Renaud Lavillenie at the 2015 IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels (© Giancarlo Colombo)
Another year, another IAAF Diamond League final, another Diamond Race title for Renaud Lavillenie.
The French pole vaulter is the only athlete in the world to have won the Diamond Race every year since the inception of the series in 2010.
He entered Brussels with a comfortable – albeit not unbeatable – lead in the Diamond Race standings, but was coming off the back of losses in Berlin and, of course, Beijing.
Lavillenie’s nemesis Shawn Barber, the Canadian who triumphed at the IAAF World Championships, was also in the field. So too was world indoor champion Konstadinos Filippidis, the only man who could have got in the way of Lavillenie winning his sixth Diamond Race.
With the bar at 5.80m, just those three men remained in the competition.
Filippidis was the first to clear that height, maintaining his lead. Barber also went clear but was behind on count-back, while Lavillenie had one failure and passed straight to 5.85m.
The tables turned at that height. Lavillenie gained the lead with a first-time clearance and Barber got over on his second try. Filippidis passed to the next height after failing once at 5.85m.
Lavillenie maintained his lead at 5.90m, getting over on his second try. Filippidis used his remaining attempts with two unsuccessful tries, while Barber brought the bar down once and passed again.
The same thing happened at 5.95m; Barber passing after one failure and Lavillenie clearing on his second try.
Barber’s failure at 6.00m meant that Lavillenie held on to pole position. The world record-holder ended his series with three failures at 6.00m, but was more than happy with his evening’s work.
Perkovic, Ibarguen and Taylor triumph again
She may have been beaten at the World Championships, but the IAAF Diamond League is Sandra Perkovic’s domain. Up against the two women who have handed the Croatian her only losses this year, the Olympic champion came out on top in an enthralling discus contest.
Perkovic took an early lead with 64.46m, then world champion Denia Caballero bettered it in the next round with 64.55m. Perkovic regained it in the following round with 64.97m, but Caballero responded again, throwing 65.77m.
Perkovic then decided it was time to stop playing the cat-and-mouse game.
She hurled her discus out to 67.50m in round four to take the lead back from her Cuban rival. Caballero was unable to respond with her remaining throws, leaving Perkovic as the winner.
Although she already had an unassailable lead in the Diamond Race, her participation in Brussels meant that Perkovic won the Diamond Race for the fourth year in succession.
Colombian triple jumper Caterine Ibarguen also went into Brussels with a Diamond Race lead that could not be beaten.
Before her second-round jump, the world champion was sitting in fourth, but she pulled out a 14.26m leap to take a three-centimetre lead over Olympic champion Olga Rypakova.
She improved to 14.34m in round four, but world indoor champion Ekaterina Koneva then bounded out to 14.37m to move into first place. Both athletes were bumped down a place at the start of the final round when world silver medallist Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko leapt 14.42m.
Ibarguen had one attempt left with which to keep her three-year winning streak alive.
Showing her incredible mettle, Ibarguen sailed out to 14.60m with the final leap of the competition to bag eight Diamond Race points, winning the series for the third year in a row and extending her winning streak to 30 competitions.
In the men’s event, world champion Christian Taylor notched up his fourth Diamond Race victory. He was tied with arch rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo after the first round with both leaping 17.06m.
The Cuban didn’t improve with his next two jumps an then retired from the competition at the halfway stage.
Taylor, meanwhile, jumped 17.46m in round two and then improved to 17.59m with his penultimate jump, getting within one centimetre of the meeting record. He rounded out his series with a solid 17.48m.
Kovacs adds the Diamond Race to his list of accolades
The men’s shot was similarly close. World champion Joe Kovacs and two-time world champion David Storl were tied in the Diamond Race standings coming into the men’s shot put Brussels, meaning whoever performed better today would take the trophy.
Curiously, neither athlete was ever in the lead. World bronze medallist O’Dayne Richards sent his shot out to 21.37m in the first round, which New Zealand’s Tom Walsh bettered in round three by two centimetres.
Kovacs came to life in the fourth round with 21.35m to move into third as just four centimetres separated the top three. From then on, Storl remained in fourth place with his second-round effort of 21.09m.
It meant that Kovacs ended the year not only as the world leader and world champion, but as the Diamond Race winner as well.
World champion Maria Kuchina’s victory in the high jump gave her eight points in the Diamond Race, but it wasn’t quite enough to catch Spain’s Ruth Beitia in the overall standings.
Kuchina cleared every height on her first attempt up to and including her winning mark of 2.01m, equalling her PB. She ended with three failed attempts at 2.04m, the first of which was particularly close.
Olympic champion Anna Chicherova was second with 1.97m, while Beitia sealed her Diamond Race victory with a 1.93m leap for third place.
Tero Pitkamaki finished comfortably ahead of the two men who beat him at the recent World Championships, winning the javelin with a second-round throw of 87.37m and becoming the first Finnish athlete to win a Diamond trophy.
Germany’s Thomas Rohler finished second with 86.56m with Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott taking third with 84.03m. World champion Julius Yego threw 83.82m in round three to finish fourth, after passing his remaining attempts.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF