I first started watching the Diamond League back in 2001. Oh sorry, the Golden League. That’s how it was called back then. I loved track & field competitions before then, but my enthusiasm was confined to world championships and the Olympics. But after Sydney I decided to turn it up a notch. Or maybe we (in Israel) were simply treated to broadcasts of Golden League events for the first time in 2001. Who knows.
Anyhow, I’ve been following the Golden League, and then the Diamond league, ever since. I love how everything is crammed to one evening and we are treated to many events, which are usually high-level. And I love how they added more meetings with the transition to the Diamond League. After all, more meetings means more competitions for us to watch!
My dad, whom I own my initial fascination with track & field which started back at the world championships in Athens (1997. I watched some stuff at the Atlanta Olympics, but I was only 9 years old back then and I don’t remember much), joined me in watching the meetings these last three years, and this is why my take on the meetings will come a few days after they take place – it usually takes a couple of days for us to find a time to watch them together.
So now that I have this blog, I will write my take on them. We start with the Stockholm meeting, and we are actually nearing the end of the track & field season, but hey – better late than never, right? Next year I promise I’ll cover everything from the start. And now – let’s get ready to rumble!
The Stockholm Diamond League was not the best of the meetings. It suffered greatly from the shitty weather – rain and strong wind, which hurt the high jumpers and the pole vaulters, and from the inexplicable stupidity of the organizers with regards to everything that goes on the starting blocks. We watch the meetings with Russian commentary, and the commentators are Iolanda Chen – the great former triple jumper (and former WR holder) and Rodion Gataulin – the former great pole vaulter (the second man to enter the 6 meters club). Now, both Chen and Gataulin warned us, the viewers, that the Swedes are terrible with starting races. And indeed – they are.
They keep the sprinters in the starting blocks for such a long period of time that I’m surprised nobody of them fell asleep. Seriously! It takes ages for them to fire the goddamn gun and to start the race. And obviously this is not optimal for the runners, and many of them false-started today, although not everyone were DQ’d (even though we had several of those too). I’m not a sprinter, but I can totally understand how the inexplicable long waiting can fuck up your mind, when you are so tense and just waiting for the race to start. And the funny thing is that I don’t remember any of this shit happening in past years. But it may well be that my memory is not perfect…
Anyhow, enough with the introduction, Michael! Start writing about the events!!!
Well, as usual, we are treated at first to the events that ended before the live broadcast began. And the discus queen is obviously the great Sandra Perkovic, who won her 5th (out of 6) Diamond League meet this year, with the only time she lost was due to her having back problems (she still finished second). No drama here – nobody can beat Sandra when she is at her top form or near it. Her winning throw was a mere 66.74, her shortest winning throw this year (she threw 66.30 when she lost), but still – it was enough for first place. She leads comfortably the diamond race.
Long Jump Women
Tianna Bartoletta won this one, with a 6.98 jump. Bartoletta, the 2005 world champion, is really consistent this year (and leads the diamond race), and I like her phenomenal speed (her landing – not so much). What the fuck happened to Brittney Reese this year? She doesn’t resemble the best long jumper in the world that she’s been these past 5 years or so. Here too, she finished only 4h with a 6.60. But hey, at least it’s better than Klishina, who once again returned to her consistent inconsistency (hey, it’s true! Even though it sounds weird) and finished 8th with a very disappointing 6.28.
Shot Put Men
Damn, Reese Hoffa is on fire this year! The huge American will be 37 soon, but he’s really showing some great form. The result is meh, only 21.06, with David Storl putting a disappointing 20.77 and finishing 3rd, but hey – a win is a win, and Hoffa leads the diamond race so far.
Pole Vault Men
Oh Renaud, Renaud!
The conditions were not favorable to the pole vault, and 5 vaulters registered a NM! Damn, this is the first time I saw something like that. One of those NM’s was Lavillenie, who couldn’t clear his starting height of 5.60. 5.60 was actually the result of Filippidis, who won the event. BTW, is it just me or Filippidis kinda looks like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “Don Jon”? Oh, it is just me? Okay then… 😦
Nevertheless, Renaud still leads the diamond race by a considerable margin. He is the only male athlete to win the Diamond League in his event for 4 straight years, and he is heading for a record fifth straight win, unless something unexpected happens. There is one female athlete who shares a similar record – Milcah Chemos from the 3000 steeplechase, but given her not-so-great (to say the least) form this year, Renaud can hold the record on his own after this year concludes.
400m Hurdles Men
The event that always starts the live broadcast. Javier Culson, whom I once saw as the heir to the great Felix Sanchez (who also deserves a post of his own. Maybe I should do a series of posts about my favorite athletes?), but who only fulfilled his potential to about 70%, started out very strong. Too strong, in fact. He didn’t have any power left by the end of the race, and he was outrun by Michael Tinsley, both in the current race and in the diamond race. Felix Sanchez ran here too, but finished only 7th, after he did show some improvement in the last few meetings. The results were terrible, btw, only 49.60 for Tinsley. Damn it, 400m hurdlers, get your shit together!
Long Jump Men
Well, talk about terrible results… Only three guys jumped over 8m, with the winning distance being a below-par 8.09. The winner? Godfrey Mokoena. Did he come back from the dead? Where the hell was he? I liked him a few years back, and he showed great promise, winning the silver medals both in Beijing and in Berlin, but then he disappeared like some Keyser Soze. And look, now he’s returned.
Jeff Henderson still leads the diamond race, but it’s very close. But honestly, this year is not a good one for the long jump. I wish Menkov would heal from his injuries, he was such a refreshing jumper these past two years.
I feel bad for saying this, because I always loved the men’s long distances, but this year they are simply not that interesting. No Bekele, no Farah, no younger Bekele. And I really can’t tell apart Jeilan, Gebrhiwet, Alamirew… I’m sorry guys, but you don’t have the appeal of Bekele and Farah. This race was won by this dude Edris, whom I really can’t recall 24 hours after I’ve seen it.
Anyway, what was good about this race is the tempo. It was a very fast race, with the winning time being a very, very good 12:54.83. I was cheering for Galen Rupp, but he finished only 4th, due to not having the finish of the leaders. But still, a very good race with a result we rarely get to see these days.
High Jump Women
Another event that suffered greatly from the conditions. Kuchina won, with a really mediocre result of 1.94, but this was expected. Palsyte, a very nice jumper from Lithuania, finished second and gained her first diamond points, while the blog’s favorite Simic finished third, together with Beitia. Kuchina leads the race so far. BTW, have you noticed that all the Russian jumpers are very serious? Chicherova, Shkolina (did she ever in her life crack up a smile?), Kuchina… Crowd-favorite (and also my second favorite) Emma Green (where’s the Tregaro?!) finished 8th…
No Dafne Schippers, but yes Allyson Felix. Another one of my all-time favorites, with whom I first fell in love at the 2004 olympics (great scott, that was 10 years ago already?!). Felix won and passed Okagbare (who didn’t compete) as the diamond race leader, and her time was fucking awesome! Well, actually no, her time was a very slow 22.85, but at least she beat this year’s sensation Tori Bowie.
Well, I guess Thorkildsen said goodbye. Let us hope he will return next year, in full form. He still must have several good years in him.
As for the event itself, Ruuskanen continued his superb form from the European championships, and won easily with a 87.24. Rohler (where the hell were you at Zurich?!) took second place, and Tero was third. The diamond race is super tight, with Abdelrahman leading, and Tero and Vesely lying at 2nd place, but with all three having 8 points.
100m Hurdles Women
What a mess. Sally Pearson was DQ’d due to the stupid starting blocks problems. Dawn Harper-Nelson started out very strong, but she hit a couple of hurdles and it really threw her off-balance. She finished third. And Cindy Billaud didn’t even finish the race after she fell hard.
Queen Harrison was the very easy winner with a mediocre result of 12.66. I like Harrison, but she doesn’t have Harper-Nelson’s appeal. Maybe she should start cartwheeling after wins, like Dawn does…
Another meh. Nesta Carter won with a 9.96 (a SB for him, to my surprise), but this was not a very interesting affair. Carter is a very good runner, and he’s one of the best outside the Gatlin and Bolt duo, but Idk, maybe he lacks charisma or something. He doesn’t give me the chills.
And I’m still waiting for Keston Bledman (I really like his beard btw) to shine on the big stage, but I guess that will never happen. Even here, he finished only second. The dude has a great PB of 9.86, but he never comes through when it matters. And he’s already 26 years old…
3000m Steeplechase Women
This event was a real treat this year, and one of my favorites. It was always in the shadow of the men’s equivalent, but with Ezekiel Kemboi coasting this year and most often letting his doppleganger run for him, and Mekhissi also not competing much, the men’s race lost its appeal and the women gained the upper hand, all thanks to the new star Emma Coburn.
Coburn reflects the way most runners should run. At least the ones who know they don’t have the Defar/Dibaba (Tirunesh) finish. She runs on her own terms, without giving a fuck about all the other girls. She doesn’t get sucked into the slow pace that often characterizes these kinds of events. Instead she tries to run at her peak form every time, and lo and behold – it fucking works! She won a diamond race in Shanghai, and since then her competitors learned her style and knew that when Emma runs, there can’t be a place for a tactical race. It’s an all-out war. She didn’t win any diamond races since, but she’s always been a top 3, setting several PB’s along the way, with the most recent one being a superb 9:11. Also, she has perhaps the best water-barrier clearing technique of all the runners. I’m cheering for her every time. Of course, it also helps that she’s very good-looking, but there are enough good-looking runners out there, and only one who runs the way she does.
In Stockholm she did the same. The time was not her best, a 9:20.31, but she did display some finish speed that I didn’t know she had. After Ayalew and Ghribi passed her, I thought this is the end and that Assefa will catch her too. But Emma held on and actually increased her lead over Assefa in the final 200m, to finish 3rd and collect another point in the diamond race.
Ayalew won, and she currently leads the diamond race. I was also glad to see Ghribi return to good form. She was one of the most consistent and better competitors in this event these last few years, but I don’t recall seeing her this year. Anyway, it’s nice to have her back.
Did Bosse lose it completely? Did the defeat at Zurich shake him so much? He was not himself at Stockholm, and finished only fourth. Adam Kszczshzhot won (hurray!) in a tough race, and showed he belongs on the highest world stage as well, not only the European one.
P.S. I really hate Nijel Amos’ running style. Every time he competes I’m cheering the other guys. He has such a suffering look on his face when he runs, and it always looks as if he’s going to die. Why can’t he be as calm as Rudisha? Or forget Rudisha – he’s a true one-of-a-kind, what about the other runners who doesn’t look like they suffer so much during the race?
I’m sorry Novlene Williams-Mills, but I always confuse you with Kaliese Spencer. You two found the really perfect timing to shine. Both of you are Jamaicans, you are running the same distance (forget about the hurdles), and you are both having a real breakthrough year and you are dominating the diamond circuit. What’s up with that?!
Novlene won again in Stockholm, and she has a really big lead over the great Sanya Richards-Ross in the diamond race. I’m a bit disappointed with the time, though. We are nearing the end of August and we still haven’t seen a really big run in the Diamond League, somewhere in the 49.50 area. Damn I miss Ana Guevara…
P.S. Stephenie Ann-McPherson really reminds me of someone, but I can’t remember who exactly. I tend to think that some Hollywood star.
Of course they saved this for last! Aregawi vs. Hassan, round number whatever. Aregawi is the greatest Swedish track & field star right now, and I was really hoping to see her avenge her recent losses to Hassan in front of her home crowd. And it wasn’t just about Aregawi and Hassan. Look at who else was here – Genzebe Dibaba, Meraf Bahta (who came down to race the 1500. It feels like those MMA fighters who come down one weight class. Like Frankie Edgar for example), and one of my favorites – Jennifer Simpson, the surprising 2011 world champion.
I was sure Aregawi will try to put on a show. But it was Dibaba who did it at first. She went out like crazy on a very fast pace. Now, Dibaba has struggled this year outdoors (while indoors she looked like her sister Tirunesh), so I wasn’t sure she was doing the right thing. And sure enough, she slowed down later in the race and finished only second.
But it wasn’t Aregawi who beat her. Aregawi looked good at first, but once again she faded in the latter stages and finished only 10th. What the hell is going on with her this year?!
Ok, so Dibaba – no, Aregawi – no. Surely it was Hassan who won it! Well, Hassan played smart – she paced herself behind Dibaba and went for the kill in the last 400m. But it wasn’t enough and I think she burned herself out in this quest to catch Dibaba. She finished third.
The very surprising winner, to my great delight, was Simpson! Damn that girl has some serious game! She came from behind and in an amazing display of heart and finishing ability managed to outrun both Hassan and Dibaba on the final straight, to win the race. You go Jenny!
Now the diamond race is really tight. Aregawi still leads, with 12 points, but Hassan has 10, and Simpson 9. Will Aregawi get her mojo back to end this season as the winner?
Damn, that was long. I like to write these long posts, but they sure as hell take a lot of time. Next stop – Birmingham!