An IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich on Thursday night. An IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels on Friday night. All good – unless you happen to be one of those athletes planning to turn up at both events.
The logistics of this year’s timing have put some of the world’s finest athletes to the test – but they all believe they will prove equal to the task.
Three track athletes have a double date in mind – Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands, who will run the 100m in Switzerland followed by the 200m in Brussels, Caterine Ibarguen of Colombia, who will defend her triple jump title in Zurich before having a tilt at the long jump in Belgium, and Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, who will challenge Kenya’s defending champion Hellen Obiri for the women’s 5000m title tomorrow before moving on to contest her favourite distance, the 1500m, the following evening.
So what will be the plans – planes, trains or automobiles?
For Hassan the choice is clear. Automobiles.
“It’s going to be hard to do both events, because I feel the pace could be at world record level here tomorrow night,” the European champion said.
“I will be driving to Brussels through the night after my race tomorrow. We think it will take about five hours. I won’t be driving myself! I will be driven…”
Ibarguen, meanwhile, will be making for the airport. “I will be getting an early flight to Brussels, before 10 o’clock on Friday,” she said, before adding that it would most likely be about 7am.
It means she may well be sharing a flight with Schippers, who also plans to fly out to Belgium first thing in the morning.
“I have a flight to Brussels at about seven in the morning on Friday, so then I can go and be early there and wait over there and try to sleep a couple of hours,” she said.
“I am not a good sleeper, but I’m used to not sleeping that much so for me it’s OK when I sleep a couple of hours for a night – I can keep going with that, I’m OK with that.
“This is the first time I’ve had to do something like this. But it’s not like pole vaulters – I just need to take my spikes!”
These three are not the only athletes planning to travel from Zurich to Brussels. The bulk of the field that contested the exhibition men’s pole vault competition in Zurich’s central station concourse on Wednesday night (29) will also be travelling to contest Friday’s IAAF Diamond League final in their discipline.
Even though the pole vaulters have an extra day to move from one city to another, the nature of their event means they are always potentially vulnerable to excursions or alarms with regard to the tools of their trade – their poles.
As Sandi Morris, the world indoor champion, observed last month ahead of competing at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco: “Any time an athlete who is not a pole vaulter complains about travel, I am just…”
And cue eye-rolling…
But, as they revealed after a hugely entertaining exhibition event at Zurich’s main train station, the pole vaulters headed for Brussels have a cunning plan.
“I’ll fly there tomorrow,” said Canada’s 2015 world champion Shawnacy Barber, second on the day with a season’s best indoor clearance of 5.86m behind the 5.91m achieved by authorised neutral athlete Timor Morgunov. “I believe we’ve arranged for our poles to travel separately which is a big relief for us. That way we don’t have to stress about them getting lost on the airplane or something like this. So yeah, it should be an easy day of travel tomorrow, straight over.
“I believe one of the coaches is making a drive, although they might split it up on to two separate cars, but they are going to load like four to six poles on each of these cars.”
Further clarification came from Australia’s 21-year-old Commonwealth champion Kurtis Marschall, who had twice improved his indoor personal best to 5.81m and 5.86m before finishing third.
“My coach, Alex Parnov, will be driving to Brussels tomorrow with a whole load of poles on top of his car,” Marschall said. “I will be flying out with a group of the others round about midday tomorrow.
“I’ve never lost a pole – and I’ve never broken one. Lucky, I guess!”
Not so lucky has been Sam Kendricks, the world champion from the United States.
“We need to make sure about our equipment to compete, and this gives us leverage,” he said. “We can’t do this kind of thing for every competition, but having meets in Zurich and Brussels means it works this time.
“When there is a top prize of $50,000 on offer, we need to take extra precautions!
“I lost all of my poles in my very first international competition. I won the World Universiade in Kazan in Russia in 2013, but on the journey back every pole I had was broken. It’s worse than a golfer losing his clubs – because you can’t buy vaulting poles off the rack.”
Given the circumstances, it makes complete sense for the pole vaulters to echo the phrase so often quoted in sports: “fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF