The first of the two IAAF Diamond League athletics finals brought Zurich alive Thursday night. It was the second time in quick succession that the Swiss city welcomed top world athletes, who had come here earlier for the European Championships, two weeks ago. The Weltklasse Zurich track and field arena was witness to the crowning of sixteen men and women athletes as 2014 Diamond League champions, based on their performances in the earlier 12 meetings. The first DL meeting was held at Doha in May 2014 and the 12th at Birmingham on August 24. Now only Brussels remains, where another 16 champions will be decided on September 5, 2014. In Zurich last night, big names like Sandra Perkovic, Tianna Bartoletta, Reese Hoffa, Fabiana Murer, Christian Taylor, Michael Tinsley, Thomas Röhler, Jenny Simpson, LaShawn Merritt, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Nijel Amos and Dawn Harper-Nelson cornered glory among a few others. All winners became richer by $40,000 and they earned automatic entries for 2015 World Championships. However, there was disappointment for Brianna Rollins, Emma Coburn, Blessing Okagbare, Tori Bowie, Queen Harrison, Javier Culson, Will Claye, David Rudisha, Nickel Ashmeade and Ayanleh Souleiman.
In Women’s long jump, USA’s Tianna Bartoletta clinched the second place behind Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic but that was enough for Bartoletta to take the DL crown. With 10 out of 11 victories in 2014 DL meetings, Sandra Perkovic was the runaway champion in women’s discus. In Birmingham, Valerie Adams of New Zealand had already emerged the DL leader in shot put with a 100% record as women’s shot put was not scheduled in Zurich, nor will it be staged in Brussels. Men’s shot put was won by USA’s Reese Hoffa, who scored his 4th DL victory in Zurich with season’s best throw of 21.88m. In women’s pole vault, Brazilian Fabiana Murer emerged as the champion as she was the only woman to get over 4.72m. Christian Taylor of USA took the DL crown in men’s triple jump in a dramatic contest with compatriot Will Claye, when Taylor recorded season’s best distance of 17.51m. Claye could only make it to 17.39m. Taylor has two more chances to win DL titles in Brussels in long jump and as part of the 4 x 400 relay team.
USA’s Michael Tinsley has had great DL outings in 400m hurdles despite losing to South Africa’s Cornel Fredericks in Zurich with world champion Javier Culson taking the third place. Women’s 3,000 steeplechase title was grabbed by Ethiopian Hiwot Ayalew, though she lost the Zurich contest to Tunisian Habiba Ghribi. American star Emma Coburn finished a disappointing 5th. In high jump for women, Russia’s Mariya Kuchina edged out Ana Simic of Croatia by clearing 2m as Simic missed all her attempts to progress beyond 1.98m. In men’s javelin, Germany’s Thomas Rohler hurled his spear 87.63m to become the DL champion, ahead of Trinidad & Tobago’s Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott.
Men’s 200m sprint and the DL crown went to Panamanian Alonso Edward, who clocked 19.95 seconds to Jamaican Nickel Ashmeade’s 20.01. It was a sad day for Ashmeade, who had stayed a favorite to win the DL this year. Women’s 1500m crown was claimed by America’s 2011 World Champion Jenny Simpson.
The American sprawled herself over the finish line to beat compatriot Shannon Rowbury. Even Rowbury did the sprawling act but she couldn’t beat Simpson’s time of 3:59.92 and fell one hundredth of a second behind. This was a rich field with names like Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan and the Swede Abeba Aregawi but Simpson still came through. By winning previous 4 DL races this season, LaShawn Merritt was ahead of all others in Zurich in men’s 400m. He won in 44.36 seconds to ensure his leadership status. Merritt’s job became easy since Grenada’s Olympic champion Kirani James, the only real challenge for Merritt, missed the race. In women’s coveted event of 100m, Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown was the worthy DL winner. In Zurich she had a photo-finish victory over Ivory Coast’s Murielle Ahoure with both competitors finishing in 11.04 seconds. Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare was 0.02 seconds behind VCB and Ahoure. DL leader American Tori Bowie was injured and couldn’t take part. Had she come, VCB would have found it difficult to win in Zurich. Botswana’s Nijel Amos proved that he was a force to reckon with in men’s 800m field, despite the presence of David Rudisha, Ayanleh Souleiman and Sammy Tangui. He added the DL championship to his African and commonwealth champion titles by winning Zurich in 1:43.77. It was sad that world-record holder Rudisha was third from last. In women’s 100m hurdles, USA’s Dawn Harper-Nelson lifted the DL crown and also won the race. Compatriot Queen Harrison, who led DL points table, was unlucky to fall on 9th Hurdle. DHN did the race in 12.58 and even if Harrison had not fallen, DHN would still have won the DL title. Brianna Rollins, who had a great 2013, could not do much in 2014. The last DL title in Zurich was claimed by Kenya’s Caleb Ndiku in Men’s 5,000m. Ndiku finished his run in 13:07.01 seconds and he could only have been challenged by Ethiopia’s Yenew Alamirew. But the Ethiopian fell way behind to make things easy for the Kenyan. With Mo Farah abstaining for the greater part of the year Ndiku and Alamirew are literally dominating the 5000m field.
In the non-DL 100m sprint, Jamaican Commonwealth Games and Birmingham DL winner Kemar Bailey-Cole was first in 9.96 seconds. To some extent, Bailey-Cole was helped by the absence of Justin Gatlin, who was not invited by the club, which owns the venue. The club has a policy of ignoring athletes, who have served doping bans of two years or more. Among others, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay looked bad in the race.