Big names on the blocks for first Liquid Telecom Athletix Grand Prix meet

Sprinters Clarence Munyai (far left) and Anaso Jobodwana (second right) were present when Athletics South Africa and Stillwater Sports confirmed Liquid Telecom as the title sponsor of the inaugural Athletix Grand Prix Series. Tobias Ginsberg

The inaugural Liquid Telecom Athletix Grand Prix gets underway in Ruimsig on 1 March, with a number of high-profile athletes set to compete across the three legs of the series.

The series, which will take place in Tshwane and Paarl as well, will feature the likes of South Africa's Caster Semenya and the USA's Justin Gatlin, as well as Olympic bronze medalist long jumper Ruswahl Samaai.

Among the highlights of the first meeting on Thursday, though, are the stacked fields in the men's 200m, 1500m, and High Jump, as well as the 400m and 800m women's races.

The men's 200m will see former South African record holder Anaso Jobodwana line up against the USA's Trentavis Friday (the 2014 World Junior champion), Clarence Munyai (the World Junior record holder in the 300m) and Botswana's national 200m record holder Isaac Makwala.

Jobodwana and Munyai were both in action over the past weekend at the AGN Provincial Championships, where Munyai lowered his 100m Personal Best from 10.20sec to 10.10sec. Jobodwana, meanwhile, clocked a wind assisted 10.07sec. Throw in Makwala who came to world prominence in 2017, and has a PB of 19.77sec, and you have the makings of a potentially quick 200m race.

That said, Makwala will line up in the 400m some 30 minutes prior to the 200m so a quick recovery will be the determining factor for him.

Uganda's Joshua Cheptegei, the World Championships 10 000m silver medalist, is one of the headline acts of the series, and an intriguing 1500m race awaits him in Ruimsig.

Four South Africans in Jerry Motsau, Folavio Sehole, national champion Dumisang Hlaselo and rising star Ryan Mphahlele will be eager to upset him. Meanwhile Cheptegei's training partner, Abel Sikowo and country man Ronald Musagala are also in the field so it is a race not to miss.

Breyton Poole won't turn 18 until 23 March but the World Youth champion will still be the star attraction in the High Jump. He cleared 2.24m to claim that world title in 2017 and in November improved his best to 2.25m.

Should he not find his best form then Mpho Links, the 2017 SA University champion who has a best of 2.23m, and Chris Moleya, the 2017 South African champion who also boasts a best of 2.25m will be ready to pounce.

On the women's front, a tight duel can be expected in the 800m between the two Ugandans Winnie Nanyondo and Halimah Nakaayi. Both have run under two minutes but Nanyando holds the edge with her 1:58.63 run in 2014 to Nakaayi's 1:59.78 she ran in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

While there is no Semenya in the 800m this leg, South African supporters can look forward to seeing front-running Gena Lofstrand give the Ugandans a challenge.

The 400m women promises a Southern African humdinger between Botswana's Amantle Montsho, Goitseone Seleka, Christine Botlogetswe, and South Africa's Justine Palframan. Noted 400m hurdler Wenda Nel and exciting youth prospect Amy Naude are also in the mix should the favourites be too preoccupied with each other.

Of those, Montsho is the 2011 world champion and 2013 World Championship silver medalist and should be the woman to beat in this one-lapper.

The series will offer Africa's finest the ideal opportunity to hone their skills as they prepare for the ASA National Championships (15-17 March) followed by the Commonwealth Games (4-15 April) in Gold Coast, and Athletics World Cup in London (July).

*Liquid Telecom and Kwesé are both subsidiaries of Econet.