Previews29 Aug 2023

Newly crowned world champions out in force in Zurich


Noah Lyles in the 200m at the Wanda Diamond League Final in Zurich (© Getty Images)

Fourteen newly-minted world champions are scheduled to compete at the Weltklasse meeting in Zurich as the Wanda Diamond League resumes this week, just days after the World Athletics Championships concluded in Budapest.

Several of those events will feature the full podium from Budapest, including the women’s 100m hurdles, both men’s and women’s pole vault and the women’s triple jump.

The female pole vaulters will be the first to take the stage, competing in the traditional city event in the Zurich train station on Wednesday evening (30). Nina Kennedy and Katie Moon, who completed a historic competition in Budapest when they agreed to share the gold medal after jumping for more than two hours, will return along with bronze medallist Wilma Murto of Finland, and leading vaulters Sandi Morris and Tina Sutej to put on another show for the citizens of Zurich.

On Thursday, in front of a sold-out Letzigrund Stadium, Noah Lyles will return to his favoured distance, the 200m. Last week Lyles became the first man since Usain Bolt in 2015 to claim the world sprint double, and he will take on five of the six men who followed him home in the longer sprint in Budapest, including silver medallist Erriyon Knighton and fourth-placed Zharnel Hughes.

Lyles is still basking in the glory of his triple gold medal success in Budapest but said he was looking forward to a chance to run fast against a top-class field in Zurich.

"When I got off the plane yesterday and I did a shakeout, I thought: 'I feel better than I did getting ready for the 200m final.' I was feeling that 'pop', which I didn’t have there," he said.

Fellow US sprint star Sha’Carri Richardson will begin a triumphant tour of Europe after claiming the mantle of world’s fastest woman in Budapest. She will face Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah, who has struggled to find that form so far this year.

The women’s 200m will be similarly intriguing as Jamaica’s two-time world champion Shericka Jackson (21.41 in Budapest) edges ever closer to the 35-year-old world record of 21.34, set by Florence Griffith-Joyner at the 1988 Olympic Games. Silver medallist Gabby Thomas will also be on hand to challenge Jackson.

Jackson revealed in the pre-event press conference that she was "a bit under the weather" after her heavy programme in Budapest, where she combined the 100m and 200m with sprint relay duty. 

"I don’t think tomorrow will be super-fast but I want to have some fun and see how it goes," she said.

She will focus on the 200m for the rest of the season and hopes to register an even faster time before she finishes her year.

"I wrote 21.40 on my bib (before the final in Budapest). Unfortunately, I didn’t get it that day, but I have two more 200s this season," she added.

Another dual world champion, Danielle Williams, leads a full-strength field in the 100m hurdles, with silver medallist and Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, bronze medallist Kendra Harrsion,  2019 world champion Nia Ali, fourth-placed Devynne Charlton and home hope Ditaji Kambundji all on the starting line.

Williams also revealed that she has unfulfilled goals for the season, having reclaimed the world 100m hurdles title after eight years.

"I still have one more goal to achieve this season, so that’s what’s driving me," she said. "Before the season I wrote down three things: I want to make the national team, I want to win the world title and I want to run 12.2 seconds, and I still have three more chances to do that."

Norway’s Karsten Warholm went one better, winning his third world 400m hurdles title in Budapest, and will take on Brazil’s 2022 world champion Alison Dos Santos of Brazil in the quarter-sticks.

Yulimar Rojas competes in the Wanda Diamond League final in Zurich

Yulimar Rojas competes in the Wanda Diamond League final in Zurich (© Getty Images)

For true dominance, Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas stands supreme as a four-time world champion, although it required all her might to defeat Ukraine’s Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk to win that fourth title. They will go head-to-head again in Zurich, with Cuba’s Leyanis Perez Hernandez completing the podium performers in the field.

The horizontal jumps continue with the men’s long jump where world champion Miltiadis Tentoglou of Greece takes on 2019 world champion and Budapest bronze medallist Tajay Gayle, rising star Mattia Furlani and Switzerland’s own Simon Ehammer.

In the pole vault, the four medallists return to the runway. World champion Mondo Duplantis will once again meet silver medallist Ernest Obiena, the first athlete from the Philippines to win a World Championships medal, and shared bronze medallists Chris Nilsen and Kurtis Marschall.

Duplantis said he expected high-quality performances in Zurich, despite it following hard on the heels of the World Championships.

"It’s tough coming off a World Championships – we have never had Zurich right after World Championships before – but it could be a very good thing," he said. "This is the most intense meet of the year that’s not a championship meet, so once we step on the track and feel that crowd, we have to lock in. The people who didn’t win in Budapest still have a lot of hunger, so I like that it’s here. This is not a joke, this is probably the most historic competition ever, so we need to wake up."

Mondo Duplantis celebrates his winning vault at the Wanda Diamond League final in Zurich

Mondo Duplantis celebrates his winning vault at the Wanda Diamond League final in Zurich (© AFP / Diamond League)

Italy’s world high jump champion Gianmarco Tamberi found his best form of the year at exactly the right time in Budapest and will take that momentum into Zurich, where he will face his old friend, rival and fellow Olympic champion Mutaz Barshim.

Another who has the knack of finding his best form when it matters most, India’s world and Olympic javelin champion Neeraj Chopra, will also return fresh from his triumph in Budapest, and will face bronze medallist Jakub Vadlejch and fourth-place finisher Julian Weber.

Chopra said that having won both the Olympic and world titles, reaching the 90-metre mark was his last big goal.

And he’ll be receiving some unexpected support in Zurich. The sport’s ultimate showman, Tamberi, has offered to use his crowd-whispering skills to channel their energy to Chopra and help him to get out a big throw.

"Here everything is possible because we are in Zurich and the crowd is amazing," Tamberi said.

Many of the world’s best middle-distance runners have opted for rest and recovery this week after a hot and gruelling World Championships campaign, but world 1500m champion Josh Kerr wants more after his upset win over Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen.

Kerr will need to be on his game again with eight sub-3:30 runners in the field. They include world 5000m silver medallist Mohamed Katir, US champion Yared Nuguse and Kenya’s Abel Kipsang.

Bahrain’s world steeplechase champion Winfred Yavi has also chosen to back up from her triumph and will meet the other medallists, world record-holder Beatrice Chepkoech and Faith Cherotich, and a field packed with quality.

Four world finalists, led by fourth-placed Raevyn Rogers, will compete in the women’s 800m, along with European 1500m champion Laura Muir, stepping down in distance.

Olympic 10,000m champion Selemon Barega, the 5000m bronze medallist in Budapest, will also step down to the 5000m, racing alongside world steeplechase record-holder Lamecha Girma, Yomif Kejelcha and Swiss-based contender Dominic Lobalu.

Nicole Jeffery for World Athletics

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