Previews27 Aug 2014

Zurich all set for 16 Diamond Race deciders – IAAF Diamond League


Upset in Zurich - Mohammed Aman defeats David Rudisha (© Gladys Chai van der Laage)

The first of two IAAF Diamond League finals will take place as part of the famous Weltklasse meeting in Zurich, with no fewer than 16 Diamond Races to be concluded on Thursday.

It’s certainly difficult, almost impossible, to say which event is the most appealing with 13 world leaders, 15 newly crowned European champions, 11 2013 world champions, and 10 reigning Olympic champions on display, but perhaps the men’s 800m is one of the leading candidates for being the pick of the bunch.

Olympic champion and world record holder David Rudisha leads the Diamond Race over two laps but faces a loaded field that includes his compatriot and world 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop, Ethiopia’s world 800m champion Mohammed Aman, Botswana’s Nijel Amos, who beat Rudisha to win the Commonwealth Games title last month, and Poland’s newly crowned European champion Adam Kszczot.

What makes the multi-way battle even more intriguing is that no fewer than eight men could potentially win the Diamond Race.

Elsewhere, entertaining contests abound on the programme.

There are seven men still in contention for the big prize in the javelin with the Diamond Race currently being headed by the talented and sometimes erratic Egyptian Ihab Abdelrahman.

Perhaps the man to watch after winning the European title in the same Letzigrund Stadium with a throw beyond 88 metres earlier this month, and another big winning effort in Birmingham on Sunday, is Finland’s Antti Ruuskanen. But the contest still appears to be wide open.

The men’s shot put has this year reverted back to being in the stadium rather than in the central station, where it has been held under cover in the past few years, and Reese Hoffa has a six-point advantage over Germany’s European champion David Storl, which should mean the US thrower only has to finish in the top three to take the Diamond Trophy and cheque for $40,000 for winning the Diamond Race.

Four events have straightforward head-to-heads to decide the Diamond Race.

The men’s 200m pits Jamaica’s Nickel Ashmeade against Panama’s Alonso Edward, with the latter needing to make up a five-point deficit in the standings.

USA’s world and Olympic silver medallist Michael Tinsley leads the 400m hurdles standings by two points from Javier Culson and, like so often this season, it’s highly likely that Tinsley will have the Puerto Rican breathing down his neck.

Adding spice to this event is the biggest star in Swiss athletics at the moment, European champion Kariem Hussein.

Taylor-made or feat of Claye?

There is a similar situation in the men’s triple jump where old friends, former training partners and now regular sparring partners Will Claye and Christian Taylor do battle again.

Claye, who leads Taylor by two points in the Diamond Race, came out on top in their first four contests this summer, but the Olympic champion has been ahead in the past two.

In the women’s 100m hurdles, Queen Harrison leads the Diamond Race by four points from her US compatriot Dawn Harper Nelson, but the latter can emerge as the overall winner if she comes home first in Zurich.

By contrast, US 400m man LaShawn Merritt and Croatian discus thrower Sandra Perkovic – although both still have to compete in the Swiss city to confirm their status as winners – have unassailable leads in the Diamond Race in their events and will start as the favourites to win in the final as well.

Women’s 100m Diamond Race leader Tori Bowie arrived in Zurich but will miss the race because of the injury she sustained in Birmingham on Sunday, which leaves her event wide open.

In the absence of Bowie, Jamaica’s Kerron Stewart has a three-point advantage in the Diamond Race but plenty of attention will be on European double gold medallist Dafne Schippers after her impressive performances on the same track less than two weeks ago.

Another flying Dutchwoman, middle-distance talent Sifan Hassan, will be on display in the women’s 1500m.

Hassan is the fastest woman in the world this year with 3:57.00, won the European title with ease earlier this month, and should be the favourite to make up the two points that she currently trails Sweden’s world champion Abeba Aregawi in the Diamond Race.

However, Aregawi is nothing but a fighter and there is also the presence of the in-form US runner Jenny Simpson. The 2011 world champion may see this race as the last chance for a tilt at Mary Slaney’s long-standing US record this summer.

There will also be Diamond Races decided in three women’s jumps.

The high jump sees all three European medallists return to the Swiss city with Spain’s Ruth Beitia, Russia’s Mariya Kuchina and Croatia’s Ana Simic all in the field, along with another rather well-known Croatian high jumper, Blanka Vlasic, who missed the European Championships through injury but returns to the fray after a five-week break.

Kuchina and Vlasic are joint first in the standings and have a two-point advantage over Simic.

Bartoletta and Murer could be jumping for joy

Tianna Bartoletta has a bigger, five-point margin over her rivals in the women’s long jump and has won her past three outings, at 6.94m or better, so the US jumper has to be the favourite in that event.

Brazil’s Fabiana Murer also has a five-point lead in the pole vault and the 2011 world champion has generally been the top female vaulter in the world over the past two months, rattling off six consecutive good quality wins prior to her failing to clear a height in Birmingham on Sunday.

Ethiopia’s Diamond Race leader Yenew Alamirew is in a strong position in the 5000m standings with a seven-point advantage over Kenya’s Caleb Ndiku but will still have to finish at least second ahead to guarantee taking the plaudits.

Although he is not in contention for the Diamond Race, there is also huge interest in another Ethiopian, 20-year-old Muktar Edris, following his world-leading run of 12:54.83 in Stockholm last week.

There is a good chance there will be also be an Ethiopian winner, both in Zurich and in the Diamond Race itself, in the women’s 3000m steeplechase as Hiwot Ayalew leads her countrywoman Sofia Assefa by four points.

Thanks to the tie-break rules, the race is effectively a winner-takes-all battle, although US record-holder Emma Coburn still has an outside chance of crashing their party and running off with the Diamond Trophy and first prize.

In addition to the IAAF Diamond League disciplines, the meeting organisers are also staging a men’s 100m which was originally going to be a showcase for Usain Bolt but, in the Jamaican’s absence after he decided to end his season after his run in Warsaw on Saturday, the spotlight will be shone instead on the two British emerging talents, James Dasaolu and Adam Gemili, the European 100m and 200m champions respectively.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF