Keni Harrison wins the 100m hurdles in a world record of 12.20 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London (© Kirby Lee)
There aren’t many athletes who can upstage Usain Bolt in all his pomp. But Kendra Harrison did just that at the 2016 London Diamond League 12 months ago when the slight young hurdler from Tennessee lowered one of the sport’s longest-standing world records with a peerless run of personal redemption after she had failed to make the US team for the Rio Olympics.
A year on, Harrison in back in the British capital where she now tops the bill in her own right for the Müller Anniversary Games, the ninth IAAF Diamond League meeting of the season, to be held on Sunday 9 July at the London Stadium.
The circumstances could hardly be more different, for this will be the first of two visits to the east London venue in the space of a month for the 24-year-old who secured the US title two weeks ago and safely booked her passage to August’s IAAF World Championships London 2017.
There is little doubt Harrison will start as favourite to win her first global gong after running a world leading time of 12.28 in Hungary on Tuesday, almost two-tenths of a second quicker than her nearest rival, and she is expected to pick up her second Diamond League win of the season here on Sunday despite the presence of five fellow Americans who also feature in this year’s world top 10.
They include Sharika Nelvis, who came out on top in Lausanne on Thursday, plus Jasmin Stowers and Nia Ali, who rank second and third in the world this year, the World Championship-bound Christina Manning, and Olympic bronze medallist Kristi Castlin.
Among those facing this awesome US onslaught is Sally Pearson, the Australian who took the Olympic title on the banks of the River Lea five years ago and is one of a number of London 2012 gold medallists making the annual pilgrimage back to the scene of their greatest triumphs.
Farah’s 3000m tune-up
Another of those is Britain’s own Mo Farah, of course, whose outing over 3000m will conclude the meeting, a neat piece of programming no doubt designed to whet the British public’s appetite for the coming World Championships where the two-time double Olympic gold medallist will run his last competitive track race.
Farah is also one of 12 reigning Olympic champions in action this weekend, while the meeting boasts some 23 silver and bronze medallists from Rio, plus 11 current world champions, many of them competing for the last time on the circuit before London calls them back once more from their faraway towns.
Thompson vs Schippers at 100m
Indeed, the line-ups for many of Sunday’s events read like previews of the World Championship finals, not least the women’s 100m where Rio sprint sensation Elaine Thompson lines up against world 200m champion Dafne Schippers, who was ‘merely’ a young heptathlete at the London 2012 Games, and Britain’s European 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith, the London 2012 kit-carrier seeking a London 2017 qualifying time as she bounces back from injury.
Thompson has already been in blistering form this year, her world leading 10.71 at the Jamaican championships a fortnight ago coming between sub-11 Diamond League victories in Shanghai and Paris.
But Schippers has a brace of 200m wins under her belt so far, and has specifically targeted a 100m medal at the Worlds after taking silver in Beijing two years ago. The Dutch flyer has also been under 11 seconds and has fond memories of the London Stadium having clocked a national record of 10.92 here two years ago.
Michelle-Lee Ahye is in record form herself, setting a new national best at the Trinidad and Tobago championships last month, and together with Ivory Coast’s world silver medallist Murielle Ahouré could well challenge the principal pair.
Lasitskene looking for 17th win of the season
Talking of principals, few athletes stand head and shoulders above their rivals quite as clearly as Mariya Lasitskene at the moment. The high jumper, who competes as an authorised neutral athlete, appears on course to retain her world title after clearing 2.00m or more seven times during the outdoor season, topped off with a world leading personal best and Diamond League record of 2.06m in Lausanne on Thursday.
With a warm afternoon expected, Lasitskene could even threaten the world record as she seeks her 17th win of the year against Spain’s Olympic champion Ruth Beitia, US wonder kid Vashti Cunningham, the 19-year-old world indoor champion, and Britain’s in-form youngster Morgan Lake.
The women’s pole vault is another loaded field with all three Rio medallists – Ekaterini Stefanidi, Sandi Morris and Eliza McCartney – plus world champion Yarisley Silva and Britain’s Holly Bradshaw in the line-up.
Meanwhile, the long jumps feature Olympic champion Jeff Henderson against Damar Forbes, Tadek Juska and Tyrone Smith in the men’s, and Tianna Bartoletta versus Lausanne victor Ivana Spanovic in the women’s.
Kolak riding strong momentum
Elsewhere in the field, Croatia’s surprise Olympic javelin champion and 2017 world leader Sara Kolak takes on Czech world record holder Barbora Spotákova and Germany’s world champion Katharina Molitor just three days after beating both in Lausanne with a national record.
World leader Daniel Stähl seeks maximum discus points against the four throwers below him on this year’s list – Jamaican record holder Fedrick Dacres, Lithuanian Andrius Gudzius, Philip Milanov of Belgium and Poland’s ever-present Robert Urbanek.
The men’s sprint hurdles brings world record holder Aries Merritt back to the scene of his 2012 Olympic triumph where he will take on Britain’s ever-improving Andy Pozzi and Frenchman Garfield Darien, who won in Ostrava last week.
The one-lap hurdles feature US Olympic champions, Dalilah Muhammad in the women’s event and Kerron Clement in the men’s where world leader Kyron McMaster will start as favourite.
Muir vs Obiri in the mile
A women’s mile clash between Britain’s Laura Muir and Kenya’s Hellen Obiri takes top billing among the middle distance events with Muir expected to target Zola Budd’s long-standing British record of 4:17.57.
Nijel Amos lines up against Asbel Kiprop for the men’s 800m in the stadium where he so memorably chased David Rudisha in that remarkable Olympic final, and USA’s Charlene Lipsey seeks yet another PB in the women’s two-lapper just three days after lowering her best for the sixth time this season.
In the men’s sprints, US 400m champion Fred Kerley drops down to 200m to take on the new British champion Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, while Kim Collins and Isiah Young face a largely British field in the 100m. Britons feature heavily in the men’s 400m too, while Allyson Felix returns to action alongside Natasha Hastings in the women’s one-lap event.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF