Previews31 Aug 2022

Points and reputations at stake in Brussels as Wanda Diamond League nears its conclusion


Emmanuel Korir wins the 800m in Zurich (© AFP / Getty Images)

The world’s best athletes will head to Brussels for the Allianz Memorial Van Damme on Thursday (2) as the Belgian capital hosts the final point-scoring opportunity in the 2022 Wanda Diamond League ahead of the series finale next week.

Many of the qualifying spots for the final have already been claimed, following the recent Diamond League meetings in Lausanne and Monaco. But there are 14 more scoring disciplines being contested in Brussels, all of which loaded with global stars of the sport.

The men’s 800m and women’s 100m, for example, pit two world champions against one another. Other disciplines – such as the men’s pole vault, women’s high jump and women’s javelin – feature the full set of medallists from the World Athletics Championships Oregon22.

World and Olympic champion Emmanuel Korir leads the loaded 800m field. The Kenyan will take on the two men who joined him on the podium in Oregon: Djamel Sedjati and Marco. They will also face world 1500m champion Jake Wightman, world indoor champion Mariano Garcia – the Spaniard who recently beat Wightman to the European title in Munich – and Commonwealth champion Wycliffe Kinyamal.

In what looks set to be one of the highest-quality two-lap races of the year, the world-leading mark of 1:43.52 – which has stood since mid-June – should come under threat.

It’s not the only event in which two world champions will clash. Jamaican duo Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson – who won the world 100m and 200m titles respectively – will face off over 100m for the third time this year.

Fraser-Pryce, five-time world champion at the distance, is undefeated over 100m this year, but Jackson finished right behind her in Oregon and Monaco. All six of Fraser-Pryce’s 100m finals this year have been won in sub-10.70 times. If she continues that trend on Thursday, she will break the meeting record of 10.72 she has held since 2013.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Ewa Swoboda race at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Paris

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Ewa Swoboda race at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Paris (© Chiara Montesano / Diamond League AG)

Other athletes in the field include Ivory Coast’s Marie-Josee Ta Lour, who set an African record of 10.72 earlier this year, USA’s Sha’Carri Richardson, and Aleia Hobbs, winner in Lausanne last week when Fraser-Pryce withdrew as a precaution at the last minute.

The men’s pole vault will reunite the four men who have claimed all of the medals at the past three global championships. Mondo Duplantis, however, will start as the overwhelming favourite, having been undefeated for the whole of 2022 so far – a streak that includes the World Championships where he increased his world record to 6.21m.

World and Olympic silver medallist Chris Nilsen could once again be the Swede’s toughest opponent, but world bronze medallist Ernest John Obiena, Olympic bronze medallist Thiago Braz and former world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie should also be in contention at the higher heights.

Three global champions will clash in the women’s high jump. World champion Eleanor Patterson of Australia will be up against world indoor champion Yaroslava Mahuchikh, fresh from her triumph at the European Championships. But expect Belgium’s Nafi Thiam – the world, Olympic and European heptathlon champion – to draw the biggest cheers from the crowd.

Olympic silver medallist Nicola Olyslagers and world bronze medallist Elena Vallortigara add further depth to the field.

The women’s javelin has the full set of medallists from both the World Championships and European Championships. Two-time world champion Kelsey-Lee Barber once again takes on USA’s world silver medallist and NACAC champion Kara Winger and Japan’s world bronze medallist Haruka Kitaguchi. Newly crowned European champion Elina Tzengko of Greece will be joined by fellow teenager Adriana Vilagos, the world U20 champion and European silver medallist, as well as the indefatigable world record-holder Babora Spotakova.

Competitive distance clashes galore

High-quality line-ups have been assembled for all of the distance events on Thursday’s programme, not least in the men’s 5000m.

The two men who took surprising victories over 3000m in Monaco and Stockholm – Burundi’s Thierry Ndikumwenayo and South Sudan’s Dominic Lokinyomo Lobalu – will line up against world silver medallist Jacob Krop of Kenya, world bronze medallist Oscar Chelimo of Uganda, world 10,000m bronze medallist Stanley Mburu, Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha and US champion Grant Fisher.

Thierry Ndikumwenayo wins in Monaco

Thierry Ndikumwenayo wins in Monaco (© Getty Images)

Lobalu won the 3000m in Stockholm in 7:29.48, a mark which stood as a world-leading time until Ndikumwenayo bettered it in Monaco with 7:25.93, breaking the Diamond League record as well as the Burundian record.

But with an extra 2000 metres of racing in Brussels, anything could happen.

Diribe Welteji just missed out on a medal over 800m at the World Championships, but the Ethiopian has been a force over 1500m this year and has won her past four international races at the distance, most recently at the Diamond League meeting in Silesia in a PB of 3:56.91.

The 20-year-old has raced smartly and selectively this year and shows no signs of fatigue at this stage of the season, but nothing is guaranteed in a high-quality field like this one. Olympic silver medallist Laura Muir is in the line-up along with the woman who finished second to her at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships, Ireland’s Ciara Mageean.

Welteji, meanwhile, is one of four Ethiopians in the field to have broken four minutes for 1500m this year; Axumawit Embaye, Freweyni Hailu and Ayal Dagnachew are the others, and they will likely be strong contenders, as will US duo Sinclaire Johnson and Heather MacLean.

The women’s steeplechase is of a similarly high standard. Ethiopian duo Werkuha Getachew and Mekides Abebe – who took silver and bronze medallists respectively at the World Championships, smashing through the nine-minute barrier in the process – will start as the favourites. Getachew won in Monaco at the end of August, while Abebe hasn’t raced since the World Championships so may have fresher legs.

But the likes of Winfred Yavi, who won in Paris with 8:56.55 – the fastest time in a Diamond League race this year – and world record-holder Beatrice Chepkoech are also in the field, so too are European champion Luiza Gega, Ethiopia’s Zerfe Wondemagegn, 2017 world champion Emma Coburn and US record-holder Courtney Frerichs.

Winfred Yavi in the steeplechase in Paris

Winfred Yavi in the steeplechase in Paris (© AFP / Getty Images)

Earlier in the programme, there will be a world record attempt in the men’s one-hour run.

Two years since Mo Farah set the current world record of 21,330m on the same track, a field of talented distance runners will attempt to extend that mark. Former world half marathon record-holder Kibiwott Kandie is perhaps the slight favourite, but also keep an eye on Sebastian Kimaru Sawe, who is undefeated this year with victories of 58:02 at the Rome-Ostia Half Marathon and 59:02 at the Seville Half Marathon. Fellow Kenyan Joshua Belet, a 59:28 half marathon performer, is also in the field, so too is 2021 world U20 5000m bronze medallist Levy Kibet and Australian half marathon record-holder Brett Robinson.

For some rough context, Farah’s world record for the hour translates to 59:21 pace for the half marathon. At least three men in the field are capable of a time in that ball park; whether they can replicate it on the track is another question entirely.

Hurdles stars Dos Santos and Camacho-Quinn seek further success

Like Duplantis, Alison Dos Santos is riding the wave of an undefeated season so far this year.

The Brazilian hurdler dominated the early season Diamond League meetings, then triumphed at the World Championships in a championship record of 46.29, the third-fastest time in history, and he continued his streak with a comfortable 47.80 win in Silesia.

He may need to run a bit quicker to ensure victory in Brussels, though, as world finalists Wilfried Happio and Khallifah Rosser – both of whom have broken 48 seconds this year – are also in the field.

Alison dos Santos wins the 400m hurdles at the Wanda Diamond League in Oslo

Alison dos Santos wins the 400m hurdles at the Wanda Diamond League in Oslo (© AFP / Getty Images)

Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn has won at five Diamond League meetings this year, setting meeting records in Rome (12.37), Silesia (12.34) and Lausanne (12.34). The two women who joined the Puerto Rican on the Olympic podium last year – Kendra Harrison and Megan Tapper – will also be racing in Brussels, so too are world silver medallist Britany Anderson, European champion Pia Skrzyszowska and world indoor silver medallist Devynne Charlton.

The Van Damme Memorial meeting record of 12.42 has stood since 1986, but with a field like this it may not last much longer.

In the men’s 200m, world bronze medallist Erriyon Knighton takes on Commonwealth champion Jereem Richards, world and Olympic finalist Joseph Fahnbulleh and Cuban record-holder Reynier Mena.

The women’s 400m, meanwhile, features world bronze medallist Sada Williams of Barbados, world 800m bronze medallist Mary Moraa, as well as Candice McLeod, Fiordaliza Cofil and Lieke Klaver.

City centre shot put showdown

The men’s shot put, which will be held in Brussels city centre on the eve of the competition, features two-time world champion Joe Kovacs, who will be looking to notch up another victory in the wake of his silver medal-winning performance in Oregon.

The US thrower has won all four of his competitions since then, throwing 22.89m in Szekesfehervar and 22.65m in Lausanne. He no doubt has the meeting record of 22.44m in his sights. But to get that, he’ll need to beat the likes of world bronze medallist Josh Awotunde, 2017 world champion Tom Walsh, Commonwealth silver medallist Jacko Gill and European champion Filip Mihaljevic.

Triple jumpers Hugues Fabrice Zango and Zhu Yaming shared a podium at this year’s World Championships and last year’s Olympic Games, and they’ll clash once again in Brussels. World indoor champion Lazaro Martinez, who set an outdoor PB of 17.50m last week in Lausanne, should also be in contention.

Elsewhere, a non-scoring women’s long jump contest features Commonwealth champion Ese Brume of Nigeria, NACAC champion Quanesha Burks of the USA and world indoor pentathlon champion Noor Vidts of Belgium.

Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics

Pages related to this article