Sports

Shaunae set to compete next month

In a unique athletic set-up and format next month, Shaunae Miller-Uibo will be in action.

The Bahamian Olympic Champion will take on American legendary sprinter Allyson Felix and Switzerland’s world bronze medallist Mujinga Kambundji in the women’s 150 meters (m) in a series of clashes between the United States, Europe and the rest of the world.

The Weltklasse Zürich Inspiration Games will feature 30 track and field superstars competing in eight disciplines in an innovative team event across seven stadiums and three continents on Thursday, July 9. Meet organizers said the aim is not only to provide live sport for athletics fans across the globe, but also to inspire the next generation.

It will be the first meet of the season for Miller-Uibo, and first clash between herself and six-time Olympic Champion Felix since the 2017 London World Championships when Felix finished third and Miller-Uibo was fourth. The two years prior, they exchanged the top two spots at the Beijing World Championships and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics with Felix winning the world title in 2015 and Miller-Uibo claiming the Olympic title in 2016.

The match-up in July is one of the more anticipated athletic events of the season, pitting the two global champions and Swiss double sprint national record holder Kambundji up against each other.

Felix commented: “Weltklasse Zürich always holds such a special place in my heart… This new format will hopefully give the fans something fun to look forward to during a time that has been really difficult for everyone.”

In the men’s triple jump competition, Americans Christian Taylor and Omar Craddock and Cuban-born Pedro Pichardo, of Portugal, will battle. Taylor is the two-time Olympic Champion and a four-time World Champion. Craddock is the Pan Am Games Champion and Pichardo is a two-time World silver medalist.

Taylor and Pichardo are two of only six men in the history of world athletics to ever jump over 18m (59’ 0-3/4”) in the men’s triple jump event.

Miller-Uibo’s husband, Maicel Uibo, of Estonia, has already been in action since the resumption of world athletics, competing in pole vault, shot put and a shuttle run triathlon in the Ultimate Garden Clash exhibition event against decathlon world record holder Kevin Mayer, of France, and German Niklas Kaul, on Sunday.

Mayer competed in Montpellier, France; World Champion Kaul was at an indoor facility in Mainz, Germany; and World silver medallist Uibo was in Clermont, Florida, USA, in the remote combined events contest among the world’s top three ranked decathletes. Uibo finished third, just behind Mayer and Kaul.

Uibo said: “Obviously, none of us have really done something like this before but it was a great thing to come out and have fun on this Sunday with each one of us in different locations. At least we got a little competition moment going on.”

As for the “Inspiration Games”, the innovative team event will be spread across three continents, as sports continues to get back on stride in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the main Weltklasse Zürich event unable to take place as planned this year, meet organizers have launched the Wanda Diamond League exhibition event as a new and exciting competition on the schedule.

The Weltklasse Zürich was set to be one of two Diamond League Finals this year, but was put off due to the pandemic. Substituting for that mega event, the Swiss city will now take itself to the world, by hosting the new live high-level team event, with dozens of athletes competing simultaneously in different venues across the globe.

“We want to offer fans what they have long been yearning for – a world-class live athletics event,” said Meet Director Christoph Joho.

Kambundji will burst out of the blocks in Zurich; Felix will compete out of Walnut, California; and Miller-Uibo will compete in Miramar, Florida.

The format, developed in cooperation with World Athletics, the Wanda Diamond League, Swiss Timing and broadcaster SRG SSR, will showcase traditional athletics from a completely new angle thanks to a unique, specially designed broadcast to be produced by SRG SSR.

“To simultaneously broadcast three different venues in each discipline will certainly be a technical challenge,” said Karin Nussbaumer, SRG SSR national coordinator. “Time delays will have to be corrected so that everything is synchronized for the viewer. It is highly demanding to organize such a broadcast.”

Overcoming challenges is what the “Inspiration Games” are about, said Meet Director Andreas Hediger.

“National and international stars such as Kambundji, Miller-Uibo and Felix are important role models in this respect. They can show the youngsters just how far you can go if you never stop improving, dreaming and believing in yourself,” said Hediger.

The Weltklasse Zürich was one of four Diamond League meets to be canceled this year. The remaining 11 are compacted into a three-month schedule from August to October.

Continental Tour Gold meets and the World Athletics (WA) Half Marathon Championships are also scheduled to be held during that period as World Athletics tries to salvage the 2020 season in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

The first Continental Tour Gold Meet of the outdoor season will be the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku, Finland, on Tuesday August 11 – right after the national championships window of August 8-9. That will be followed by the Wanda Diamond League Meet in Fontvieille, Monaco, on Friday, August 14. A number of smaller meets are already underway in Europe.

The Diamond League meets will not include a series point score this year, so there will be no overall league winners.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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