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News01 Sep 2021

Duplantis and Hassan seek further success in Brussels as season nears climax


Mondo Duplantis in action at the Diamond League meeting in Brussels (© Getty Images)

Mondo Duplantis has already achieved his big target for the year, so when the newly crowned Olympic pole vault champion competes at the Allianz Memorial Van Damme on Friday (3), he’ll be hoping to get back to doing what he does best: breaking records.

Following his Tokyo triumph, the 21-year-old Swede returned to Wanda Diamond League action in Lausanne but didn’t look his usual polished self as he failed to get over 5.82m, eventually having to make do with a 5.62m clearance for fourth place.

Two days later in Paris, however, he looked far more convincing and won with 6.01m before going on to attempt a would-be world record height of 6.19m. It was the ninth competition this year in which he has attempted that bar. And each time, Duplantis would have gained in familiarity and confidence.

But he would also be the first to say that world records don’t come easy, especially when there’s a certain level of expectation each time he competes. As a slightly less ambitious target, Duplantis would likely be keen to break his own meeting record of 6.00m from last year.

His opponents in Brussels include Olympic silver medallist Chris Nilsen, USA’s six-metre vaulter KC Lightfoot, and Ernest Obiena of the Philippines, who recently improved his national record to 5.91m when finishing second to Duplantis in Paris.

Both vertical jumps competitions in Brussels are loaded with talent as the women’s high jump field features all three medallists from Tokyo and has a bonus gold medallist addition in the form of Olympic heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam.

Mariya Lasitskene followed her Olympic high jump victory with a win in Lausanne, but was beaten two days later in Paris by Nicola McDermott, the silver medallist in Tokyo. Yaroslava Mahuchikh, the Olympic bronze medallist, finished between Lasitskene and McDermott in Lausanne, so all three will likely be in the hunt for top honours in Brussels.

Thiam has a season’s best of 1.92m, but is a 2.02m performer at her best and often performs well at this meeting, having won in 2016 and 2018.

Hassan returns to familiar ground

When Sifan Hassan last competed in Brussels, she raced at the upper end of her impressive range and broke the one hour world record. On Friday the double Olympic champion will step down in distance to the mile – an event in which she also holds the world record.

The Dutch star clocked 4:12.33 for the distance in Monaco back in 2019, just three months before winning the world 1500m title in a European record of 3:51.95. Although she claimed gold over 5000m and 10,000m in Tokyo, Hassan hasn’t exactly lacked speed over the shorter distances this year, having clocked 3:53.63 for 1500m in Florence and 3:53.60 in Monaco.

(© Matthew Quine / Diamond League AG)

Whether Hassan will be fresh enough to go after a world record so soon after her Olympic exploits is another matter entirely, though. The meeting record of 4:16.71, set in 2015 by two-time Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon, could be a realistic target for Hassan. Olympic finalists Linden Hall of Australia and Winnie Nanyondo of Uganda, both of whom have broken four minutes for 1500m this year, should help keep the pace swift in a bid to break their own respective national records.

In the women’s 5000m, two-time world champion Hellen Obiri takes on Francine Niyonsaba and Ejgayehu Taye, who both broke 8:20 for 3000m in Paris last week.

Four Olympic finalists will clash again over 800m as silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson takes on fellow Briton Jemma Reekie, Ethiopia’s Habitam Alemu and Jamaican record-holder Natoya Goule. In-form US runner Kate Grace – who missed out on making the Olympic team but went on to win in Oslo and finish in the top three in Stockholm, Monaco and Eugene – is also in the field, as is world champion Halimah Nakaayi and Stockholm winner Rose Mary Almanza.

Kenya’s Abel Kipsang, Spain’s Adel Mechaal and Australia’s Stewart McSweyn – all of whom finished just a stride or two shy of the medals in Tokyo – will line up over 1500m in Brussels. But Mohamed Katir, who has set Spanish records at 1500m, 3000m and 5000m, could be the one to watch as he’ll be keen to atone for his eighth-place finish over 5000m in Tokyo.

Sprint showdowns

The women’s 200m final at the Tokyo Olympics certainly wasn’t lacking in quality, but some of the big names who missed out on that race will be in action in Brussels.

Shericka Jackson, who took bronze over 100m and gold in the 4x100m, eased up too much in her 200m heat in Tokyo and didn’t advance beyond the first round, but the Jamaican will want to return to the sub-22-second form she showed earlier in the season.

(© Getty Images)

She’ll face world champion Dina Asher-Smith, who skipped the 200m in Tokyo as she was still recovering from a hamstring injury, and US champion Sha’Carri Richardson, who was absent from Tokyo. Olympic silver medallist Christine Mboma and fellow Namibian Beatrice Masilingi will provide stiff opposition.

The men’s 100m features two Olympic medallists, both of whom are best known for their 400m exploits. Fred Kerley stepped down in distance this year and ended up taking silver over 100m in Tokyo in 9.84. Fellow US sprinter Michael Norman finished just outside the medals in the individual 400m in Tokyo but went on to claim gold in the 4x400m. But last year he displayed his all-round ability by clocking a 9.86 PB over 100m.

They’ll take on world leader Trayvon Bromell, African record-holder Akani Simbine and Kenyan record-holder Ferdinand Omurwa, all of whom have broken 9.90 this year.

Kirani James, who completed his set of Olympic medals by taking bronze in Tokyo, leads the men’s 400m field. Fellow Olympic finalists Michael Cherry, Christopher Taylor and Liemarvin Bonevacia will all be in contention too. Cherry won in Rovereto on Tuesday in 44.55, while Bonevacia recently reduced his own Dutch record to 44.48 and now has his eyes on the European record.

Three of the men who featured in the iconic 400m hurdles final in Tokyo will be in action in Brussels. Brazil’s Alison dos Santos, who took Olympic bronze in 46.72 to become the third-fastest man in history, will take on Kyron McMaster, Yasmani Copello and Jamaica’s Jaheel Hyde.

Another Olympic bronze medallist, Jamaica’s Megan Tapper, will be in action in the women’s 100m hurdles. She’ll face 2015 world champion Danielle Williams, Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan and Dutch record-holder Nadine Visser.

Elsewhere, Eusebio Caceres lines up against Filippo Randazzo and Steffin McCarter in the men’s long jump.

Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics

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