There was definitely a light-hearted mood at the traditional pre-meeting press conference for the Weltklasse Zurich, a day ahead of the first of the two IAAF Diamond League finals on Thursday (3).
Most of the main participants had in their possession a gold medal from the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 and despite various Diamond Races still to be contested on Thursday, most could also afford to relax a little
Among those sharing a laugh with the assembled media were Great Britain’s Greg Rutherford and USA’s Christian Taylor, the Beijing long and triple jump winners respectively, although the latter will compete in the Briton’s specialist event before taking part in the triple jump in Brussels on 11 September.
Rutherford was asked whether he had any goals left after becoming the reigning Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth champion.
“A lot of goals,” he responded. “We are one year away from an Olympics and the long jump is improving massively at the moment. What we are seeing now is that people are starting to jump better because there are more people jumping well, and when there are multiple people doing well then you have to up your game.
“I want to jump a lot further than I have done, I want to go down (in history), like this man, as one of the best ever in my event,” added Rutherford, nodding at Taylor.
“If I can win another Olympic or world title, then I’ll be able to say I’ve had a very successful career. There’s still a lot of fire in my belly.”
However, Rutherford did cast some doubt on whether he would contest the IAAF World Indoor Championships or the European Championships in 2016
“I’ll be based in the US from January next year through to June, so I’ll be on the continent (for the World Indoor Championships). I will only go to the World Indoors if I’m in good enough condition to win it, but we will assess that closer to the time. I’ll jump a few times in America in the build up to Portland and if all goes well, I’ll go.
“As for the Europeans, I’m not sure; we’ll see how the season goes. Obviously, I’m the defending European champion but we will have to look at the competition schedule.
“Defending an Olympic title will be incredibly tough so if that means I have to miss it, so be it, but then I’ll get myself ready for the next one after that. However, I would love to do.”
Taylor caused some amusement and briefly some bewilderment when he piped up: “I’ll be going (to Amsterdam).”
However, he quickly quashed any thoughts that he might be about to apply for a transfer of allegiance. “Amsterdam is only 45 minutes from where I’m based in the summer so I’ll be going… as a spectator. I just hope there is some good weather!
“As far as the World Indoors is concerned, my priority is the Olympic Games and I want to jump far when it counts. But there are records indoors that are obtainable and I now believe I can get.
"The American indoor record is 17.76m and the world indoor record is 17.92m. I definitely think those distances are possible but, at the same time, I don’t want to be that guy that does well in Portland and is tired or drained in Rio.”
Hair-raising times possible
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the world 100m champion, caused a stir in Beijing when she sported a bright green hair style resplendent with additional yellow flowers, so it was a surprise to see her arrive at the press conference with her hair restored to its natural black colour albeit in a completely different braided affair.
“I always have a new haircut," she said. "I just got my hair done yesterday, here in Zurich. The first thing I did when I got to Zurich was Google ‘hair dresser’. I found one nearby and spent about two hours there yesterday.
“I went there and I don’t speak German but the hairdresser came from Senegal and since I knew what I wanted and had a translator on my phone, everything worked out well. I’m getting to be an expert in finding hairdressers in foreign cities,” she joked. “I guess I’ve been to the hairdressers in more than 10 different countries.”
However, Fraser-Pryce couldn’t get away from the fact that she is also the defending Diamond Race champion and she can retain that accolade if she wins in Zurich.
“The championships have finished and this is a new race. Many of them (her rivals in Zurich) are coming here having had disappointments coming into this race and there are things they want to get right here.
“However, I am looking forward to running a personal best, and hopefully I can do it here,” said Fraser-Pryce, offering up the tantalising possibility of some super-fast sprinting as she currently lies fourth on the world all-time list with her national record of 10.70 from 2012.
“But what do I like about Zurich? Well, I love chocolate! And the atmosphere is great. Outside of Jamaica, and a major event like the World Championships or Olympic Games, there isn’t anywhere louder with the fans all cheering and banging on the sides of the track.”
South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk advertised that he has the potential to become one of the most high-profile athletes of the current generation when he ran a stunning 43.48 to win the 400m in Beijing.
He was famously unable to take a lap of honour in Beijing, having run himself into the ground and then being briefly hospitalised. It’s something he quietly hopes he can rectify in Zurich, but is far from certain that he will.
“It seems like I’m the only 400m runner who gets tired after his race," he said. "I saw the other guys with their flags but I don’t think I could have done a lap of honour. I saw the other guys walking around and I was just sitting there, trying to find myself. I need to find a way to handle the lactic and handle the pressure after a hard race.
“I’m still new to the 400m and I’ve got a lot to learn," added van Niekerek, with a smile on his face and in his rather modest fashion. "But hopefully, one day, I’ll get stronger and be able to take a victory lap without feeling like I’m dying."
Phil Minshull for the IAAF