News26 Jun 2018

Paris's top three moments – IAAF Diamond League


Wayde van Niekerk, Evan Jager and Sandra Perkovic in action at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris

Later this week, the IAAF Diamond League heads to Paris for the seventh meeting in the 2018 series. Here we look back at three of the more memorable moments from the French capital.

Van Niekerk arrives, 2015

Before the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris in July 2015, athletics didn’t know all that much about Wayde van Niekerk. The previous year he had bettered 45 seconds in just three of his 19 races, but that would soon become the new normal for the South African.

On a sweltering night in Paris, the then 22-year-old ripped around the track in the Stade de France to shock Olympic champion Kirani James, Van Niekerk finishing in an African 400m record of 43.96. He was an exhausted heap of a man afterwards, laying on the ground in the mixed zone and unable to stand for several minutes.

But that would be just the first of several superhuman efforts by van Niekerk in the years that followed. He first took the world title in Beijing in 43.48 and then Olympic gold in Rio the following year in a world record of 43.03. But Paris will be remembered as his breakout moment, the night a sprint star was born.

Steeplechase drama, 2015

The 3000m steeplechase is well known for its captivating chaos, and in 2015 the Parisian crowd were treated to a terrific display of theatrics in the Stade de France.

Evan Jager went into the race with the North American record on his mind along with the illustrious eight-minute barrier. With one lap to run, all was going according to plan, Jager turning the screw out front and putting daylight between himself and Kenyan rival Jairus Birech, much to the delight of the crowd which screamed its support for him in his bid to break the Kenyan dominance.

But approaching the last barrier fatigue took hold of Jager, and he clipped it slightly with his toe, stumbled on landing and then crashed to the track. Birech blew straight by to win in 7:58.83, with Jager getting back to his feet to finish second in 8:00.45, a North American record.

“I feel sorry for [Jager],” said Birech afterwards. “He was stronger than me. I was beaten.”

Plucky Perkovic leaves it late, 2014

Croatian discus thrower Sandra Perkovic went into the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris full of confidence. Not only was she the world, Olympic and European champion, but she had also bettered the 70-metre barrier for the first time in her career earlier that season. Put simply: she was in the form of her life.

Before Paris, she had won comfortably in Shanghai, Eugene and Oslo. But at the end of the second round in the Stade de France, Perkovic found herself in an unfamiliar position. After an opening foul and a 63.93m effort in round two, Perkovic was down in fourth place.

Dani Stevens (nee Samuels) kept piling on the pressure with big throws way beyond the 65-metre line. USA’s Gia Lewis-Smallwood and Melina Robert-Michon of France both managed to stay ahead of Perkovic, who produced further fouls in rounds three and four, followed by a 63.43m heave in round five.

It was all down to her last throw. Keeping cool, Perkovic finally hit a big one and sent her disc out to 68.48m to take the lead. She still had a slightly nervous wait for her three big opponents to end their series, and Stevens also saved her best for last, but her 67.40m effort wasn’t enough to catch the dominant Croatian.

Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF