The season’s second IAAF World Challenge meeting on 21 May will see nine Australians compete at the Golden Grand Prix in Kawasaki, Japan looking for form and qualifying marks for the IAAF London World Championships.
Some big names of track and field feature on the entry list including US star sprinter Justin Gatlin who will square off with Su Bingtian, the Chinese national record holder over the distance at 9.99.
Also on the list are Olympic champion pair javelin thrower Thomas Rohler from Germany and long jumper Tianna Bartoletta (USA) who will also compete in the 100m on the program.
One of the five Australian Olympians competing at the Todoroki Athletics Stadium in Kanazawa is Brandon Starc (NSW) who returns to competition in the men’s high jump after recovering from ankle surgery.
The 23-year-old underwent a significant rehab program after the Rio Olympics, where he made the final in Brazil by jumping 2.29m in the qualifying round.
“Training has been going really well, after surgery it took about seven months until I started jumping again and it took quite a while to find my groove,” Starc said.
“Ten days before leaving for Japan I had a good jumps session that boosted my confidence quite a bit.
“Since being in Japan, I have had two competitions where I jumped 2.20m and 2.24m with the latter having a good look at 2.30m.
“The preparation has been going quite well coming into Kawasaki, so I’m excited to compete there again.
“In terms of qualifying for London, the more I jump the more comfortable I feel and there’s still plenty of time to qualify, so I look forward to the next couple of months.”
His personal best of 2.31m was set in 2015 to qualify for the world championships final in Beijing after finishing eighth at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
A quality competition awaits the two-time national champion with six men who have cleared 2.30m including Guowei Zhang from China who has a personal best of 2.38 metres.
Four-time national champion James Nipperess (NSW) will contest the men’s 3000m steeplechase against rising youngster Stewart McSweyn (Tas) who will be eyeing off his personal best of 8:34.45 set last season.
The qualification mark of 8:32.00 for the upcoming world championships is within reach for the 21-year-old Tasmanian who recently ran a personal best of 13:34.46 earlier this year in New Zealand.
The field features 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Kenyan Jairus Birech who has run 7:58.41 and compatriot Nicholas Bett who clocked 8:10.07 last year.
Kathryn Mitchell (ACT) will be looking for victory as the second highest ranked woman in the javelin competition behind Ukrainian Hanna Hatsko-Fedusova.
The 2008 national champion has a personal best of 66.10 and last competed representing Team Australia at the Nitro Athletics Melbourne series.
She will be looking to hit form ahead of London after finishing fifth at the world championships in 2013, fourth at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and sixth at the Olympics in Rio last year.
Japanese record holder Yuki Kitaguchi is also on the entry list.
The women’s 1500m features two Australians in Jenny Blundell (NSW) and Brittany McGowan (Qld) with the former coming off a semi-finals appearance at the Rio Olympics.
Blundell, who has won four 1500m races this year, has a season’s best of 4:07.72 run at the Diamond League meeting in Shanghai last weekend, which is just outside the qualifying mark for the world championships of 4:07.50.
Three-time 800m national champion, McGowan, who ran her 1500m personal best of 4:12.54 in Canberra two years ago, has not raced since early December last year due to injuries.
The men’s javelin competition will be world-class with Rohler fresh off his 93.90m throw at the Doha Diamond League which put him to second on the all-time list.
Hamish Peacock (Tas) will line up with a career best of 84.39m set in Hobart last year, before he threw just three centimetres short of that mark at the recent national championships to secure his second consecutive Australian title.
He disappointingly missed the final at the Olympics in Rio but placed sixth at that meeting in Doha a few weeks ago in a quality field.
Young Queensland long jumper Naa Anang has a great opportunity in the women’s long jump to perform in a world-class competition featuring reigning Olympic champion Bartoletta.
Anang, the reigning national champion and World University Games bronze medallist jumped a personal best of 6.65m at the SUMMERofATHS Grand Prix earlier this year.
Bartoletta will likely be challenged by fellow seven-metre jumper Shara Proctor from Great Britain.
Bartoletta, who is also expected to compete in the 100m, will line up alongside Australian sprint queen Melissa Breen (ACT), in a field that also features Japanese national record holder Chisato Fukushima. Breen's season best of 11.33 (+2.0) was run in Canberra this February.
James Gurr (NSW) will get the chance to edge closer to the world championships qualifying mark of 1:45.90 in the men’s 800m when he lines up against three runners who have personal bests faster than 1:44 including Olympic bronze medallist from London 2012 Timothy Kitum (KEN).
32-year-old Gurr has maintained his position as one of the top middle-distance Australians over recent times, running his personal best of 1:46.09 in Melbourne last year and finishing fifth at the 2017 Australian Athletics Championships.