Ortega, Carro and Vicaut headline in Madrid as new stadium makes debut

Orlando Ortega headlines the Madrid athletics meeting on Sunday night, the third in this summer’s five European Athletics Premium Permit Meetings, but in many respects the star of the event is the stadium itself, which has a rich story which could easily be summarised as ‘rise and fall, and rise again.’

The meeting will be the first in the new Estadio Vallehermoso in the very centre of the Spanish capital which first staged athletics meetings on the same site in 1957.

After hosting world class athletics meetings during the 1980s, which saw a host of world stars compete and famously witnessed Ed Moses’ 122-race winning streak come to an end in 1987, the stadium fell out of favour in the 1990s as the meeting was shunted around the Madrid suburbs for several years before the Estadio de la Comunidad de Madrid – the venue for the 2002 IAAF World Cup and now renamed the Wanda Metropolitano as it is Atletico Madrid’s home ground, and also sadly without a track – staged the meeting between 1994 and 2003.

Athletics returned to the Vallehermoso, in the upper-scale Barrio Chamberi, for four years between 2004 and 2007 – and Yelena Isinbayeva memorably cleared a pole vault world record of 4.95m in 2005 – before the bulldozers moved in.

However, almost simultaneously the Spanish recession also set in and various ambition plans to rebuild the stadium went nowhere until 2015 when the former mayor of Madrid Manuela Carmona found the money in the municipal budget to fill what had been a gaping black hole for a decade.

At a cost of €14.5 million and taking 17 months for the building work, the 10,000-capacity Estadio Vallehermoso has now phoenix-like risen from the ashes.

European 110m hurdles leader Ortega, who was just 0.01 outside his Spanish record when winning in 13.05 at the IAAF Diamond League in Lausanne this month, could feasibly utilise the anticipated warm weather conditions which are anticipated to be in the mid-20s and Madrid’s helpful 650 metres altitude to go into new territory and he will have a good set of opponents to push him, including Cyprus’ 2019 European indoor 60m champion Milan Trajkovic.

Trajkovic describes his relationship with Ortega as: “Rivals on the track, friends off it and sometimes training partners.” Indeed, Ortega spent a stint in the spring training in Cyprus with Trajkovic and getting input from the latter’s coach Antonis Giannoulakis.

Spain’s in-form steeplechase Fernando Carro, who recently ran a national record of 8:05.69 to go to fourth on the European all-time list, will be in action over 3000m but this time without the barriers.

His rivals include the Ethiopian teenage talent Tadese Worku, who was second in the 2019 IAAF World Cross Country Championships U20 race earlier this year, and fellow Spaniard Antonio Abadia, the 2016 European 10,000m bronze medallist who was less than two seconds outside his best at this distance when winning in 7:48.26 at the European Athletics Area Permit Meeting in Cork, Ireland just over a week ago.

European 100m co-record holder Jimmy Vicaut, a winner for France at the record European Team Championships Super League, will also give the new track a speed test with Jamaica’s former world record holder Asafa Powell also in the 100m field.

At the Madrid meeting in 2018, held in the suburban Moratalez stadium, Bruno Hortelano sped to a Spanish 400m record of 44.69 and was followed home by compatriot Oscar Husillos in 44.73, times which saw them finish second and third on the European 2018 list.

The pair return to the meeting to again duel over one lap of the track and face the man who beat them both in 2018, Dominican Republic’s Lugelin Santos as well as Slovenian record holder Luka Janezic.

The women’s pole vault promised to be one of the highlights of the field events – as befits the fact that one of the architects of the stadium is 5.50m vaulter and 1984 Olympian Alfonso Cano – with a top-quality lineup including Germany’s Lisa Ryzih, Ukraine’s Maryna Klypyko and the Russian pair of Olga Mulina and Alyona Lutkovska, the latter competing as Authorised Neutral Athletes.

Times will probably not be too quick in the 1500m but there should be an interesting battle between USA’s Shannon Rowbury and the Netherland’s Maureen Koster, who can both boast of sub-four minutes personal bests while a strong Spanish contingent includes Solange Pereira, whose heroic anchor leg in the medley relay at last year’s SPAR European Cross Country Championships helped her country to the gold medal.

Along with Ortega, Carro and Janezic, the Madrid meeting also includes a smattering of athletes who will be also in action for Team Europe at The Match in Minsk on 9-10 September.

Poland’s Patryk Dobek is arguably the favourite for the men’s 400m hurdles in the wake of his impressive win at the European Team Championships on home soil in Bydgoszcz two weeks ago while Belarus’ 2017 European U23 champion Dzmitry Nabokau jumped a season’s best of 2.30m in Minsk earlier this month and will be hoping to get back to the big heights after a couple lacklustre performances of more recently.

Live results and streaming are available here.

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