Few races are as synonymous with a meeting as the Dream Mile is with Oslo’s ExxonMobil Bislett Games. That contest’s sterling tradition will continue on Thursday (9) as Asbel Kiprop targets a fifth victory in the prestigious event, one of several standout competitions expected at the seventh stop of the 2016 IAAF Diamond League series.
The three-time world champion arrives in the Norwegian capital with three wins in as many races over the 1500m and mile distance this season, the most recent in Birmingham on Sunday where he ran a largely solo 3:29.33 world lead. Kiprop said he has had ample time for recovery and an assault on his 3:48.50 personal best, which dates back to 2009, is a realistic goal.
In an enticing match-up, he'll face Kenyan compatriot Elijah Manangoi, last year's world silver medallist, and Olympic champion Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria who is chasing his first victory of the season.
The meeting record of 3:44.90, set by Hicham El Guerrouj in 1997, is still the fifth-fastest performance in history.
With a nagging toe injury yet again delaying Genzebe Dibaba’s 2016 outdoor debut, the spotlight in the women’s Dream Mile, which caps the evening’s action at Bislett Stadium, will fall squarely on world silver medallist Faith Kipyegon.
The Kenyan has been as unstoppable as Kiprop so far this season. The 22-year-old dominates the season’s world list after her impressive 3:56.82 and 3:56.41 victories in Shanghai and Eugene, both Kenyan records.
Schippers v Thompson one of many highlights
While attention in the Dream Mile races will fall on the overwhelming favourites, the IAAF Diamond League remains very much about head-to-head clashes; there is no shortage on this year’s Oslo programme, a meeting whose tradition dates back to 1924.
Topping the list on the women’s side is the second face-off of the season between Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers and Jamaican Elaine Thompson in the 200m, the gold and silver medallists at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.
Schippers has already clocked 22.02 this season while Thompson arrives from after a solid 10.87 victory over 100m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome. In their most recent encounter, Schippers edged Thompson by 0.05 in 22.11 when they finished second and third in Eugene.
In the men’s pole vault, Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie of France and Canada’s world champion Shawn Barber butt heads for the fourth time this outdoor season after Lavillenie prevailed in each of the first three. At 5.91m, Barber has however gone higher this spring than the Frenchman, who has twice topped 5.83m.
Poland’s Pawel Wojciechowski, the 2011 world champion and bronze medallist last year, is also in the field.
Most of the world’s finest javelin throwers are also in town, in a field headed by Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott and world champion Julius Yego. It also includes the two best throwers at the moment, German Thomas Rohler and Ihab Abdelrahman of Egypt, who have reached 87.91m and 87.37m respectively and sit 1-2 in the Diamond Race standings with one series victory apiece.
The women’s discus features Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic, the winner this year in Shanghai and Eugene and the world leader at 70.88m, and Cuban Denia Caballero, who upset the Croatian at last year’s World Championships, the only time in 10 meetings that she has defeated Perkovic.
In the men’s shot put meanwhile, world champion Joe Kovacs, who paces the world with his 22.13m toss in Eugene, will be the man to beat. On paper at the moment, he is more than a metre ahead of the rest of the field. The closest is Poland’s 19-year-old rising star Konrad Bukowiecki with 21.01m; the world junior champion will be making his IAAF Diamond League debut.
Kiyeng and Edris lead distance fields
Eleven days ago in Eugene, world champion Hyvin Kiyeng set an African record of 9:00.01 in the 3000m steeplechase, crossing the line little more than a second shy of Gulnara Galkina’s world record.
Ruth Jebet, the winner on that occasion, will not be in Oslo, but Kiyeng will still face tough opposition from Ethiopia's Etenesh Diro, winner at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rabat.
The men’s 5000m features world leader Muktar Edris, the 22-year-old Ethiopian who has displayed notable consistency after his victories in Shanghai and Eugene, clocking 12:59.96 and 12:59.43 to beat strong fields.
Here he will face a slew of fast compatriots, including Hagos Gebrhiwet and Yomif Kejelcha, third and fourth at last year's World Championships. Olympic silver medallist Dejen Gebremeskel is also in the field.
Moving to the hurdles, the spotlight will fall on two men in the full-lap event, Diamond Race leader Michael Tinsley of the US and Kenya's world champion Nicholas Bett. Tinsley, the Olympic silver medallist, has shown good early season form with victories in Shanghai and Eugene and will be looking to take that momentum to the US Olympic Trials. Bett, on the other hand, is hoping to put behind him a lacklustre early season, which includes a last-place finish in Eugene.
The women’s 100m hurdles has the makings of a mini-preview of the upcoming US Olympic Trials, with 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper Nelson, former national record-holder Brianna Rollins and Jasmin Stowers, the ninth fastest of all time, topping the bill.
Rounding out the sprint programme, Doha and Rome 200m winner Ameer Webb will be chasing his first 100m victory in IAAF Diamond League action. The 25-year-old, who has clocked 9.94 this season, will be up against Canada’s world bronze medallist Andre De Grasse and Kim Collins, who at 40, just keeps getting faster. The 2003 world champion improved to 9.93 in Bottrop last month and will start in Oslo as the fastest man in the field.
Elsewhere in the field events, world champion Tianna Bartoletta takes on Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic in the women’s long jump. The former is targeting her first 2016 IAAF Diamond League win; the latter, who won in Shanghai with 6.96m, her second.
And finally, Diamond Race leader Levern Spencer leads the field in the women’s high jump, and Portugal's 2008 Olympic champion Nelson Evora lines up against 2013 world champion Teddy Tamgho in the men's triple jump.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF