By Neil Leverett
- Dina Asher-Smith backs up win at British Trials, with second successive Diamond League runner-up finish in women’s 200m
- Karsten Warholm clocks second-fastest time ever in 400m hurdles
- Noah Lyles cements sprint king status, as Nijel Amos learns 800m endurance lesson
ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – As the stars of track and field gathered for the first of two Diamond League 2019 finals, what did we learn from Weltklasse in Zurich?
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Asher-Smith hitting top form
As the first of two final nights took place to decide the winners of the 2019 IAAF Diamond League, Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith again showed signs of hitting her best form at the right time, finishing runner-up in the 200m, setting a new season’s best of 22.08, behind victor Shaunae Miller-Uibo.
With the Jamaica taking the Diamond League crown in time of 21.74 – with Elaine Thompson finishing third – Asher-Smith replicated her result of a fortnight ago at the British Grand Prix in Birmingham, where the 24-year-old Bromley Harrier again finished second behind the Commonwealth champion over the same distance.
With Miller-Uibo not competing in the 200m at the World Championships in Doha however, Asher-Smith can consider herself well in the frame for medal consideration at the World championships, with Qatar now just four weeks away.
Again beating Blessing Okagbare and an increasingly out-of-sorts defending champion from London in Dafne Schippers, the Briton will be buoyed by her current form, and as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce watched on from a distance, will look for a strong performance in the 100m next Friday, to cement her post as one of the strong home nations’ medal hopes in the Middle East.
Lyles sprint king
As the Briton began to solidify her position in the top echelons of women’s sprinting, Noah Lyles again sent an emphatic message to the chasing pack that he is the one to beat in Doha, winning the 100m in 9.98, just nosing out China’s Xie Zhenye, with Yohan Blake placed third.
Like Miller-Uibo, Lyles will not be running this event at the worlds’ but nevertheless was yet another showing of why the American will be tough to beat next month in the 200m – indeed many have already hung the Gold around his neck.
With 100m favourite Christian Coleman absent, Justin Gatlin struggled in clocking 10.08, and if the defending world champion is to defend his crown, Gatlin needs to up his game and fast.
Hot on the heels of the British Championships last weekend, the British duo of Zharnel Hughes and Adam Gemili finished sixth and seventh respectively, well outside both their own personal and season’s best times.
800m lessons for Amos
The 800m Diamond League final saw a vital lesson for Nijel Amos, as after dominating the race with a destructive pace that looked to threatening the world record, the Botswanan athlete fell apart in the final metres, as American Donovan Brazier claimed the win and 50,000 dollars in a new PB of 1:42.70.
Amos, who pulled up lame at the Muller Anniversary Games last month, had questions hanging over him over his race fitness, and physically fell apart on the finishing straight, allowing the surging Brazier to grab the win.
25-year-old Amos – a silver medalist at the London Olympics in 2012, who finished fifth in London two years also – will see the result as a setback, however also a valuable learning curve in testing out his ability to compete in Doha next month.
With Brazier now having won twice in the Diamond League this season, the existing threat of Kenyan duo Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich and Wyclife Kinyamal – who pulled up with injury here – will be further threats to Amos, who next month will look to not only win his first world medal, but make it Gold.
Since breaking the world record in Monaco, Sifan Hassan has become the woman to beat in distance running, and after recording another imperious showing in Zurich, the Dutch athlete looks nigh-on unbeatable in Doha.
As rival Genzebe Dibaba returned to compete, the Ethiopian looked far short of her best in struggling with injury, as Hassan left Dibaba far behind over the final lap, to win in a sub-four minute time – just under two seconds shy of her Mile record.
In yet another fast-paced duel, the field remained bunched at the bell, before Hassan took to her heels and tore away from the pack down the back straight, surging to victory in front of the Swiss crowd.
Whilst Canada’s Gabriela Debues-Stafford ran under four minutes for the first time, and Germany’s Kostanze Klosterhalfen also set a new SB, Hassan looks poles apart from her rivals.
Yet to announce her full plans for the next month there is somewhat of an asterisk by her name, but it appears that whatever or however many events she line up for in Qatar, the world is playing catch-up to Hassan.
Warholm on thrilling course
As the first night of Diamond League finals was brought to a spectacular close, Norway’s Karsten Warholm pipped Rai Benjamin to win an electric men’s 400m hurdles in a new meet, national and Diamond League record time of 46.92.
Warholm’s winning time set a new personal best and becomes the second-fastest time ever ran in the event, with the battle in Mesopotamia in the coming weeks set to be another of the must-watch races in Doha.
As defending champion from London in 2017, Warholm has now broken the European record three times this season, with only Kevin Young‘s standard of 46.78 the single time standing faster than the 23-year-old Norwegian’s. Young’s record that has stood since Barcelona in 1992 is now surely under sizeable threat.
Warholm meanwhile is on course to defend his crown in the Middle East, but with Benjamin an existing menace, Yasmani Copello lurking in the shadows, also in the knowledge that home favourite Abderrahman Samba will be present in Qatar, Warholm is one track for a spectacular showing in Doha, but is not there yet. Far from it.
Finals night two of the 2019 IAAF Diamond League takes place in Brussels, Belgium, on Friday 6 September.
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