Stockholm’s staging of the last IAAF Diamond League meeting before the IAAF World Championships get underway in Beijing just over three weeks from now offers some of the favourites to succeed in the Chinese capital a final opportunity to lay down their markers.
For some of those athlete, such as reigning world 110m hurdles champion David Oliver, there is the additional opportunity of effectively securing a Diamond Race title ahead of the Diamond League finals in Zurich and Brussels in early September.
The 33-year-old US athlete – who won in the Swedish capital’s historic 1912 Olympic stadium two year ago – has a five-point lead over his nearest challengers despite not having raced at the last Diamond League meeting in London last weekend.
One of those challengers, fellow American Jason Richardson, the winner in the London 2012 Olympic Games stadium, was an early inclusion in the Stockholm field but Oliver’s task got a lot more complicated last week when the organisers of Stockholm Bauhaus Athletics signed up the other two men in closest pursuit, namely France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde and Cuba’s Orlando Ortega, and the latter leads this year’s world lists with 12.94.
Just for good measure the race also gained Russia’s European champion Sergei Shubenkov, who is joint fourth with Martinot-Lagarde in this year’s world lists with 13.06.
A win for Oliver, who has a best this year of 12.98, would take him to 15 points, and even if one of the three men now on six points secured two further points for second place, the world champion would have a seven-point advantage going into the season’s finale in Zurich’s Letzigrund Stadium on 3 Septmber, meaning he would only need to finish in the top three to regain the Diamond Race trophy he last won in 2013.
Ibarguen seeks to extend winning run
Caterine Ibarguen is in an even stronger position in the women’s triple jump, where she has an unbeaten record of 27 competitions, most recently in the Pan-American Games in Toronto.
The 31-year-old Colombian will defend her world title in Beijing next month and can make certain of a Diamond Race hat-trick with victory in Stockholm, where she faces her closest challenger, Kazakhstan’s 2012 Olympic champion Olga Rypakova, who currently has five points to Ibarguen’s 16.
Germany’s Christina Schwanitz leads the women’s shot put Diamond Race by seven points and can also put herself into a massively strong position ahead of the final in an event that will take place on the eve of the main meeting in Kungstradgarden city square.
New Zealand’s world and Olympic champion Valerie Adams is still regaining full fitness after undergoing surgery to her elbow and shoulder last year but makes her third Diamond League appearance of the season after surprising losses in Paris and London.
Elsewhere, however, the competition to gain the edge going into the Diamond Race final will be seriously tough.
The men’s high jump boasts Mutaz Essa Barshim, who is in second place on the all-time lists after his leap of 2.43m in last season’s Diamond League final in Brussels and who leads this year’s world lists with 2.41m.
The 24-year-old Qatari leads the Diamond Race with 10 points after his victories in Shanghai and Eugene in May, but he has now lost at three successive Diamond League meetings and could only manage 2.28m in London last weekend as Italy’s Marco Fassinotti earned victory.
Barshim – who has been training in Malmö this week with his Polish coach, Stanislaw Szczyrba – will face Fassinotti again and urgently needs to rise to this latest challenge not only for the sake of his Diamond Race aspirations, but also his ambitions of earning a first global outdoor title in Beijing.
Can he produce another winning flourish in the arena where Sweden’s Patrik Sjoberg set his world record of 2.42m in 1987?
Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who is due to defend her world 100m title next month, has also got work to do to secure Diamond Race honours in her top event, as she currently stands as joint-leader on eight points with Blessing Okagbare.
The Nigerian is not in Stockholm so Fraser-Pryce can steal a march in a race where her main opposition looks like coming from USA’s Tori Bowie, who has run 10.81 this year.
Bowie’s performance in winning the US championships leaves her joint fourth in this year’s world lists, but the double Olympic champion has the best time of 2015 to her credit having run 10.74 earlier this month at the Paris Diamond League meeting.
Rutherford under home pressure from Torneus
Britain’s Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford, who leads his Diamond Race by one point from USA’s Michael Hartfield, has a similar opportunity to Fraser-Pryce in that he can put some distance between himself and his absent main rivals.
Neither Hartfield nor Russia’s world champion Aleksandr Menkov, who is four points adrift of the Briton, will be in Sweden.
But Rutherford, who could only finish third in London with 8.18m, has a hugely demanding task given the presence of London winner Marquis Dendy, of the United States, who set a stadium record of 8.38m, South Africa’s Zarck Visser, second in London with 8.21m and with 8.41m to his credit this year, and home favourite Michel Torneus, the European indoor champion.
Competition also appears to be fierce in the men’s discus, where the Polish rivals Piotr Malachowski and Robert Urbanek, with 13 and 10 points respectively, do battle, and also in the women’s pole vault and javelin events.
A winning vault of 4.79m in London on Saturday lifted Greece’s Nikoleta Kyriakopolou into a five-point lead in her Diamond Race, but she faces the woman in closest pursuit, Brazil’s 2011 world champion Fabiana Murer, along with home athlete Angelica Bengtsson, who has set a national outdoor record of 4.60m this year, and Cuba’s 2012 Olympic silver medallist Yarisley Silva, who leads the world list with 4.85m.
Double Olympic javelin champion Barbora Spotakova has a two-point lead in her Diamond Race over Latvia’s Madara Palameika, who beat her by a centimetre in London, and Sunette Viljoen. Both challengers are in Stockholm along with Israel’s Oslo winner Marharyta Dorozhon.
Zuzana Hejnova is heading back to her best form at an ideal time to defend her world 400m hurdles title.
Having won in London the Czech Republic athlete, second in this year’s world lists with 53.76, can leap ahead of Jamaica’s absent Kaliese Spencer, who currently has a two point advantage over her.
That prospect is also open to Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman, who can overtake his two absent Kenyan rivals Silas Kiplagat and double world champion Asbel Kiprop with a win in the 1500m, where his main rival looks likely to be USA’s two-time world championships medallist Matt Centrowitz, who has set a personal best of 3:30.40 this year.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF