Bolt set to return, Felix v Richards twice, Greene opens season

Preview of the Rome Diamond League meeting

Usain Bolt (Mark Shearman)

It has been 42 weeks since Usain Bolt last competed, and memories of his loss to Tyson Gay that day in Stockholm are still fresh in his mind. Not that the Jamaican places too much importance on his 9.97 run that day – he was suffering from back and Achilles problems after all.

But now healthy, the multiple world record-holder is keen to get back to business in the 100m at the Rome Diamond League meeting on Thursday. “You win some, you lose some,” said Bolt at the pre-meeting press conference in his customary laid-back style. “You never win every race in your entire career.

“Last season wasn’t my best season. It was kind of a season of down time for me. So for me, this season is back to business. I’m really focused and ready now. I’m going out there to prove to the world that I’m still the best.”

He was also keen to down-play any rumours of slight injury after recently seeing sports injury specialist Dr Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt for a check up. “I did stop in Munich to make sure I was ok and the doctor gave me the go-ahead,” said Bolt.

“I haven’t really had a problem with my back. I’ve just made sure I got the go ahead from my doctor. I just make sure I have my regular check ups. I wouldn’t say I’m in perfect shape, but I’m in good shape.”

Whatever shape he is in, he hopes it will be good enough to beat Jamaican team-mate Asafa Powell, who raced to victory at the last Diamond League meeting in Shanghai. European champion Christophe Lemaitre is also entered, along with Commonwealth champion Lerone Clarke and Olympic silver medallist Richard Thompson.

While Bolt has been given the green light to compete, fellow world record-holder David Rudisha has been forced to miss yet another Diamond League meeting through injury. The 800m in Rome now looks set to be a battle between world champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, young Kenyan star David Mutua, Olympic 1500m Asbel Kiprop and European silver medallist Michael Rimmer.

In a rare double clash, arch rivals Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross – world champions over 200m and 400m respectively – will square off against each other twice in one evening, first in the 400m then 45 minutes later in the 200m.

Europe’s top two 400m hurdlers, Dai Greene and Rhys Williams, will make their 2011 Diamond League debuts in Rome, and will be up against world champion Kerron Clement, Olympic champion Angelo Taylor and world leader LJ van Zyl.

Phillips Idowu is another of Britain’s European champions to open their season in Rome. The triple jumper will clash with Olympic champion Nelson Evora and European silver medallist Marian Oprea.

European bronze medallist Martyn Rooney contests his first 400m of the year and will face Jamaican record-holder Jermaine Gonzales and world indoor champion Chris Brown.

World cross-country champion Imane Merga will face world indoor junior record-holder Isaiah Koech and double Commonwealth champion Moses Kipsiro in the 5000m.

World silver medallist Lisa Dobriskey contests her first 1500m of the year, which also features world champion Maryam Jamal, last year’s Diamond League winner Nancy Langat, last year’s world leader Anna Alminova, and surprise winner in Doha and Daegu Anna Mishchenko.

Tiffany Ofili will take another crack at the British record in the women’s 100m hurdles, which includes world indoor champion Lolo Jones, current world leader Kellie Wells and Olympic champion Dawn Harper.

Many other Brits will also be competing in Rome, including Commonwealth champion Leon Baptiste and Christian Malcolm in the 200m, Hatti Dean in the steeplechase, and Shara Proctor in the long jump.

» The Rome Diamond League meeting will be shown on the BBC’s red button coverage and online from 7-9pm. Click here for full start lists.

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