Champions meet at Monaco
WILSON KIPKETER, arguably the most notable absentee from the Olympic Games, aims to steal the show from a galaxy of Atlanta medal winners with a world record at the Monaco grand prix tonight.
Kipketer, who missed the Atlanta Games because he has not yet been naturalised Danish and would not run for his native Kenya, is planning an assault on Sebastian Coe's 15 year old 800 metres record.
"We've never had such a plate," said meeting organiser Jean Pierre Schoebel. "It's a great satisfaction because it's our 10th anniversary. Now, we're dreaming of a cherry on the cake a (world) record."
Kipketer ran the fastest 800 metres for 11 years in nearby Nic last month, one minute 42.5 seconds, 0.07 seconds quicker than Norwegian Vebjoern Rodal's winning time at Atlanta.
The £1 million grand prix will give prizes of up to £30,000 for a world record and £1,500 for a meeting record.
The 800 metres is one of the few events at Monaco that does not boast Olympic champions and in many cases all three competitors who stood on the podium in their respective disciplines in Atlanta are taking part here.
Algerian Noureddine Morceli, who won the Olympic 1,500 metres in a slow three minutes 35.78, could feel inspired to better his world record of 3:27.37 set at Nice 13 months ago. He will be racing the man he deposed as Olympic champion, silver medal winner Fermin Cacho of Spain.
The late withdrawal of two Olympic silver medal winners, Jamaican Merlene Ottey and Frankie Fredericks of Namibia has done little to diminish the attraction of the Herculis grand prix at Monte Carlo's Louis II stadium. Ottey strained a leg muscle at the midweek Sestriere meeting while Fredericks gave no reason for his withdrawal, organisers said.
But the men's and women's 10 metres are still bulging with Olympic metal. Canadian Donovan Bailey, Olympic and world champion and world record holder, races against Ato Boldon of Trinidad and American Dennis Mitchell, who were third and fourth at Atlanta. Linford Christie, having run and lost to Bailey's compatriot Bruny Surin at Sestriere, is not now taking part.
Gail Devers, who pipped Ottey for gold, is up against fellow American Gwen Torrence and Mary Onyali of Nigeria in the women's sprint.
France's double golden girl Marie Jose Perec, who also relegated Ottey to silver in the 200 metres in Atlanta, will run despite only just getting over a slight muscle strain. She leads a strong field ink Olympic high hurdles champion Allen Johnson was a late confirmation after winning his event in the Sestriere meeting in Italy. The top four finishers at Atlanta are taking part.
There is no shortage of Olympic champions in the field events either, taking the total to more than 20 and the overall total of medal winners to nearly 70.