Previews16 Jun 2017

Stahl looms large for Sweden as Stockholm readies itself for IAAF Diamond League action


Discus winner Daniel Stahl at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Oslo (© Jean Pierre Durand)

Home discus thrower Daniel Stahl looms large in the Bauhaus Galan posters that have been publicising Sunday’s sixth IAAF Diamond League meeting of the season in Stockholm – and home hopes for him are now soaring given the way he  translated that standing into real life in Oslo on Thursday night as he dominated the world’s leading performers in his field.

The 24-year-old Swede, who topped last year’s world list with 68.72m ahead of Germany’s Olympic champion Christoph Harting, won maximum points in the Bislett Stadium with a best effort of 68.06m that left him ahead of Jamaica’s Fedrick Dacres, who leads this season’s list with 68.88m, and Belgium’s world silver medallist Philip Milanov, who managed 66.39m.

“My goal is 70 metres on Sunday,” said Stahl, who left Bislett stadium by car immediately after the meeting and arrived at his home in Stockholm at 5:30am in order to fit in two training sessions on Friday. “I have the power and if I find the timing it could definitely happen. A goal is also to throw further than 68.40m which was Ricky Bruch’s world record set in Stockholm in 1972.”

Neither Christoph Harting nor his older brother Robert, the 2012 Olympic champion, were on form in Oslo, and Poland’s world champion Piotr Malachowski was also out of sorts, finishing seventh with a best of 63.70m.

Those sleeping giants will surely rouse themselves in Stockholm’s Olympic Stadium to contest a road to the final which in their case will end in Brussels on 1 September.

Seven of the eight competitors in the men's discus in Stockholm currently fill the top six places in the road to the final. With only the London meeting still to come of the qualifying events for Brussels, Sunday night’s competition is going to be crucial.

As in Shanghai and Oslo, the men’s discus will be held concurrently with the women’s version – with Croatia’s Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic already dominant as she seeks her sixth consecutive Diamond Trophy win.

The home hero of Oslo, Karsten Warholm, will be hoping he still has some energy left in his legs after his supreme effort in defeating a 400m hurdles field that included the Olympic champion, Kerron Clement of the United States, and lowering his Norwegian record to 48.25.

Clement, whose slide to last place in the final straight clearly betokened that all was not well, is not in Stockholm, but Yasmani Copello, the Turkish athlete who chased Warholm home, is, and in place of a US Olympic champion there is 2005 world champion Bershawn Jackson of the USA.

The women’s 800m that concludes the evening’s programme offers home runner Lovisa Lindh the opportunity to break the Swedish record on home soil, having run a personal best of 1:59.23 in Oslo as she chased home the three Olympic medallists. That was only 0.03 slower than the record set in 2013 by Abebe Aregawi.

The European bronze medallist faces only one of the Olympic medallists here – Rio runner-up Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi – although the field also contains the three women who finished behind her in Oslo: Canada’s world silver medallist Melissa Bishop, Iceland’s Anita Hinriksdottir and Rose Almanza of Cuba.

With victories in all three of her IAAF Diamond League meetings so far, in Doha, Eugene and Oslo, South Africa’s Olympic champion Caster Semenya has already done enough to book her place in the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich on 24 August.

Niyonsaba is technically in a position to secure her place in the top eight with a good result in the Olympic Stadium, while others, such as European indoor champion Selina Buchel and Britain’s 2012 European champion Lynsey Sharp, have the opportunity to pick up important points.

After two rounds of the men’s 110m hurdles, there is already a leading group forming, and the gap between them and those below them could widen if Spain’s Olympic silver medallist Orlando Ortega and world champion Sergey Shubenkov, competing under a neutral banner, take the opportunity to consolidate their position in the top three.

After an outstanding indoor season in which he led the world list with 7.43 and won the European indoor title in Belgrade, Britain’s Andrew Pozzi is ready to make his presence felt among the world’s elite outdoor hurdlers.

Shubenkov’s compatriot and fellow world champion Maria Lasitskene, has dominated the women's high jump so far this season with victories in Eugene and Rome. She has already managed four jumps of 2.00m or higher, equalling her personal best of 2.03m in Eugene and following up in Hengelo last weekend with a superb clearance of 2.04m.

Lasitskene already looks a strong favourite to relieve Spain’s Ruth Beitia of the Diamond Trophy title she has won in the past two years. Meanwhile Sweden’s Olympic finalist Sofie Skoog will be hoping that home advantage inspires her to gain the first points she requires in order to challenge for one of the 12 qualifying positions for the high jump final in Brussels on 1 September.

World pole vault champion Yarisley Silva was in characteristically exuberant form in Oslo and, after winning with a clearance of 4.81m, she looks capable of going higher – much will depend upon conditions in the Olympic stadium.

New Zealand’s Olympic bronze medallist Eliza McCartney will be seeking a dramatic upturn in fortune after failing to register a height in Oslo.

Andre De Grasse went top of the 100m qualification standings with his win in Oslo in 10.01, and a follow-up victory in Stockholm would surely guarantee him a place in the final. It would be a welcome bonus for the 22-year-old Olympic 100m bronze medallist if he could secure the 10th sub-10-second clocking of his career. He believes he is already in shape to do it.

For others such as Britain’s Adam Gemili and Churandy Martina of the Netherlands – who will always share the disappointment of missing out on an Olympic 200m bronze in Rio by thousandths of a second to France’s Christophe Lemaitre – this is a chance to secure their position in the top eight by pulling away from other major names in their event such as Kim Collins and Asafa Powell, both of whom have yet to reach a qualifying position.

The men’s 400m will feature the winner and runner-up from Oslo, respectively Baboloki Thebe of Botswana and Britain’s Matthew Hudson-Smith, with the addition of the exciting new 21-year-old from The Bahamas, Steven Gardiner, who is as tall as Usain Bolt – 1.88m (6ft 5in) – and has lowered his national record to 44.26 this year.

The men’s long jump will offer home favourite Michel Torneus, a model of consistency with six medals from European or global events over the past six years, the opportunity to rouse the home crowd with his characteristic competitiveness as he takes on a field that also includes Australia’s world silver medallist Fabrice Lapierre and the in-form South African pair of Luvo Manyonga, who has already jumped 8.65m this season, and Ruswahl Samaai, who has a 2017 best of 8.49m.

Many of the men’s 1500m field will doubtless still be getting over the shock of having been beaten by Jake Wightman in Oslo. The Briton will not be in Stockholm, but the field will be supplemented in the strongest possible fashion with the addition of Kenya’s 2008 Olympic and three-time world champion Asbel Kiprop. And he will doubtless be seeking to impose himself on this season’s listings, which he is likely to do with a flourish.

Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast, second over 200m in Oslo, will expect to move up one place in Sweden, given that Dafne Schippers, the Bislett winner after reversing a disqualification for a false start, will be absent.

The men’s 3000m steeplechase looks likely to be a close affair, with Kenya’s Nicholas Kiptani Bett, Ethiopia’s Chala Beyo and Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco looking strong contenders.

Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF