INDIANAPOLIS - With less than 100 days until the 2012 Olympic Games, a record number of athletes and countries will compete at the 13th edition of USA vs. the World at the 118th Penn Relays in Philadelphia, this Saturday.
With teams around the globe eager to ready their squads for the Olympic Games, no fewer than 21 countries will be represented at the premier relays event in the world. Team USA will battle against teams from Jamaica, Australia, the Bahamas, Canada, Germany, Kenya and Morocco.
This year’s relays include the Nike Men’s Distance Medley, BMW Women’s Sprint Medley, BMW Men’s 4x100m, Visa Women’s 4x100m, Visa Men’s 4x400m and Nike Women’s 4x400m.
USA vs. the World is the first stop of the 2012 Outdoor Visa Championship Series and will be broadcast live on NBC from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Penn Relays veterans Allyson Felix, Sanya Richards-Ross andCarmelita Jeter will once again headline the U.S. women’s squads as the trio have their sights set on London gold in the 100, 200 and 400 meters. Richards-Ross is fresh off her World Indoor victory in the 400, while Felix is a two-time Olympic silver medalist and 3-time world champion in the 200. Both women are still weighing a possible 200/400 double in 2012, and Felix could even drop down to the 100. The duo will also be joined by their teammates from the gold medal winning World Championships 4x400m squad,Francena McCorory and Jessica Beard.
Jeter was named the 2011 Jesse Owens Female Athlete of the Year after winning gold at the World Championships in the 100m and doubling up with silver in the 200m. With a personal best of 10.64 in the 100m, Jeter is the second-fastest woman in history.Three members of the 2011 World Outdoor champion 4x100m relay also will be in the pool for Philadelphia with Jeter, Felix andBianca Knight.
Middle distance training partnersPhoebe Wright and Erica Mooreare great assets for the sprint medley relay lineup. Wright was a six-time Penn Relays champion during her career at the University of Tennessee, and Moore won her first international medal with a bronze at the World Indoor Championships.
USA vs. JAM vs. GBR
The women of Team USA will face stiff competition from the best of the world. Three of the four women from Jamaica’s silver 4x100m team, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Kerron Stewartand Sherone Simpson, are also set to compete, and Shericka Williams and Novlene Williams-Mills both ran on Jamaica’s second-place World Outdoor 4x400m team. Pryce enters 2012 as the defending Olympic champion in the 100. Jamaica will once again be bringing their 800m heavy-hitterKenia Sinclair, who spilt 1:57.06 for 800m in last year’s sprint medley relay.
While the USA vs. Jamaica rivalry is a crowd favorite, the U.S. women will also have to watch out for Great Britain. All four of the members from the winning World Indoor 4x400m team are scheduled to compete, including former AmericanShana Cox, now running under the Union Jack.
Men ready to roll
On the men’s sprint side, Team USA is lead by veterans Walter Dix, Angelo Taylor, Justin Gatlin and Lashawn Merritt. Dix is the current world silver medalist in both the 100m and 200m and has already run a windy time of 9.85 (+2.4 mps) in the 100m this year. Bringing more 100m talent to the team is Gatlin, who 2003 and 2012 World Indoor 60m champion. Olympic champion Lashawn Merritt ran to silver in Daegu in the 400m and also anchored the winning 4x400m relay team. In the 4x400, he will be joined by his world championships relay teammates Taylor and Bershawn Jackson.
Bernard Lagat will lead the men’s distance medley team with an impressive line-up assembled from a group that includesJeshua Anderson, Khadevis Robinson, Nick Symmonds, Russell Brown and Leo Manzano. Lagat is fresh off of his third World Indoor title in the 3,000m and set an indoor American record in the 5,000m in February.
The biggest international star will undoubtedly be 400m world champion Kirani James of Grenada. James will be joined by countryman Rondell Bartholomew, who took sixth at the World Outdoor Championships. However, the two men will have to make up a lot of ground for their teammates as they were the only sprinters from Grenada to run under 46 seconds in 2011.
The Jamaicans are the defending world and Olympic champions in the 4x100m. Gold medalist Nesta Carter will lead the 4x100 crew while Jermaine Gonzales andAllodin Fothergill competed on Jamaica’s third-place World Outdoor 4x400m relay and will be on the track at Penn..
Other nations to watch include the Bahamas in the 4x100m and 4x400m as well as Kenya and defending USA vs. the World champions Morocco in the distance medley relay.
A full menu of countries set to compete at USA vs. The World includes: Belgium, Venezuela, Australia, Bahamas, Virgin Islands, Canada, Guyana, Dominican, Netherlands, Ethiopia, Germany, Grenada, Jamaica, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Russia, Trinidad, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom and the United States.
Tickets are still available for this year’s event atwww.ThePennRelays.com.
Full relay lineups will be announced after the technical meeting on Friday evening. For more information on USA vs. the World, visitwww.VisaChampionshipSeries.com