The first finals of 2016 IAAF Diamond League were held in Zurich on Thursday September 1. The Zurich meet truly honored its nicknamed tag of One-Day Olympics as 8 men and 8 women emerged as DL Race winners and each of them collected a $40000 jackpot, a spectacular Diamond Trophy and a wild card for the 2017 World Championships in London. Among women, there were expected winners like Dafne Schippers in 200m; Kendra Harrison in 100m hurdles; Ruth Beitia in high jump; Sandra Perkovic in discus; Caster Semenya in 800m; Ruth Jebet in 3000m steeplechase; Ivana Spanovic in long jump but Laura Muir was a surprise packet in 1500m. Among men, Asafa Powell managed to take the 100m crown; Lawshan Merritt won in 400m; Tom Walsh in shot put; Christian Taylor in triple jump; Renaud Lavillenie in pole vault Jakub Vadleich edged out Thomas Rohler in javelin; Kerron Clement won in 400m hurdles and Hagos Gebrhiwet got lucky to win 5000m.
Of all the events at Zurich, the most hyped was women’s 200m showdown between Olympic gold winner Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson and Netherlands’s 2015 World Champion Dafne Schippers. The field was brimming with talent but the focus was clearly on these two global champions, who hogged all the limelight. Schippers was quicker off the blocks and led Thompson until the 100m mark with 400m World Champion USA’s Allyson Felix close behind. Dafne already had the Diamond Race in her pocket but she didn’t want to lose Zurich for the sake of prestige. While Schippers looked set to win, Thompson powered her way in closing stages and edged ahead of Schippers on the touchline to win in 21.85 to Schippers’ 21.86. Third-placed Felix clocked 22.02, her season’s best time.
Great Britain’s Laura Muir was a surprise DL race winner in women’s 1500m. She finished second in 3:57.85.to USA’s Shannon Rowbury’s 3:57.78 in Zurich. Muir had also won in Paris DL last week with a new British record. But Rowbury was not the threat for Muir. The Brit’s fate depended on the status of Kenyan Rio Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon. If Kipyegon could even finish third, Muir had no chance. But the Kenyan faded away in closing stages to be placed seventh and Muir took the honor of emerging as the new DL race winner.
USA’s Kendra Harrison hasn’t lost the 100m hurdles race this year except at US Olympic trials and that cost her a seat on US athletic team-bus for Rio. As if to prove her mettle, US discard Harrison broke Bulgarian Yordanka Donkova’s 28-year-old world record of 12.21 by running in 12.20 at the London Anniversary Games on July 22, 2016. In Zurich, Harrison couldn’t come anywhere near that world-mark. But she still won in 12.63 ahead of GBR’s Cindy Ofili, who clocked 12.70. USA’s Dawn Harper Nelson was third in 12.73. With 6 DL victories this season, Harrison was the unquestioned DL race winner. Other expected DL race winners were Christian Taylor in men’s triple jump, Ruth Beitia in women’s high jump, Sandra Perkovic in women’s discus, Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie in pole vault, Caster Semenya in women’s 800m, Ivana Spanovic in women’s long jump and Ruth Jebet in women’s 3000m steeplechase. Only last week, Jebet created a new world record and by winning the DL race, she completed the greatest season in the history of women’s steeplechase. In Zurich, it was like Paris and Rio, where the Bahraini topped in a 1-2-3 with Kenyan Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi and American Emma Coburn, when they each stopped the clock in 9:07.00, 9:10.15 and 9:17.42 respectively.
Men’s 100m was one event, where the winner emerged only after the race ended. Jamaican Asafa Powell was fourth in overall standing before the start but his victory in 9.94 seconds coupled with Ivory Coast’s Ben Youssef Meite finishing third secured the DL race win for Powell. Meite was pipped to third place by South Africa’s Akani Simbine by four thousandth of a second. USA’s Rio bronze winner LaShawn Merritt also had to work hard for his DL Race victory in 400m. Merritt held off Grenada’s Bralon Taplin to win by 0.06 in 44.64 and collected his third Diamond Trophy. Another man, whose fate was decided at Zurich was USA’s men’s 400m hurdles Rio gold winner Kerron Clement. Until the halfway mark, Clement was at level with Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson and Switzerland’s Kariem Hussein. Even when they entered the home straight, Kariem still looked in winning position but Clement dug deep and went past the Swiss to win in 48.72. Culson was second in 48.79 while South Africa’s LJ van Zyl finished third in 48.80. Kariem faded to the seventh spot.
Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet won men’s 5000m but that victory alone was not enough for Gebrhiwet to become the DL race champion. For the DL race crown, his compatriot and race leader until Zurich Muktar Edris had to finish fifth or lower. With Edris fading to 10th place, Gebrhiwet emerged as the lucky winner. Another men, who unexpectedly won the DL race at Zurich was Czech Republic’s men’s javelin thrower Jakub Vadlejch. He inflicted another post-Rio defeat on Germany’s Rio gold winner Thomas Rohler. The German had sent the spear to 86.56 in first round. Vadlejch took a while before hurling his equipment to 87.28m in round four and win the DL race. Next week at Brussels, remaining winners of this year’s Diamond League will be decided.