Olympic High Jump champion Anna Chicherova in Stockholm (Deca Text & Bild) © Copyright
Preview Stockholm, Sweden

Eleven Olympic champions to help celebrate Stockholm Stadium’s 100th Anniversary – PREVIEW – Samsung Diamond League

The Olympic Games may have ended in London last Sunday, but the quadrennial sporting celebration will still very much provide the prevailing theme when the Samsung Diamond League series resumes in Stockholm at the DN Galan on Friday (17) night.

No less than 11 newly crowned Olympic champions will begin their post-Games victory tour at the meeting’s 46th running, one that will be staged in the Swedish capital’s historic stadium that hosted the Olympic Games 100 years ago. Those fifth Olympic Games also witnessed the founding of the IAAF, which like Stockholm’s stadium, is celebrating its centenary throughout this year.

Stockholm’s intimate venue is not only known for its longevity and as a historical monument to the sport, but for the quality of competition that have been witnessed within the confines of famed brick walls as well. Eighty-three World records or bests have been set here, a total higher than any other single venue can boast.

While a World record might be a tough ask for athletes in their first meet after 10 days of dramatic and draining Olympic competition, stadium records aren’t out of the question – indeed they’re welcome and encouraged by organisers. Since 1994 the meet has offered a one carat diamond valued at USD10,000 to anyone who breaks a stadium record. To date 65 have been awarded.

More full-lap heroics from Richards-Ross and Sanchez?

One athlete with an eye on that prize is Sanya Richards-Ross, and not only because she has a strong affinity for diamonds. Since winning the Olympic 400m title, the 27-year-old American said she feels liberated from that burden and can now focus her attention on fast times. The mark she’ll be chasing is 49.70 set by Allyson Felix in 2007 when she edged Richards-Ross by just 0.02.

She'll take on four other London finalists, including her compatriot Deedee Trotter, the bronze medallist, and World champion Amantle Montsho, who finished fourth, just 0.03 behind Trotter. Montsho will be leaving that disappointment behind and focusing on the business at hand: maintaining and adding to her large lead in the event's Diamond Race standings. World leader Antonina Krivoshapka from Russia, who faded to sixth in London, will be looking for a bit of redemption here as well.

One of the most memorable moments of the entire Games came during the podium ceremony for the men's 400m Hurdles where winner Felix Sanchez was unable to contain his emotions when receiving his gold medal. The Dominican pledged to win another medal for his grandmother who passed away while he competed at the 2008 Games and came through with a sensational homestretch run to win with a world leading 47.63, scoring one of the bigger surprises on the track.

The two-time Olympic champion returns to action and will face silver medallist Michael Tinsley of the U.S., along with another two-time Olympic champion Angelo Taylor, Trinidad's Jehue Gordon and Jamaican Leford Green, who were fifth, sixth and seventh in the London final.

Zaripova leads London Steeplechase podium reunion

There's a terrific line-up in the women's 3000m Steeplechase as well, with Olympic champion Yuliya Zaripova of Russia leading a field that includes London's first four finishers, and seven of the top ten.

The 26-year-old, last year's World champion, sizzled to a 9:06.72 personal best and world leading time in the London final, all things considered the finest quality of the longer races on the track. She'll again face Tunisian Habiba Ghribi, who clocked a 9:08.37 national record for silver, and Ethiopian Sofia Assefa, who took bronze from Kenyan Milcah Chemos - also in the field - by a scant 0.04, 9:08.84 to 9:08.88. In an honestly paced race, all four can certainly chase diamond bonus aspirations as well. The stadium record of 9:17.59 was set by Zaripova two years ago.

Jumps champions Taylor, Suhr, Reese and Chicherova return to action

There will be plenty of Olympic gold represented on the infield, beginning with the jumps where all four events will be led by those you triumphed in London.

At 22, Christian Taylor has accomplished more in a couple of seasons in the Triple Jump than the majority of athletes strive for over an entire career: last year he took the World title when becoming the No. five jumper all-time and less than a year later fulfilled all expectations by taking the Olympic title. His 17.81m winning leap wasn't as far as his 17.96m career best in Daegu, but it was the farthest in the world this season and the second farthest of his career. He's won his last three competitions and four of his last five, to start as a clear favourite to cushion his current six-point lead in the Diamond Race standings.

His primary opposition will be familiar - collegiate and London Olympic teammate Will Claye who took silver in this event in the British capital and bronze in the Long Jump. His 17.62m personal best came at the Olympics and remember - he beat Taylor for the World Indoor title earlier this year. Also in the field are Olympic finalists Benjamin Compaoré (17.08m SB) of France, Nigerian Tosin Oke (17.23m SB, PB) and Luke Adams of Russia (17.53 SB, PB).

With seven of the top eight Olympic finishers in the field, the women's Pole Vault will be one of the evening's closest London recreations. Gold medallist Jen Suhr will be hoping for a similar finish against Cuba's silver medallist Yarisley Silva and Germans Silke Spiegelburg and Martina Strutz, who were fourth and fifth behind her. The American will keep a particularly close eye on Spiegelburg whose 4.82m national record from Monaco is the highest leap in the world this year, and on Brazil's Fabiana Murer, the World champion who'll be aiming to make up for the London disaster which saw her fail to qualify for the final.

Brittney Reese fulfilled her favourite's role admirably in London, winning with a 7.12m leap, five centimetres clear of Russian Yelena Sokolova whose 7.07m was a career best. She'll have to produce similar numbers to win here with the top seven finishers from the Olympic final reuniting exactly one week later.

Included in the high quality field are bronze medallist Janay DeLoach (7.03m SB, PB), fifth place finisher Anna Nazarova (7.11m SB, PB) of Russia, seventh place finisher Nastassia Mironchyk-Ivanova (7.08m SB, PB) of Belarus, Chelsea Hayes (7.10m SB, PB) of the U.S. and Russian Olga Kucherenko (7.03 SB) who have all sailed beyond seven metres this season.

Then there is Anna Chicherova of Russia, who like Reese followed up her Daegu triumph of a year ago with Olympic gold in the High Jump. Despite some injuries and severe back pains, the 30-year-old topped a season's best 2.05m to take the title in her third Olympic appearance.

Here she'll face two more of this season's two-metre jumpers: her compatriot Svetlana Shkolina who improved to 2.03m to take Olympic bronze in London, and Spanish veteran Ruth Beitia.

Throws – Olympic momentum with Adams, Majewski, Perkovic

Three of the four throws on the programme feature the Olympic champion.

The men's Shot Put features seven London finalists but none loom as large at the moment than Poland's Tomasz Majewski who came through like the champion he's proven to be with a last round season's best 21.89m to successfully defend his Olympic title.

Silver medallist David Storl won't be here, but Reese Hoffa and Dylan Armstrong, the third and fifth place London finishers who currently lead the Pole in the Diamond Race standards, will be competing. So will Christian Cantwell, who was fourth in London and another American, the World Indoor champion Ryan Whiting who'll be trying to put a disappointing ninth place Olympic showing behind him.

Valerie Adams also has a meeting record diamond on her mind. Given her 21.11m season's best, the 19.93m mark set back in 1980 is well within reach for the three-time World champion who brings a 25-meeting win streak to Stockholm 11 days after successfully defending her Olympic title in London.

The 27-year-old's season's best is more than half a metre better than anyone else in the field, making the popular New Zealander one of the biggest favourites of the meet.

She'll face three other top-eight Olympic finalists, but only rising star Yevgeniya Kolodko of Russia seems to carry a change to score an upset. The 22-year-old improved to 20.48m in London to take surprise silver.

In the women’s Discus Throw, Sandra Perkovic returns to action 11 days after claiming Croatia’s first ever Olympic gold in Athletics. In London the 22-year-old sealed the victory with a 69.11m personal best in the third round, relegating Russian Darya Pishchalnikova into second with 67.56m. She too will be in Stockholm looking for revenge but her task will be a difficult one. Perkovic has lost just one competition in 11 starts this season and has already all but secured the Diamond Race Trophy in the event.

The field also includes Cuban Yarelis Barrios (68.03m PB, SB), German Nadine Muller (68.89m PB, SB) and Melina Robert-Michon (63.98m SB) of France, the fourth, fifth and sixth place finishers at the London Games.

Makhloufi tries out the 800m

As with all Diamond League events, there will be plenty of star power elsewhere even if the Olympic champions couldn’t make the trip to the Swedish capital.

One of the biggest surprises of the recent Games was Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi, who dominated his first round, semi-final and final races to take a wholly unexpected gold medal in the 1500m. But prior to his Olympic triumph over the metric mile, the 24-year-old was perhaps better known as an 800m runner, having captured the All Africa Games title in 2011 and the this year's African title in the event. He'll be contesting the shorter distance here where his 1:43.88 personal best stands up well to some in the field, but won't have him start as favourite.

Faster this year alone are American Duane Solomon who finished fourth in the epic Olympic final in 1:42.82, World indoor champion Mohammed Aman who improved the Ethiopian record to 1:43.20, and perennial speedster Abubaker Kaki who has run 1:43.43 this season but whose career best of 1:42.23 ranks his as history's sixth fastest of all-time.

Jamal vs Aregawi in the 1500m

If you have to pick a favourite in the women's 1500m, one safe bet would be Maryam Jamal, Bahrain's former two-time World champion who took in bronze in London. She's the fastest in the field overall, but hasn't broached the four-minute barrier yet this season. Another is Ethiopian rising star Abebe Aregawi, the fifth place finisher in London, who has improved to 3:56.54 this season. The 22-year-old lives in Sweden and will have plenty of support. Shannon Rowbury of the U.S., Natallia Kareiva of Belarus and Kenyan Hellen Obiri, all London finalists, are in the field as well.

Vesely looking to bounce back

In the men's Javelin Throw, Diamond race leader and world leader Vítezslav Veselý will aim to make amends for a disappointing fourth place showing in a lacklustre Olympic competition. An 88.34m thrower earlier this season, the Czech could only reach 83.34m in the Olympic final after throwing beyond 88 metres in qualifying.

He'll be facing two-thirds of the London podium: silver medallist Oleksandr Pyatnytsya of Ukraine who collected series wins in Paris and Monaco, and bronze medallist Antti Ruuskanen of Finland. Former World champion Tero Pitkämäki of Finland, fifth in London, and two-time Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway, who's been battling timing problems all season, are also in the field.

Harper vs Wells in high energy hurdles

Up until a few days ago, the women's 100m Hurdles was promising a rerun of the London final, until Olympic winner Sally Pearson decided to end her season and returned home to Australia. That will still leave two-thirds of that entertaining podium, the red-hot Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells facing off once again. Harper, the 2012 Olympic champion, improved her career best to 12.37, finishing just 0.02 behind Pearson in the London final. Wells improved to 12.48 to take bronze. For good measure the field includes finalists Phylicia George of Canada and Austria's Beate Schrott.

The focus of the longest event on the men's programme, the 3000m, will be on Kenyans Thomas Longosiwa and Isiah Koech, who finished third and fifth respectively in the Olympic 5000m. Look out as well for another Kenyan, Edwin Soi, the Kenyan Trials runner-up in the 5000m who'll be bouncing back from a disappointing Olympic outing where he failed to reach the final. Meanwhile Evan Jager of the U.S. will run his first international 3000m flat race since his breakout 8:06.81 North American Area record in Steeplechase in Monaco just under a month ago. Jager, 23, was sixth in the Olympic Steeplechase 11 days ago.

Can Bailey fight off Relay record-breaking Jamaicans?

At the moment, Ryan Bailey is the class of the 100m field. The tall 23-year-old American was fifth in the Olympic final where he clocked a 9.88 personal best twice: first in the heats and again in the final. Nesta Carter (9.95 SB) and Michael Frater (9.94) meanwhile are hot off running legs one and two on Jamaica's most recent 4x100m Relay World record, a stunning 36.84. Darvis Patton (9.96 SB) and Richard Thompson (9.96 SB) have also dipped under 10 seconds in 2012.

In the women's 200m, Russian Aleksandra Fedoriva is the fastest this season at 22.19 but the momentum is more likely with Bianca Knight who ran the third leg on the World record-breaking U.S. squad in the 4x100m Relay. Murielle Ahoure, the Diamond race leader after wins in Oslo and Paris, is also in the field.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF

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