Stars set to glitter at Diamond League in Brussels
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A raft of medallists from the recent athletics world championships in Beijing will appear in the Belgian capital on Friday night. Usain Bolt, who won three golds in China, should have been in Brussels. But he withdrew saying he was tired after his record-breaking races in China.
Less than two weeks after the world championships, some of track and field's top stars will be in action in Brussels for the final Diamond League meeting of the season.
The American sprinter Justin Gatlin will contest the 100 and 200 metres. The 33-year-old won silver in both events in Beijing behind the Jamaican Usain Bolt who pulled out of the 200 metres citing fatigue.
Last season, Gatlin clocked the year's fastest times in both races. This year he will face a stern examination from the South African Wayde van Niekerk, who claimed the 400m gold in Beijing worlds in 43.48 seconds.
The 23-year-old has notched up a 200m best of 19.87 seconds. The 100m also features a strong field including Jamaican duo Nesta Carter and Asafa Powell, American Mike Rodgers and France's Jimmy Vicaut.
The highlight of the women's sprint races will be the showdown between Dafne Schippers and Allyson Felix from the United States.
When Schippers crossed the line on 28 August in 21.63 seconds - ahead of the Jamaican duo of Elaine Thompson and Veronica Campbell-Brown - she became the first European to win the title since the Russian Anastasia Kapachinskaya claimed the gold medal in 2003.
In the interim, Felix has won it three times followed by Campbell-Brown and her fellow Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
Schippers' mark was the fourth-fastest time.
"It is exciting to see new talents coming up in the event and I love new challenges," said 29-year-old Felix. "Yes, the 200m was an impressive race in Beijing, they ran very fast.
"It was hard not to be a part of that, because races like that don't often come your way."
Felix said ahead of the race on Friday night that her goal was to qualify for the US teams for the 200 and 400 metres for next year's Olympic Games in Rio.
"As far as the Olympic time schedule is concerned I can't say anything about that; things can always change. But I would love the opportunity to compete in both events."
Schippers said the world championship gold medal had changed her life.
Since winning in Beijing, Schippers has found that she is far more in demand now back home in the Netherlands.
“It’s a crazy world now for me. It’s all new,” she added. “It’s nice, but it takes a lot of energy. A gold medal is very important to the Netherlands. It’s no longer possible to walk down the street with my dog because a lot of people come up to me. I like it, though."
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