The ever glamorous Diamond League tour pitches up at the Icahn stadium this weekend as Randall Island, New York, becomes the focal point of attention in the athletics world.
The event, which is the sixth stop of the 14 venue series and is the last to be held outside of Europe, will see athletes approaching the competition from at least three different perspectives; continuation, re-emergence and reestablishment.
For the likes of Tori Bowie, this year’s breakthrough ‘lane one’ sprinter, it will be a case of trying to maintain her form after securing a shock early season sprint double. Bowie will be competing in the women’s 100m where she will again be the underdog on paper, as she faces five athletes who have gone under 11 seconds in their careers, although none have run as fast as her this season.
If she does take victory there is a high chance that a sub-11 time of her own will come with it, yet the athlete who was, until two weeks ago, recognised as a long jumper, insists that she is looking for a place rather than a time: “I won’t say I’m looking for another PR, but I’m looking for the win.”
Another athlete who will want to extend and improve on his early season form will be 2014 World Indoor gold medallist Mutaz Essa Barshim, who, last week, leapt to a winning height of 2.41m at Rome Gala meet.
Speaking at the pre-event press conference ahead of tomorrow’s high jump competition, where he will face World Outdoor champion Bohdan Bondarenko and Olympic Silver medallist Erik Kynard, Barshim said: “I’m looking for a great competition, hopefully, we have a good start field and I’m looking to do my best. It’s still early in June but I’m looking forward to having a good competition with a really good result.”
Kynard, who’s challenge it will be to fight off the two world champions in order to take his first Diamond League win, said that the strong rivalry between the three athletes and also Ivan Ukhov and Derek Druin was what had pushed him to jump as high as 3.37m.
“I think it’s definitely the rivalry, if you look at the competitions now compared to last year and even the year before, we’ve all improved together. As competitors excel in terms of one person setting the bar high, they set it for all of us, so we just follow behind,” he said.
Adding: “Last year Mutaz at Pre jumped 2.40m and this time Bohdan went insane so now everyone’s expectations have increased; the ceiling that was there before, in terms of what you are able to do mentally, has been raised. If you see a guy do something like that then it’s like ‘Well if he can do it, I can do it!”
While Barshim’s form, performances and medal collection have brightened since he claimed his first Olympic medal at London 2012, the same cannot be said for Jamaican superstar Yohan Blake. After two incredible years of posting fast times and pushing Usain Bolt further than anyone else, Blake was forced to miss out on the entirety of 2013, in turn missing the chance to retain his world 100m title.
Today he will make his long awaited Diamond league return, although not in an official Diamond League race, lining up in the 100m. He will face team mates Nesta Carter and Kemar Bailey Cole, as well as Ryan Bailey and recent world indoor 60m silver medallist Marvin Bracy.
Although he declined to give too much away about his form and possible race tactics, the Jamaican did say: “My health is really good, it’s really really good, and I’m very excited right now! I’m all about surprises; I don’t like to talk about what I do. I’m just looking forward to tomorrow to go out there and have fun!
“My dream for tomorrow is to have good weather to go out there and listen to what my coach says be technical about my race and everything will fall in place.”
Another sprinter who will making his return to action soon, albeit in a far more contentious fashion, is Tyson Gay, who controversially had his two-year drugs suspension brought down to one. Speaking about potentially coming up against their rival, both Blake and training partner Warren Weir, who will go in the 200m tomorrow, surprisingly spoke with enthusiasm about taking on the American: “I love competition, I love running with fast guys, I love winning races fast so he could come back even sooner and sooner,” said Blake.
“For me I haven’t ran with Tyson Gay or Asafa (Powell) as of yet, so I’m looking forward to competing against them. They are great sprinters and they were who I was looking up to when I was at junior level, so I’m looking forward to their return!” Weir added.
An athlete whose recent reappearance to the track was certainly met with more enthusiasm and anticipation was that of David Rudisha, who, like Blake, was stripped of the chance to retain his world title by injury in 2013. Although a seventh place 1.44.87 at the Prefontaine Classic two weeks ago was suggested by some as an indication of his lack of fitness, Rudisha, who is hoping to run 1.43 this time out, suggested at yesterday’s press conference that it had always been his target time for his first race of the season.
The Kenyan said: “When I was training back in Kenya I was talking with my coach and I told him I want to start with 1.44…Our aim was just to go there run a 1.44 and run a good race and then start building from there, I think we are very happy, my coach and I with what I did in Eugene.”
As for what he had been doing in the two weeks between his first two races of the season, the world record holder said he had been building up on mileage at his Germany base, something he had enjoyed doing: “I’m happy doing quite long runs and track also, because at this time I’m trying to do more mileage training just to build on because I started very late to the season.
“The first race it’s like an opening, so in the body you build up and get into racing and you open up, so I think I’m looking forward to tomorrow!”
As well as the individual performances that many fans will be looking out for, there are also some notable on going rivalries in the women’s track events that should attract a lot of attention in New York. Most notably in the ever unpredictable women’s 100m hurdles and the women’s 1500m, which sees a continuation of the on-going battle between the last two world outdoor gold medallists Jenny Simpson and Abeba Argegawi, with Simpson surely in with a chance of breaking the American record.