The Zurich meeting is one of two finals in this year’s IAAF Diamond League series, and will take place at the Letzigrund Stadium on Thursday, August 24.
With new rules coming into effect this season in the IAAF Diamond League, the best of Track and Field stars who have made it into the finals will now lock horns in the quest to get the coveted Diamond Trophies and $50,000 in prize monies.
Thursday’s meeting’s entry includes 14 reigning Olympic Champions, 17 newly-crowned World Champions and an all-star cast that promises an unforgettable night of Athletics at the sold-out arena, and a setting that speaks for the new IAAF Diamond League format.
SPRINTS AND HURDLES
Dafne Schippers will be aiming to win a consecutive Diamond League trophy in the women’s 200m. She however, would face stiff competition from Olympic Champion, Elaine Thompson who has raced sparingly in the 200m this year, as well as World Silver and Bronze medallists, Maria Josée Ta-Lou and Shaunae Miller-Uibo.
Coincidentally, all four women raced alongside each other in Eugene, with Miller-Uibo coming tops in that race.
Diamond League leader in the men’s 100m, Andre De Grasse will not be competing in this year’s finals after withdrawing from all races this season due to a hamstring injury he suffered prior to the IAAF World Championships.
That invariably leaves World Champion and four-time DL winner Justin Gatlin to battle it out with last year’s DL winner Asafa Powell, and South Africa’s Akani Simbine. These three last faced off in the 100m race in Doha, with Simbine laying down a marker with an impressive win then.
Also, World and Olympic champion in the men’s 400m, Wayde Van Niekerk will not feature in this year’s final after pulling out of the rest of the season to recuperate from a recurring back injury.
The final will however feature two men who have dipped under 44s this season; London 2017 Silver medallist, Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas, and Isaac Makwala of Botswana.
Norway’s Karsten Warholm has been the break out star in 400m Hurdles in this season’s DL. The 21-year old came into limelight in his home meeting in Oslo. He followed it up by upsetting the apple cart to win at the London Stadium earlier this month.
However, going into the finals in Zurich, Olympic Champion Kerron Clement and DL leader Yasmani Copello will be wary of his threat.
The women’s 100m Hurdles should provide for a tasty affair as five Americans will feature in the finals (without World Record (WR) holder Kendra Harrison). They will be up against World Champion Sally Pearson who is chasing her first Diamond Trophy.
MIDDLE AND LONG DISTANCE
After causing one of the greatest upsets at the just concluded IAAF World Championships, Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris will look to inflict more pain on Mo Farah going into the 5000m finals in Zurich. Farah’s only victory in the DL this season came in Eugene, while Edris claimed victories in Paris and Lausanne.
In the women’s 3000m Steeple chase, Olympic Champion Ruth Jebet who didn’t finish on the podium at the World Championships, will hope to add another DL trophy to her cabinet. She would be up against Emma Coburn of the USA who struck GOLD in London, and DL leader Hyvin Kiyeng.
Also, Olympic and World champion Caster Semenya will go into the final as she sets out to retain her DL trophy. Semenya’s biggest threat should come in the form of Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui, but it’s difficult seeing either of the two stopping Semenya from extending her unbeaten run in the women’s 800m to 20 victories.
World Champion in the 1500m Elijah Manangoi should have his tails up in the finals after claiming four victories in the DL this year. One of the wins came in Monaco as he finished with a time of 3:28.80 – a lifetime best and the world fastest time this year.
Mutaz Essa Barshim has been in scintillating form in the men’s High Jump this season. The World Champion who set a Meeting Record (MR) and a World Leading height of 2.40m in Birmingham, will be on a mission to reclaim the Diamond trophy he lost to America’s Erik Kynard last year.
Barshim, who has a lifetime best of 2.43m could even threaten Javier Sotomayor 25-year old record in the event.
Another athlete who has been in blistering form this season is South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga. The London 2017 GOLD medallist and World Leader is so far undefeated in the DL this season and will be up against London Silver and Bronze medallists, Jarrion Lawson and Ruswahl Samaai respectively.
The men’s Pole vault makes for another interesting subplot with the duo of Renaud Lavillenie and Sam Kendricks going against each other. The rivalry between the two is even made more intense as just one point separates both of them on the DL standings going into the final.
Kendricks who is the World Champion and World Leader (WL), has won four of the six DL meetings this season and will be looking to break Lavillenie’s streak of winning the last seven Diamond trophies.
In the men’s Javelin throw, the German duo of Thomas Rohler and Johannes Vetter will battle it out against each other. Rohler had set the tone early in the opening DL meeting of the season, throwing an impressive 93.90m.
Vetter has since bettered that mark with a monster throw of 94.44m and also beat him to GOLD at the World Championships.
The women’s category of the Javelin will see Rio Olympic Champion Sara Kolak square up against Czech Barbora Spotakova who claimed her second world title earlier this month.
Spotakova may have led the DL standings after accumulating 28 points, but would be cautious of the fact that Kolak – who finished 4th in London, comes into the final with a World leading throw of 68.43m.
Similarly, Caterine Ibarguen who has dominated almost every competition in the Triple Jump in recent years, will come up against Yulimar Rojas who beat her to GOLD in London.
Ibarguen however, is not showing any sign of waning as she claimed victory over Rojas in Birmingham earlier in the week. What spices up the duel between the pair is the fact that they have the two leading jumps in the world, but Rojas tops the standings with her mark of 14.96m set in June.
Finally, in the women’s Shot put, China’s World Champion Gong Lijiao is in the frame to claim the title in the absence of Valerie Adams who won the trophy in 2016. US Olympic Champion Michelle Carter and DL leader Anita Marton are also in the mix and would seek to lay their hands on the trophy.