18 July, 2019

London: Five Questions

  • © IAAF Diamond League

  • © Kirby Lee

A high-class showdown in the discus, a freshly crowned world record holder and a returning Diamond League hero in the high jump: it promises to be an entertaining afternoon in London. We have five questions ahead of the tenth step on the Road to the Final.

1. Who will be first into the final in the women's 100m?

My oh my, what a year we are having in the women's sprints. After four meetings so far on the Road to the Final, the 100m remains wide open, with nobody having picked up enough points to secure their place in the final. 

Instead, four or five big names have shared the spoils between them. Each of the four races has produced a different winner so far, and if Dina Asher-Smith can pick up victory on home soil this Sunday, she will become the fifth winner in five on the Road to the Final. For now, the British star sits a comfortable fourth in the standings thanks to a couple of second-place finishes, while Ivorian Marie-Josée Ta Lou tops the table despite also not having won an individual race. 

In London, Ta Lou and Asher-Smith will be joined by Blessing Okagbare, Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. The winners in Rabat, Rome and Lausanne respectively, each of them are also in the top eight, Fraser-Pryce having sneaked into a qualifying position with her explosive victory in Lausanne earlier this month. With only one race to go after London, all of the top eight have the chance to lock down their place in the final with a big performance on Sunday. 

2. Will Barshim be back with a bang?

One man who knows exactly what it takes to reach the final is Mutaz Essa Barshim, who makes a long-awaited return to Diamond League action in the men's high jump this weekend. 

A three-time Diamond Trophy winner, Barshim has been out of action since this time last year after picking up an ankle injury while attempting the world record. He made a successful return to competition in Sopot last month, but London will be his first Diamond League appearance of 2019. 

While the Qatari is naturally focused on staying fit and avoiding another setback ahead of his home IAAF World Championships in Doha later this year, the Müller Anniversary Games are also a chance for the Barshim to get valuable points on the board. Despite having missed all of the season so far, the fact that there are 12 places up for grabs in the high jump final means that Barshim is just five points off qualification, and could put himself within reach of a final spot if he can come back with a bang at the London Stadium. 

3. Could we see more heroics from Hassan?

Sifan Hassan was the talk of the town in Monte Carlo last week as she set a new world record of 4:12.33 in the women's mile. 

The versatile Dutch star has also been on form in the long distance events this season, setting a new European record in the 3000m in Eugene earlier this month. In London, she will take on the 5000m, and while another world record may be too much to ask, the 26-year-old is certainly a strong favourite to pick up eight points.

It would certainly be a good moment to do so: while Genzebe Dibaba, Lilian Kasait Rengeruk and Hellen Obiri have all already qualified for the final, Hassan sits in fifth with just eight points to her name so far. A place in the final isn't exactly in danger, but another big points haul could see her join Dibaba, Obiri and co. in what would be a mouth-watering 5000m final.

4. Can Muir and Kipyegon get a foot in the final?

The aforementioned Dibaba has not just secured her place in the 5000m final, but also nailed down her right to compete for the Diamond Trophy in the 1500m final too, her wins in Rome and Rabat making her one of four athletes - including Hassan - who already have enough points in the middle distance event. 

Perhaps a little surprisingly, there are two big names who are yet to join the likes of Dibaba, Hassan and Gudaf Tsegay on the provisional list of 1500m finalists. Both Laura Muir and Faith Kipyegon are previous Diamond Trophy winners, yet both need more points if they are to challenge for the title again this year. #

In that respect, London is coming at just the right time. Muir and Kipyegon are set to headline the 1500m on Saturday, each presenting the other with one of the toughest tests yet this season. While Muir has seven points to her name and is within touching distance of a place in the final, Kipyegon is under pressure to get her first points on the board and give herself a chance of making the final eight. 

5. Stahl v Dacres: Who will win round four?

Both the favourites in the men's discus have already secured their qualification for the final, but that does not mean their impending showdown in London will be any less juicy. 

Sweden's Daniel Stahl and Jamaica's Fedrick Dacres have repeatedly (if figuratively) traded blows on the Road to the Final thus far as they extend a rivalry which blossomed in the battle for the Diamond Trophy last year. Stahl looked a safe bet to take the title in 2018, but Dacres stole the trophy from under his nose with a brilliant first round throw in the Brussels final. 

This year, Stahl once again got off to a fearsome start with wins in Doha and Stockholm, the latter of which saw him make full use of home advantage to beat Dacres. The Jamaican, though, fought back with a fine performance in Rabat, beating Stahl with a Diamond League Record and personal best of 70.78m. 

There may be no more than pride on the line for the time being, but in rivalries like this one, pride is no small matter.