In a first-ever showdown on American soil, the last five No. 1 world-ranked high hurdlers will go head-to-head at the 2017 Prefontaine Classic. The all-star quintet includes the last two Olympic Champions, the last two World Champions and the World Record Holder, all of whom have dipped under the 13-second barrier in their careers.
For their accomplishments, each of the five has ranked No. 1 in the world at least once by Track & Field News.
Omar McLeod, who will turn 23 on April 25, won Jamaica’s first Olympic gold medal in this event last year in Rio and similarly became the first from his country to rank No. 1 in the event by T&FN. He was dominant in last year’s Pre Classic, winning by over 3 meters in 13.06, his fastest time in the U.S. A year earlier, he captured his final NCAA title in a wind-aided 13.01 for Arkansas at Hayward Field then took the Jamaican crown with a national record 12.97, still the only sub-13 run in Jamaica.
McLeod’s speed is clearly one of his best assets. Last April he clocked a 9.99 in his first known 100-meter race, becoming history’s only man to break both the 10-second (100) and 13-second (110 hurdles) barriers. He won last year’s World Indoor Championships 60 hurdles in Portland in a Jamaican record 7.41.
World record holder Aries Merritt, 31, has displayed gold-medal form on and off the track. He won the U.S. indoor 60 hurdle title in Albuquerque this winter for his first U.S. crown since 2012, the only other year he has won a U.S. championship.
That year saw Merritt go global in a way any athlete could dream of. After a wind-aided 12.96 for 2nd at the Pre Classic to China’s Liu Xiang (12.87w), Merritt never lost the rest of the season. He PRed twice in winning the U.S. Olympic Trials, then again in London to become the first American in 16 years to win the Olympic gold. He closed out the season with fireworks, running 12.80 at the Diamond League final to set a world record that has yet to be challenged.
Times became tough since, especially in 2015. He earned bronze in Beijing at the World Championships in 13.04 – his fastest since his world record. Merritt achieved it knowing that in four days hope loomed, as he would receive a new kidney to replace one that had become damaged from a rare disease. The donor was his older sister, LaToya. He missed making the U.S. Olympic team last summer, 4th by just millimeters.
Sergey Shubenkov, 26, is the defending world champion from Beijing in 2015 and ranked No. 1 in the world by T&FN that year. He ran a lifetime best and Russian record 12.98 to win the World Champions. Shubenkov has competed at the Pre Classic three times, finishing 5th in 2015 and 2014 and 6th in 2013. He earned Russia’s first major medal in this event in 2013 with a bronze at the Moscow World Championships. Raised in Siberia, Shubenkov comes from an athletic family. His mother, Natalya Shubenkova, finished 4th in the heptathlon at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
American David Oliver, who will turn 35 on April 24, is the only two-time No. 1 T&FN world ranker in the field, having earned such distinctions in 2013 and 2010. He owns the two fastest times at the Pre Classic with victories in 2010 (12.90—an American Record at the time) and 2011 (12.94). His 12.90 remains the fastest recorded by anyone on U.S. soil.
This will mark the 10th appearance for Oliver in the Pre Classic, where he has finished no lower than 3rd in his four previous trips. Oliver was the 2013 world champion, bronze medalist in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and is the only hurdler to be ranked among the world’s Top 10 by T&FN since 2006. A three-time Diamond League Trophy winner, he was favored to make last year’s U.S. Olympic team until a hamstring injury kept him from running the final.
France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, 25, also has a pair of Pre Classic victories, winning in 2014 and 2015 in his only races at Hayward Field. He is the French record holder at 12.95 and in 2014 he earned both the Diamond League trophy as well as his country’s first No. 1 world ranking by T&FN in this event since 2005. He is the only French Pre Classic winner in this event since the first edition was captured by Guy Drut in 1975, a year before winning gold at the Montreal Olympics.
Dimitri Bascou, 29, earned the Olympic bronze medal last year, the best by a Frenchman in this event since Drut’s 1976 gold. He also won European gold last year, the first for his country since 1986. This will be Bascou’s first Pre Classic and first competition in the U.S. since earning bronze in the 60 hurdles at the World Indoor Championships last year in Portland.
Great Britain’s Andrew Pozzi will turn 25 on May 15. He capped an undefeated indoor season in the 60 hurdles with a European Indoor gold. At 7.43 indoors, he is the fastest Briton since Colin Jackson, who still owns the world record at 7.30. His outdoor best of 13.19 rates him No. 4 all-time among Britons.
A lane is still to be filled, and meet organizers hope it will be filled by Devon Allen, the 22-year-old Oregon star who twice swept NCAA and USATF titles. After a 5th in last year’s Olympics, he incurred his second football-related injury in September in the Ducks’ third game at Nebraska. He is now back in training, but only for the hurdles. His best of 13.03 – set last July at Hayward Field to win the U.S. Olympic Trials – is the fastest by an American on U.S. soil since 2014.
Men’s 110-Meter Hurdles Personal Best
Aries Merritt (USA) 12.80
David Oliver (USA) 12.89
Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (France) 12.95
Omar McLeod (Jamaica) 12.97
Sergey Shubenkov (Russia) 12.98
Dimitri Bascou (France) 13.12
Andrew Pozzi (Great Britain) 13.19
Fans can follow the event lineups as all announced fields are posted at PreClassic.com. The direct link to current start/entry lists is HERE and will include updates to all announced fields.
Tickets for the 43rd annual edition of the Prefontaine Classic, to be held May 26-27 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., are available now at www.GoDucks.com as well as from 1-800-WEBFOOT. Sponsored by NIKE continuously since 1984, the Prefontaine Classic will be shown live to an international audience by NBC.