Lyles: “Tomorrow I am going to shock the world!”
Sprint stars Noah Lyles, Michael Norman, Ramil Guliyev and Filippo Tortu met the media representatives from all over the world on Wednesday ahead of the most eagerly anticipated race of the 39th edition of the Golden Gala dedicated to Italian sprint legend Pietro Mennea, who won the 200m in the inaugural edition of the Rome meeting in 1980 a few days after his olympic triumph in Moscow 1980.
Noah Lyles, who won the past two editions of the IAAF Diamond League in the 200 metres in 2017 and 2018, got off to a flying start by winning his first 100 metres race of the Diamond League season in Shanghai in his PB of 9.86. In the Chinese city Lyles beat last year’s Diamond League 100m winner Christian Coleman in a very close race into the finish-line”
Noah Lyles: “To be honest I was really shocked by the Shanghai win. I was going to win the race and I was surprised to run 9.86. Tomorrow I am going to shock the world ! This year I am focusing on the 200 metres at the IAAF World Championships. I will meet Filippo Tortu tomorrow. When I beat him three years ago at the World Under 20 Championships, I expected Jamaican rivals to compete at my level and I was surprised to see an Italian sprinter finish second. Since 2016 I have improved my running technique. I am looking forward to seeing what I can achieve tomorrow in my first 200m of the season”.
Lyles will run against Michael Norman in their second Diamond League head-to-head clash. Last year Lyles beat Norman in Lausanne in 19.69 to 19.88. Norman will run his second 200 metres of the season after equalling his PB with 19.84 in Osaka. In his Diamond League debut this season the 2018 NCAA 400m champion won the one-lap event in Stockolm in 44.53 in chilly weather conditions.
Michael Norman: “It’s exciting to run against such a great field in very good weather conditions. Everything is going well after my seasonal best times of 43.45 in the 400m and 19.84 in the 200m”.
Filippo Tortu, the first Italian sprinter in history to break the magic 10 seconds barrier with 9.99 in Madrid last year, will make his third appearance in front of the Rome crowd. The Italian star set his 200m PB clocking 20.34 two years ago. Last year he finished third in the 100m in 10.04. He clocked a wind-assisted 9.97 in Rieti on 24th May.
Filippo Tortu: “Rome is the best opportunity to run my first 200 metres since 2017. I have a good relationship to Rome. Every year I face stronger rivals. I will meet again Noah Lyles who beat me at the World Under 20 Championships three years ago. Since then he has achieved great results. I remember his back. I hope I will see his back from a closer distance. Tomorrow’s race will be an important test in the build-up to the World Championships in Doha. It’s going to be a great race and I am very optimistic that I will be able to show my full potential. I am dreaming a great time in front of the President of Italian Republic. It will be a big honour to run in front of him. The Golden Gala will be a great showcase for all Italian athletes. This is the highest level competition in my career. I want to run against the best sprinters in the world. Lyles is the favourite, but Norman also clocked world-class times. Gulyev is the world champion. In the 200m I need more than a race to reach perfection. I expect to run a very fast bend.”
Reigning world and European champion Ramil Guliyev started his Diamond League season with 19.99 in Doha and expects to run even faster tomorrow in the Eternal city.
Ramil Guliyev: “If weather conditions are good, I think I can run 19.80 or even faster. I want to enjoy the race. After Doha I trained for 20 days to prepare for Rome”.
The best international stars gathered at the Sheraton Hotel in Rome for the traditional press conference on the eve of the 39th edition of the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea, the fourth leg of the 2019 IAAF Diamond League, which celebrates its anniversary. No less than 130 olympic and world medallists are set to shine in the historic Rome Olympic Stadium. Italian Athletics Federation Alfio Giomi and Golden Gala Pietro Mennea Meeting Director Luigi D’Onofrio provied the latest details on tomorrow’s Italian major meeting.
Alfio Giomi: “It’s an honour to host such an important meeting. For the first time the President of Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella will attend the Golden Gala. The interest for athletics in Italy has grown compared to the previous editions. We expect a full stadium, according to the setting for athletics with 42000 spectators. We hope to enjoy a great atmosphere and feel the passion and the enthusiasm of our fans, who support all the athletes. This is an important goal we want to achieve. Looking ahead at the future editions, we are planning to move the Golden Gala to Milan in 2020 and probably in 2021. One reason is that the Olympic Stadium will not be available in 2020 because of the Football European Championships, but we also want to renew the athletics tradition in Milan. We are planning to have the Golden Gala in Rome and a great athletics meeting in Milan in 2022. We are proud of young Italian athletes and 14 Italian athletes will compete tomorrow in Rome. There is a new generation of Italian athletes and we want to express our gratitude for their results. We are planning our bid to host the 2024 European athletics Championships in Rome”.
Luigi D’Onofrio: “All organizational activities are going ahead in the best possible way. I am happy to confirm that all the previously announced athletes are confirmed for tomorrow’s meeting. All competitions are at the highest level with the best athletes in the world. We are focusing on some events like the 200m with Filippo Tortu and the high jump with Gianmarco Tamberi”.
The women’s 100 metres is set to be one of the highlights with three-time European champion Dina Asher Smith, double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson and double world silver medallist Marie Josée Ta Lou.
Dina Asher Smith will run her first 100m race this season after winning the 200m in Doha in 22.26 and in Stockolm in 22.18.
Dina Asher Smith:
“I did not expect such a great time in Stockolm in chilly weather conditions. It was my fastest time ever on debut. I am looking forward to running for the first time in my career in Rome. I spent a holiday in Rome in 2017 an dI have already visited the Colosseum and the Fountain of Trevi. I am graduated in history at the King’s College in London it was fascinating to visit such historic monuments. Rome is one my favourite cities”.
Marie Josée Ta Lou: “I will make my debut this outdoor season and I am excited to run in Rome for the third time after finishing second in the 100m in 2017 and first in the 100m in 2018. I am curious to see what I can achieve and I hope to be as fast as last year”.
Middle-distance races have always been one of the highlights of the Golden Gala and this year the women’s 1500 metres race is expected to live to the proud tradition of the Rome meeting. European indoor and outdoor champion Laura Muir will face world record holder Genzebe Dibaba and Gudaf Tsegay in a fast race, where the 4 minute barrier could be broken.
Laura Muir: “I ran in Rome in 2015 and I enjoyed the atmosphere and the great track. I will face a very competive race and I hope that more than one athlete can break the 4 minutes barrier. I am very happy with my indoor season and the two European Indoor gold medals I won in Glasgow in front of my home fans”.
Reigning European Indoor champion Gianmarco Tamberi carries the best hopes to win in front of home fans in the men’s high jump.
Gianmarco Tamberi: “Competing in front of Italian fans pushes me further. This is one of my favourite competitions. I am looking forward to it and I know that people are expecting something from me. I am in good shape, so I am ready. People think that I am running the show, but the crowd are there and they are having fun. We make the show together. That’s the secret to my way of competing. I want eevryone to participate in it. When I jump, I feel like everybody is jumping together. I will make my seasonal debut in Rome. I was planning to compete in Shanghai and Nanjing but I postponed my debut because of a very small problem in my foot. I am in better conditions than during the indoor season. I don’t know if I will be able to make my best jump tomorrow or in next competions in Rabat and Opole but I am very close to my perfect jump. I jumped 2.39m in 2016 and this gives me the motivation to improve the best result I achieved before the injury”.
In the women’s field events the pole vault features the eagely anticipated clash between 5 metres jumper Sandi Morris and olympic, world and European champion Katerina Stefanidi (winner in the past two pole vault competitions held in Rome and three-time Diamond League champion).
Katerina Stefanidi: “I have already won in Rome twice and I hope to achieve my third win here. Good things come in threes. I feel at home in Rome. There is a great stadium and the spectators are fantastic. It is like competing in front of a Greek crowd. Italian crowd remind me of Greek crowd. My country is in close proximity to Italy, but I have always found that the crowd here really get behind the Greek athletes. We truly have one of the best fields tomorrow. We are going to put on a show so we can take some of the crowd away from the men’s high jump”.
Sandi Morris: “The competion is as good as you can get. Myself and Katerini have been going back and forth for a number of years. We always push each other. I am excited for tomorrow. You never know what’s going to happen. There are many athletes, who can jump 5 metres, but it’s unlikely that this barrier will be broken tomorrow. To achieve this goal we need the best conditions and the right period of the year. The most ideal place is at the World Championships. They are later in the season. I will take this competition to try out some changes and I am trying new poles. We are always trying to be ready for a bid competition and perfom well, but at the same time changes are difficult to make. I am looking forward to doing that, because I have felt really good in practice on some new poles and I will have a lot of adrenaline and a great atmosphere to help me do so. Each and everyone of us has a personal battle to fight. Outside the pole vault I have a passion for animals. I have three snakes”.
The most decorated long jumper Brittney Reese (2012 Olympic champion and four-time world gold medallist) will clash reigning Olympic triple jump champion and 2018 long and triple jump champion Caterine Ibarguen and reigning world and European Indoor champion Ivana Spanovic in one of the best ever women’s long jump competitions ever assembled in Rome.
Brittney Reese: “It’s going to be a great long jump competition. It’s like a world championships final. I have not competed in the Diamond League for a long time and I am really excited. Watching the Diamond League was tough. Last year I chose to compete sparingly in a down year to take a rest ahead of two important years with the World Championships and the Olympic Games. This year I jumped over 7 metres in practice and in a competition with illegal wind”
Rai Benjamin will run his first 400m hurdles race in the Diamond League on European soil after clocking 47.80 in his Diamond League debut in Shanghai behind last year’s Rome Golden Gala winner Abderrahame Samba last May. Benjamin equalled the third fastest time in history held by Edwin Moses by clocking 47.02 at the 2018 NCAA FInals in Eugene last year. Moses has held the stadium record with 47.37 since the 1981 IAAF World
Cup in Rome. The Golden Gala record was set by Abderrahmane Samba with 47.48 in 2018.
Rai Benjamin: “I want to run with less pressure than in my first race in Shanghai, where I clocked 47.80 in my first race over this distance for 11 months. I have to improve some technical aspects especially in the ninth hurdle. I am not aiming at breaking the meeting record. My parents come from Antigua and I was born in New York. I have the double citizenship, but the best solution was to represent the USA. It’s a great period for the 400m hurdles and I think the world record could be broken before the World Championships in Doha. I will face Samba in Stanford on 30 June and the conditions there will be perfect with a lot of sun.”
by Diego Sampaolo