Noah Lyles of the United States, seeking a hat-trick of Diamond League trophy wins over 200 metres, faces compatriot and fellow 21-year-old sprinting marvel Michael Norman tomorrow night as the International Association of Athletics Federations' flagship series reaches Rome.
Lyles, who will be making his first appearance of the year over his favoured distance, set a 100m personal best of 9.86sec at last month’s Diamond League meeting in Shanghai.
Norman, meanwhile, has already clocked a 400m personal best of 43.45 and equalled his 200m best with 19.84 in Osaka, and he dominated over one lap in Stockholm last week with 44.53 in damp and windy conditions.
The presence of Turkey’s world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey and fellow sub-20-second sprinters Alex Quinonez, Jereem Richards and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake will only serve to heighten the expectation surrounding this race – as will the inclusion of Italy’s own rising sprint talent, 20-year-old Filippo Tortu.
The women’s 100m will make similarly compelling viewing, featuring as it does Britain’s 23-year-old European 100m and 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith, who already has two Diamond League wins to her credit this season over the longer distance.
Jamaica’s double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson finished a distant second to Asher-Smith in Stockholm in the longer sprint but recently improved her 100m season’s best to 11.09.
Marie-Josee Ta Lou, the Ivory Coast’s world silver medallist at both 100m and 200m, will be making her first international appearance of the year.
Emotions will be high, whatever the result, as Italy’s newly-established European Athletics indoor high jump champion Gianmarco Tamberi returns to the stadium where he last performed majestically shortly before suffering the serious leg injury that forced him out of the Rio 2016 Games.
Asian champion Majd Eddin Ghazal of Syria, top of the seasonal listings, looks like being Tamberi’s main rival.
While the men’s 400m hurdles isn’t a Diamond discipline in Rome, Rai Benjamin – Norman’s training partner and contemporary – will seek his first win of the outdoor season and will have as a target the stadium record of 47.37 set at the 1981 IAAF World Cup by Ed Moses – the man with whom he shares the third spot on the world all-time list on 47.02.
Ethiopia’s world record-holder Genzebe Dibaba and Britain’s European champion Laura Muir will meet in a 1,500m that will also feature Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay, who clocked a season-leading 3min 59.57sec in Nanjing two weeks ago.
Following his runner-up finish in Shanghai and a victory over 10,000m at last month’s Ethiopian Championships, Selemon Barega starts as the slight favourite in the men’s 5000m.
But Olympic bronze medallist Hagos Gebrhiwet, who finished just 0.12 behind his younger compatriot in Shanghai, world cross-country champion Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda and Bahrain’s Asian champion Birhanu Balew will also challenge.
Having won 13 of her past 14 races at the distance, world silver medallist Salwa Eid Naser will start as favourite for the women’s 400m.
Two-time Olympic javelin champion Barbora Spotakova will be making her first IAAF Diamond League appearance since winning the 2017 final.
The 37-year-old, who gave birth to her second child last year, recently returned to action by throwing 63.85m.
Triple jumper Pedro Pablo Pichardo, who holds Rome’s stadium record of 17.96m, will open his 2019 outdoor campaign against a field that includes world leader Omar Craddock, and Cuba’s world under-18 and under-20 champion Jordan Diaz
In the pole vault, Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi will take on two of the women who matched her winning height in Shanghai two weeks ago: world indoor champion Sandi Morris and Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou.