Sifan Hassan takes the London mile (© Mark Shearman)
The IAAF Diamond League resumes at the Muller Anniversary Games in London on Saturday and Sunday (20 and 21), the series' only two-day meeting which this year has attracted 20 reigning world and 10 reigning Olympic individual and relay champions to the British capital's iconic Olympic Stadium.
Sifan Hassan has neither title to her name - yet - but at the moment though, she's the sport's biggest name after her sensational 4:12.33 world record run in the mile in Monaco last Friday, breaking a mark which had stood for 23 years. In London, she'll be racing in the 5000m on Sunday, a distance that's arguably even closer to home for the Dutchwoman who in recent years has produced a record of extraordinary range. Is her 14:22.34 European record in jeopardy? Her 8:18.48 run at the Prefontaine Classic on 30 June, another continental record that elevated her to No. 4 all-time over that distance, would indicate that it is.
The field includes three other women who have run faster than 14:30, including world champion Hellen Obiri whose 14:18.37 rates the Kenyan as the fourth fastest ever. And after a tumble to the track in Stockholm led to a distant 12th place finish in that Diamond League contest, Obiri will be eager to make amends in London.
Amos and Kipyegon headline day 1 middle distance action
800m ace Nijel Amos will also return to the track after his sensational 1:41.89 run in Monaco, the second fastest of his career - behind the 1:41.73 he sped to at the 2012 Olympics on this London track. Expect a Kenyan armada consisting of Ferguson Rotich (second in Monaco in 1:43.54), Lausanne winner Wyclife Kinyamal (1:43.78 SB) and 2018 sensation Emmanuel Korir (1:44:01 SB) to give chase. Korir clocked his 1:42.05 personal best in London last year.
Faith Kipyegon, the 2016 Olympic and 2017 world champion, made her eagerly anticipated return from maternity leave a successful one with a 3:59.04 win at the Prefontaine Classic 18 days ago. Her competitors, who'll include European champion Laura Muir, rising Ethiopian star Gudaf Tsegay, German Konstanze Klosterhalfen and Shanghai Diamond League winner Rababe Arafi, will keep a closer eye on her this time around.
Naser targeting 13th straight 400m win
In the 400m, Salwa Eid Naser will start as favourite to capture her eighth 400m victory of the season, and 12th straight over the distance. Thirteen days ago, the 21-year-old scorched to a 49.17 win in Lausanne, the second fastest of her career. But she was chased to the line there by Aminatou Seyni, the 22-year-old from Niger who clipped more than a second from her lifetime best in that race, finishing just 0.02 behind the Bahraini. She'll be looking to better time her finish on Saturday. Jamaica's Olympic bronze medallist Shericka Jackson, who clocked a 49.78 lifetime best in Kingston a month ago, is also in the line-up.
With several of the leading US sprint hurdlers opting to focus on next week’s national championships, the focus in the women’s 100m hurdles will fall on Nigeria's Tobi Amusan who will return to the track four days after her 12.49 victory in Sotteville les Rouen,a performance that elevated the 22-year-old to third on the season's list. Queen Claye of the US, who improved her 2019 best to 12.63 in the northern French city behind Amusan, is also in the field, along with European champion Elvira Herman of Belarus.
The men's 100m will round out the first day's action on the Diamond League programme. The favourites include African champion Akani Simbine, Olympic 100m bronze medallist Andre De Grasse and Great Britain's Zharnel Hughes, the European champion. British fans will also be delighted to see sprinter James Ellington return to the track two and a half years after surviving a serious motorcycle accident.
Taylor vs Pichardo, round 21
The triple jump features another battle between 18-metre men Christian Taylor, the world and Olympic champion, and Pedro Pablo Pichardo. Taylor holds a 13-7 lead lifetime over Pichardo, including wins in their last three meetings, most recently in Monaco where Taylor flew 17.82m to take the victory, his seventh straight this season.
In the women's pole vault, Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi will be looking for her second Diamond League win of the season - while hoping to bounce back from a no-height in Lausanne. Hit by a back pain, Sandi Morris of the US dropped out as a precaution with the start of the US championships just a week away.
The women's javelin pits Australian Kelsey-Lee Barber and Christin Hussong of Germany, two throwers with fine momentum on their side. Barber, the Oceania champion, improved her lifetime best to 67.70m in Luzern a week ago while Hussong threw 66.59m, also a lifetime best, for victory in Lausanne. Tatsiana Khaladovich (67.22m) of Belarus and Czech Nikola Ogrodnikova (67.40m) have also thrown beyond 67 metres this year and should be threats.
Will Stahl’s momentum continue?
Swedish strongman Daniel Stahl, the season's top discus thrower, kicks off the Diamond League programme on the second day, chasing a seventh consecutive win, and his ninth in 11 starts this year. Last Monday he produced a rare achievement, becoming just the third man to throw beyond 70 metres four times in one competition. He's also the world leader at 71.86m.
Stahl will face Jamaican Fedrick Dacres, who threw 70.78m to win in Rabat one month ago, as well as world champion Andrius Gudzius and Olympic champion Christoph Harting.
But for the locals, the bulk of their day two attention will fall on European champion Dina Asher-Smith who'll headline the women's 100m. Sunday's will be the 23-year-old's third 100m contest of the season after 10.94 and 10.91 efforts in Rome and Lausanne, both runner-up finishes. Garnering her first short dash win of a year won’t be easy. The field includes Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the co-world leader at 10.73 and Marie Josee Ta Lou, who's clocked 10.93 this year.
Meanwhile, the men's 400m is wide open, with Jonathan Jones of Barbados lining up with hopes for a bit of redemption after last Friday's fiasco during which he ran the entire lap after not hearing the recall gun that sounded an apparent false start. One-lap hurdles ace Abderrahman Samba will also contest the flat after his runner-up finish in that Monaco race.
The men's high jump features world leader Ilya Ivanyuk who topped 2.33m in Szekesfehervar, Hungary nine days ago, but it'll be Mutaz Barshim, the 2017 World Athlete of the Year, who'll command the spotlight as the 28-year-old Qatari makes his first Diamond League appearance in 13 months.
Barshim tore ligaments in his left ankle during an attempt on a would-be world record of 2.46m in Szekesfehervar last year, an injury that kept him on the sidelines until he resumed training in April. In a low key comeback, Barshim topped 2.27m in Sopot, Poland, on 23 June, before bowing out with a pair of attempts at 2.30m and another at 2.33m. Syria's Majd Eddin Ghazal, who took bronze at the IAAF World Championships London 2017, a competition won by Barshim, is also on the slate.
In the women's long jump, world leader Malaika Mihambo (7.07m) of Germany takes on Brittney Reece of the US who feels at home in the London Stadium pit. In 2012 she jumped to Olympic gold here and in 2017 to the world title. She's jumped 6.95m this season. Among the local favourites will be multi-eventer Katarina Johnson-Thompson.
Zuzana Hejnova, the 2013 and 2015 world champion, heads the field in the women's 400m hurdles. The Czech is the fastest in the field this year at 54.11. Jamaican Janieve Russell should also be in the hunt.
Off the DL programme
Organisers have included eight additional events that are not part of the Diamond League points chase, many with tantalising fields of their own.
On Saturday's slate:
- The men's long jump features another face-off between world champion Luvo Manyonga of South Africa and world indoor champion Juan Miguel Echevarría of Cuba. On paper, the two are virtually inseparable: Manyonga has jumped 8.35m and Echevarría 8.34m.
- World leader Elaine Thompson (22.00) is the class of the field in the 200m, taking on Swiss star Mujinga Kambundji.
- World champion Karsten Warholm returns to action in the 400m hurdles for the first time since his European record run of 47.33 in Oslo on 13 June. He'll face two-time Diamond League champion Kyron McMaster.
- A strong field has been assembled for the men's 5000m, headed at the moment by Hagos Gebrhiwet, winner of Ethiopian 10,000m World Championships trials race in Hengelo on Wednesday where he clocked a world-leading 26:48.95. Others to watch include Kenyan 10km star Rhonex Kipruto, who'll be making his track debut over the distance, and European champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who'll be contesting his first 5000m of the season. The Norwegian is arriving after back-to-back sub-3:31 1500m races.
On Sunday's slate:
- Catriona Bissett of Australia and Jamaicans Natoye Goule lead the field in the women's 800m.
- World indoor 1500m record holder Samuel Tefera, 2017 World Championships bronze medallist Filip Ingebrigsten and British stars Jake Wightman and Charlie Da’Vall Grice lead the field in the Emsley Carr Mile. After his 3:30.62 1500m personal best in Monaco last week, Grice will attract considerable attention.
- World champion Omar McLeod heads the field in the 110m hurdles, taking on Briton Andy Pozzi and Asian champion Xie Wenjun of China.
- And Britons Miguel Francis and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake will be the men to watch in the 200m.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF