30 May, 2018

Golden Gala stars set to a great athletics night

Press conference with Christian Coleman, Ronnie Baker, Marie-Josée Ta Lou, Emma Coburn, Sandra Perkovic, Mariya Lasitskene, Karsten Warholm, Sam Kendricks, Luvo Manyonga, Jeff Henderson, Alessia Trost, Filippo Tortu, Marcell Jacobs.

Diego Sampaolo

Rome is ready for the fourth leg of the IAAF Diamond League and the first meeting of the circuit on European soil. Some of the beiggest stars of the Rome meeting had the chance to talk to the media represetatives from all over the world during the press conference on the eve of the Golden Gala. More than 80 Olympic, world and European medallists are set to another great athletics night in the historic Rome Olympic Stadium.

Meeting Director Luigi D’Onofrio: “The 38th edition of the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea” will live up to the tradition of our meeting. We invited 250 athletes from 51 countries. We are happy that there will be many Italian athletes in the competition. During the afternoon the traditional promotional event called Palio dei Comuni will involve municipalities from all parts of Italy. The Golden Gala is the first European leg of the Diamond League but we will also celebrate an event for all ages and categories with youth, masters and paralyimic competitions. We expect that about 30000 spectators will attend the Golden Gala in the Olympic Stadium. The day before the meeting a delegation of athletes including Chris Coleman, Dawn Harper Nelson, Jeff Henderson, Alessia Trost and Filippo Tortu was received by the Pope at the Vatican City”

Emma Coburn is set to run her first 3000 metres race of the season in Rome against Shanghai DL winner Beatrice Chepkoech and 2015 World Champion Hyvin Kyeng.

“Rome is my outdoor season opener. I trained for six weeks at home in Colorado and I had a great preparation. It will be my first time in Rome and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s race.

The queen of women’s discus Sandra Perkovic is aiming to break the long standing meeting record of 68.90m set by Tsvetanka Khristova in 1986.

“I started my season with a DL record of 71.38m in Doha. I worked hard in training with the goal to improve the meeting record or throw even further” , said Perkovic.

Mariya Lasitskene is looking to win her 40th consecutive competition tomorrow and join Blanka Vlasic as the high jumper with more wins in the Diamond League in her discipline. If she wins tomorrow, it would be her 14th DL victory.

“I am not focused on the world record, but I want to set my personal best and make everyone happy in the Olympic Stadium tomorrow. I always enjoy competing in Rome. I love this city. Shanghai was a difficul competition because it rained a lot. My debut in China was just a “training”  competition and I hope tomorrow. I am happy that Nafissatou Thiam jumped 2.01 in Goetzis. It’s important to compete against the best athletes in the world, because it allows to do my job in the best possible way. I am looking forward to competing against Thiam in Paris on 30th June. This year my goal is Berlin. I have never been European champion”, said Lasitskene.

Lasitskene will face Italian star Alessia Trost, who will start her outdoor season in Rome after winning the world indoor bronze medal in Birmingham last March.

“It’s my first competition of the outdoor seaosn. I trained very well and I am looking forward to tomorrow. Today we were received by the Holy Father for the Wednesday Hearing and we havd the chance to shake him the hand and give him a shirt of the national team. It was a very nice meeting. The Pope is a good personality. It was very moving. We can say that we had an intimate exchange with the Holy Father ”

Karsten Warholm will run for the first time in Rome after a sensational 2017 season in which he won the 400 metres hurdles  world title in London. He will face world seasonal leader Abderrahmane Samba, Olympic champion Kerron Clement and European champion Yasmani Copello.

“It’s my first competition of the year and I am nervous. I am looking forward to compete against great athletes and run as fast as I can”

World pole vault champion Sam Kendricks will compete for the first time in the Rome Olympic Stadium in one of the best events of the meeting, as it features Olympic champion Thiago Braz and world silver medallist Piotr Lisek.

“I tested the ruway as I needed to have the experience but I also wanted to take the opportunity to visit the city as a tourist. My rival and friend Thiago Braz trains in Italy and has already competed in this meeting. At the moment in pole vault there are four different world champions and two different olympic champions from three different generations, all competing at the same time with the capacity to win every time they compete together. We want to win, but at the same time we want to push each other. Even in a year without global championships the Road to the DL Finali s my main goal. When I started competing in the circuit people looked me strange, when I cheered on my rivals. I consider myself a student of my sport and I have always been used to respect my rivals  since the times of college competitions. It’s very important to have a good relationship to my rivals”, said Sam Kendricks.

World champion Luvo Manyonga and Olympic gold medallist Jeff Henderson will be in the spotlight in a star-studded long jump competition.

Manyonga set the world seasonal best with 8.56m despite rainy conditions in the Shanghai Diamond League meeting on 12th June.

“I showed that I can jump in every condition. Chinese long jumper pushed me. I want to defend my DL title and win the Continental Cup”, said Manyonga.

Henderson is looking forward to bounce back from a difficult 2017 season ruined by injuries.

“I had a nagging year in 2017. I was hurt. This is my first time in Rome. I am expecting great things from Rome and I want to eat good food and have a good competition”.

The 100 metres sprint race featuring Chris Coleman, Ronnie Baker and Italian rising stars Filippo Tortu and Marcel Jacobs will grab the headlines tomorrow evening on the track where Usian Bolt and Justin Gatlin won in the past.

Baker beat Coleman last Saturday in Eugene in a wind assisted 9.78. Coleman, who won the world indoor title in the 60m in Birmingham last March,

“Everyone wants to win and not to be the second. We push each other and this makes us work harder. With our competition we pus hour sport forward. I have always looked up to Usain Bolt when I was growing up. It’s a humbling experience to see my name in the same conversation with such big stars like Usain Bolt. It was a big day for me to meet the Pope. I took a lot of pictures and It was something I will always remember. I went to Our Lady of Mercy High School in Fayetteville”, said Coleman

Ronnie Baker will compete for the second consecutive year in Rome. The former NCAA outdoor and indoor champion started his athletics career running over longer distances before turning his attention to sprint.

“A long time ago I actually started with cross country. I started my career in Kentucky with the 400 metres and I reduced the distance. I had great results in 2016. Tyson Gay was my model even before I knew that he was my distant relative. it’s a real blessing to be in the same conversation with Usain Bolt. At the beginning Bolt was not really my role model as I ran the 400 metres at the Christian University. My first role model was Michael Johnson.  For me it’s an honour to sit in the same place where great stars like Boltwas sitting. I am excited about tomorrow’s race and I have a great respect for Chris Coleman. It’s important to compete against great athletes. ”.

The focus of Italian fans wlll be on Italian stars Filippo Tortu and Marcel Jacobs,

Tortu narrowly missed Pietro Mennea’s 10.01 Italian record with a sensational 10.03 clocking in Savona beating Marcel Jacobs, who also smashed his PB with 10.08.

“I would settle with a personal best. In Savona we had very good weather conditions and the track was very fast. I would like to repplicate this time as much as possible. At the start of the season my coach and father Salvino and I decided to focus on the 100 metres but I will take part in some 200 metres in Mannheim and Montecarlo. We will wait to see what happens in the European Championships this summer. The 200 metres will maybe become my main event in the future.”, said Tortu.

Tortu felt emotional when he talked about Pope Francis and his meeting with a delegation of athletes  in the Vatican City.

The meeting this morning was really emotional for me. I managed to shake hands with the most important person in the world”.

Marcel Jacobs, who was born in el Paso to an Italian mother and a Texan father, is looking forward to running against sprinters he has always seen as role models.

“It’s an honour  to be sitting with two, maybe three great champions.. Last year I was just able to watch them on Tv  sitting on my sofa”, said Jacobs.

Marie Josée Ta Lou, is the silver lady of world sprint after finishing second in the 100m and 200 metres at the World Championships in London nd in the 60 metres at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham 2018.

“I will run my second 200 metres of the season. It’s my second time in Rome and I hope to  improve  my 22.58 clocking in Shanghai. I world very hard on start, strength and endurance. This year I managed to run fast time at the start of the season-”

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