Wayde Van Niekerk appreciates the support of the fans while competing during in Durban at the 2016 African Championships.

On Thursday, some of the world’s best athletes would be competing in the Swiss city of Lausanne, in what will be the eighth Diamond League meet of the season. Top on the list of athletes headlining this showpiece is 400m World Record holder Wayde Van Niekerk, who will be making his first Diamond League appearance this season.

Having recently broken the 300m WR in Ostrava, and twice dipping under 20s in the 200m this season, Van Niekerk will be the spectators’ choice when he lines up to compete in the 400m. In fact, the organisers expect the race to live up to the hype, as the 400m has been scheduled to be the second to the last event of the day, just before the 4x100m relays.

That notwithstanding, it could be too early in the season to see Van Niekerk take another record set by Michael Johnson, the Meeting Record (MR) of 43.66s set in 1996.

There are other African athletes who would be looking to challenge Van Niekerk. Botswana’s duo of Isaac Makwala and Babaloki Thebe are some of the big names in the line up. Joining them are Americans Tony McQuay and Vernon Norwood, not leaving out Trinidad and Tobago’s Machel Cedenio.

Having beaten Akani Simbine by just 0.01s at the Guylai Memorial on Tuesday, Justin Gatlin is the favourite going into their 100m rematch on Thursday.

Simbine, who raced to his 14th career sub 10s to finish 2nd in 9.99s in Budapest, could push Gatlin all the way and might be in for a win. Nevertheless, this is a race that could swing either way, with Ben Youssef Meite, Kim Collins and Isiah Young all in the mix.

Dafne Schippers has revealed that she will be focusing on both the 100m and 200m in London. However, her first focus would be on making it back to back Diamond League wins. The Dutch is the favourite to win, but there is Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou to worry about, as well as Kyra Jefferson who has the fastest time of the field this year with 22.02s.

With no Kendra Harrison who recently clocked a World Lead of 12.28s in the women’s 100m Hurdles, Nigeria’s Oluwatobiloba Amusan who is making her Diamond League debut, would fancy her chances  against the likes of Nia Ali and Jasmine Stowers.

The women’s 400m Hurdles promises to elicit huge cheers as two of the three athletes who dipped under 53s at the US Trials will be competing in Lausanne. Dalilah Muhammad and Shamier Little would look to continue where they left off in Sacramento, but world champion Zuzana Hejnova, and Ashley Spencer, would want to prove a point as well.

With Caster Semenya not competing in Lausanne, Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba should be favoured to nick another women’s 800m victory. However, Sifan Hassan (yet to lose in the 1500m this year), Eunice Sum and Laura Muir are some of the big names she would have to hold off.

The men’s 1500m will provide the battle of the Kenyans, with Silas Kiplagat and Robert Biwott both aiming for the top prize. Nevertheless, they would be wary of the presence of Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz from USA, Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman, and Ethiopia’s Aman Wote

In the field events, the men’s Shot Put would provide the thrill of the throws. Can World Leader Ryan Crouser maintain his superb form in 2017, or would the likes of Tom Walsh and David Storl push him further to surpass the latter’s MR of 22.20m?

Meanwhile in the men’s Pole Vault, Renaud Lavillenie would be hoping he can get one over Sam Kendricks, with the American yet to be beaten this year and joining the 6.00m club. Kendricks would be hoping he can get close to his MR of 5.92m.

Christian Taylor will hope to make it back to back wins in the men’s Triple Jump, having won the event in Paris. But his countryman Will Claye would look to spoil the party, as would Cuba’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo, who is gradually returning to form.

The women’s Long Jump is also an event not to be missed, with both Ivana Spanovic and Tianna Bartoletta squaring up against each other. There are other strong contenders to consider, such as Shara Proctor and Darya Klishina.

Athletics coverage was a discovery, having to move away from regularly writing about Football. Although it was initially daunting, but now being an authority in it makes the past effort worthwhile. From travelling on the same international flight with Nigerian athletes, to knowing you could easily interview: World Record holder Tobi Amusan, then Ese Brume, I have cut my teeth in this beat earning the trust of Athletics sources. Formerly the Content Manager-Sports at Ringier media Nigeria, Chris is a Senior Sports writer, Photographer & Community manager at Making of Champions.


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