Armand Duplantis in Stockholm
Updated: 22 Aug - 13:30
After a sensational start in Monaco one week ago, the Wanda Diamond League continues with the Bauhaus-Galan meeting in Stockholm where a similarly strong cast will assemble at the Swedish capital’s historic 1912 Olympic stadium on Sunday (23).
Primary among those marquee names is that of Karsten Warholm, who blasted to a 47.10 performance in Monaco, the second fastest time of his career. Only five men have ever run faster and Warholm still just 24, produced that trip around the track in his season’s opener. Clearly, the two-time world champion is in ferocious shape - which led to his decision earlier this week to contest his specialty on Sunday instead of the flat 400m he initially intended to run.
Estonian Rasmus Magi and Ludvy Vaillant will give chase but as in Monaco, barring major disaster, the race will likely be another time trial for Warholm given his current form.
This time he, and the other five reigning world champions who are expected on Sunday, will compete in a stadium bereft of spectators, due to strict ongoing restrictions on public gatherings currently in place in Sweden. To ensure the safest competitive environment, organisers are testing everyone involved with the meeting for Covid-19 upon arrival: athletes and their entire entourages, including managers, coaches, officials and visiting media.
Duplantis back in action
Organisers are also hoping to make up for that lack of fan ambience, as much as they can, with an atmosphere creation system that uses audio effects to mimic real conditions at an athletics competition. The system made its debut in Monaco to rave reviews from athletes and fans alike. Armand Duplantis among them.
"That was pretty important for me," said Duplantis, who gave at least partial credit to the system for his third attempt clearance at 6.00m, the first of this outdoor season.
The 20-year-old Swede, who broke the world record twice in February, jumping 6.17m and 6.18m, will be back in action on Sunday as one of the key attraction for fans tuning in locally, continuing his rivalry with world champion Sam Kendricks of the US. Duplantis arrives undefeated in 10 competitions this year and has defeated Kendricks in each of their four meetings since the World Championships last October.
On paper, the women's field looks extremely competitive, with Swede Michaela Meijer topping the entrants after her recent 4.83m national record.
One of the fiercest head-to-heads in Monaco - and indeed, among the most memorable of the entire season - came in the men's 1500m where world champion Timothy Cheruiyot managed to fight off Jakob Ingebrigtsen with a speedy 3:28.45, while dragging the 19-year-old Norwegian to a 3:28.68 European record.
They'll square off again in a strong field that also includes Jakob's older brother Filip, who clocked 3:30.35 in that Monaco race, and world indoor record holder Yomif Kejelcha.
In the women's race, Hellen Obiri steps down in distance after her 14:22.12 world lead over 5000m in Monaco to test her speed against a slew of 1500m specialists, including European champion and British record holder Laura Muir who'll be making her 2020 debut over her best distance. Britons Eilish McColgan and Laura Weightman, but sub-4:01 runners, will also be tackling the distance for the first time this season.
Brazier looking to end season on a high
The men's 800 features another reunion of last year's World Championships podium trio led by world champion Donavan Brazier. The US record holder took the Monaco race with a world-leading 1:43.15 where Ferguson Cheruiyot and Amel Tuka, respectively the bronze and silver medallists in Doha, finished eighth and ninth. Brazier arrives in Stockholm on the heels of a tough 600m race against Wesley Vazquez in Szekesfehervar on Wednesday. Brazier prevailed there but was clearly spent from the effort.
The field also includes Canadian Marco Arop, who improved his career best to 1:44.14 in Monaco.
Organisers also managed to piece together a strong field on the women's side, which includes the rapidly improving Jemma Reekie, who clocked 1:57.91 indoors this year and 1:59.52 outdoors, and Noelie Yarigo of Benin, who took down a solid field in Bydgoszcz on Tuesday, clocking 2:00.11.
Can Bol’s roll continue?
The women’s 400m hurdles features another world leader, Dutchwoman Femke Bol, this season's breakout performer. The 20-year-old returns to action after a strong victory in Szekesfehervar, where she battled strong winds to beat a solid field by more than a second. Bol clocked a national record 53.79 on 18 July. Sara Slott Petersen of Denmark, the reigning Olympic silver medallist, will make her season's debut.
Stahl targeting 12th straight win
The hosts are also expecting another big performance from home hero Daniel Stahl, the world discus throw champion, who arrives with 11 straight victories on the year and as world leader at 71.37m. He'll take on 2017 world champion Andrius Gudzius, who has throw 68.68m this year, and Slovenia's rising star Kristjan Ceh, who recently improved to 68.75.
Levchencko-Mahuchikh rivalry continues
The high jump features the next round in the ongoing rivalry between Ukrainians Yuliya Levchenko, the 2017 world silver medallist, and Yaroslava Mahuchikh, the world U20 record-holder. Levchenko, 22, topped a world-leading 2.00m in Bydgoszcz on Wednesday to beat back her 18-year-old rival and extend her lifetime head-to-head advantage to 10-6. Australia's Nicola McDermott, who jumped 1.96m twice during the Australian season, is also on the start list.
Del Ponte eager to keep momentum alive
In the women's 100m, Monaco winner Ajla Del Ponte of Switzerland will put her undefeated 2020 streak of six on the line, taking on Germany's Rebekka Haase and African champion Marie-Josee Ta Lou who is looking to bounce back from back-to-back sub-par performances.
Adam Gemili of Great Britain and Elijah Hall of the US lead the field in the 200m, the shortest race on the men's programme.
Wadeline Jonathas of the US and Lieke Klaver of the Netherlands, who finished 1-2 in Szekesfehervar, return to the track to lead the field in the women's 400m. On the men's side, Italy's Davide Re is the fastest this season at 45.31.
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the men's event especially hard. Only two men have broken 45 seconds this season and no one has gone faster than 44.90. The last time that’s happened was 1979.
Jump-off experiment in the long jump
Organisers are also experimenting with a jump-off style show-down in the long jump competitions dubbed the 'Final Three' in which the leading three jumpers after five rounds will earn a sixth jump with the best of that final round proclaimed the winner.
World silver medallist Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk of Ukraine heads the women's field, returning to competition after a runner-up finish in her outdoor debut in Szekesfehervar where she reached 6.76. She'll face Swede Khaddi Sagnia, who improved to 6.81m earlier this season, and Colombian star Caterine Ibarguen, who'll be competing for the first time in 2020. World heptathlon champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson, a world class long jumper at her best, will also start, about 80 minutes after contesting a national level 100m hurdles race.
Swede Thobias Montler, who has jumped 8.15m this season, and Finn Kristian Pulli, who improved to national record to 8.27 in June, lead the men's field.
Bob Ramsak for World Athletics