Usain Bolt is adamant that after losing on his last two visits to the DN Galan meeting in Stockholm he will compensate the fans for those defeats by running very quickly over 200 metres on the 11th leg of the 14 meeting 2011 Samsung Diamond League on Friday (29 July).
Bolt admitted that his previous 100 metre defeats in Stockholm at the hands of fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell just prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and last year when the USA's Tyson Gay beat him in a thriller, had been triggered when panicking after getting out of his blocks too slowly.
"For me it is always like that when I get a bad start but now I'm more focused about the problem," said Bolt, who on his fourth visit to the 1912 Olympic Stadium, - he also competed in a Swedish Relay there several years ago - will contest his favourite half lap distance tomorrow night.
The 24-year-old at today’s pre-event press conference on Stockholm’s picturesque waterfront was insistent that he is in the right kind of shape to challenge the stadium record of 19.77 seconds which USA's Michael Johnson posted 15-years-ago. Bolt has beaten that mark himself on 11 past occasions but more realistically knows reducing his 2011 world leading time of 19.86 is a more likely achievement.
The reigning Olympic and World champion posted that performance in his opening Samsung Diamond League outing in Oslo seven weeks ago and after being slowed to 20.03 when troubled by a bout of 'flu’ in Paris on 8 July sits alongside American Walter Dix at the head of the 200m Diamond Race overall standings.
“…to be a legend in the sport, I have to win in Daegu”
Bolt recapping after his victory where after being last to rise from his blocks over 100 in the Samsung Diamond League in Monaco last Friday (22) and with the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Korea (27 August-4 September) where he will defend his sprint titles, less than a month away, said: "it was a good race, I learned a lot. I came through it, so I'm happy.”
"Technically everything is coming together and I'm getting there fast but I need to work on my start. Everything now is about the gold medals. If I'm going to be a legend in the sport, I have to win in Daegu."
Bolt of Friday's confrontation where fellow Jamaican Nickel Ashmeade and Panama's World silver medallist Alonso Edward, should be his closest rivals, added: "The curve is a little bit tight but I can handle that. I'm going out there to chase a fast time."
Diamonds are forever and will be targeted not only by Bolt
Should Bolt smash Johnson's stadium record he would apart, from a hefty six figure appearance fee and the race winners prize money of $10,000, also collect a 1-carat diamond valued at $10,000. This is an additional bonus unique to the DN Galan who award the diamond for stadium records, and since the prize’s inception in 1994 a total of 67 athletes have taken diamonds home.
Some of those past recipients Svetlana Feofanova, Yelena Isinbayeva, Paul Koech and Andreas Thorkildsen will be bidding to add to their collection although Olympic 110 Hurdles champion Dayron Robles will miss his diamond opportunity after withdrawing because of an ankle injury picked up at last Friday's meeting in Barcelona.
First ever Samsung Diamond League appearance for Isinbayeva
Olympic champion and World record holder Isinbayeva will be chasing her third Diamond after meet records of 4.79 metres in 2005 and her victory three years ago when she raised the stadium record to a very respectable 4.85m.
Her fellow Russian and former World record holder Feofanova is also included in a top class field over whom Isinbayeva, who has a seasonal best of 4.60m, is determined to prove herself still be world number one.
Stockholm will be Isinbayeva’s first ever Samsung Diamond League appearance, and her need for a victory, after no heighting in Lignano last Tuesday then withdrawing with a wrist injury from Lucerne two days later, is paramount.
Sweden’s heir apparent 18-year-old Angelica Bengtsson, the World Junior recordholder is also part of the world class line-up and will be supported by the renowned noisy and patriotic Stockholm crowd, in what promises to be a highlight of the meet.
Third diamond for Koech?
Defending 3000m Steeplechase champion Paul Koech third in Monaco last week in a lifetime best of 7:57.32 when Brimin Kipruto missed the World record by 0.01sec, returns to what must be his favourite venue and where he holds four of the fastest times.
Given Koech’s clocking in last week's classic contest he could go even faster and with Haron Lagat again expected to set the early pace might add a third one-carat diamond to his collection if smashing the mark of 7:59.42 he posted in 2007.
Thorkildsen meets arch-rival beginning come-back trail
Thorkildsen, who after an early season injury sustained in Shanghai, is now fully recovered and looks well prepared already to defend his World crown in Daegu and also his overall Diamond Race Javelin crown.
Norway’s 29-year-old two-time Olympic gold medallist with wins in Lausanne and Birmingham, the latter venue saw him throw a world leading 88.30m, under his belt in the last month, looks a good bet for a another big Samsung Diamond League pay day.
His arch-Nordic rival Tero Pitkämäki of Finland, the 2007 World champion is in the line-up, returning to competition after a month’s rest his body exhausted after, what is believed to have been, a combination of heavy training and too little a recovery period. The Shanghai winner (85.33) has had few other highlights in a dismal season, his last competition coming in Lausanne on 30 May when finishing 6th behind Thorkildsen with a dismal sub-80m effort. Much is expected of the Finn tomorrow.
However, based on the form book the world season number 3 (87.12) 38-year-old Sergey Makarov, the 2003 World champion, would seem presently to be a more credible opponent to the Norwegian having showed he still has plenty of skill and fight in his throwing frame when winning the All-Russian title last weekend. Also look out for Germany's Matthias de Zordo (85.78 this season).
Oliver robbed of Robles challenge
Cuban Robles absence due to injury robs the meet of an exciting head-to-head with David Oliver but the latter is adamant now that having qualified for the World Championships, it is time to start producing very fast times.
Oliver, currently the only sub 13sec performer this year with his time of 12.94 at the Eugene - Samsung Diamond League – meet on 4 June, is convinced that he can now start a roll in that direction with his Team USA position confirmed following his victories at his national trials.
"I'm just looking forward to getting out there and having another great performance, execute what I have been coached to do and win the race," said the Olympic bronze medallist and defending Diamond Race sprint hurdles overall winner.
Oliver who was unbeaten in all his 15 finals last year but this season has lost to China's Xiang Lui and Robles in Shanghai and Paris, added: "This year is all about the World Championships and I've made a few technical mistakes because I haven't ran so many races. Qualifying for Daegu has been the important thing and now I'm going to start running faster."
Indicating a sub-13 is on the cards against a field which includes reigning World champion Ryan Brathwaite from Barbados, Robles three-year-old meet record of 12.91 may well be targeted.
Brown favourite after Paris win
In the 400m, Bahamian Chris Brown who scored a brilliant victory in Paris has the opportunity of repeating that form to go ahead of American Jeremy Wariner who is at the top of the Diamond Race rankings but misses Stockholm. Belgium's Jonathan Borlee and Jermaine Gonzales of Jamaica second and third behind him in the Stade de France a fortnight ago, will be thirsting for revenge.
Reigning Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt on his return to competition is amongst the line-up as is Sydney and Beijing 400m Hurdles gold medallist Angelo Taylor, who after his storming hurdles victory in Monaco, reverts to running on the flat and if he comes first can also take over the overall Diamond Race win for the flat one lap.
Jeter has her eyes on a first ever 1-carat diamond
Carmelita Jeter, the world's second fastest ever female sprinter and currently in some of the best shape of her career knows if she smashes the stadium’s 17-year-old 100m mark of Russia's Irina Privalova, she will be the first female sprinter to collect a one-carat diamond since fellow American Allyson Felix's 200 success two years ago.
Jeter bolstered after setting a 200m personal best when beating Felix in Monaco last week, is quite confident she can destroy the 10.90 Privalova achieved in Stockholm last century.
“I would love to get a diamond at DN Galan,” said the 31-year-old with a lifetime best of 10.64 and who currently leads this year's world lists with the time of 10.70 she posted in Eugene on 4 June.
Trinidad's Kelly-Ann Baptiste last year's IAAF/VTB Bank Continental Cup champion and a surprise winner at the Paris - Samsung Diamond League - meet a fortnight ago heads the opposition including Jamaica's Olympic silver medallist Kerron Stewart.
Semenya will be stretched to maintain overall lead
South Africa's Caster Semenya the reigning World 800 gold medallist and current Diamond Race overall leader faces an awesome task if she is to win and extend her narrow advantage at the top of what is a loaded 800m line-up.
There will be 10 contestants including Semenya who have ran under 1:59 this summer around what should be a speedy two laps of the track although the world lead of 1:56.95 by which won Mariya Savinova the Russian title in Cheboksary last weekend should be safe.
Savinova doesn't compete, however Svetlana Klyova and Yelena Kufanova who finished fourth and fifth with times of 1:58.03 and 1:58.25 in that Russian trial race have come to Stockholm in mint condition.
Semenya whose season's best is 1:58.61 will have her work cut out not only by the presence of the Russians but also Morocco's Halima Hachlaf who beat her in Oslo and has a 1:58.27 clocking under her belt thanks to that victory.
Jamaica's Kenia Sinclair, who took top spot in Eugene with a time of 1:58.29, should also be in with a shout while the USA champion Alysia Montano (1:58.33) could also make an impact.
Cheruiyot victory, inevitable?
Vivian Cheruiyot who will not only defend her World 5000m title in Daegu but also chase a double in the 10,000m returns to Samsung Diamond League action after clinching her place in the Kenyan team at their recent Championships.
Cheruiyot with victories in Shanghai and Eugene to her name should go clear at the top of the Diamond Race for her event breaking away from meet record holder Meseret Defar (14:12.88) who shares the lead but does not run here.
Fellow Kenyan's Mercy Cherono, Grace Momyani and Viola Jelagat Kibiwot look favourites to follow her home but expect the USA's Shalane Flanagan, to try her best to take the race at least in the early stages to the African posse.
Kiplagat looks every bit a champion in waiting
Commonwealth champion Silas Kiplagat after his world season 1500m lead of 3:30.47 in Monaco which was preceded by his superb altitude time of 3:31.39 when winning at the Kenyan trials, looks every bit a possible World champion in waiting and could see himself elevated to the exclusive Stockholm 1-carat Diamond club.
To do so the 21-year-old Kiplagat will have to extinguish the mark of 3:29.30 the legendary Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj achieved in 1997 but given the strength of the field, it is a strong possibility.
Fellow countrymen Nixon Chepseba just a year younger and a game second behind Kiplagat last week is also in action, while Olympic 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop showed with his brilliant 800 second place behind world record holder David Rudisha in Monaco that he could add to his Oslo success and is set to be Kiplagat’s strongest opponent tomorrow and in Daegu.
More records forecast in 400m Hurdles and Triple Jump
Kaliese Spencer, the former World Junior 400 hurdles champion and reigning Olympic gold medallist Melanie Walker look set to dominate their event and with season's bests of 53.45 and 53.56 to their credit, a new stadium record - and of course another diamond - should be possible. The time they seek is the 54.27 Poland's Genowefa Blaszak achieved in 1985.
Yargelis Savigne with three out three Samsung Diamond League successes this season to her credit is well on target to retaining her overall Triple Jump Diamond Race title but Cuba's World champion will have again to be on her toes against Ukraine's Olha Saladukha.
Only a centimetre separates them in the 2011 world list and the first 15-metre clearance of the year is a possibility. Certainly the stadium record - 14.79m by Russia's Irina Mushailova - looks set to be rewritten.
Discus Throw, High Jump and Long Jumps – all high quality fields
The men's Discus Throw is missing Germany’s World champion Robert Harting, who is also the world season leader but Estonia's Olympic champion Gerd Kanter is chasing a third Samsung Diamond League victory and is looking to extend his Diamond Race overall lead. Lithuania's former double World and Olympic gold medallist Virgilijus Alekna currently third in the Diamond Race standing heads the challengers while Polish record holder and Beijing silver medallist Piotr Malachowski is also in action.
The USA's world season leader in the High Jump Jesse Williams (2.37m) faces the strength of Russia's jumpers and the first four finishers at their Championships. Aleksey Dmitrik the winner on count-back from Aleksandr Shustov with a height of 2.36m will be joined by Ivan Ukhov and Andrey Silnov who both cleared 2.34m in Cheboksary.
The Long Jump will see Australia's world season leader Mitchell Watt who has twice cleared 8.44m including at his victory in Shanghai tackle former World champion Irving Saladino of Panama who himself leapt 8.40m to win in Paris. The reward with a victory by either athlete will give them the overall Diamond Race event leadership.
Dave Martin for the Samsung Diamond League