MOSCOW, July 30 (R-Sport) – Outgoing pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva heads a strong Russian squad featuring 12 Olympic champions for next month’s world athletics championships on home soil.
The 118-strong roster includes all eight victors at last year’s London Olympics as well as Isinbayeva, who announced last week she would retire after the August 10-18 event at Luzhniki Stadium ends.
The likes of London high jump champion Ivan Ukhov and 400m hurdles champion Natalya Antyukh are called up to meet the Russian Athletics Federation’s relatively modest target of six gold medals, which was set last week.
“Our task it to win six gold medals and 16 medals in total,” said national athletics coach Valentin Maslakov back then.
Six athletes including 800m star Mariya Savinova and high jumper Anna Chicherova will look to defend their titles won in Daegu, South Korea, in 2011.
The other current or former Olympic champions in the Russian team are Sergey Kirdyapkin (50 km walk), Yury Borzakovsky (800m), Yelena Slesarenko (high jump), Yulia Zaripova (3000 m steeplechase), and Tatyana Lysenko (hammer throw).
By comparison, the United States will fly in nine reigning champions and 20 London Olympic medalists.
The world championships are the first major outdoor athletics competition in Russia since the 1980 Olympics.
They have been somewhat overshadowed from the doping-related withdrawals of sprinting stars Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson, and the injury to reigning 100m champion Yohan Blake.
Officials earlier unveiled the medal design, lauded as “perfect” by London 2012 chief organizer and Moscow Olympic 1,500m champion Sebastian Coe.