Finally we get the start of the long awaited Diamond League. Fourteen meetings that begin in Asia, move to Europe, travel to the US, then journey back to Europe. The full schedule is as follows:
|Doha, Qatar||Friday, May 14|
|Shanghai, China||Sunday, May 23|
|Oslo, Norway||Friday, June 4|
|Rome, Italy||Thursday, June 10|
|New York, New York||Saturday, June 12|
|Eugene, Oregon||Saturday, July 3|
|Lausanne, Switzerland||Thursday, July 8|
|Gateshead, Great Britain||Saturday, July 10|
|Paris, France||Friday, July 16|
|Monaco, Monaco||Thursday, July 22|
|Stockholm, Sweden||Friday, August 6|
|London, Great Britain||Fri Aug 13 & Sat Aug 14|
|Zurich, Switzerland||Thursday, August 19|
|Brussels, Belgium||Friday August 27|
Links to the proposed entries are on the right. I have to say however, that after all the hype last year about the new Diamond League the sport has once again dropped the ball when it comes to marketing. This “debut” is a bit of a let down, as several of the sport’s top stars will not be in attendance – a point that I will continue to hammer unrelentingly over the course of the season, as we can’t seem to get enough of our stars on the track at any given time. Let me change that, we can’t seem to get our top stars on the track with any regularity!
It would have been nice to kick things off with Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, Kenenisa Bekele, Abubaker Kaki, Carmelita Jeter, Valerie Villi, Dayron Robles and several others missing from this meet. I mean, how do you start what is supposed to be your flagship set of competitions and NOT have your star attraction on the start list? Or how about a couple of marquee matchups like Rudisha/Kaki, Jeter/Fraser, Vlasic/Friedrich, or dare I say Bolt/Gay. Hey, we’ll take Gay/Powell - #’s 2 & 3 all time in a head to head before taking on Bolt, to get the juices flowing.
In yet another marketing faux paux, however, we get none of that. We were told that we were going to get plenty of Bolt, Gay & Powell in the Diamond League – the sprints being a central focus since Bolt is the face of the sport. But what we get in Doha is Powell and a lot of guys still trying to make a name. The track and field equivalent of Gladys Knight and the Pips minus Gladys Knight. Hard to sell tickets to a Gladys Knight and the Pips concert when just the Pips keep showing up! But this is what happens when A) you focus your marketing efforts around one individual, and B) you lose track of what makes the sport great – competition. Without your headliner ticket buyers lose interest. Ironically Bolt and Gay will both be competing within days of the Diamond League’s debut – Gay in Manchester on Sunday, Bolt in Daegu on Tuesday. Just another case where the loose association of meets that seem to govern the sport are not working in the sport’s favor.
When those in charge of track and field begin to focus on the fact that what the fans really want is head to head competition among the best athletes, and therefore put more emphasis on putting together complete events as opposed to individual names on the marquees, it will have a better chance of success as it attempts to capture the imagination of the world’s sporting fans. Having said that, there are some athletes and match ups in Doha that should be presented/sold to the public – and that is what I will focus on. If we’re going to build a fan base we have to build exposure for more athletes. So for my money these are the athletes/match ups I’m most looking forward to in Doha:
|Men’s 800 Meters||WL – 1:43.15, David Rudisha, KEN||Best Entry: 1:43.15, David Rudisha, KEN|
Rudisha opened his outdoor season with a 45.50 quarter mile, then took to the track for his 1:43.15 world leader. He should get a good race here from Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (RSA) #2 on the season at 1:45.41. More importantly, however, Mulaudzi has broken 1:43 himself sporting a 1:42.86 PR set last year in Rieti behind Rudisha’s monster 1:42.01. If anyone else hopes to challenge it could be Cuban Yeimer Lopez who has a PR of 1:43.07. The real excitement of this race should be in the race against the clock, as Rudisha has shown the ability to run below 1:42. The question that I have for this race is just how close will he get to that barrier, as I expect Rudisha to move past Sebastian Coe (1:41.73) into the #2 all time position this year – and possibly challenge Wilson Kipketer’s 1:41.11 WR. Definitely an athlete to keep an eye on this year.
|Women’s 400 Meters||WL – 50.32, Novlene Mills, JAM||Best Entry: 50.32, Novlene Mills, JAM|
The excitement of this race lies in the entry of Allyson Felix the three time world champion over 200 who looks to be making a serious foray into the 400 this year. She’s going to be strongly tested in Doha with Olympic Champion Christine Ohuruogu (GBR), current world leader Novlene Mills (JAM), and World Indoor Champion Debbie Dunn (US) heading a strong field. Felix won this race last year (50.75) as part of her preparation for the 200. The aforementioned trio should make things a bit tougher this time around. Watch the final surge down the straight as Mills, Ohuruogu and Felix all tend to finish strongly. Hard to bet against Felix if she’s close, however. If the weather cooperates we should see the season’s first 49 second run. A win here could set Felix on a collision course with Sanya Richards for 400 supremacy this season.
|Men’s 400 Hurdles||WL – 47.72, Javier Culson, CUB||Best Entry: 48.16, Angelo Taylor, USA|
The majority of men in this race have seen Olympic and World Championship competition. Angelo Taylor (US) is a two time Olympic gold medalist and Kerron Clement (US) a two time World Champion. I’m sure they, and the rest of the field, have had time to digest Javier Culson’s world leader from last weekend and should be out to show that they are still in that league! Taylor’s SB of 48.16 came two weeks ago as part of a 400/400H double (45.05/48.16) with less than an hour between. With a 20.39 also on the books this season, he’s my favorite to win here. It won’t be easy however, as Bershawn Jackson always brings his “A” game, and if Kerron Clement can navigate the final three hurdles clearly he will be tough down the final straight. While the head to heads in the 100 meters are rare, these guys go at it with regularity. If only we could get this kind of top level activity in more events.
|Women’s Pole Vault||WL – 14’ 9.5”, Kylie Hutson, USA||Best Entry: 14’ 8”, Lacy Janson, USA|
No the current marks are not that great. But I’m including this event because of the presence of Anna Rogowska (POL) and the lack of Yelena Isinbayeva’s presence in the event this year. Rogowska won last year’s World Championships, defeating Isinbayeva. The only blemish on what was otherwise a perfect season for Yelena. Isinbayeva is not competing this year, however, taking something akin to a sabbatical from the sport. So having finally ascended to the top of the food chain after several years of hard work, I’m looking to see how Rogowska does in the role of #1 without the almighty Yelena breathing down her neck. Doha could go a long way towards determining if she’s now ready to become queen, or if the event has suddenly become wide open.
|Men’s Shot Put||WL – 71’ 2.75”, Ryan Whiting, USA||Best Entry: 71’ 2”, Christian Cantwell, USA|
I’ve been a Cantwell fan for some time and it was nice to see him finally exercise his demons in Berlin and get that elusive gold medal. Now that he has become a “champion” he seems to be more relaxed out there – which could mean trouble for his competition and the all time lists. Cantwell’s PR is a huge 73’ 11.5” set during the 2004 season. He also threw 73’ 7.75” in ‘06 – the last “off year” without a major championship. Only four men in history have thrown over 75 feet – Brian Oldfield, USA (75’ 0”), Alessandro Andrei, ITA (75’ 2”), Ulf Timmerman, GER (75’ 7.75”) and WR holder Randy Barnes, US (75’ 10.25”). I believe Cantwell has the ability to join that group. He should get a good push in that direction in Doha from Reese Hoffa (73’ 7”) and Tomas Majewski (72’) two men with huge PR’s of their own.