Previews02 Sep 2015

20 individual world champions to compete in Zurich – IAAF Diamond League


Genzebe Dibaba on her way to winning the 5000m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Oslo (© Mark Shearman)

As befits the first of two IAAF Diamond League finals, with the Weltklasse Zurich coming just a few days after the end of the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015, the famous Swiss meeting will feature a plethora of world champions on Thursday (3).

At stake are 16 Diamond Race titles, which comes with the magnificent Diamond Trophy and a winner-takes-all cheque for US $40,000.

No fewer than 20 individual world champions from Beijing will be in Zurich, and three of them will be in one race, the women’s 3000m.

Ethiopia’s 1500m gold medallist Genzebe Dibaba and her compatriot and 5000m champion Almaz Ayana will be alongside Kenya’s 10,000m winner Vivian Cheruiyot.

The distance and her 2015 racing record means that Dibaba, who set a 1500m world record in Monaco in July, has to be considered the favourite, and finishing in the top two will ensure that she’s the Diamond Race winner.

One of the most thrilling races in Beijing was the men’s 400m and all three medallists will be re-united, led by the South African star Wayde van Niekerk, whose stunning 43.48 took him to fourth on the world all-time list.

He will be challenged again by the two men who finished immediately behind him last week, USA’s LaShawn Merritt and Grenada’s Kirani James.

Medals galore in Zurich

This event is one of seven that can boast of all the Beijing medallists.

In the men’s 3000m steeplechase, the top six from Beijing will do battle again, led by Kenya’s four-time world champion Ezekiel Kemboi. His compatriot Jairus Birech is the leader of the Diamond Race and will be looking for revenge and compensation after finishing fourth in Beijing, despite being the most consistent top-level steeplechaser in the world since the start of last year.

Kenya also triumphed in the men’s 1500m in Beijing. In Zurich, the gold medallist Asbel Kiprop will again face his teammate and silver medallist Elijah Manangoi as well as Moroccan bronze medallist Abdalaati Iguider.

The best six male high jumpers from Beijing will be in Zurich. Derek Drouin took the gold medal after a tense three-way jump off and he is looking to jump higher than the 2.34m which clinched him the victory in the Chinese capital. Qatar’s world indoor champion Mutaz Essa Barshim will hope to make up for the disappointment of missing out on a medal by winning the Diamond Race.

Tianna Bartoletta has already clinched the Diamond Race in the women’s long jump, with the proviso that she competes on Thursday, and so the attention will be on how far the US athlete can go after the world-leading 7.14m she produced to win her world title.

Great Britain’s Greg Rutherford is in a similar situation in the men’s long jump, which boasts all three Beijing medallists, but still needs to finish in the top two to ensure he wins the Diamond Race.

In the field will be Beijing triple jump winner Christian Taylor. In addition, the USA's mercurial but hugely talented Jeff Henderson, a teammate of Taylor who leads the world in 2015 in this discipline, will be looking to redeem himself after doing no better than ninth in Beijing.

Zuzana Hejnova is in pole position in the women’s 400m hurdles Diamond Race and her current form – culminating in a world-leading win in 53.50 in Beijing – suggests she should add another Diamond Trophy to the one she won in 2013, but she still needs a few points to be 100 per cent secure.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, four-time world champion and double Olympic champion, could win the 100m at Weltklasse Zürich for the second time after her first victory in 2012.

Unbeaten since May, another win would not only stretch the Jamaican’s winning streak but also gain her the Diamond Race title.

Silva aiming to retain her golden touch

In Beijing, Cuba’s Yarisley Silva beat Brazil’s Fabiana Murer and Greece’s Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou into second and third place respectively.

However, in this year’s Diamond Race, the trio are ranked in reverse order. With Murer and Kyriakopoulou still having a chance to take the Diamond Race, revenge over Silva would be even sweeter if one of them can also take the US $40,000 first prize.

One of the tightest finishes in Beijing came in the women’s 800m and the Zurich race over two laps of the track could be equally thrilling.

Belarusian world champion Maryna Arzamasova and the woman she dethroned, Kenya’s Beijing bronze medallist Eunice Sum, will duel although the latter has effectively secured the Diamond Race by scoring 16 points in four races.

The women’s throws feature both the Germans who won in Beijing, shot putter Christina Schwanitz and javelin thrower Katharina Molitor.

Schwanitz has already secured the Diamond Race and so can just go for distance to emphasise her domination of this event in 2015 while Molitor, the surprise winner with a last-round world-leading 67.69m, will aim to show that her win on Sunday was no fluke. She will face Diamond Race leader Barbora Spotakova, and the Czech world record-holder will be looking to bounce back after a rare poor showing in Beijing.

Of the additional events, the most attractive is the men’s 800m which features world champion and world record-holder David Rudisha.

After his well-thought-out tactical race in Beijing, Thursday’s race could turn into a time trial for the Kenyan and he has asked pacemakers to go through 400m in 49.5.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF