Ruth Jebet in the 3000m steeplechase at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Stockholm (© AFP / Getty Images)
Seven newly-minted Olympic gold medallists will feature at the Meeting de Paris on Saturday (27) and the pressure is on at the 12th IAAF Diamond League meeting of 2016 as many will once again face the rivals with whom they shared the Rio podium.
In what promises to be one of the highlights of the night, the women’s 3000m steeplechase will feature the gold, silver and bronze medallists from Rio in Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet, Kenya’s world champion Hyvin Kiyeng and Emma Coburn of the United States.
Having produced the second and third fastest times ever this year, both just about a second off the world record of 8:58.81, Jebet will have another opportunity to display her dominance.
The women’s 1500m, stacked with talent, also looks a stand-out event. Of the top 10 finishers in Rio, only Ethiopia’s silver medallist Genzebe Dibaba is absent, and the main challenge to Kenya’s Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon could come from numerous directions including bronze medallist Jenny Simpson, her US compatriot Shannon Rowbury, who finished fourth, or the Netherlands’ world indoor champion Sifan Hassan, now back in top form after an injury delayed the start of her outdoor season.
Also one to watch here is Britain’s Laura Muir, who paid for her ambition in the Olympic final as she faded to seventh place, but showed last year in Oslo and again in London a month ago that she knows how to win IAAF Diamond League races.
Spain’s 37-year-old Olympic high jump champion Ruth Beitia has reconsidered her decision to retire after Rio 2016 – just as she did following London 2012 – and is a late entry to a field that already includes the Bulgarian who took silver behind her in the Olympic Stadium, Mirela Demireva, and Alessia Trost of Italy, fifth in the Olympic final.
Shot put gold medallist Ryan Crouser of the United States, a man inspired in Rio, where his Olympic record of 22.52m was preceded in the morning by the biggest ever Olympic qualifying throw, 21.59m, meets up again with the silver and bronze medallists, compatriot and world champion Joe Kovacs, and Tom Walsh of New Zealand.
All three Olympic medallists will be present too in the women’s discus, where champion Sandra Perkovic – who only needs to compete in the final IAAF Diamond League event to secure a fifth consecutive overall Diamond Race title – faces France’s silver medallist Melina Robert-Michon and Cuba’s bronze medallist and world champion Denia Caballero.
The women’s long jump will see Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta, whose fifth-round personal best of 7.17m in Rio earned her a victory by two centimetres over defending champion and fellow US jumper Brittney Reese, facing Ivana Spanovic, who set a Serbian record of 7.08m for bronze, for the second time in three days following the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne.
Spanovic got back on top in Lausanne, winning with 6.83m as her US opponent could only manage 6.46m for fifth place. The French capital will offer Bartoletta a chance to respond.
Meanwhile, the men’s javelin brings together another athlete who earned gold with a dramatic fifth-round effort, Thomas Rohler, with bronze medallist and 2012 Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott.
Rohler, whose huge heave of 90.30m in Rio is second in this year’s world lists behind his own 91.28m, will need to be on top form to resist the Trinidad and Tobago athlete, who is second-ranked in 2016 with a best of 88.68m.
Kerron Clement, the Olympic 400m hurdles gold medallist from the United States, faces a field which includes Turkey’s bronze medallist Yasmani Copello.
Dafne Schippers, the 200m world champion and Olympic silver medallist, will need to be on top of her game to resist the challenge of the Ivory Coast sprinter who finished one place off the podium in Rio, Marie-Josee Ta Lou.
In the men’s 800m, double Olympic silver medallist Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria faces home runner Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, who finished fourth in Rio.
Bosse is one of a number of home athletes on show who performed with honour in Rio.
While France does not have an Olympic champion to celebrate, there will be three silver medallists on parade in Robert-Michon, decathlete Kevin Mayer and world pole vault record-holder Renaud Lavillenie.
Lavillenie, who will expect a welcome rather different to that he received in Rio’s Olympic Stadium when he was booed during his final and medals ceremony, takes on bronze medallist San Kendricks of the United States and Canada’s world champion Shawnacy Barber, who will be eager to make up for his disappointment in finishing 10th in Rio.
Mayer, who set a national record of 8834 in Rio as he produced a superb second day to put pressure on the US star who eventually succeeded in defending his title, Ashton Eaton, will compete in the javelin in which he boasts a personal best of 66.09m, set at the IAAF World Championships Moscow 2013.
Other home medallists in action include three-time Olympic steeplechase medallist Mahiedine Mekhissi, who goes in an intriguing and talent-laden 3000m which is the penultimate event on the schedule before the men’s 100m and features the two men who took silver medals behind Britain’s Mo Farah in the Rio 5000m and 10,000m: respectively US athlete Paul Chelimo and Kenya’s Paul Tanui.
The men’s 100m offers home sprinter and European record-holder Jimmy Vicaut the opportunity to sign off his season in front of the home fans with a victory, although he will have a struggle against compatriot Christophe Lemaitre, the Olympic 200m bronze medallist.
Kendra Harrison of the United States, who broke the 28-year-old world 100m hurdles record of 12.21 in London last month with a time of 12.20 after failing to qualify for the US Olympic team, offered evidence of what Rio missed on Thursday as she defeated a strong field in 12.42 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne.
Harrison’s compatriots Dawn Harper Nelson, the 2008 Olympic champion and 2012 silver medallist, and Jasmin Stowers, who ran a personal best of 12.35 last year, finished second and third respectively in 12.71 and 12.75 in Lausanne, and both will be in action in Paris.
“My objective for the remainder of the season is to win the next two Diamond League races,” said Harrison. “And hopefully get another PB... another world record!”
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF