07 June, 2017

Golden Gala: the stars are ready to shine in Rome

The Golden Gala Pietro Mennea will celebrate its 37th edition in the historic Rome Olympic Stadium tomorrow evening. The Rome meeting promises to live up to its glorious tradition with a parade of stars. More than 100 Olympic, World and European medallists will take part on the track of the Olympic Stadium.

In the first half of the traditional press conference on the eve of the fourth leg of the IAAF Diamond League the FIDAL President Alfio Giomi talked about his expectations for tomorrow’s meeting.

“The Golden Gala is a one-day meeting but also the highlight of six busy days of athletics in the Park of the Foro Italico. The Runfest promotional activities have shown the many social aspects of our sport. The meeting will celebrate its 37th edition and the 30th anniversary of the IAAF World Championships in Rome. The Olympic Stadium was the arena where Livio Berruti won the 200m Olympic Stadium. Tomorrow we are looking forward to the race of Filippo Tortu, who will face two Olympic medallists in his debut on the big stage. His classmates will be in Rome to attend his race. We have invited 50 young people from Amatrice, which was hit by the tragic earthquake. They will be in the Olympic Stadium to attend the meeting. We thank the Fiamme Gialle, which will host them in Castelporziano. The Bruno Zauli Award will be presented to European and World Indoor champion Gianmarco Tamberi and judo Olympic gold medallist Fabio Basile”.

Luigi D’Onofrio provided the final technical details of tomorow’s meeting.

“The Golden Gala is the diamond even of Italian athletics, but i salso the first European leg of the IAAF Diamond League. Athletes from 55 countries and from all continents will compete in Rome. The meeting will live up to the level of the past editions. Unfortunately two top athletes had to pull out of the meeting. The field events will feature nearly all the medallists of the Olympic Games in Rio. One of the highlights will be the 200m where Filippo Tortu will face two Olympic medallists André De Grasse and Christophe Lemaitre and last year’s Diamond League winner Alonso Edward. In the women’s 5000 metres Genzebe Dibaba and Hellen Obiri will try to set the fastest time in the world this year. The turn-out will be quite at the same level as last year. The Tribuna Tevere is nearly sold-out. For this reason we have decided to offer tickets for the most expensive sectors of the stadium at a discounted prize”

Filippo Tortu will make his debut in an individual race in the Golden Gala in what is expected to be one of the highlights for Italian fans.

“It’s an emotional feeling to run in Rome, as I will have the chance to run against top athletes. I will try to run close to them. I will run my first 200m race since 2015: I have had a very good training and I am really confident. I will try to run as fast as possible. The goal is to run under 20.50 and reach the qualifying standard for the World Championships in London. I ran the Italian Under 20 record in Savona for two consecutive years. It’s a lucky venue for me. I have always considered Andrew Howe’s 20.28 Italian Under 20 record as one of the greatest results in the history of Italian athletics. It would be a great result to come close to this record. I have been lucky to have had the chance to meet both Mennea and Berruti. I don’t feel pressure, but I feel a great joy to be compared to these great athletes”

Christophe Lemaitre will return to Rome where he competed many times. The European 200m record holder has one of the most popular stars among the Rome fans.

“I am really happy to be again in Rome. There is always a great atmosphere. It’s a pleasure to run in front of the fantastic Rome crowd. The conditions are excellent to run a good race. It would be nice to break Mennea’s European record but it’s not my priority.”

André De Grasse will run his first race in Rome. “I expect to execute my best race. It will be my debut in Rome. I am sure that there will be great crowd and I want to enjoy the race. After my three medals in Rio I am focusing on both the 100m and the 200m. I am working on the start but I will run over both distances in the build-up to the World Championships”

Dafne Schippers will run on the Olympic Stadium for the first time in her career. “It will be my first time in Rome. It’s a fantastic race. I will do my best to improve my seasonal best (10.95) after two races in the 200m in Doha and Eugene. I am working well with my new coach Rana Reider. I changed my training group but my preparation is going well.”

Another highlight of the meeting will be the women’s high jump in the stadium where Stefka Kostadinova broke the world record of 2.09 at the 1987 World Championships.

Alessia Trost will renew her rivalry in the high jump against world champion Mariya Kuchina Lasitskene. They competed for the first time at the 2009 World Under 18 Championships in Bressanone.

“We have known each other for many years since 2009. Kuchina has had a better career, but I have had some problems. I hope that the coach change will help me catch up with her in the future”

Mariya Kuchina Lasitskene will be looking to score her second Diamond League win of the season after jumping 2.03m in Eugene. The Russian has made her return to international competitions as neutral athlete.

“I will compete in Rome for the second time in my career. I had a difficult 2016 season. I was punished for mistakes made by other people. I hoped to compete in Rio, but when I realized that I had no chances to compete in Rio I focused on preparing in the best way for this season. Sprort is part of my life. I compete with joy. I hope to represent Russia in the future”

The women’s pole vault will reunite the entire podium of the Rio Olympic Games in the stadium where Yelena Isinbayeva set the world record in 2008.

Ekaterini Stefanidi: “After the great triumph in Rio 2016 I worked hard during the winter and I feel in better form than last year. I changed coach. I am now trained by my husband. I am now faster and fitter and I use bigger poles. I am in good form to jump higher than 4.90m tomorrow”

Sandi Morris: “I feel in good shape and I think that 4.90m will be needed to win tomorrow. I recently cleared 4.84m in Houston. It will be an interesting competition with the entire olympic podium. I think that a couple of girls will be able to jump 4.90m. My original plan was to jump with 4.60 poles but it will take time and I will use them next year. During the indoor season I had some ankle problems. I have to be strong where I was last year. I can jump 5 metres”.

Genzebe Dibaba will clash against Hellen Obiri in the 5000m , the final race of the programme

Genzebe Dibaba: “I have found good conditions this year. The track is fast. I think I will be able to run a good race. I don’t fear my rivals. My goal is to achieve a good time”

The men’s javelin is expected to be a battle over the 90 metres barrier. Olympic champion Thomas Rohler will be looking to win his second competition after throwing to 93.90m in Doha.

“I twill be another great competition tomorrow after becoming the second best performer of all-time with my 93.90m in Doha. I am looking forward to competing in Rome. It will be a high-level competition against the silver and bronze medallists of Rio. Jan Zelezny broke the world record in my home town Jena in 1996. I was too young at that time but my father was there and told me about this record. Now there is a totally different generation but it’s very special to train in the stadium where the world record was broken”.

Diego Sampaolo