What a summer it has been. In the four months since the 2021 Wanda Diamond League season kicked off back in May, the world's top athletics series has seen world records tumble, Olympic champions forged and new stars emerge to get their hands on the Diamond Trophy for the very first time.
In the first of our four-part series looking back on an eventful season, we return to Gateshead, Doha and Florence to remember how the world's best athletes kickstarted their seasons and began their long road to Tokyo 2020 and the Wanda Diamond League Final in Zurich.
Gateshead - May 23rd
After the coronavirus pandemic put paid to a full season in 2020, Gateshead was the first Wanda Diamond League meeting in two years at which athletes were competing for points as well as pride. Though much of the pre-meet focus was on rising stars such as Mondo Duplantis and Sha'Carri Richardson, it was the more experienced campaigners who delivered on a rainy night in the north-east of England. Reigning Wanda Diamond League champion in the 100m, Britain's Dina Asher-Smith got her title defence off to a winning start in front of her home crowd with victory over the likes of Richardson and Marie-Josée Ta Lou. Meanwhile Duplantis started his season with defeat, as Diamond Trophy holder Sam Kendricks beat both the world record holder and the wind to take a maximum eight points on his return to the circuit.
Doha - May 28th
In perhaps the most dramatic shift in conditions ever seen on the Diamond League circuit, the series moved from chilly Gateshead to scorching hot Doha for the second event of 2021. There were world leads and meeting records galore in the Qatari capital, where we also caught a first glimpse of things to come from of a few of the outstanding performers this year. Eventual Olympic champion Katie Nageotte laid down an early marker with victory in the pole vault, only the second Diamond League victory of her career. In the sprints, victories for Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Kenny Bednarek also set the tone for what would be a superb season for the former, and a title-winning campaign for the latter.
Florence - June 10th
Balmy conditions made for a marvellous night in the distance events at the third meeting of the season in Florence, with both the Netherlands' Sifan Hassan and Norway's Jakob Ingebrigtsen making their first mark on the 2021 series. Ingebrigtsen clocked a European record of 12:48.45 to beat world record holder Joshua Cheptegei in the 5000m, picking up his second victory of the year after a win in the 1500m in Gateshead. Hassan, meanwhile, rampaged to a stunning victory in the 1500m, beating world champion and eventual Olympic and Diamond League champion Faith Kipyegon, despite the Kenyan running a personal best and national record in second. In the 400m hurdles, Hassan's compatriot Femke Bol soared to the first of five Diamond League victories in 2021.