A feast of international athletics is upon us this weekend as two Diamond League meets are on offer and they are traditionally two of the best - Monaco and London.
In a non-worlds/Olympics year, these meets take on a little more significance and 13 Aussies will be in action as we head towards the pointy-end of the season.
Herculis Meet - Monaco - 20 July
On Friday evening in the tiny Principality of Monaco, home to the IAAF, the Herculis meet will be held in the 18,000 seat Louis II Stadium.
Two Aussies will face the starters gun, training partners Joseph Deng and Peter Bol. It has been a momentous season for both as they pursue the oldest national record on the books, the men’s 800m of 1:44.40, set at the 1968 Mexico Olympics by Ralph Doubell and equalled by Alex Rowe, who was coached to the record at this very same meet by Justin Rinaldi, the very same man who is guiding the progress of Deng and Bol.
Over the last five weeks Peter Bol, 24, has run four of his fastest seven career times, including a PB of 1:44.56 at the Stockholm Diamond League. Deng, who celebrated his twentieth birthday last week, has been even more impressive this year. Prior to this season his best was 1:46.51, but since his seventh place in the Commonwealth Games he has recorded runs in Europe of 1:44.97 PB, 1:44.61 PB, 1:45.70 and 1:44.67.
Of interest is who of the training partners might be the first to claim the record. Over the last three races in Europe, Bol is a narrow leader in their head-to-heads 2-1.
Muller Anniversary Games - London - 21/22 July
Less than 24 hours after Monaco, the focus moves across the English Channel to the London Stadium where the two-day Anniversary Games are held in the 2012 Olympic Stadium. It is a unique legacy, where the venue transitions to athletics mode between English Premier League seasons, where West Ham are the tenants.
The first of 11 Aussies in action will be Commonwealth Games pole vault champion, Kurtis Marschall.
World champion and world leader American Sam Kendricks and 2012 Olympic champion and world record holder Renaud Lavillenie (FRA) head a terrific field, but these days this is the company Marschall, 21, now keeps, as indicated by his Diamond League record of 4th, 6th, 3rd and 8th this summer.
Also in the field, Henry Frayne lines up for the long jump. The Gold Coast silver medallist is on an impressive streak of consistency of eight consecutive competitions over eight metres. At the head of the field, we will see world leader and 2018 sensation, Cuban Juan Miguel Echevarria against South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga who is undefeated in this stadium following wins last year at the world championships and last week at the World Cup.
The women’s long jump, is a rerun of the Commonwealth Games battle, with the top-four including Australia’s silver medallist Brooke Stratton as the standouts in the lineup. Gold medallist Christabel Nettey (CAN) will have her hands full if she wants to defeat world leader and Gold Coast fourth place getter, Lorraine Ugen (GBR), along with bronze medallist and British record holder Shara Procter. Following leaps of 6.62m and 6.67m in Europe in this campaign, Stratton is every chance of repeating her podium finish at last year’s meet.
Australia’s in-form men’s distance runners Stewart McSweyn and Patrick Tiernan, compete in an enormous field of 23 in the 5000m. Few will forget when McSweyn set his PB of 13:19.96 in that extraordinary competitive race at the Australian Commonwealth Games 5000m trial on the Gold Coast in February, conducted in stifling heat. Considering the conditions his best mark was set in, and his 3000m form from Rabat last week, his 13:19 is ready for a big revision. Tiernan, who similar to McSweyn, set PBs from 1500m to 10,000m in 2017, has his second start in Europe this season. On paper, the field is led by Ethiopian sub-13 minutes trio Muktar Edris, Hagos Gebrhiwet and Yomif Kejelcha.
An Australian record is under threat is the women’s mile, where Linden Hall lines up in the last event on the program. Hall, who this year has broken the national 1500m record looks to be in the form to also take down the mile standard of 4:22.66, set 11 years ago. The Australian mile record is equal to about 4:03.3 over 1500m, and this year Hall has run a best of 4:00.86 in Eugene and also 4:02.89 in Stockholm. Hall’s last mile race was at this meet in 2017, where she placed ninth in a PB 4:23.96.
Ryan Gregson is enjoying one of his better European campaigns and starts in his sixth Diamond League of the summer. In Rabat last week he clocked a two-second seasonal best of 3:34.38 so is in good form for London. Gregson’s training partner Jordy Williamsz also starts in a field full of Americans and Brits and surprisingly just one African, Kenya’s Justus Soget.
Back in form after a run of injuries is Gen LaCaze as revealed by her outdoor 3000m PB last week in Cork. The 3000m field includes 8:32 athlete Lilian Rengeruk (KEN) and Dutch woman Susan Krumins.
The Aussie contingent is rounded out by two Commonwealth Games team members, Kelsey Barber (nee Roberts) and Brittany McGowan.
Barber, who finished on the podium at the Gold Coast, will have fond memories of this stadium and meet. Last year she raised her PB to 64.38m in placing fifth, and a month later an excellent 10th at the IAAF World Championships. Brittany McGowan, who ran a PB of 2:00.24 at the Commonwealth Games trials, backed that up with a quick 2:01.17 in the Games. This European campaign she has clocked three sub-2:02 times with a best of 2:01.43 in Poland.
David Tarbotton for Athletics Australia
How to follow all the action
Herculis Meet – Monaco - 20 July 2018
Men – 800m - Joseph Deng and Peter Bol
Eurosport Coverage - Saturday 21 July 4.00-6.00am AEST
Muller Anniversary Games, day 1 – London - 21 July 2018
Pole Vault - Kurtis Marschall
3000m - Gen La Caze
5000m - Stewart McSweyn and Patrick Tiernan
Javelin – Kelsey Barber
Long Jump - Brooke Stratton
Eurosport Coverage - Saturday 21 July 11.00pm-1.00am AEST
Muller Anniversary Games, day 2 – London - 22 July 2018
Mile - Linden Hall
800m – Brittany McGowan
1500m – Ryan Gregson & Jordy Williamsz
Long Jump – Henry Frayne
Eurosport Coverage - Sunday 22 July 11.00pm-1.00am AEST