Armand Duplantis in the pole vault at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene (© Getty Images)
Sweden is a nation that has long had a strong affinity for field events, and that tradition will again be on full display at the BAUHAUS-galan meeting in Stockholm on Sunday afternoon (10), the sixth stop of the IAAF Diamond League.
No event will be savoured quite like the men’s pole vault, where boy wonder Armand ‘Mondo’ Duplantis will take on world champion Sam Kendricks with a vocal chorus of partisan support ringing in his ears.
Duplantis has long been touted as the future of the event, and last month he made giant strides towards becoming its present, soaring over a world U20 record of 5.93m (pending ratification) at a high school meeting in Baton Rouge, USA, a height surpassed this year only by France’s Renaud Lavillenie (who has cleared 5.95m).
However, to give the Swedish crowd cause for celebration, Duplantis will have to overcome the formidable challenge of Kendricks, who also cleared 5.93m this year and is coming to Stockholm off a trio of wins in Eugene, Rome and Hengelo. It’s a stadium that’s more familiar to Duplantis, and with warm, sunny conditions forecast for Sunday afternoon, he’s hopeful of giving the crowd something to celebrate.
“I’ve vaulted here several times, but never in good conditions,” he said yesterday. “It’s not really known for good conditions but I don’t think it’s supposed to rain on Sunday so I think if it’s not too windy, it should be good.”
Also in the field is 2015 world champion Shawn Barber of Canada, a duo of strong Poles – Piotr Lisek and Pawel Wojciechowski – along with Germany’s Raphael Holzdeppe and Greece’s Konstantinos Filippidis.
The men’s long jump should be another that draws many eyes to the in-field, with South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga set to take to the runway to continue a winning streak that stretches back six events. He leads the 2018 world list courtesy of his 8.58m leap in Rome last week, but he may need to replicate that – or even better – to take victory here.
That’s due to the presence of Cuban sensation Juan Miguel Echevarria, who hit the big time in Birmingham back in March, beating Manyonga to world indoor gold. In Rome Echevarria jumped a PB of 8.53m and it will come as no surprise if he scores his first IAAF Diamond League win here. South Africa’s Ruswahl Samaai, Australia’s Henry Frayne and USA’s Jeff Henderson should also feature.
The women’s long jump should be just as riveting, given the presence of Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta and world indoor champion Ivana Spanovic. Bartoletta, who has a best of 6.61m this year, will be looking to put a shaky start to the season firmly behind her, while Spanovic, who jumped a wind-assisted 6.98m in Athens last month, looks capable of becoming the first woman to surpass seven metres in 2018.
In the women’s high jump, Maria Lasitskene seeks to continue her winning streak that now dates back almost two years, and should do so with ease, despite the presence of world silver medallist Yuliya Levchenko and Olympic silver medallist Mirela Demireva.
The men’s discus will showcase another Sweden-versus-the-world clash, with Daniel Stahl hoping to rouse the home crowd with a win, fresh from a third-place finish in Oslo on Thursday night, where he had a best of 67.04m. More will likely be needed here to take maximum Diamond League points given the presence of Lithuania’s Andrius Gudzius – the world champion who surpassed 69m twice in Oslo – and Jamaica’s Fedrick Dacres, a winner last week in Rome with 68.51m.
On the track, the 400m hurdles re-match between Norway’s Karsten Warholm and Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba should prove the undoubted highlight, the two arriving in the Swedish capital after their race at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Oslo on Thursday night, where Samba came from behind to beat Warholm in 47.60.
The women’s 100m will also be a re-run of Oslo, with Murielle Ahoure looking to confirm form with Dina Asher-Smith, who set a British record of 10.92 just behind Ahoure’s winning time of 10.91 on Thursday.
World champion Ramil Guliyev also arrives in sparkling form after setting a season’s best of 19.90 to win the 200m in Oslo, and the Turk will take to the line as a formidable favourite for that race on Sunday. But Steven Gardiner, who clocked a Bahamian record of 19.75 earlier this year, will surely have other ideas, as will Canada’s Aaron Brown, who has a best of 19.98 this year.
All eyes will be on Brianna McNeal in the women’s 100m hurdles to see if the Olympic champion can set her season right after a mishap in Rome last week. Alina Talay of Belarus, who set a national record of 12.41 last week, should also be in contention, along with Danielle Williams, a winner in Oslo on Thursday, and US athletes Dawn Harper Nelson and Christina Manning.
Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain will prove tough to beat in the women’s 400m after winning in highly impressive fashion in Oslo in 49.98, a mark none of her seven rivals here have approached so far this year. But world champion Phyllis Francis of the USA should soon be making inroads into her season’s best of 50.47.
In the middle-distance events, the women’s 1500m stands out as the most intriguing contest. It features 2011 world champion Jenny Simpson and double world indoor medallist Laura Muir, but a host of other women may well take the win, among them Nelly Jepkosgei of Kenya, Rababe Arafi of Morocco or Habitam Alemu of Ethiopia.
The men’s 1000m will see a host of world-class 800m men pit their endurance against a pair of milers, as Poland’s Adam Kszczot, along with Kenyan duo Kipyegon Bett and Ferguson Rotich, take to the line alongside Britain’s Jake Wightman and Bahrain’s Sadik Mikhou, who both contested the Dream Mile in Oslo on Thursday night.
Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega looks the undoubted class of the men’s 5000m field, the 18-year-old coming off a highly impressive win at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene last month, where he unleashed a speedy kick to take victory over two miles in 8:20.01. Kenya’s Cyrus Rutto, Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed and Uganda’s Jabob Kiplimo appear to be his biggest threats.
All told, 25 Olympic and world champions will descend on Stockholm for the meeting – athletes who have 62 global medals between them – and with ideal weather conditions expected, the scenic old stadium should be rocking once again on Sunday afternoon.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF