Track fans are in for a smorgasbord of treats as the Prefontaine Classic will have no shortage of stars from the recent Tokyo Olympics.
With all of the fields set, no less than 47 medalists from Tokyo who combined to earn 62 medals will be back in their first major competition since the Olympics as the Wanda Diamond League kicks back into action.
The Pre Classic begins Friday night at 8 p.m. Pacific Time with a distance-special session followed by Saturday’s main session that begins just after 12:00 noon. For many athletes, it will be a first look at the re-imagined Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus that will also serve as host of next year’s World Championships.
Gold medalists from Tokyo will be very prevalent at the Pre Classic with no less than 22 who combined for 26 gold medals. These include 14 individual gold medalists from Tokyo.
No one won more track & field gold in Tokyo than Elaine Thompson-Herah, a triple gold medalist in the 100 and 200 meters as well as in the 4 x 100 relay. She leads a Jamaican 1-2-3 sweep who will be challenged in the 100 by American champ Sha’Carri Richardson, who missed Tokyo.
Richardson intends to double back in the 200 in a field including Allyson Felix, the most decorated American in the Olympic history with 11 medals, two from Tokyo. This will be the 10th Pre Classic for Felix.
Double gold medalist Sifan Hassan will take aim at the world record in the 5000 meters, the concluding event on Friday night. She ran six races in Tokyo, earning gold in the 5000 and 10,000 as well as bronze in the 1500.
Teenage sensation Athing Mu is another double gold medalist. The 19-year-old became the first American woman to win the Olympic 800 in 50 years with her Tokyo victory. Her time of 1:55.21 broke the American record and she followed that by anchoring the winning 4 x 400 team in a blazing 48.32 split.
The men’s shot put has all three Tokyo medalists, led by Oregon native Ryan Crouser, who set the world record of 76-8¼ (23.37) in his last visit to Hayward Field at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in June. He has a 20-meet winning streak, taking all but one by over 2 feet (61 cm).
An exciting women’s steeplechase also has all three Tokyo medalists. Peruth Chemutai won Uganda’s first gold by a woman in any sport at the Olympics by overtaking American Courtney Frerichs, who nearly ran away with the race. Bronze medalist Hyven Kiyeng ran her fastest race at 9:00.01 in winning the 2016 Pre Classic.
The men’s 2-mile has all three Tokyo medalists in two events as Joshua Cheptegei, the 5k champ, will duel again with Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega, who won the 10k over Cheptegei, who owns the world record in both the 5k and 10k. Everyone from the podium’s 5k and 10k medalists will meet together for the first time this year.
The Bowerman Mile will have its traditional spot as the meet’s final event and feature 20-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who smashed the Olympic record in the 1500 at 3:28.32 over Timothy Cheruiyot, who will return as the two-time defending winner of the Bowerman Mile. American Matthew Centrowitz, an Oregon grad who won the 2016 Olympics, is among the stellar field.
There are two more 1-2 finishes from Tokyo set for rematches at the Pre Classic – Emmanuel Kipkurui Korir led a Kenyan 1-2 in the men’s 800 over Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotch, and Faith Kipyegon won the 1500 in an Olympic record 3:53.11 over British record setter Laura Muir.
Katie Nageotte came from behind to win the thrilling women’s pole vault in Tokyo. She has attempted to break the American record four times this year and owns the Hayward Field record of 16-2¾ (4.95).
Pedro Pablo Pichardo joined the triple jump’s 59-foot club on the nose with his 59-0 (17.98) victory in Tokyo. Bronze medalist Hugues Fabrice Zango has the year’s farthest jump, an indoor 59-3½ (18.07).
All three medalists in the men’s 200 meters will be in action, but gold medalist Andre De Grasse will concentrate in a loaded 100, where he earned bronze. The 200 is similarly loaded with five Tokyo medalists – a collection that includes Rai Benjamin, who set an American record 46.17 in the 400-meter hurdles.
Perhaps the greatest athlete in the meet will be Nafissatou Thiam, who joined Jackie Joyner-Kersee as the only woman to win the Olympic heptathlon twice. The Belgian will compete in the women’s high jump, one of her best individual events with a PR of 6-7½ (2.02). This will be Thiam’s first-ever competition in the U.S.
Tickets for the 46th edition of the Prefontaine Classic, to be held August 20-21 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., are available at GoDucks.com.