Aries Merritt, Mutaz Essa Barshim and Yohan Blake in action at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Brussels (© Jiro Mochizuki / Gladys Chai von der Laage)
On Friday, the IAAF Diamond League heads to Brussels for the second of two finals in the 2018 series. Here we look back at three of the more memorable Diamond League moments from the Belgian capital.
Merritt’s 12.80 110m hurdles world record, 2012
Aries Merritt, the Olympic 110m hurdles champion, put it all together in the final IAAF Diamond League meeting of the season to take seven hundredths of a second off the world record in the Memorial van Damme meeting, lowering the mark to 12.80.
Running before a capacity crowd of 47,000 at the King Baudouin Stadium, Merritt obliterated the previous world record of 12.87 set by Dayron Robles in Ostrava in 2008. The last time a high hurdles world record had been broken by such a margin was in 1981 when Renaldo Nehemiah clocked 12.93 in Zurich to lower his own mark by 0.07.
After a series of performances in the 12.90s this season, it seemed just a matter of time before Merritt would eclipse the mark. That this would be his night was clear before the race even reached the midway point.
Fast from the gun, he had already pieced together a sizeable lead by barrier three which was extended over the next four, and he stopped the clock initially at 12.81 before his time was rounded down.
"It was a shock when I saw the time pop up on the scoreboard," said Merritt, whose previous personal best of 12.92 placed him equal sixth in the world all-time list. "That was better than I ever could have expected. And later it was even corrected to 12.80. Unbelievable."
With his victory, Merritt also claimed the Diamond Trophy in the event with 18 points. World champion Jason Richardson also had 18 points, but lost out having won only two races to his fellow American’s three.
Barshim rises to 2.43m, his greatest height, 2014
Mutaz Essa Barshim produced the crowning moment of an unprecedentedly competitive season of high jumping at the concluding IAAF Diamond League final by clearing 2.43m.
That added a centimetre to his Asian record and the IAAF Diamond League record, establishing him as the second-highest jumper ever behind Javier Sotomayor, whose 1993 world record stands at 2.45m.
With double points on offer for the finale, Barshim’s victory enabled him to clear his arch-rival Bogdan Bondarenko – winner of the previous three IAAF Diamond League meetings – and claim the event’s Diamond Race by 20 points to 18.
Qatar’s 23-year-old world indoor champion required his final flourish after initial failures at 2.28m and 2.37m had given the initiative to Bondarenko, who had first-time clearances at 2.28m, 2.34m and 2.37m.
Both men cleared 2.40m first time, but Ukraine’s world champion could go no further.
Including indoor marks, this competition brought the tally of 2.40m jumps in 2014 to 16. Before this year, never had two high jumpers cleared 2.40m in the same competition. In 2014 it happened four times.
Blake’s 19.26 200m upstages Bolt’s fastest time of the year, 2011
You would not have bet on Usain Bolt being upstaged by anyone at the final Diamond League meeting of the season in Brussels, especially after he had succeeded in his ambition of running the fastest 100m of the year, 9.76, in a race that was outside the night’s Diamond Race events.
But upstaged he was, by the 21-year-old training partner who had profited from his 100m false start in Daegu to take the 2011 world title, Yohan Blake. With Bolt still waving to the crowd and signing autographs on the back straight, Blake won the Van Damme Memorial 200m in a startling 19.26 – the second fastest time ever behind Bolt’s world record of 19.19.
No wonder the senior partner was registering a certain amount of shock as he hugged his smaller compatriot. Blake had spoken on his arrival of wanting to run “the perfect race”, adding: “I knew I could do something crazy. But to be honest I was surprised when I saw the clock at the finishing line. This was a perfect controlled race. I started slow, and while I’m not a good bend runner I accelerated afterwards.
“Usain stays the best runner, but after tonight I feel I’m capable of breaking the world record over 200 metres. I’m looking forward to competing with Usain next season.”
Blake’s reaction time was 0.269, slowest of the field. Had he got away to a sharper start, or perhaps not taken things a little cautiously on the bend, who knows what time he might have run?
The cash and the trophy for the 200m Diamond Race went to Walter Dix of the United States, who ran a personal best of 19.53sec in second place. It was a nice counterpoint to the previous season, when injury prevented the American from contesting the final as he appeared poised to win overall.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF