The early part of IAAF Diamond League season appears formulated with too many meetings closely bunched together. The Birmingham meeting was the fifth of the season that came after Doha, Shanghai, Eugene and Rome. With sixth and seventh DL meeting coming up on June 11 at Oslo and on June 13 at New York, the schedule for participants couldn’t have been more hectic. Birmingham DL meeting is part of the annual British Grand Prix and is renamed as Sainsbury’s Birmingham Grand Prix. The meeting showcased men’s DL events in 100m, 300m, 800m, 1500m, 5000m, 110m hurdles, Long Jump, Javelin Throw and Triple Jump while women athletes competed in 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 100m hurdles, 400m hurdles, 3000m steeplechase, High Jump, Shot Put , Pole Vault and Discus. But the most talked about events turned out to be; men’s javelin and women’s 200m sprint. In Rome on Thursday, Kenya’s Julius Yego and Trinidad & Tobago’s Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott had set national javelin-throw records but they finished behind the world champion Vitezslav Vesely. At Birmingham, Yego produced a bombastic performance to hurl his javelin to 91.39m, the longest distance in the world over the last 9 years, leaving the world champion Vesely at second place and T&T’s Walcott at third. In women’s 200m sprint, USA’s Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix had a photo-finish in 22.29 seconds but Tarmoh was adjudged as the winner. There was disappointment for British fans because super-athlete Mo Farah pulled out at the eleventh hour.
Men’s javelin throw provided high drama at Birmingham. Kenya’s Julius Yego took an early lead with 85.95m in first round but T&T’s 2012 Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott went ahead with a third-round throw of 86.43m. But Walcott’s lead didn’t last long because Yego threw 10 centimeters farther in the next round. Meanwhile, world champion Vesely could only manage 79.55m in third round and committed two fouls afterwards. However, Vesely roared back with 88.18m in his last round to make it the season’s best performance. Just when it looked that Vesely had notched up a back-to-back victory after Rome, Yego stepped on to the runway. The Kenyan uncorked a bomb that landed well beyond Vesely’s mark and in initial ruling, the judges declared a foul since the javelin had fallen outside the sector. Since the sector lines hadn’t been extended beyond 87 meters, they measured the distance as 91.39m. The debate continued until 20 minutes after the meeting had ended and the decision was reversed to award victory to Yego. The Kenyan’s performance was not just an African and DL record but it was also the best throw in the world since 2006. Vesely had to be content with the second place.
On the track, the race of the day was women’s 200, in which American duo Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix crossed the line in the same time of 22.29. It was an incredibly tight dash with three women finishing within a hundredth of a second of each other. While Tarmoh was awarded the first place in the photo-finish with Felix, Britain’s 19-year-old Dina Asher-Smith took the third spot at 22.30s.
In other notable actions in track and field, top stars exhibited terrific performances. In men’s long jump, Britain’s Olympic, European and Commonwealth champion Greg Rutherford leapt to 8.35m ahead of USA’s Michael Hartfield, who jumped 8.23m. In a rich field for women’s 100m hurdles, American duo Dawn Harper-Nelson and Brianna Rollins finished first and second clocking season’s bests of 12.58 and 12.63 respectively. Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor enthralled the crowd with a final leap of 17.40m. In men’s 800m, Botswana’s Nijel Amos won in 1:46.77 while Eunice Sum took women’s 800m at 1:59.85. Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan won women’s 1500m in 4:00.30. In women’s 3000m steeplechase, Kenya’s Virginia Nyambura recorded her second DL victory in three races. Men’s 100m was won by USA’s 21-year-olds Marvin Bracy in 9.93s with Great Britain’s Adam Gemili taking second place at 9.97s.
Mo Farah’s last-minute withdrawal created more anger than disappointment to the fans, who paid up to 50 pounds to watch him. There were different sentiments, mostly negative as Mo Farah was accused of letting down the British audience. In his absence, the 1500m race was won by James Magut to take the win in 3:37.61. Jamaica’s Stephenie McPherson won women’s 400m in 52.17s, while her compatriot, Kaliese Spencer took top spot in women’s 400m Hurdles in 54.45s. Kenya’s Thomas Longosiwa won men’s 5000m in 13:07.26 from compatriot Isiah Koech, who was second in 13:11.22. World, Olympic and European discus champion Sandra Perkovic sent the discus at 69.23m in her opening throw to smash the 2002 meeting record of 66.16m. Australia’s 2009 world champion Dani Samuels finished second over 4m behind at 64.89m. In women’s shot put, Germany’s Christina Schwantiz threw 19.68m to finish first. T&T’s Cleopetra Borel was second at 18.80m. In women’s pole vault, 2011 world champion Brazil’s Fabiana Murer leapt 4.72m to finish first with American Mary Saxer at second place with 4.62m. The women’s high jump was won by Poland’s Kamila Licwinko in 1.97m. Licwinko’s compatriot Justyna Kasprzycka was second at 1.94m.