Of all the clashes to savour at the Bislett Games on Thursday night (7), one stands clear above the rest – a race that will draw a rapturous reception from the Oslo crowd at what will be the fifth meeting of this year’s IAAF Diamond League.
One lap, 10 barriers, two 22-year-old athletes in the form of their life, a hero and anti-hero for the locals to root for/against – the men’s 400m hurdles will have everything you could wish for in a race, all passing in one brilliant, 47-second blur.
The favourite, at least on paper, is Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba, who has screamed out of the blocks so far this year and has cracked 48 seconds on each of his three outings at the distance. The most recent of those came in Rome last week, where Samba came from behind to win in an Asian record of 47.48.
On any other day, in any other place, arriving with that kind of form would make him a virtual shoo-in for victory, but not here, with world champion Karsten Warholm in the line-up, an athlete who will prove particularly hard to slay on home turf. We know Warholm likes it in the Bislett Stadium, having announced his outrageous talent here last year when he set a national record of 48.25.
Last week in Rome, Warholm ripped through the first 300 metres at a freakish pace, but conceded the lead to Samba late on, still charging to the finish in 47.82 to smash the Norwegian record. Yasmani Copello of Turkey and Kerron Clement, the reigning Olympic champion, are also in the line-up, though few eyes will be trained anywhere but the big two: Warholm and Samba. With warm, sunny conditions forecast, a swift time is sure to be on the cards.
20 world champions on show
Elsewhere, there is the usual embarrassment of riches you’d expect from a meeting with such history and prestige, which this year gathers 20 world champions and eight Olympic gold medallists.
In the men’s high jump, the clash between Mutaz Essa Barshim and Danil Lysenko will ensure no eyes are drooping as night arrives in the land of the midnight sun. They served up a riveting duel at the IAAF World Indoor Championships back in March, where Lysenko claimed gold, but Barshim took some revenge at the Eugene Diamond League last month, the Qatari going over 2.36m to beat Lysenko’s best of 2.32m.
Barshim is the 2017 Male Athlete of the Year and cleared 2.40m in Doha last month, but will likely have his hands full against Lysenko, who cleared 2.37m indoors and will have blown away the cobwebs in his outdoor debut in Eugene. Another worthy of respect is Belarus’s Dzmitry Nabokau, who cleared a national record of 2.36m last month.
This being Oslo – home of the Dream Mile, capital of the country that produced the Ingebrigtsens – the concluding event of the night should prove a fitting climax.
Three Ingebrigtsen brothers in two races
This year’s Dream Mile will be headlined by world 1500m champion Elijah Manangoi of Kenya, though the cheers of the crowd will be firmly behind the Ingebrigtsen brothers, Filip and Henrik. Britain’s Jake Wightman is another with form in this arena, having won the 1500m here last year in 3:34.17, and he should make a bold bid having chased Manangoi home in the 1500m at the Commonwealth Games in April, where he finished third.
Though not a Diamond League event, many will look forward to the men’s 1500m earlier in the programme, where Jakob Ingebrigtsen, fresh from his breakthrough 3:52.28 mile in Eugene, will take on an international field that includes Britain’s Chris O’Hare and US athlete Robby Andrews.
Coburn, Frerichs and Kiyeng square off in steeplechase
The women’s 3000m steeplechase should prove an intriguing contest, pitting US athletes Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs – who went 1-2 at last year’s IAAF World Championships – against home heroine Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal, who has a best of 9:13.35. However, the favourite may well be Kenya’s Hyvin Kiyeng, who made the best of Coburn’s late-race fall to sprint to victory in Rome last week in 9:04.96, a world lead.
Caster Semenya should take maximum points once again on her road to the IAAF Diamond League final, the South African the star attraction in a strong women’s 800m that also includes Olympic silver medallist Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, Ethiopian newcomer Habitam Alemu – who has run 1:57.78 this year – and Britain’s Laura Muir, who will be looking to sharpen her speed and challenge her PB of 1:58.69.
Walsh v Crouser in men’s shot
The heavyweights of the men’s shot put will also square off, with 2017 world champion Tomas Walsh of New Zealand taking on Olympic champion Ryan Crouser and 2015 world champion Joe Kovacs. Crouser fared best on their recent clash in Eugene, the 25-year-old launching a season’s best of 22.53m.
The women’s pole vault will see Katerina Stefanidi of Greece look to resume winning ways after a sub-par start to the year for the Olympic and world champion, though she will face stiff competition in Sandi Morris, who cleared 4.84m to win in Doha last month.
China’s Lyu Huihui will start as favourite for the women’s javelin, having thrown an Asian record of 67.69 in Halle, Germany last month. However, German Christin Hussong should give her plenty to think about after her throw of 66.36m, also in Halle. Czech thrower Nikola Ogrodnikova, who has a best of 65.61m this season, should also be in the mix.
The women’s triple jump is headlined by Olympic champion Caterine Ibarguen who was victorious on her sole Diamond League outing this year in Shanghai, where she leapt 14.80m. An intriguing challenger is USA’s Tori Franklin, who shocked everyone with a 14.84m North American record last month.
Dacres looking to extend unbeaten streak
Fedrick Dacres will seek to continue his winning ways in the men’s discus, the Jamaican unbeaten in his 11 competitions to date in 2018. The most recent of those came in Rome, where Dacres had a best of 68.51m to edge Lithuania’s Andrius Gudzius, who will re-oppose in Oslo along with Sweden’s Daniel Stahl and Iran’s Ehsan Hadadi.
Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad should prove tough to beat in the women’s 400m hurdles, the US athlete ranked second in the world this year with her time of 53.77, which she ran to win in Shanghai last month. Also in the line-up are Shamier Little and Zuzana Hejnova.
Murielle Ahoure will be hard to catch if utilising her lightning start in the women’s 100m, the Ivorian with a best of 10.90 this season, the same as her biggest rival in Oslo, Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor of Nigeria.
The women’s 400m features the 1-2 from last year’s IAAF World Championships in USA’s Phyllis Francis and Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser, though the quickest in the field this year is Shakina Wimbley with 50.18.
World champion Ramil Guliyev will headline the men’s 200m, the Turk who has a best of 20.11 this year. The favourite, however, will be Jereem Richards, who clocked 19.99 to finish runner-up in Doha and 20.05 to again finish second in Eugene.
All eyes will be on Alina Talay of Belarus in the women’s 100m hurdles, which is not a Diamond League event, after she clocked a national record of 12.41 last weekend in Austria. Norway’s Isabelle Pedersen will be the crowd favourite and should be in contention, with a best of 12.76 this year.
The men’s 10,000m, a non-Diamond League event, will pit Norwegian marathon specialist Sondre Moen against Swiss star Julien Wanders, while Germany’s Arne Gabius and Britain’s Andy Vernon should also feature.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF