The Diamond League makes it way to Europe where it will stay for the next several weeks as the season begins to accelerate towards London. As we enter June and the World Championships only a couple of months away, this is the month when we will get a better idea of who the contenders will be at those Championships. With that said, here are my top 5 events to look out for at leg four of the 2017 Diamond League series in Rome:
WOMEN’S 5000 METRES
On the Friday night at the Prefontaine Classic, Genzebe Dibaba dominated the 5k there running 14.25 which is a time only a handful (including herself) have run faster than. In Rome however will be the one woman who has run quicker than her this year, the Olympic silver medallist from Rio, Helen Obiri. As the reigning World Champion in the 1500 (and therefore has the wildcard entry for London), she seems to be focusing more on the 5k (in which Ayana comprehensively beat her in 2015) this year so far. Helen Obiri meanwhile looked good in the 1500 in Eugene where she just pipped Laura Muir to the line behind the Olympic Champion Faith Kipyegon and this sets up an intriguing contest. As per usual you have a strong Kenyan and Ethiopian contingent behind them with Letesenbet Gidey the quickest of them this year. Yasemin Can is another to look out for and she has dominated European distance running in the last few years whilst representing Turkey.
MEN’S 3000 METRES STEEPLECHASE
So I feel fairly confident in predicting that there will be a mass sprint with two to four Kenyans desperately battling to the line. Now admittedly Kenyans make up most of the field so that’s not exactly that difficult of a prediction to make but those burn-ups can often be very entertaining! The reigning Olympic Champion Conseslus Kipruto is in the field for his first steeplechase of the year and will probably start as favourite. Ezekiel Kemboi who crossed the line 3rd in Rio only to be disqualified afterwards is also named although I had seen he had announced his retirement after Rio so I am not sure if he has changed his mind on retirement or whether he is here as a pacemaker but the double Olympic Champion and 4 time World Champion is the only runner along with Kipruto to have ever run under 8 minutes in the field and I suspect could still figure very highly if competitive.
The fastest this year is the Jarius Birech with an 8.10 clocking in Marseille this year with fellow Kenyan Abraham Kibiwott who was just behind him in that race. They form the main opposition to Kipruto. Unfortunately there is no Evan Jager here although there are 3 solid American representatives with the Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali arguably the best of the non-Kenyans.
WOMEN’S TRIPLE JUMP
Catherine Imbarguen has long been the dominant force in her event and had a very long unbeaten streak until last year but she remains a pretty safe bet whenever she competes. She has yet to jump super far this year although her 14.43 best this year is still good enough for 4th in the world this year but I would be surprised if she didn’t improve on that in Rome. Yulimar Rojas, the Venezuelan, has for the last couple of years been the upcoming challenger to Imbarguen. She was second in Rio and has been the only other main triple jumper who can regularly challenge the 15 metre line with her PB standing at 15.02m. She has started this year very well however with a 14.96m less than a week before this Rome meet and that is currently the world leading mark by over 50 centimetres to the next ranked athletes. This will likely been another contest between these two but the battle for third could be interesting with the Olympic Champion from London Rypakova likely to feature as usual along with Povea (yet another decent Cuban triple jumper) who’s 14.45 this year matches Rypakova’s seasons best and is just 11 centimetres shy of her PB.
MEN’S 110 METRE HURDLES
With there being no Omar McLeod in this race, there is a really big opportunity for someone to make a fairly big statement. With the unfortunate injury to Martinot-Lagarde, this field represents a decent majority of the likely contenders in London (although with the strength of the Americans there could be a few who could argue that). Out of this line up I am most interested by Aries Merritt who is getting better all the time as his 13.13 from Eugene demonstrates and is looking like a serious threat once again. Orlando Ortega has probably pushed McLeod the closest so far this year after his run in Shanghai and will start as the likely favourite and if Andy Pozzi can avoid clipping the last hurdle which hampered his races at both the Drake relays and in Eugene then he could be on for a very quick time if he can put it together. The reigning World Champion Shubenkov is racing once again and it can only help him getting to regularly race the world’s best which he had been unable to do for close to a couple of years due to the ban. Add in the 2013 World Champion David Oliver and another talented Frenchman in Darien, then you have a very good line up despite no Olympic Champion among them.
Perhaps the moment of the 2017 season so far was the HUGE throw from Tomas Röhler in the opening Diamond League event in Doha when he became the second longest thrower in history with his effort of 93.90 metres. It also further enhanced the strength of German javelin throwing as the current top 3 in the world are all German and are all competing in Rome with other World and Olympic Champions are struggling to keep up.
Joining Röhler are his compatriots Johannes Vetter (89.68m) and Andreas Hofmann (88.79) making a German victory look rather likely. The biggest threats to the Germans seems to be Jakub Vadlejch who has been consistently throwing well with 3 competitions ranging between 87.21m and 87.91m and is the next highest ranked thrower on this year’s list competing in Rome.
Also in the line-up are 2012 Olympic Champion Kershorn Walcott who has thrown 84.16 so far this year but has been very inconsistent since his shock win in London. Finally the YouTube self-taught World Champion Julius Yego who has only thrown 81.94 so far this year but we should remember he is the 4th longest thrower of all time and will be looking to throw himself into form here.
That’s another Diamond League preview done! Four down with just the 10(!) to go! As we get closer to the World Championships I will of course switch my focus to that with a few more focused posts (for example I plan to do a post on the contenders in the Heptathlon to answer the question of can anyone beat Nafi Thiam?!) before I get onto my predictions for the World Championships. For those who didn’t see my previews for the Rio Olympics or last year’s World Indoor Championships, I predict every single medallist and include a reasonably small preview for each event. It takes quite a bit of time but it’s my favourite posts to do.
So thank you for taking the time to read this Rome DL preview and until next time!