Christian Coleman returns to headline Prefontaine Classic

Christian Coleman returns to headline Prefontaine Classic

It probably isn't the men's 100-metre rematch many sprint fans were anticipating at historic Hayward Field when the initial entry lists were revealed for the 44th Prefontaine Classic on Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 4 p.m. ET).

Excitement was building for a chance to watch Americans Justin Gatlin, 36, and upstart 22-year-old Christian Coleman blaze down a fast track on an expected sunny and calm afternoon in Eugene, Ore. But Gatlin experienced tightness in his right hamstring during a 4x100 relay in Japan last weekend and withdrew from Saturday's non-Diamond League race, scheduled for 4:18 p.m. ET.

Coleman, who didn't run the 100 at a Diamond League meet in Shanghai two weeks ago because of a reported hamstring issue, will only race the 100 on Saturday.

"Earlier mgmt considered a 100/200m double [but] being his first race of the season, it is more prudent to only contest the 100m. His opening 200m will occur in @BislettGames (on June 7 in Oslo)," Coleman's agency said on Twitter.

Fans in Eugene will have to settle for a rematch of the men's 60 final at the indoor world championships on March 3 in Birmingham, England, where Coleman led from the start and finished in a time of 6.37 seconds. Su Bingtian of China and American Ronnie Baker rounded out the podium in 6.42 and 6.44, respectively.

Coleman made big strides last season in his final year at the University of Tennessee and continues to impress after running the 60 in 6.34 in mid-February at the U.S. indoor national championships to shatter 2000 Olympic champion Maurice Greene's 20-year-old world indoor record.

"Christian Coleman has established himself as the front-runner [in the 100] coming out of the indoor season," CBC Sports track analyst Donovan Bailey says. "He improved upon the world record, which means his times outdoors will be [at least] as fast as the 9.82 he ran last year."

Bailey calls the 27-year-old Su one of the "most technically sound" sprinters and believes Baker, the only man in the field of eight to run under 10 seconds this season with a world-leading 9.97, is brimming with confidence after winning the event at last year's Prefontaine Classic in a wind-aided 9.86.

The Pre Classic field also features Canada's Gavin Smellie, who takes the place of Gatlin.

The 31-year-old Smellie ran a wind-legal 10.01 PB – the fourth fastest time in the world over 100m in 2018 - to win the 100 at last weekend's Johnny Loaring Classic in Windsor, Ont. Two weeks ago, the Brampton, Ont., resident was victorious at the Pure Athletics/NTC Sprint Elite Meet in 10.10, beating 2007 world 100 champion Tyson Gay of the U.S. in Clermont, Fla.

On Friday night, Canada's Mohammed Ahmed followed up a double silver-medal performance at the Commonwealth Games last month with a fourth-place result in the men's 2-mile run. 

Lindsey Butterworth of North Vancouver, B.C., was third in the women's national 800 metres in 2:02.24 while Toronto's Shawn Barber finished sixth in men's pole vault with a best jump of 5.41 and Kate Van Buskirk of Brampton, Ont., was 12th in the women's national 1,500 in 4:17.67. 

Here are the other Canadians competing in Eugene on Saturday:

Alysha Newman, women's pole vault (3:40 p.m. ET): Newman, 23, finished seventh with a clearance of 4.54 metres in Doha on May 4 after matching her personal best of 4.75 outdoors in April to break the Commonwealth Games record of 4.62. On Saturday, she'll face a star-studded field that includes Katerina Stefanidi of Greece and American Sandi Morris, the reigning Olympic gold and silver medallists.

Sage Watson, 400m hurdles (Saturday, 4:03 p.m.): Watson added to her 2018 medal collection on the weekend, stopping the clock in 55.58 seconds to win at the Seiko Golden Grand Prix in Osaka, Japan. Two weeks ago, the 23-year-old from Medicine Hat, Alta., posted a season-best time of 55.23 seconds for a bronze-medal finish at Diamond League Shanghai. In April, Watson was fifth at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Aaron Brown, men's 200 (Saturday, 5:44 p.m.): The 25-year-old Toronto resident clocked 20.34 seconds in his season-opening 200 at the Commonwealth Games, where he ran the fastest semifinal in Games history in 20.18. He followed that effort with an identical clocking at the season-opening Diamond League meet at Doha in early May.

Diamond League on CBC Sports

CBC Sports is providing live streaming coverage of all 14 Diamond League meets this season at CBCSports.ca and via the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices. TV coverage will be featured as part of the network's Road To The Olympic Games weekend broadcasts throughout the season.

The following is a list of upcoming Diamond League meets:

- Eugene – Prefontaine Classic (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET)

- Rome (May 31, 2 p.m. ET)

- Oslo (June 7, 2 p.m. ET) 

- Stockholm (June 10, 10 a.m. ET)

- Paris (June 30, 2 p.m. ET)

- Lausanne (July 5, 2 p.m. ET)

- Rabat (July 13, 1 p.m. ET)

- Monaco (July 20, 2 p.m. ET)

- London (July 21-22, 10 a.m. ET, 9 a.m.)

- Birmingham (Aug. 18, 3 p.m. ET)

- Zurich (Aug. 30, 2 p.m. ET)

- Brussels (Aug. 31, 2 p.m. ET)