The Wanda Diamond League Final is nearly upon us! After a qualification journey which stretched over five months, 13 meetings and four continents, the world's best athletes are now set to battle it out for the Diamond Trophy at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene. With just a few days to go until the two-day season finale at Hayward Field, we take a look back at the 2023 Road to the Final.
Road to the Final 2023: Distance
It was a good year for Algeria in the men's 800m as Slimane Moula and Djamel Sedjati claimed wins in Doha and Stockholm respectively. Kenya's Emmanuel Wanyoni was the standout performer over the season though, with a victory in Rabat and world leads in Paris and Xiamen. The latter performance came in particularly dramatic circumstances with Wanyoni and world champion Marco Arop neck and neck for the last 150m metres before the Kenyan edged a photo finish.
Reigning champion Mary Moraa had secured her ticket to the final by mid-July with wins in Rabat, Paris and Silesia and she will be confident of claiming a second successive title in Eugene. As in previous years, though, the British stars also remained highly competitive. After Keely Hodgkinson broke the British record with 1:55.77 in Paris, there were also late season wins for her compatriots Jemma Reekie and Laura Muir.
When Faith Kipyegon began her title defence with a win in Doha, most people assumed it would be the first of many wins on the Diamond League circuit in 2023. Yet few could have predicted just how great a season Kipyegon had ahead of her. In Florence, Kipyegon clocked 3:49.11 to break the 1500m world record she had been chasing for several years. The 5000m world record followed a week later in Paris, before the Kenyan completed an astonishing hat-trick with a mile world record of 4:07.64 in Monaco. Before Kipyegon, no athlete had broken more than one world record in a single Diamond League season. It may be some time before anyone repeats the feat.
It was also a record-breaking year for Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who dominated the men's 1500m once again in 2023. After an early win in Rabat, the Norwegian set an area record on home soil in Oslo, smashed the meeting record in Lausanne and then shaved another chunk off his European record with 3:27.14 in Silesia. Disappointment at the World Championships didn't stop him bouncing back with a vengeance in Zurich, where he clocked 4:43.13 in the 2000m to break Hicham El Guerrouj's 24-year-old world record and head into the final on a high. The only other man to win in the Diamond League this year was the US' Yared Nuguse, who picked up back-to-back wins in London and Xiamen, the latter coming in a dramatic photo finish with world champion Josh Kerr.
Kipyegon's 14:05.20 in the 5000m in Paris was perhaps the most surprising of her three world records. Ahead of the race, the Kenyan had admitted she was still tired from her 1500m exploits in Florence, and even she looked flabbergasted as she crossed the line at the Stade Charlety. It would remain her only win in the 5000m this year, as more familiar long-distance specialists picked up the baton from mid-June onwards. Ethiopians Freweyni Hailu and Gudaf Tsegay grabbed meeting records in Silesia and London respectively, before reigning Diamond League champion Beatrice Chebet set a new world lead of 8:24.05 in Xiamen.
Mohammed Katir's world lead in Florence aside, it was a almost a clean sweep for the Ethiopians in the men's long distance races this year. Lamecha Girma started the campaign with a meeting record in Doha, while Berihu Aregawi and Hagos Gebrhiwet picked up wins in Lausanne and London. Yomif Kejelcha topped the standings, adding a win in Zurich to his meeting record and world lead in Oslo.
Girma's greatest moment this season came not in the 3000m or 5000m, but in the steeplechase. On the same evening Kipyegon stunned the world in the 5000m, Girma sensationally clocked 7:52.11 to crush a 19-year-old record and make Diamond League history: never before had two world records been broken at a single Diamond League meeting. Girma's record was almost as much of a surprise as Kipyegon's, with many having expected world and Olympic champion Soufiane El Bakkali to be the one to break it. El Bakkali still dominated the rest of the season, however, with four wins and meeting records in Rabat, Silesia and Xiamen.
The women's 3000m steeplechase remains as difficult to pick as ever, with several women looking strong in the course of the season. World champion Winfred Yavi picked up wins in Doha and Zurich, while world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech topped the standings thanks to a win in London and two fourth-placed finishes early in the season. Sembo Almayew and Jackline Chepkoech have also both picked up wins this year, making it an open field behind favourite Yavi in Eugene.