04 September, 2019

Best of Brussels: Top Five Moments

  • © Jiro Mochizuki

As the tenth IAAF Diamond League season comes to a spectacular close in the Belgian capital this Saturday, we take a look back at some of the most jaw-dropping moments in the history of the Brussels Final.

The second final and final meeting of the 2019 season on Saturday will be the 43rd incarnation of the AG Memorial Van Damme meeting in Brussels, and the tenth year that the meeting has hosted a Diamond League Final. 

With renovations to the King Baudouin Stadium and changes to the Diamond League format looming, the final will not return to Brussels for another two years, so it seems a fitting moment to look back on the excitement, emotions and effervescent performances that the Belgian city has given us over the years. 

Here are our five favourite moments in the history of the Brussels Final. 

2011 - Yohan Blake upstages Usain Bolt

It takes quite something to upstage the single greatest sprinter of all time, but Yohan Blake did just that in the men's 200m at the 2011 Brussels Final.

Though it was the USA's Walter Dix who claimed the Diamond Trophy thanks to his performances earlier in the season, Blake's performance on the night grabbed headlines as he came within a whisker of Bolt's 200m world record of 19.19. 

Bolt had already delighted the crowd with a time of 9.76 in the 100m by the time his training partner settled in the 200m blocks. From the on, it was all about Blake, who clocked the second fastest time in history with 19.26. 

“I knew I could do something crazy,” Blake said after the race.

2012 - Aries Merritt breaks the world record

Aries Merritt had been in blistering form all season in the men's 110m hurdles in 2012, and came into the Diamond League Final as a freshly crowned Olympic Champion. 

Little did he know that on that fateful night in Brussels, he would celebrate another career highlight as he stormed over the line in a world-record breaking 12.80.

“The funny thing was Brussels was the one race that season where I didn’t try to break the world record. It just happened on its own," he later told the IAAF website.

Merritt was also crowned Diamond League Champion on that night. It remains his only Diamond Trophy, though he remains an icon of his discipline, having made an inspirational return to the circuit several years later after undergoing a kidney transplant.

2014 - Mutaz Barshim defies gravity

The race for the Diamond Trophy in the men's high jump in 2014 was an enthralling affair, as Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim and Ukraine's Bogdan Bondarenko went neck-and-neck for the entire season in a battle for the ages. 

The final in Brussels was no different, as the two athletes engaged in a cat and mouse duel which Bondarenko at one point appeared to have won before Barshim came storming back. 

The Qatari then secured victory and the Diamond Trophy with a career-defining jump of 2.43m, just two centimetres of Javier Sotomayor's world record. 

2016 - Sandi Morris sails over milestone mark

Brussels saw another gravity-defying jump two years later when the USA's Sandi Morris made history in the women's pole vault

With perennial winner Katerina Stefanidi having built up an unassailable lead ahead of the final, Morris' chances of securing the Diamond Trophy were negligible, but she didn't let that stop her from pulling out the performance of her life to beat Stefanidi on the night. 

In an astonishing climax to the pole vault competition, Morris became only the second woman in history to clear the five-metre mark 

2018 - Ibargüen does the double

One of the most remarkable triumphs in the history of the Diamond League came at Brussels last year when Caterine Ibargüen won the women's long jump final to claim her second Diamond Trophy in two days. 

Under the current format introduced in 2017, the Diamond Trophy is won simply by the winner of the final, meaning Ibargüen had two shots at the title, having qualified for both the long jump and triple jump finals. 

The problem was that the finals were on back-to-back days. While athletes have won Diamond Trophies in two disciplines before, nobody had ever had cause to do so in such quick succession. Yet for a champion like Ibargüen, precedent is meaningless. 

Having secured the triple jump title in Zurich the night before, Ibargüen hurried to Brussels to overcome a star-studded field and claim the long jump Diamond Trophy for the first time in her career, making it two gongs in two days and cementing her reputation as a Diamond League legend.