Friday night in Brussels – officially the AG Insurance Memorial Van Damme – saw the final IAAF Diamond League meet of the 2015 athletics season. The climax of the Diamond League is in fact split over a couple of meets, with half of the contested disciplines concluding just over a week ago, on 3 September in Zurich, and the other half reaching a finale in Brussels.
At stake, the winners of each Diamond Race – with the series covering 32 individual disciplines, each one staged 7 times across a total of 14 Diamond League meets – stood to take home a Diamond Trophy and $40,000. For 2015, meets were held in Doha, Shanghai, Eugene, Rome, Birmingham, Oslo, New York, Paris, Lausanne, Monaco, London, Stockholm, and then – after a break for the 2015 IAAF World Championships – finally Zurich and Brussels.
Until the final two meets of the Diamond League calendar, each contested discipline awards 4 points for 1st place, 2 points for 2nd place, and 1 point for 3rd place. In Zurich and Brussels, the points on offer are doubled. Athletes must compete in their respective finals to stand a chance of winning the Diamond Race: if they fail to show, the points they have won previously are effectively negated. And though this does not always entice the sport’s biggest names – some of whom are already out of Diamond Race contention, tired after successful summer championships, and looking forward to the season to come – this year Zurich and Brussels were packed with star names.
In Zurich Alonso Edward took a comfortable victory in the men’s 200 metres, winning the race ahead of Rasheed Dwyer in second and Anaso Jobodwana in third. The men’s 200 metres has seen various race winners over the course of the season – Justin Gatlin, Christophe Lemaitre, and twice Zharnel Hughes – but this success in Zurich was enough to give Edward victory in the Diamond Race, with 16 points to Jobodwana’s 11.
Asbel Kiprop triumphed by a similar margin after taking the men’s 1500 metres, his 8 points won in Zurich giving him 17 in total, ahead of Silas Kiplagat with 10. But though LaShawn Merritt beat Kirani James in the men’s 400 metres in Zurich, and Paul Kipsiele Koech beat Jairus Kipchoge Birech in the men’s steeplechase, two second-placed finishes allowed James and Birech to hold on to win their respective Diamond Races.
Meanwhile in the men’s 110 metres hurdles, newly-crowned world champion Sergey Shubenkov followed up on his gold medal with a win in Zurich, ahead of David Oliver and Orlando Ortega. Oliver, with 16 points, still took the Diamond Race in the event.
In the field, after a disappointing World Championships, Mutaz Essa Barshim found form once again in the men’s high jump, a leap of 2.32 in Zurich confirming his place at the head of the Diamond Race. And Greg Rutherford completed a marvellous season in the men’s long jump: having won world gold in Beijing, his jump of 8.32 in Zurich equalled that of Marquis Dendy, but as Rutherford had a better second distance he claimed the 8 points and only highlighted his dominance in the Diamond Race. Finally, although he lost out in Zurich, Piotr Malachowski still managed to edge Robert Urbanek 21 points to 19 in the Diamond Race for the men’s discus.
In the women’s disciplines in Zurich, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce held off Blessing Okagbare and Tori Bowie in the women’s 100 metres with a time of 10.93. She finished ahead of the same two ladies, with 20 points in the event’s Diamond Race. Eunice Sum has been imperious in the women’s 800 metres, victory in Zurich – with Lynsey Sharp in second – giving her a flawless record across four Diamond League meets.
In the women’s 400 metres hurdles, Zuzana Hejnova has gone from strength to strength as the season has worn on. Victories across the final four Diamond League meets add to her gold medal at the World Championships. But in the field, in the women’s pole vault Nikoleta Kiriakopoulou avenged her World Championship bronze, excelling in Zurich and achieving victory in the Diamond Race above Fabiana Murer and Yarisley Silva.
Elsewhere Tianna Bartoletta lost out in Zurich to Ivana Spanovic in the women’s triple jump, but the roles remained reversed in the final Diamond Race standings, with Bartoletta’s 20 points to Spanovic’s 12. Another impressive performance from Christina Schwanitz compounded her control over the women’s shot.
Onto Brussels on Friday, and the meet was headlined by Justin Gatlin, who gained some compensation for his string of silver medals in Beijing, winning the men’s 100 metres just – dipping fractionally ahead of Femi Ogunode in a relatively mediocre time of 9.98 – and confirming his victory in the event’s Diamond Race. Bershawn Jackson lost out to Jeffery Gibson in the men’s 400 metres hurdles, but still won the Diamond Race with a total of 18 points.
Adam Kszczot has enjoyed a strong end to his campaign in the men’s 800 metres: following a silver medal in Beijing behind David Rudisha, he won a non-Diamond League race in Zurich ahead of Rudisha and Mohammed Aman, and in Brussels managed to hold off the late surge of Nijel Amos. Amos’s performances over the season were still enough to give him success in the Diamond Race. In the men’s 5,000 metres – with Mo Farah once again absent – Yomif Kejelcha took first place and the Diamond Race victory ahead of Hagos Gebrhiwet.
Faltering once again in the World Championships, where he managed only a bronze, Renaud Lavillenie recovered in Brussels with a height of 5.95, claiming the Diamond Race with 21 points. After his momentous triple jump of 18.21 in Beijing, Christian Taylor bettered Pedro Pablo Pichardo again in Brussels, propelling his way past his rival at the last to take the Diamond Race with 22 points to 20. And as with Lavillenie, though Tero Pitkamaki attained only a bronze in Beijing, a throw of 87.37 in Brussels saw him win the men’s javelin Diamond Race ahead of his nearest challengers, Vitezslav Vesely, Keshorn Walcott, Julius Yego, and Thomas Rohler.
In an intriguing prelude to next year’s Rio Olympics, in the women’s 200 metres in Brussels, Dafne Schippers charged down Allyson Felix in the home straight, clocking a time of 21.12. Elaine Thompson finished third. Of course, Felix concentrated in Beijing on the 400 metres, to great success; and the battle between her and Schippers over the shorter distance promises to be one of the most intense in Rio. Felix still held on to her lead in the Diamond Race, with 14 points to Schippers’ 12.
Dawn Harper-Nelson came back from her devastating loss in Beijing, where she crashed out in the semi-finals, to win the women’s 100 metres hurdles in Brussels – thereby securing the pivotal 8 points which allowed her to take the Diamond Race ahead of Sharika Nelvis. Harper-Nelson finished the Diamond Race with 18 points to Nelvis’s 14, with Jasmin Stowers on 12 further demonstrating the United States’ excellence in the event.
Shaunae Miller bested Francena McCorory in Brussels over the women’s 400 metres, but McCorory held on to top position in the Diamond Race, ahead of Miller and Stephenie Ann McPherson. And in the women’s 1500 metres, Sifan Hassan claimed the Diamond Race – despite finishing second to Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon, though for some peculiar reason the women concluded their 1500 metres campaign in Brussels running over the longer distance of a mile.
In the women’s steeplechase in Brussels, Habiba Ghribi ran the the third-fastest race of all time, winning in 9:05.36. Ghribi has had a fantastic second half of the Diamond League season, previously setting a world-leading time in Monaco in July. But she fell just short over the full course of 2015, losing out narrowly in the Diamond Race with 12 points, to Hyvin Kiyeng on 13 points, and Virginia Nyambura, who triumphed with 15.
Mariya Kuchina recorded a personal best in the women’s high jump in Brussels, scaling a height of 2.01 and beating her compatriot Anna Chicherova into second. But agonisingly both lost out in the Diamond Race to Ruth Beitia: third in Brussels, but with 14 points overall to Kuchina’s 13 and Chicherova’s 10.
In Brussels Caterine Ibarguen prevailed once more in the women’s triple jump: ending the season with 28 points, she has emerged victorious in six of seven Diamond League meets, only failing to make the meet in London. The only athlete to have scored more points in their discipline proved Sandra Perkovic in the women’s discus, who reached an outstanding 30 points after her success in Brussels, the product of six meet victories and one second-place finish.