Dafne Schippers and Dina Asher-Smith in action at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham (© Getty Images)
One week after the IAAF World Championships London 2017 drew to a close, the IAAF Diamond League picks up just a couple of hours away from the British capital with the Muller Grand Prix Birmingham on Sunday (20).
As is often the case with post-championships meetings, recent medallists will look to prove that their podium finishes in London weren’t by fluke while athletes who missed out will be seeking redemption. And as the final points-scoring opportunity before the IAAF Diamond League finals, athletes will be looking to claim one of the limited spots in their discipline ahead of Zurich and Brussels.
Six of the Diamond disciplines in Birmingham boast a full set of World Championships medallists. But perhaps the most intriguing events are the ones featuring numerous world medallists from a combination of disciplines.
The women’s 100m, for example, includes all three 200m medallists from London, plus the 100m silver and bronze medallists as well as the 100m hurdles champion.
Two-time world champion Dafne Schippers will renew her rivalry with the two women who followed her across the finish line in the 200m in London: double world silver medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou and Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo.
World leader and Olympic champion Elaine Thompson is also in the field, looking to rebound from a disappointing showing in London where she finished fifth. World 100m hurdles champion Sally Pearson will also contest the short sprint, as will three members of Britain’s silver medal-winning 4x100m team: Dina Asher-Smith, Asha Philip and Desiree Henry.
World medallists from numerous events will also clash in the women’s 3000m. Kenya’s Hellen Obiri and Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, the world 5000m gold and bronze medallists, will face the US duo that filled the top two spots on the steeplechase podium, Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs, and world 10,000m bronze medallist Agnes Tirop.
Obiri has already done enough to secure her spot in the final, but the likes of Tirop, fellow Kenyan Margaret Chelimo, Eilish McColgan and Etenesh Diro will be aiming to boost their points tally ahead of Brussels.
The meeting record of 8:33.00 was set by Sonia O’Sullivan in 2000 when the meeting was held in Gateshead. The stadium record of 8:38.42 looks even more vulnerable.
World and Olympic podium reunions
Three of the events in Birmingham will reunite the medallists not only from the recent World Championships but also from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Of those, the men’s shot put is probably the most highly anticipated.
Emotions ran wild in the British capital earlier this month during the men’s shot put final. In a clash of three reigning global champions, world indoor champion Tom Walsh came away with the gold medal as defending world champion Joe Kovacs settled for silver and Olympic champion Ryan Crouser finished down in sixth place. Both of the US throwers later filed protests against throws that were ruled to be narrow fouls, but the results stood.
Those three men – who filled the three spaces on the podium in Rio – will be fired up for Birmingham, but there’s no clear favourite in such a high-quality field.
Tomas Stanek – the fourth man to throw beyond 22 metres this year, along with Crouser, Kovacs and Walsh – missed out on a medal in London but rebounded earlier this week in Warsaw by equalling his own Czech record of 22.01m, beating Crouser in the process.
Surprise world bronze medallist Stipe Zunic is also in the field, so too is two-time world champion David Storl and two-time world indoor champion Ryan Whiting.
In the discus, Sandra Perkovic will be joined by the women who shared a podium with the Croatian in London and Rio: Australia’s Dani Stevens, French veteran Melina Robert-Michon and Cuba’s 2015 world champion Denia Caballero. Yaime Perez, the Cuban who has twice beaten Perkovic this year, is also set to compete.
Perkovic already owns the meeting record of 69.23m, but she could take aim at the stadium record of 70.58m, which dates back to 1987.
Yulimar Rojas, Caterine Ibarguen and Olga Rypakova took the triple jump medals in both Rio and London, albeit in a slightly different order, and the trio will meet again in Birmingham. It was at this meeting last year where Ibarguen’s long-running winning streak came to an end, so the Colombian will want to create more positive memories this time round. Rojas, meanwhile, may attempt to improve on her own world-leading mark of 14.96m.
All four women who reached the pole vault podium in London will be in action in Birmingham. World and Olympic champion Ekaterini Stefanidi will renew her rivalry with world and Olympic silver medallist Sandi Morris as well as Yarisley Silva and Robeilys Peinado, the joint bronze medallists in London.
Francis v Felix
Of all the shock results in London – and there were many – the women’s 400m ranked among the most surprising of all.
Surprise winner Phyllis Francis will line up in Birmingham up against US teammate Allyson Felix, who took the 400m bronze medal in London, and silver medallist Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain. Jamaica’s Olympic bronze medallist Shericka Jackson and current IAAF Diamond League leader Novlene Williams-Mills are also in the field.
With this being Francis’s first IAAF Diamond League appearance of 2017, she will have to bag big points if she hopes to claim a lane in the final.
World 200m champion Ramil Guliyev will contest his specialist distance in Birmingham and the Turk will be joined by four other men who lined up against him in the 200m final last week: Britain’s Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, Botswana’s Isaac Makwala and US duo Ameer Webb and Isiah Young.
The women’s 400m hurdles meeting record of 53.78 looks to be in jeopardy as Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad takes on two-time world champion Zuzana Hejnova, Olympic silver medallist Sara Slott Petersen, world bronze medallist Ristananna Tracey and 2015 world silver medallist Shamier Little. Muhammad needs a strong showing to guarantee a place in the final.
Just 0.14 separates the top six contenders on season’s bests in the men’s 110m hurdles. In a field where seven different nationalities are represented, Sergey Shubenkov is the fastest this year with a best of 13.01. The addition of world record-holder Aries Merritt, world bronze medallist Balazs Baji, Olympic silver medallist Orlando Ortega and European indoor champion Andrew Pozzi makes this race a tough one to call.
Henderson and Barshim headline jumps fields
Olympic champion Jeff Henderson missed out on the World Championships final. He may not be having his best season to date, but a win at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London last month showed he is still a strong force.
In Birmingham he will take on two of the medallists from London: compatriot Jarrion Lawson and South Africa’s Ruswahl Samaai.
Barshim, meanwhile, was head and shoulders – quite literally – above his opposition in the high jump in London. The Qatari high jumper had three solid attempts at 2.40m and would no doubt like to nail that height before the season ends. He’ll face, among others, world bronze medallist Majd Eddin Ghazal of Syria.
In the men’s 800m, Kipyegon Bett and Adam Kszczot, the world silver and bronze medallists, take on three-time world 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop, 2012 Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos and world finalists Kyle Langford and Brandon McBride.
The women’s 1500m looks just as competitive with world silver medallist Jenny Simpson lining up against fellow world finalists Laura Weightman, Angelika Cichocka, Rababe Arafi, Meraf Bahta and Malika Akkaoui. Winny Chebet and Gudaf Tsegay missed out on the World Championships final, but they are the fastest in the field this year with respective season’s bests of 3:59.16 and 3:59.55.
Farah's UK farewell
It might not be a Diamond discipline, but the men’s 3000m will be the focal point of the meeting for many of the spectators at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium as double Olympic champion Mo Farah will be making his final UK track appearance.
Compatriot Andrew Butchart is the only other top-eight finisher from the world 5000m final who will be in Birmingham, but Spanish duo Ilias Fifa and Adel Mechaal, the European gold and silver medallists, can be expected to push Farah, as can Australia’s Patrick Tiernan.
In the Emsley Carr Mile, another non-Diamond discipline, Olympic steeplechase silver medallist Evan Jager will contest his first mile race outside of North America. His opponents include US 1500m champion Robby Andrews and British duo Chris O’Hare and Jake Wightman.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF