Christian Taylor sails to a seventh Diamond Trophy in Brussels (© Giancarlo Colombo)
It may not have been one of his most competitive IAAF Diamond League showdowns with arch-rival Will Claye, but Christian Taylor’s triple victory at the AG Memorial Van Damme in Brussels on Friday (6) was a memorable one for many other reasons.
Not only did he break the long-standing meeting record, but he landed his seventh Diamond trophy, equalling the record haul held by French pole vault star Renaud Lavillenie.
Taylor opened with 17.30m – a mark that would have eventually been enough to win – and then went out to 17.85m with his second leap. That would have smashed Jonathan Edwards’ 17.60m meeting record had it not been for the marginally windy 2.1m/s following wind.
In the penultimate round, though, Taylor went out to a wind-legal 17.66m (0.1m/s) to add six centimetres to the meeting record that had stood for 24 years.
Claye’s best leap on the night was 17.22m, enough for second place ahead of fellow US jumper Omar Craddock (17.17m).
Willie Banks set a meeting record of 17.58m back in 1985, the same year in which he broke the world record. It was broken by Edwards 10 years later, the same season in which he broke the world record. Taylor’s meeting record tonight could similarly be something of a good omen ahead of the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.
Asher-Smith and Norman avenge recent losses
The highly anticipated sprint clashes in the Belgian capital didn’t disappoint.
After three successive 100m losses to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the IAAF Diamond League, Dina Asher-Smith finally got the better of her arch rival when it mattered most.
The Briton blasted out of the blocks and immediately put pressure on Fraser-Pryce, who is used to leading from the outset. Clearly rattled, the Jamaican didn’t look as smooth as she usually does and struggled to get on level terms with Asher-Smith. But there was no letting up from the leader, who dashed across the finish line in 10.88 (-0.3m/s), the only athlete in the field to clock a season’s best.
Fraser-Pryce was second in 10.95 while Marie-Josee Ta Lou finished third in 11.09.
"Today was typical British weather," said Asher-Smith. "This is the climate I'm used to training in, so I took my chance."
"Of course I'm very happy with the Diamond League win, but the World Championships will be completely different. It will be held in another climate and it will be a series of races that you can't really compare to this evening's race."
Six weeks after their clash at the US Championships, Michael Norman turned the tables on Fred Kerley in the 400m to win his first Diamond League title.
For a brief moment it looked as though Kerley would retain his Diamond League title as he came off the final bend in the lead with Jamaica’s Akeem Bloomfield surprisingly holding second place ahead of Norman.
But Norman dug deep and gritted his teeth and gradually made up ground on Kerley as they battled down the home straight, eventually edging in front about 25 metres before the finish. Norman crossed the line in 44.26 – a time only bettered in Brussels by Michael Johnson – with Kerley taking second place in 44.46. Bloomfield was third in 44.67.
Light rain started to fall as the athletes lined up for the men’s 200m, but it didn’t get in the way of Noah Lyles making history.
Lyles makes Diamond League history
Before last week’s IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich, no man had ever won Diamond League titles at 100m and 200m. Lyles ended that by winning the 100m crown last week, adding it to his 200m titles from 2017 and 2018. And now he is the first man to win both sprint titles in the same season.
As the field came off the bend, world champion Ramil Guliyev held a narrow lead over Lyles with Andre De Grasse close behind. Lyles kept his cool, though, and pulled away in the closing stages, as is his trademark.
Lyles won in 19.76 with Guliyev taking second place just ahead of De Grasse, 19.86 to 19.87, both recording the second-fastest times of their respective careers.
“I was just trying not to pee myself,” overshared Lyles after the race. “I was trying so hard to hold it in.
"It also started raining just as we were called to our blocks, and then I noticed two pins to fix my race number weren't fixed well. It was just a bit chaotic, but I'm glad I could handle this. It gives me even more confidence for the World Championships."
Danielle Williams showed her recent 100m hurdles win over world record-holder Kendra Harrison in Birmingham was no fluke.
The 2015 world champion from Jamaica had a terrific start and already had a clear lead by the half-way point. She continued to pull away from Harrison over the final few barriers and crossed the line in 12.46, matching her winning time from Birmingham.
Harrison was second in 12.73, finishing 0.01 ahead of two-time world indoor champion Nia Ali.
“To win against this standard of field is just fantastic,” said Williams. “I’m also satisfied with the time because it was really, really cold. In Doha my ambition will be the same: first make it to the final and then get a medal.”
Following the late withdrawal of US champion Daniel Roberts from the 110m hurdles, Orlando Ortega was relatively untroubled as he sped to victory.
The Spaniard got away well and at the half-way point had a slight lead over Sergey Shubenkov, who looked much improved compared to his recent appearances. Shubenkov faded slightly in the second half while Jamaica’s Ronald Levy finished well, but Ortega crossed the line a comfortable winner in 13.22, taking a second Diamond trophy following his 2016 win.
Stefanidi and Lasitskene land fourth Diamond trophies
Katerina Stefanidi headed to Brussels with three Diamond trophies already in her possession. Two of them resided at her home in the USA while the other was in Greece. Naturally, the world and Olympic champion was keen to win another so that she could have two in each of her homes.
In a pole vault competition that proved to be one of the greatest in terms of depth, the Greek record-holder – as she has done on many previous occasions – once again raised her game when it really mattered.
Her series was flawless: first-time clearances at 4.63m, 4.70m, 4.77m and 4.83m to equal her season’s best. For the first time in history, 11 women cleared 4.63m with seven of them topping 4.70m, but their scorecards were punctuated with misses.
Anzhelika Sidorova was the only other vaulter to get over 4.83m, doing so on her third attempt. But she was unable to clear 4.88m to steal the victory from Stefanidi and so settled for second place. Canada’s Alysha Newman was third with 4.77m.
World champion Mariya Lasitskene also won her fourth Diamond trophy, taking the high jump with 1.99m. And, like Stefanidi, she also had first-time clearances up to and including her winning height.
The anticipated duel with world and Olympic heptathlon champion Nafissatou Thiam didn’t quite materialise as the Belgian star ended the evening with a best of 1.95m for third place. World silver medallist Yuliya Levchenko was second with 1.97m.
Lasitskene ended her series with three unsuccessful tries at 2.04m.
Malaika Mihambo took just three attempts in the long jump, but any one of them would have been enough for the German to win her first Diamond League title.
The European champion opened with 6.97m and followed it with a 6.99m leap in round two, taking off 23 centimetres behind the plasticine. She added a few more centimetres to her leading mark with 7.03m in round three – her sixth competition this year beyond seven metres.
British heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson had been sitting in second place with 6.73m, but multiple world champion Brittney Reese sprung into life in the final round with 6.85m to finish as runner-up.
“My main focus is on training hard for Doha now, and I wanted to use as little energy as possible,” said Mihambo. “At my best jump I was 20 centimetres from the board, so there is still room for improvement.”
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF