Valerie Adams, Paul Kipsiele Koech and Mutaz Essa Barshim in Rome (© Giancarlo Colombo / Gladys Chai von der Laage)
In three days’ time, the IAAF Diamond League moves to Rome for the fourth meeting in the 2018 series. Here we look back at three of the more memorable moments from Rome's Olympic Stadium.
Adams’ Italian job, 2012
Heading into 2012, Valerie Adams appeared the very definition of unbeatable, having won every shot put competition she’d contested for almost six years. But as the countdown began to the London Olympics that summer, a credible threat emerged in the shape of China’s Gong Lijiao, who opened her season in May with an impressive 20.21m in Dessau, Germany.
A week later, Adams travelled to the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome to square off against Gong, knowing a statement needed to be made to re-assert her authority.
And what a statement it was. As Gong failed to reproduce her best when throwing alongside her rival – managing 19.79m in the final round to take second – Adams surpassed 20 metres in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth rounds. The best of them, a 21.03m effort in the fourth round, was the true reminder to her rivals that the shot put queen was still very much in power. And sure enough, a few months later in London, she proved it again, taking her second Olympic gold.
Koech’s record chase, 2012
Unfortunately for Paul Kipsiele Koech, this will be remembered as his highlight of 2012, but what a memory it was.
At the time, there was little doubt that Koech was the premier steeplechaser in the world in paced races, but the Kenyan often struggled more than most when running at altitude, which cost him Olympic berths in both 2008 and 2012 when he lost out at the Kenyan trials in Nairobi.
But in the six years since the 2012 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome, no one has come within four seconds of the 7:54.31 he clocked for the 3000m steeplechase that night.
Of course, what he was truly after was the world record of 7:53.63, set by Saif Saeed Shaheen in 2004. Koech passed through 1000 metres behind the pacers in a swift 2:38, but was left alone at the front long before he reached 2000 metres in 5:17.
From there, he put on an exhibition, leaving multiple world and Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi far behind. He covered his final lap over the barriers in 62 seconds as almost 60,000 fans urged him home. In the end he fell short, only just, but his 7:54.31 moved him to third on the world all-time list and secured his place among the greats.
Barshim flies to Asian record, 2014
Reflecting on the glittering career of Mutaz Essa Barshim, 2014 will be remembered as the year when the spring-heeled Qatari moved from very, very good to truly great. And the footsteps of his path to the top can be retraced back to the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome.
It was clear something special was afoot when Barshim made a comfortable first-time clearance at 2.37m, and then he produced it – launching himself over 2.41m at the first attempt to break his own Asian record and hand arch-rival Bogdan Bondarenko of Ukraine a decisive defeat.
Later in the year he would raise that Asian record to 2.43m in Brussels, where it has remained ever since for the 2017 IAAF Male World Athlete of the Year.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF