25 February, 2020

Diamond League Best Of: Photo Finishes

  • © Jean-Pierre Durand

From Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell going hammer and tongs down the track in Rome to Elaine Thompson and Dafne Schippers battling it out in Zurich, the last decade of Diamond League action has seen its fair share of photo finishes.

Bolt may have only won one Diamond Trophy, but he remained largely unbeaten on the Diamond League circuit. So too in Rome in 2011, when he returned from a nine-month break spent fighting off a back problem. 

Having suffered his first defeat in two years at the end of the previous season, Bolt promised to return with a bang in Rome, and he didn't disappoint. The familiar slow start appeared to give fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell an unassailable head start in the 100m, but Bolt's gaping stride soon gobbled up the ground, and the Olympic champion even had time to throw Powell a cheeky grin as he caught him on the line in 9.91. 

"I think I was too worried by Usain at the end of the race," admitted a despondent Powell.

Bolt had less reason to smile when he returned to Rome two years later, however. Returning once again from a spell on the sidelines - this time due to a hamstring injury - he was unable to outrun long-term rival Justin Gatlin, who edged him by a hundredth of a second with 9.94.

"My legs did not feel the energy," said Bolt afterwards.

There was a similarly tight finish in the women's 100m in Eugene in 2015, as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce put her first points on the board on her way to a fourth career Diamond Trophy.

Fraser-Pryce edged Ivorian rival Murielle Ahoure on the line, clocking a world lead of 10.81, but she was not the only Jamaican to cause a sensation with a photo finish that day. In the 100m B race, a young Elaine Thompson picked up a new PB of 10.84 as she nudged her way past home hero English Gardner. 

Anyone who had not heard of Thompson then would certainly have recognised her a year later, as she stormed to double Olympic gold and was crowned Diamond League Champion in the 100m.

Though she did not collect enough points to be claim the 200m crown, she did win  the final race of the season in Zurich, clocking a new Diamond League record of 21.85 in a nailbiting photo finish with Dutch rival Dafne Schippers. 

One athlete who has managed to do a Diamond Trophy double is Noah Lyles, who picked up both the 100m and 200m titles in 2019. His charge in the former began with an edge-of-the-seat showdown with compatriot Christian Coleman in Shanghai, which Lyles took by a fraction of a second with a PB of 9.86. 

Lyles had no such luck a few weeks later in Rome, however, as he suffered defeat to his former room mate Michael Norman in the 200m. After a fine start, rising star Norman just about held Lyles off at the last to clock a PB of 19.70. And though Lyles would go on to take the 200m crown, Norman also won his first Diamond Trophy that season in the 400m. 

Check out all the above races and more dramatic photo finishes in the video below.