expedition

The series of Brazilian meets has been very productive for New Zealand’s Valerie Vili. Rio witnessed a new Oceania Shot Put record of 20.69m, while Uberlândia saw a mark of 20.40m which equals the fourth all-time-best for the 2007 World champion and 2008 Olympic champion.

Natallia Mikhnevich from Belarus, second to Vili at the Beijing Games, moved to the number 2 spot on the 2009 2orld lists with her 20.03m performance from Uberlândia. Cubans Misleidys González and Mailín Vargas (sixth and ninth respectively on the world lists this year) will also be part of a high quality field.

Cuban Javelin thrower Osleidys Menéndez also seems to be finding her form in Brazil. A victory in Rio with a SB of 62.74m, followed by a 61.52m second place in Uberlândia, are promising signs for the former World record holder, who in Minas Gerais was beaten by Romanian Monica Stoian (SB of 61.88m). Twenty-one year-old Cuban Yanet Cruz, who threw 62.90m to win in Fortaleza, will also be present in Belém.

The Discus Throw also looks promising. Beijing silver medallist, Cuban Yarelis Barrios comes to Belém from a SB – and victory – of 63.45m in Uberlândia. Barrios, fourth on the 2009 world lists, will have two important rivals in Romanian Nicoleta Grasu and fellow Cuban Yarisley Collado.

Grasu, the 1999 World championships bronze medallist and 2001 silver winner, won in Rio with a 63.06m effort. The 37 years-old Romanian set an SB in Uberlândia with 63.34m.

Collado is currently second on the 2009 world list after her 64.10m mark obtained in Fortaleza.

Belém will be sort of a tie-break meet for them, after one victory apiece on Brazilian soil by Barrios, Collado and Grasu.

The men’s 100m should also be a good event. American Mike Rodgers, winner in Rio and Uberlândia, both times with his SB of 10.08, will face Antigua and Barbuda’s Daniel Bailey who comes from setting an NR of 10.02 in Kingston on 2 May. This will be a debut for Bailey in Brazil. Rodgers has a PB of 10.06 (2008), and wasn’t initially scheduled for Belém. “I decided to stay because I feel I can ran somewhere around 10.05,” Rodgers said.

Tosta added to line-up

American Sheena Tosta, the 400m Hurdles silver medallist at the 2008 Olympic Games, was a late confirmation by the organisers. Tosta is also the second fastest in the world thus far this year after her 54.64 victory in Osaka on 9 May. Trinidad & Tobago’s Josanne Lucas, winner in Rio with an SB of 55.84 will be Tosta’s main rival.

The other events to be contested in Belém are - Men: 200m, 1500m, 10,000m, 110m Hurdles, 400m Hurdles and High Jump. Women: 100m, 200m, 400m and Pole Vault.

The first edition of the Brazilian GP took place in São Paulo, in 1985. The Paulista capital was the venue of the GP until 1995. Rio took over from 1996 to 2001, and then, Belém has become its home. Throughout the past 24 editions, names such as Sergey Bubka, Michael Johnson, Donovan Bailey, Javier Sotomayor, Maria Mutola, Noureddine Morceli, Saïd Aouita, and Jan Zelezny – to name but a few – have given prestige to this already classic event in the IAAF GP calendar.

Eduardo Biscayart for the IAAF

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