You can expect to see very quick performances at the Sydney Track Classic and IAAF Melbourne World Challenge next month, with Athletics Australia today thrilled to confirm the start of world champions David Oliver (USA, 110m hurdles) and LaShawn Merritt (USA, 400m), as well as Moscow 2013 100m finalist Mike Rodgers (USA).
Set to join Australian speedsters including Olympic champion Sally Pearson (Qld) and men’s 4x400m relay starters Alex Beck (Qld), Tristan Thomas (Tas) and Craig Burns (Qld), the trio bring with them no less than three Olympic medals, including two gold, nine IAAF World Championships medals and 26 wins as part of the IAAF Golden or Diamond Leagues.
A winner on nine occasions across the course of his 2013 season, including at IAAF Diamond League events in Lausanne (SUI), London (GBR), Stockholm (SWE) and Zurich (SUI), Oliver was selected to Team USA for the IAAF World Championships when he crossed second at the US Trials in Des Moines.
Lining up in the men’s 110m hurdles final after a heat win (13.05) and second in his semi-final (13.18), Oliver blitzed the field in the round-of-eight to clock a season best 13.00 (w: +0.3) and win his first major championship crown.
Oliver will later this month compete at the US Trials for the IAAF World Indoor Championships. If selected, the 31-year-old will look to improve on his 2010 bronze medal before heading Down Under to compete against a developing crop of Australian sprint hurdlers including Sam Baines (Vic), who last weekend ran 13.84 to achieve his first Commonwealth Games ‘B’ Standard, national champion JustinMerlino (NSW) and IAAF World Junior Championships silver medallist Nick Hough (NSW).
“Australia is one of my favourite destinations, and I am pumped to get back out there again,” Oliver said.
“I had the chance to run in Melbourne and Sydney back in 2009 and it was great. The exciting thing for me is that this time I’m coming out as the world champion and I hope to take the Aussie contingent to qualifiers for the Commonwealth Games when we race. I want to test them, and make sure they are on form ahead of the Australian Trials.”
Merritt’s start on the east coast will follow an initial appearance at the Go for 2&5 Perth Track Classic on Saturday 22 February.
His international resume is impressive, with the 27-year-old a winner of eleven medals, including eight gold, in the 400m and 4x400m relay at either the Olympic Games or IAAF World Championships.
In Moscow (RUS) last August, Merritt stopped the clock at 43.74 to regain the world title that he won for the first time at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin (GER) in 2009 and to improve on his silver from Daegu (KOR) two years earlier. His performance made him the fifth fastest man in history and one of only ten men to break the magical 44-second barrier in the one-lap race, with his broader 2013 season including four Diamond League victories and nine of the top-20 fastest times.
Boasting a personal best of 9.85, Rodgers rounds out the speed contingent of track stars scheduled to compete as part of the Australian Athletics Tour.
He was sixth placed in the men’s 100m final and won silver with the his 4x100m relay teammates at the IAAF World Championships last year, and in 2010 he won silver in the 60m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in 2010.
“It will be my first time in Australia. I’ve heard so much about it from other athletes and I am looking forward to getting some sun on my back after a cold old winter in the USA and Europe,” Rodgers said.
“2013 was in many ways my best year. I was consistent and come the close of the calendar was ranked No.3 in the world. I know that sprinting requires patience and I feel that my very best years are still in front of me. I am consistently running under 10 seconds and firmly believe that I have a date with my destiny in 2016.”
The Sydney Track Classic is the second instalment of the Australian Athletics Tour on Saturday 15 March.
The IAAF Melbourne World Challenge is the first of a 15-meet series held across the globe, with Australia and the world’s best athletes set to compete at Lakeside Stadium on Saturday 22 March.
For more information on the National Athletics Series, incorporating the Australian Athletics Tour, please click here.