The world record chase resumes again for Mondo Duplantis and Karsten Warholm at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea Wanda Diamond League meeting in Rome on Thursday (17).
Both pole vaulter Duplantis and 400m hurdler Warholm have been agonisingly close to their respective world marks at various meetings over the past month, and time is running out to break new ground as the outdoor track season draws towards an end over the next two weeks in this confounding year.
Of late, Duplantis, who set world records of 6.17m and 6.18m on the World Athletics Indoor Tour in February, has made it his habit to focus on winning the competition first, and then to put the bar straight to 6.15m in a bid to topple Sergey Bubka’s 26-year-old outdoor monument of 6.14m.
That’s exactly what he did at the ISTAF Continental Tour meeting in Berlin on Sunday, but a swirling wind thwarted his ambitions that day.
But Duplantis has had a lot of looks at 6.15m in the past month and in good conditions will be hopeful that he can finally clear the barrier.
Undefeated in 14 competitions this year, in and outdoors, the 20-year-old Swede has become an equally big obstacle to the rest of the world’s leading vaulters. In Rome, former world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie will return to the fray after clearing a season’s best of 5.80m to win the French title last weekend, while newly-crowned British champion Harry Coppell (5.85m) and rising Filipino Ernest Obiena, who had a breakthrough victory at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Ostrava last week, will also be in action.
Warholm has been peerless this year and the wind didn’t bother him much in Berlin as he recorded another super-fast time of 47.08 to add to the 46.87 clocking that glanced the 28-year-old world record (46.78) at the Diamond League meeting in Stockholm last month.
The Norwegian’s intentions have been clear every time he has raced the quarter-sticks this year. If he keeps hitting the wall, eventually the wall will fall.
World leaders Nadine Visser (100m hurdles) and Femke Bol (400m hurdles) will also be intent on maintaining their dominance over the barriers in their respective events.
Thompson-Herah eagerly anticipated 2020 Diamond League debut
Rome will also see the return of Olympic 100m and 200m champion Elaine Thompson-Herah to international competition this year in the 100m.
Thompson-Herah has shown that she is in fine form in her native Jamaica, clocking 10.88 in Kingston in June and a wind-assisted 10.73 in July. If she has brought that speed to Europe, then she’s unlikely to be troubled. Emerging Swiss sprinter Ajla Del Ponte, who is in the field, has the fastest time recorded in Europe so far this year at 11.08.
The men’s 100m features a trio of top-class sprinters making their Diamond League debuts this year, with South Africa’s Akani Simbine taking on USA's Mike Rodgers and Julian Forte of Jamaica.
Training partners Muir and Reekie set for season-ending clash
Further along the track, Scottish training partners Laura Muir and Jemma Reekie will clash in the 800m to determine who will take bragging rights into their off-season over this distance. The younger Reekie has the slightly faster season's best of 1:58.63, to Muir’s 1:58.84, but the latter heads to Rome off a winning streak over 1500m.
Both, however, will have an eye on Norway's Hedda Hynne, who recently clocked a world-leading 1:58.10 to win in Bellinzona. Switzerland's Lore Hoffman, who ran 1:58.50 in that race, is also in the field.
The sole distance event on the programme, the men’s 3000m, features a fascinating meeting between two 19-year-old guns, Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen, coming off two wins over world-class 1500m fields, and Ugandan Jacob Kiplimo, coming off an eye-catching win over 5000m in Ostrava. They will meet in the middle over 3000m. Australia’s Stewart McSweyn will also be in the mix after a strong season.
Ukrainian duo Yaroslava Mahuchikh and Yuliya Levchenko, both world silver medallists, will resume their fascinating rivalry on the high jump mats. They share the world lead with 2.00m this year, and both will be keen to raise the bar. Australia’s Nicola McDermott is their closest competitor, with a personal best 1.98m, set in Germany last month.
Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi, who has cleared 2.30m this year, will be looking for a home country win in the men’s event, up against Ukrainian Andriy Protsenko, who has also registered 2.30m this year.
Italy also has a strong chance of victory in the men’s shot put with Leonardo Fabbri, who had a breakthrough moment at the Italian Championships last month, throwing 21.99m to move to second on this year’s world list behind the rampant Olympic champion Ryan Crouser. He will face a substantial threat in the shape of USA's Nick Ponzio, who has thrown 21.72m this year.
But there will be no home crowd to cheer Fabbri on. The meeting organisers announced yesterday that despite their best efforts, they would be unable to host spectators in the Stadio Olimpico this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.
So any world record set in Rome will have to be achieved without the energy of a crowd.
Nicole Jeffery for World Athletics