Derek Drouin in the high jump at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham (© Getty Images)
Organisers for the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham on 5 June have announced a superb high jump field, including Canada’s world champion Derek Drouin, Italy’s world indoor champion Gianmarco Tamberi and British star Robbie Grabarz.
Drouin, Grabarz and stadium record-holder Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar all shared the bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games and joining them in the showdown will be USA’s Erik Kynard, who finished one place above this trio and took the silver medal in London.
Grabarz said the fierce competition will make the high jump compelling viewing: "Everyone always gets excited about the men’s 100m but the high jump is one of the best events in athletics right now.
"Others will probably disagree but I believe the men’s high jump is the most exciting event in track and field in 2016. The quality of the event is amazing. We have the best in the world coming to Birmingham for the Diamond League and people will get to see what I mean. It's an incredible event with remarkable athletes performing amazing feats. The competition at world level is driving up standards.”
Grabarz added: “I've had a difficult four years since London but I’m now back in form and ready to use the Birmingham Diamond League as my launch pad to the Rio Olympics. The others need to watch out because I’m the comeback kid and ready to take on the world.
“Winning bronze in London was amazing but I'm going to do everything I possibly can to take the gold medal at this summer’s Olympic Games in Brazil. That is my motivation and why I get out of bed to train so hard. I want to arrive there in the best shape of my life and see what I can achieve.”
The world indoor silver medallist and 2012 European champion lives and trains in Birmingham and is relishing the chance to compete in front of a home crowd at the Alexander Stadium.
“Birmingham feels like my home town now, so it’s really exciting to compete against the best guys in the world and the athletes who will be in the Olympic final. The support from the home crowd is brilliant and makes it so much more special to know you’ve got your home fans behind you.”
Tamberi established himself as the current world No.1 during the indoor season by staying unbeaten and winning gold in Portland. The Italian is now looking forward to the outdoor season and his Birmingham debut.
“Becoming world indoor champion was an amazing moment for me and I was so happy with my indoor season," said Tamberi. "I’m looking forward to competing at the Birmingham Diamond League for the first time and hopefully I can carry on my good form and put on a show for the British fans. The Olympic Games is the main aim for me this year but this event will be important for me competing against some of my biggest rivals."
Kynard last competed in Birmingham in 2013, where he finished second to Bogdan Bondarenko, while Barshim won the world indoor title in 2014 and holds the Asian record with 2.43m; only Cuba’s world record-holder Javier Sotomayor has ever jumped higher.
Completing the overseas members of the field in Birmingham are 2004 Olympic bronze medallist Jaroslav Baba of Czech Republic and Italy’s Marco Fassinotti. Chris Baker, who finished eighth at the World Indoors, is also set to compete in Birmingham.
“The indoor season was great for me, jumping a big PB of 2.36m and then finishing in the top eight in the world, but now I’m focused on the outdoor season and continuing to improve ahead of the Olympics," said Baker. "The Birmingham Diamond League will be a really important competition for me to test myself against some of the best high jumpers in the world, and there’s no better place to do it than in front of a home crowd.”
Organisers for the IAAF
2016 IAAF Diamond League calendar
6 May – Doha, QAT
14 May – Shanghai, CHN
22 May – Rabat, MAR
28 May – Eugene, USA
2 Jun – Rome, ITA
5 Jun – Birmingham, GBR
9 Jun – Oslo, NOR
16 Jun – Stockholm, SWE
15 Jul – Monaco, MON
22-23 Jul – London, GBR
25 Aug – Lausanne, SUI
27 Aug – Paris, FRA
1 Sep – Zurich, SUI
9 Sep – Brussels, BEL