Noah Lyles wins the 200m in Zurich (© AFP / Getty Images)
From the peak of the World Championships there is only one way to go, so the Weltklasse meeting in Zurich, taking place just four days after the championships finished, shaped as a potential trip hazard for the 12 world champions who turned out as the Wanda Diamond League resumed tonight (31).
Eight of them avoided the obvious danger, and maintained that winning feeling in front of the usual packed house of 25,000 passionate fans at the Letzigrund Stadium
Triple world sprint champion Noah Lyles loves a big crowd and was lifted by their energy as he faced a world championships-final strength field in the 200m to crown the night.
Lyles was challenged by the young pretender to the title, world silver medallist Erriyon Knighton, but prevailed in 19.80. Knighton was less than a metre behind (19.87) with Zharnel Hughes a close third (19.94).
“Everybody wants to beat me and everybody wants the cake and the crown, but I am not giving it to them,” Lyles said. “Today, we did not have perfect conditions, it was pretty cold. But a win is a win.”
Sha’Carri Richardson also began her reign as the world’s fastest woman in fine style, dominating the women’s 100m to win in 10.88 on a cool night, less than ideal for sprinters.
“I am feeling really good for being able to finish this season as fast as I can,” she said. “I am definitely grateful, and I am excited with the way this season is going. Today, I felt like I executed, and I felt good about my performance.”
Jamaican duo Natasha Morrison and Elaine Thompson-Herah (both 11.00) followed her home. That was a season’s best for dual Olympic champion Thompson-Herah, who is only now finding her form with less than a month remaining of the international outdoor season.
World 200m champion Shericka Jackson remained supreme in her preferred event, winning by four metres (21.82) from Britain’s Daryll Neita (22.25) and Kayla White (22.33).
The women’s 100m hurdles is arguably the most competition event on the track at the moment, but Jamaican Danielle Williams also backed up her Budapest victory, triumphing in 12.54 from US duo Alaysha Johnson (12.58) and Kendra Harrison (12.59).
Many athletes did not know quite what to expect in Zurich but hoped that their peak form would hold up against any lingering mental and physical fatigue.
That worked better for some than others.
Triple world 400m hurdles champion Karsten Warholm suffered an unexpected defeat at the hands of world silver medallist Kyron McMaster, whose aggressive opening 200m put the Norwegian master off his game.
McMaster made up the stagger on Warholm in half a lap, forcing the favourite to chase him as they rounded into the home straight. Warholm fought back and they were even at the final hurdle but McMaster held on for a narrow but well-deserved victory in 47.27, just 0.03 ahead of Warholm (47.30). The 2022 world champion Alison Dos Santos finished third in 47.62.
McMaster, from the British Virgin Islands, was inspired by the large crowd. “There are more people here than on my island,” he exclaimed.
Newly-minted world 1500m champion Josh Kerr also had his colours lowered in a race that reversed his role, from hunter to hunted. In Budapest Kerr pounced on tiring leader Jakob Ingebrigtsen, but he took the lead almost two laps out in Zurich and this time it was rising US runner Yared Nuguse who brought the late charge, sneaking under the Scotsman’s guard in the last metres to win in 3:30.49.
Kerr was just 0.02 behind him with Kenyan Abel Kipsang in third (3:30.85).
However, Bahrain’s Winfred Yavi maintained her supremacy in the 3000m steeplechase, after claiming her first world title last week.
With 250 metres to go, Yavi took the lead from Beatrice Chepkoech but the world record-holder refused to yield, and they sprinted to the finish line side-by-side, Yavi just out-lasting Chepkoech in the last metres to win in 9:03.19, from Chepkoech (9:03.70) and Faith Cherotich (9:07.59), reproducing the Budapest podium.
Victory was never in doubt in the men’s 5000m as Yomif Kejelcha took a 60-metre lead into the last lap and maintained it to the line to win in 12:46.91. Olympic 10,000m champion Selemon Barega (12:54.17) outlasted Grant Fisher (12:55.88) to take a distant second place.
Like Kejelcha, Laura Muir was looking to make amends after a disappointing World Championships. Coming down in distance to the 800m from her favoured 1500m, she blasted into the lead on the second lap and claimed a convincing victory (1:57.71) from Catriona Bisset (1:58.77) and Adelle Tracy (1:59.05).
In the field, there was plenty of ambition on show as Mondo Duplantis attempted a world pole vault record of 6.23m at one end of the track and Mutaz Barshim took a look at 2.40m in the high jump at the other.
The spirit was willing, but the body was not, and both had to content themselves with a comfortable victory.
Duplantis, arguably the most dominant performer in athletics, took the win at 6.00m as two-time world champion Sam Kendricks set a season’s best of 5.95m for second and KC Lightfoot took third (5.85m) on a countback.
“The 6.23m jumps felt surprisingly good,” Duplantis said. “After the 6m jump, I wanted to wake myself up and make something crazy. My energy was low. Such a height is not easy only four days after the World Championships. Coming down from that high was draining. My legs felt flat. I wanted to get myself back into world record mentality.”
He vowed to make more attempts at the world record in his last two Diamond League meetings of the season.
Triple world champion Barshim, whose spectacular record at championships was snapped in Budapest by his fellow Olympic champion Gianmarco Tamberi, reasserted himself in Zurich with victory at 2.35m. New Zealand’s Hamish Kerr (2.33m) and South Korean Sanghyeok Woo (2.31m) took the minor placings, with Tamberi (2.28m) an exhausted fourth after last week’s heroics.
By Yulimar Rojas’ standards, this has not been a vintage year. The triple jump great looked strangely vulnerable for much of the World Championships final in Budapest last week, before claiming her fourth consecutive title at the last gasp, but the pressure was off in Zurich and the Rojas show was back on the road.
An opening-round leap of 15.00m gave her the lead immediately, and the breathing room she did not have in the World Championships final. A second-round leap in the 15.50m range was deemed a foul, but her fourth-round effort of 15.15m stretched her advantage over Jamaica’s Shanieka Ricketts (14.78m) and Cuba’s Liadagmis Povea (14.73m).
The ‘final three’ jump-off did not change the order as Rojas produced an identical jump of 15.15m and neither of her closest rivals could improve.
“From the minute I arrived here in Zurich, I was certain this was going to be a great competition – especially coming back from the World Championships where it wasn't all great,” Rojas said. “The crowd play a very important role here, because they help you to give it your best every time.”
It was left to Greece’s world champion Miltiadis Tentoglou to provide the late drama in the horizontal jumps as he leapfrogged his rivals with a jump of 8.20m in the ‘final three’ round. He went into the jump-off in third place with a best of 8.04m, but soared past 2019 world champion Tajay Gayle (8.07m) and Jarrion Lawson (8.05m) to claim the win.
India’s world and Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra went very close to pulling off the same trick in the ‘final three’ of the javelin. He went in trailing Czech rival Jakub Vadlejch (85.86m to 85.22m) and produced his best throw of the series but fell just short of the win with 85.71m. Germany’s Julian Weber was third with 85.04m.
Nicole Jeffery for World Athletics