Zürich, SwitzerlandJamaica’s former World 100m record holder Asafa Powell who missed the recent IAAF World Championships in Daegu while coming off the tail-end of an injury will return to action in the 100m at the Weltklasse Zürich, the first of two Finals of the Samsung Diamond League 2011 which takes place on Thursday (8).
Powell after a brilliant summer's season was being tipped to replace fellow Jamaican Usain Bolt as World 100m gold medallist in Daegu until a hamstring injury frustratingly side-lined him, leading to his non-participation in London, the last Samsung Diamond League meeting before Daegu, and then the championships themselves, and so frustratingly the two-time World bronze medallist saw an awesome career opportunity disappear off the radar.
Now the 28-year-old, who with a tally of 14 points and Bolt the only opponent who could have challenged him not competing, has bagged the 100m Diamond Race overall title worth US$40,000 in cash and a spectacular Diamond Trophy which is awarded to each of the winners of the 32 event disciplines contested in the 14 meeting global series which began in early May.
Powell, with the opportunity to score a consolation victory, will line-up against fellow countryman and World gold medallist Yohan Blake. Walter Dix, the USA's runner up in both the World 100 and 200 and the evergreen 35-year-old Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis, the 2003 World 100m champion who surprised his younger rivals with his bronze in Daegu.
Loaded fields in all events
This sprint quartet are amongst the stars of Weltklasse Zürich which in total will see 19 gold, 18 silver and 15 bronze World medallists from Daegu in Zürich’s Letzigrund Stadium on Thursday (8). In the case of the men and women's shot putters they will do battle tonight on the specially constructed throwing area on concourse of the city's Main Railway station, and event which will see the first Diamond Race Trophy of 2011 won.
Post-Daegu all athletes’ attentions are firmly focused on the two money spinning Samsung Diamond League Finals, the first which takes place in the Swiss city and the second in Brussels next Friday (16), with each meeting staging half of the 32 event disciplines.
Even before Weltklasse Zürich begins Powell, German javelin thrower Christina Obergföll, and long jumper Mitchell Watts, so long as they compete in Zurich, have already won their respective Diamond Race events outright, as nobody can catch their current totals even with double points available in the Finals.
Cheruiyot and Pearson in the form of their lives
The form of two runners Vivian Cheruiyot and Sally Pearson in Daegu would suggest that World record bids could be a possibility in Zurich but tiredness and the lack of recovery time since returning from the heat and humidity of the Far East and the lengthy flight to Switzerland would seem to make such a prospect highly unlikely.
Indeed Cheruiyot, who completed a 5000/10,000m double in Daegu running tactical races to clinch her brace of gold medals, despite claiming she could break the 5000 record this year after roaring to an unassisted victory at the Samsung Diamond League meeting in Stockholm at the end of July, has absolutely ruled out any such attempt.
Indeed because of the intense racing programme she and others undertook in Daegu, Zurich organisers have cancelled the normal bonuses awarded for performances and in their case have substituted it with double prize money.
Cheruiyot is intending to play it safe and make the defence of her Diamond Race 5000m title a priority, confirming "there will be no World record tomorrow night, I am too tired."
Pearson's 100m Hurdles race is not a Diamond Race event in Zurich, that event’s final takes place in Brussels next week, but Meeting Director Patrick K Magyar possessing the precocious Swiss talent of Lisa Urech, has given the 22-year-old Swiss, who just missed out on making the final in Daegu, the opportunity to display her talent in front of her home spectators against the new World champion.
Australia's Pearson, who produced arguably the most glittering women's performance on the Daegu track, after one of the most fluent hurdling performances seen in history insisted Yordanka Donkova's 23-year-old World record of 12.21 is on her mind and she is in the right shape to achieve it, but promised nothing at the pre-event press conference.
"My coach has told me just to have fun, 'do what you want to do and enjoy it. If you run 12.6 I'll be happy'," Pearson said, who also faces Olympic champion Dawn Harper and Danielle Carruthers, who behind her in Daegu, respectively won World silver and bronze in a near dead heat with personal bests of 12.47.
Their fellow American and USA champion Kellie Wells will also be eager to be in the fight on Thursday after failing to finish in the World final after smashing into three hurdles.
Highest quality line-ups, begin with four awesome fights in the infield
The Weltklasse meet which in the early 1980's was dubbed the "Three Hours Olympics" has since the transition to the Golden League and now the Samsung Diamond League has since been renamed, with Magyar commenting "we have been dubbed ‘World Championships in two hours’ many times before. This year our line-up will almost live up to our aspiration."
Following tonight’s Shot Puts, 24 hours later competition in the Letzigrund Stadium begins with four field events which should keep spectators enthralled before the track action gets underway, with Daegu gold medallists all facing possible revenge from their rivals.
In the Discus Throw, Germany's Robert Harting takes on silver and bronze medallists Gerd Kanter of Estonia and Iran's Ehsan Hadadi. Yet will Lithuania's former two-time World and Olympic champion Virgilijus Alekna, determined to score a third Samsung Diamond League victory, get the last laugh on all of them and clinch the Diamond Race victory.
The men's Long Jump features the USA's remarkable Dwight Phillips who despite just a handful of appearances beforehand this season managed to clinch his fourth World title in Daegu. However, World silver medallist Watt is already assured of winning the Diamond Race in this event with Godfrey Mokoena of South Africa, Great Britain's Greg Rutherford and Irving Saladino of Panama, not competing.
Silke Spiegelburg, ninth at Daegu, leads the women’s Pole Vault Diamond Race standings but the German will be under severe pressure as five of the rivals who placed ahead of her at the World championships including the three medallists Brazil's Fabiana Murer, Germany’s Martina Strutz and Russian Svetlana Feofanova could dash her hopes of capturing the $40,000 prize and Diamond Race Trophy.
Russia’s Olympic champion and World record holder Yelena Isinbayeva, who after failing to defend her title in Berlin two years ago came to Zurich the following week and posted a World record height of 5.06m, also competes on Thursday after finishing outside the medals in Daegu. Will the 29-year-old Russian be able to produce an action replay of Zurich 2009 after a disappointing sixth position in Daegu?
The men's High Jump brings together the World Championship gold and silver medallists Jesse Williams of the USA and Aleksey Dmitrik of Russia, along with the latter’s compatriots Ivan Ukhov, the Diamond Race winner in 2010 and Andrey Silnov.
Robles has every motivation to do something very special
The track action begins with the Women's 400 Hurdles. USA’s Lashinda Demus who after two third places finally took the World Championships 400m Hurdles gold medal, and will start as favourite on Thursday, while Jamaican Kaliese Spencer, who finished fourth in Daegu for a second successive championships, after her disappointment will try and end her season on a high by defending her Diamond Race title.
Seven of the 110m Hurdles finalists from Daegu including the newly crowned World champion Jason Richardson will start with fellow American and last year's Diamond Race victor David Oliver knowing that with only a three point lead ahead of Cuba's World record holder Dayron Robles, it's going to be difficult to hold on to his title especially as the Cuban will be fired-up after his disqualification in Daegu, which saw him lose the gold medal.
At 400m the former IAAF World Youth and Junior Championship gold medallist Kirani James of Grenada, who became the third youngest World champion with his surprise victory in Daegu, clashes again with the USA's Olympic gold medallist LaShawn Merritt whom he stunned by beating him to the title. However, Jamaica's Jermaine Gonzales, run out of the medals in Daegu, is looking good to take the Diamond Race honours.
The men's 1500m also suggests given that his five points lead that Olympic and World champion Asbel Kiprop will keep his Diamond Race crown, and with world season leader Silas Kiplagat and a scrum of other team mates in the field, a Kenyan 1-2-3 could be on the cards.
3000m Steeplechase season leader Brimin Kipruto, the silver medallist in Daegu, is nursing an injury which means only the World champion Ezekiel Kemboi is in a position to halt fellow Kenyan Paul Koech (did not compete at the World Championships) who just needs a second place finish to retain his Diamond Race title.
Back in the infield, the women's Javelin Throw after a dramatic final in Daegu fetches together the three medallists Russia's Maria Abakumova the World champion and new season leader, with silver medallist plus Czech Barbora Spotakova who is the World record holder, and bronze medallist Sunette Viljoen, who had an exceptional championship, smashing the African and South African record. However, Daegu fourth placer Obergföll is already certain of replacing Spotakova as overall Diamond Race winner in 2011.
In the Long Jump, World champion Brittney Reese after a superb season and barring a shock defeat will almost certainly land a second successive overall Diamond Race victory, although Russia's Olga Kucherenko and Ineta Radevica of Latvia, second and third behind her in Korea, will be hoping for swift revenge.
The women’s 200m will see Carmelita Jeter, the World 100m champion and 200m silver medallist go head-to-head with fellow American Allyson Felix who she beat for the silver medal in Daegu. Their head-to-head match-up could determine the overall Diamond Race winner for the event. Fellow American Bianca Knight leads with 10 points but with Felix on six points and Jeter on five and with double points on offer there could be a change in the top position if Felix can prevail.
The women's 800m sees all eight World finalists plus Jenny Meadows (9pts), who lost out narrowly on joining them, and along with Jamaica's Kenia Spencer (10pts) who she trails by a point could be crowned Diamond Race champion. But South Africa's World silver medallist Caster Semenya (7pts) is in a strong position to upset their hopes in what should be a classic clash which also features Russia's World champion Mariya Savinova.
Dave Martin for the Samsung Diamond League