Renaud Lavillenie after his 5.97m world lead in Helsinki (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Paris, France

First leg between Helsinki and London is Paris - Samsung Diamond League

Just back from Helsinki, where the curtain has fallen over the European Championships, the athletic elite from the Old World is preparing to hit the road to Paris. No fewer than nine of the newly awarded European Champions will be in attendance at the Stade de France on Friday 6 July, for the 2012 edition of the Meeting Areva, the seventh stop on the Samsung Diamond League circuit. Four men and five women, three of whom are French.

A familiar face at the Ile de France meeting, despite being just 22, Christophe Lemaitre will celebrate his second European 100m title in front of a home crowd in the Stade de France. Up against him will be two aces from American sprinting: Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin.

In the Pole Vault, Renaud Lavillenie scored a double in Helsinki: European title for the second year running and best performance in the world so far this season (5.97m). On Friday evening, the Frenchman will be up against the runner-up in the European Championships, German Björn Otto, author of a new personal best of 5.92m.

After surprisingly taking the world title last year in Daegu, German David Storl has added the European gold medal to his prize hoard in the Shot Put competition after his best throw of the season, 21.58m. In Paris he’ll be able to count on the pride of American throwers, fresh out of their trials, to try to drive him into a corner.

Finally, among the men, the public will have a chance to discover the new force in European javelin competition, Vitezslav Vesely. In Helsinki, the Czech secured a continental title which his coach, the legendary Jan Zelezny, never managed to pull off, despite his three Olympic titles.

In the women’s competition, the 200m is likely to be reminiscent of a revenge match between Ukrainian Mariya Ryemyen, who won in Helsinki, and French runner Myriam Soumaré, bronze medallist, but European Champion two years earlier in Barcelona. This race within a race will certainly be worth keeping a close eye on.

Turk Gülcan Mingir, European medallist in the 3000m Steeplechase, isn’t likely to miss out on the opportunity offered up by the Paris meeting to weigh up Olympic chances against the best Africans over the distance.

In the High Jump, the European final saw Spaniard Ruth Beitia stand out in the trials against the young Norwegian, Tonje Angelsen. Clearing 1.97m, Beitia achieved a season’s best to boot, whilst the second jumper scored a new personal best. Both young women will be in the Stade de France, on Friday, to try to match American Chaunté Lowe, author of the second best performance in the world during the trials in Eugene with a jump of 2.01m.

Meantime, in the Long Jump competition, the French crowd will only have eyes for Eloyse Lesueur. The French athlete secured her first European title in Helsinki, launching a motion, which would enable the Blues to amass 14 medals in Finland. In the Stade de France, she’ll be up against Russian Anna Nazarova (7.11m last June) and American Janay DeLoach (7.03m last week in Eugene).

Finally, in the Discus Throw, Croatian Sandra Perkovic scored some valuable points in Helsinki, by winning a European Championships final, whose line-up boasted some of the most serious contenders to the Olympic podium. She’s sure to want to drive the point home in the Stade de France.

Organisers for the IAAF