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African quality trumps quantity in Eugene

South Africa's Caster Semenya will be odds-on favourite to continue her 800m dominance over Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba and Margarat Wambui of Kenya during the IAAF Diamond League season. EPA/WALTER BIERI

Athletics fans can look forward to some of Africa's finest being among the headline acts of the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, the third IAAF Diamond League meeting of the year.

The two-day event will see a Genzebe Dibaba-Hellen Obiri 5000m head-to-head, Caster Semenya in her favoured 800m and the Ivorian duo of Marie-Josee Ta Lou and Murielle Ahoure in a stacked 100m race, as well as numerous other lauded continental stars in action.

The opening evening features only the single Diamond League points carrying event (the men's javelin throw), but the men's 800m and a little-run 2 Mile races should be intriguing.

Botswana's Nijel Amos will look to prove that he's fully-fit again, but the 800m winner at 05:52 (CAT) is more likely to come from the Kenyan trio of Emmanuel Korir (the winner in Doha), Commonwealth champion Wycliffe Kinyamal and 2016 Under-20 world champion Kipyegon Bett.

The two-mile is rarely run so it's difficult to judge who of world 5000m champion Muktar Edris, his Ethiopian compatriot Selemon Barega or Kenyan Olympic medallists Paul Tanui might win at 06:02 (CAT).

Day 2's events are set to be even more riveting.

The women's 800m (22:10, CAT) will see the first African participation but who better than the the all-conquering Caster Semenya to kick-start proceedings. As has become the norm in recent years, it will be a case of whether Kenya's Margaret Wambui, or Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba can finally find a way to outperform the South African... or if Semenya will be in a race against clock.

Next on track will be the best men's 3000m steeple chasers and in Conseslus Kipruto, the very best will be in action. That said, the men who has pushed him closest during his two-year dominance will line up alongside him, namely world silver medallist Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco and Olympic silver medallist Evan Jager of USA in opposition. Paul Koech and Jairus Birech will be the leading candidates among the other Kenyans on show.

Meanwhile, Marie-Josee Ta Lou will go a long way to settling scores from 2017 if she emerges victorious in a women's 100m race (22:41, CAT) featuring the top 5 from last year's World Championships in London. Neutrals will see it as the Olympic champion Elaine Thompson of Jamaica against the world champion Tori Bowie of USA, with two-time 200m champion Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands for company. However Ta Lou sprinted to victory in Doha earlier this month in a world-leading 10.85 her fellow Ivorian champion Murielle Ahoure (the world indoor 60m champion) is also capable of an upset.

As it happens, with local favourite Jenny Simpson and Britain's Laura Muir running in the women's 1500m, African entrants will be considered outsiders. That being said, neither have a competitive 1500m under their belts this year while Kenya's Beatrice Chepkoech, Morocco's Rababe Arafi and Ethiopia's Dawit Seyaum all have run fast in 2018.

If any race is to rival the women's 100m as the standout event of this Prefontaine Classic then the women's 5000m at 23:10 (CAT) may well be it. It features a high-calibre clash between Kenya's Hellen Obiri and Ethiopia's Genzebe Dibaba in what should be another chapter in this mouth-watering rivalry.

Obiri recently added the Commonwealth Games gold medal to her London 2017 version is the fifth fastest of all time at the distance. She also holds a narrow 8-7 edge against Dibaba in their matchups, Dibaba has been tip-top form this year, not least while winning the 1500m-3000m double at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham. The likes of Letesenbet Gidey (Ethiopia), Margaret Kipkemboi, Lilian Rengeruk (both Kenya) and Dominique Scott-Efurd of South Africa will hope to avoid it becoming a two horse race, but they may well be better served chasing personal goals rather than the outstanding favourites.

While the non-Diamond League Bowerman Mile will close the proceedings in Eugene (and see whether Bethwell Birgen, Silas Kiplagat, Ayanleh Souleiman or Aman Wote can penetrate the Timothy Cheruiyot-Elijah Manangoi rivalry), the men's 200m at 23:44 (CAT) will be the final points-scoring event.

Isaac Makwala (Botswana) and Anaso Jobodwana (South Africa) will run but all eyes will be on whether rising US sprint star Noah Lyles stretch his unbeaten IAAF Diamond League career to four races. The 20-year-old enhanced his credibility by setting a personal best of 19.83 while winning in Doha, but apart from the southern Africans he'll also be taking on world champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey and world bronze medallist Jereem Richards (Trinidad & Tobago), with Ameer Webb trying to re-establish an American pecking order too.