By Neil Leverett
- Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith finishes runner-up in the women’s 200m at the 2019 British Grand Prix in Birmingham
- In Round 11 of 2019 Diamond League, Adam Gemili also takes second in men’s 100m
- Katarina Johnson-Thompson completes Brit runner-up triple behind heptathlon rival Nafi Thiam in long jump
BIRMINGHAM, UK – After the second British leg of the 2019 Diamond League, what did we learn from Round 11 at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham?
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Asher-Smith Doha boost
As the blue-riband race of a star-studded British Grand Prix at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, the women’s 200m did not disappoint, as Shaunae Miller-Uibo finished ahead of Dina Asher-Smith and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in a time of 22.24 seconds.
With Miller-Uibo having declared she will not run in the event in the World Championships in Doha next month however, Asher-Smith taking the scalp of double Olympic champion Fraser-Pryce is a huge boost for the Briton, following the Jamaican’s return to her very best in recent weeks.
Asher-Smith, with Diamond League wins in Stockholm and – perhaps psychologically – in Doha earlier this season, the Bromley Harrier finishing ahead of Fraser-Pryce, defending world champion Dafne Schippers, Marie-Josee Ta Lou and Blessing Okagbare was a statement with just six weeks until Qatar.
Having struggled with her starts at various points this season, whilst the Bahamian winner had a superior one, Asher-Smith ran a strong bend to stay in contention and finish well. With the British Trials next weekend on the same track, the 24-year-old will look to further enhance her world title aspirations in front of another home crowd.
Gemili back on radar
In the men’s 100m, Britain’s Adam Gemili put in a strong performance to also finish runner-up behind Jamaica’s Yohan Blake, with the Briton now coming close to some of his best form following injury.
Clocking identical 10.07 times – but finishing behind the man who set the second fastest time ever in the event, by thousandths of a second in Blake – Gemili looked strong throughout to finish neck-and-neck in a blanket finish, as the Brit looks to hit his best form in the run-up to Doha.
For the Londoner who ran 9.97 on the very same track four years ago, but who has struggled to return to the top of his game after a string of niggling injuries and illness, the result is a huge for the Briton who was part of Britain’s 4x100m quarter that stormed to a sensational relay Gold in London two years ago.
Though the field may have again lacked the American trio of defending world champion Justin Gatlin, Christian Coleman and 2019 breakthrough Noah Lyles, the performance will nevertheless will leave Gemili in buoyant mood for the trials, and his likely final two Diamond League meets in Zurich and Brussels in the coming weeks.
Thiam lays KJT marker
In a red-hot triple jump in preparation for the heptathlon, Nafi Thiam edged out rival Katarina Johnson-Thompson by a single centimetre, to beat both the Briton and reigning World indoor and European champion Ivana Spanovic – who both tied for second place.
With the reigning Olympic, World and European champion Thiam seeking to hit top form in the weeks leading to Qatar, both Belgian and Brit gave the Birmingham crowd an earlier taster of what could be a intense battle between the two women in Doha.
Whilst Thiam set the pace early and lead throughout the competition, KJT made two foul attempts before jumping a season’s best of 6.85, a literal cm behind rival Thiam, whose 6.86 set her own personal bet, setting a new Belgian record into the bargain.
Both distances would likely be enough to qualify for long jump proper, but for now, the heptathlons’s two leading ladies are on course for a fever-pitched battle in the Middle East next month.
With the trial just days away as documented, Brit Abigail Irozuru finished fourth and jumped a SB of 6.75, which could be enough already to stamp her pass to Doha, providing she finishes in the top two next weekend. Compatriot Lorraine Ugen came seventh with work to do here next time around.
After a strong season thus far, and coming into the meet as American champion, Keni Harrison had an indifferent weekend, finishing fourth in the 100m hurdles, won by fellow US sprinter Nia Ali in a time of 12.81- after the former had barely sneaked into the final after clipping a barrier in her respective heat.
World record holder Harrison, who smashed the set time in London three years just days after failing to qualify for the US Rio Olympic Team, arrived in Birmingham fresh from winning the USTA Championships in Iowa, but again like in 2016, struggled to find her rhythm to barely make the final.
The 26-year-old Kentucky native with Diamond League wins in Sweden and Monaco, also finished behind London winner last month Danielle Williams – herself with a season double in the competition – who Harrison will see as one of her strong rivals for Doha Gold.
With Round 12 in Paris next weekend, The American will be looking for a consistent runs of performances, as Harrison looks to win her first major outdoor and world medal next month.
Wilson gunning for Gold
As the Caster Semenya saga continued to rumble on in the background, Ajee Wilson made it a Diamond triple in 2019, as the American eased to victory in the women’s 800m ahead of Lynsey Sharp, clocking 2:00.76.
The New Jersey 25-year-old middle distance runner and former World Junior champion in 2012, has enjoyed a stellar campaign and clocked sub-two minutes in Iowa late last month to book her ticket to Qatar and looked every inch the champion-in-making, with a comfortable margin of victory over Scot, Sharp.
Semenya could yet be re-instated after her well-publicised ban, but even without the South Africa – the defending world champion – Wilson will have her hands full with the close attentions of Nelly Jepkosgei and Britain’s Laura Muir herself to names but two opponents, with Sifan Hassan focusing on both 1500 and 5000m events.
But a third Diamond League victory of the campaign has sent her rivals a strong message, and Wilson will be bent on upgrading her bronze from London two years ago, into a potential golden moment in Qatar.
Round 12 of the 2019 IAAF Diamond League takes place in Paris, France, on Saturday 24 August
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