Duels of the Champions: Eight New World Champions to Challenge their Olympic Counterparts
17 world champions and 29 additional medallists are looking for another triumph at Letzigrund Stadium this week. The meeting’s entry lists also include 14 reigning Olympic champions – an all-star cast that promises an unforgettable night of athletics on championship level at the sold-out arena and a setting that speaks for the new IAAF Diamond League format.
All competitors had to qualify for the finals at the 12 IAAF Diamond League meetings of this summer. The final events in Zurich and Brussels will now determine the champions of the global series. 25,000 stadium visitors will be treated to an action-packed programme of events that will feel like “championships in one night”, heart-stopping duels and goosebumps included.
Mo Farah’s rematch – and farewell
The men’s 5000m race is a particularly star-studded event: In his final track race, six-time Olympic champion Mo Farah (Great Britain) plans to set the record straight after his London defeat against world champion Muktar Edris (Ethiopia). The race will be one of eight duels between new world and Olympic champions of Rio.
The Weltklasse Zürich crowd witnessed a photo finish outcome of the women’s 200m, when Olympic champion Elaine Thompson (Jamaica) passed the Dutch world champion Dafne Schippers at the very last second in 2016. The two sprint stars are set to meet again on Thursday. Lining up with them will Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas), 400m gold medallist in Rio.
German javelin throw giants
The men’s javelin throw will offer a duel between German world champion Johannes Vetter and his fellow countryman and Olympic champion Thomas Röhler. The two throwers have launched their javelins to position two and three of the all-time best list.
Their female colleagues face a similar scenario: World champion Barbora Špotáková (Czech Republic) will be challenged by Croatia‘s Sara Kolak, who took the Olympic title in a surprise win last year.
New 400m h world champion Karsten Warholm’s triumph came as a bit of a surprise as well. On Thursday, Rio winner Kerron Clement and other strong opponents will be chasing the Norwegian. Yet another coup was landed by Emma Coburn (USA) in last week’s 3000m SC final. After taking the title in London, she is now reaching for the prestigious Diamond Trophy. 20-year-old Olympic champion and world record holder Ruth Jebet (Bahrain), however, will give it her all to snatch this final triumph of the season from her.
Isaac Makwala determined to triumph
Further champions‘ duels will be carried out in the women’s triple jump between Yulimar Rojas (Venezuela) and Caterine Ibargüen (Colombia), as well as in the women’s shot put between Lijiao Gong (China) and Michelle Carter (USA). South African 800m star Caster Semenya, however, is one of the athletes wearing both crowns. Just like pole vaulter Ekaterini Stefanidi (Greece), who will be competing at Weltklasse Zürich at Zurich Main Station on Wednesday night.
Isaac Makwala (Botswana) was one of the London championships‘ tragic heroes: A promising contender for the medals, the sprinter was quarantined after a Norovirus outbreak and thus forced to withdraw from the 400m final. Still weakened later in the championships, he also missed out on a medal in the 200m. In Zurich, he is determined to triumph in the IAAF Diamond League 400m final. His main rival is bound to be Steven Gardiner (Bahamas), who is the second athlete besides Makwala to have broken 44 seconds this year.
Swiss Stars to make Letzigrund crowd go wild
The women’s 400m h race may not be an IAAF Diamond League final event, but it is still certain to raise the decibel levels at Letzigrund Stadium. The line-up includes Lea Sprunger, who placed fifth in London. Also in the race will be world championship half-finalist Petra Fontanive, who will bow out of her athletics career in front of her home crowd on Thursday night.
Many Swiss stars are part of this year’s Weltklasse Zürich cast: World championship finalist Kariem Hussein plans to win the 400m h race again in his home arena. Mujinga Kambundji (200m), Selina Büchel (800m), Fabienne Schlumpf (3000m SC), Géraldine Ruckstuhl (javelin throw), Alex Wilson (100m), Dominik Alberto (pole vault), as well as Benjamin Gföhler (long jump) will be cheered enthusiastically by the Letzigrund crowd. And so will the national 4x100m relay team, who is facing the teams of the world’s most successful sprint nations in the Zurich Trophy.
The 17 London world champions (as at 20 August)
- Dafne Schippers (NED/200 m)
- Caster Semenya (RSA/800 m)
- Sally Pearson (AUS/100m hurdles)
- Emma Coburn (USA/3000m SC)
- Yulimar Rojas (VEN/triple jump)
- Katerina Stefanidi (GRE/pole vault; at Zurich Main Station on Wednesday)
- Lijiao Gong (CHN/shot put)
- Barbora Spotakova (CZE/javelin throw)
- Justin Gatlin (USA/100m)
- Elijah Motonei Manangoi (KEN/1500m)
- Muktar Edris (ETH/5000m)
- Mo Farah (GBR/10,000m, will compete in the men’s 5000m)
- Karsten Warholm (NOR/400m hurdles)
- Mutaz Essa Barshim (QAT/high jump)
- Sam Kendricks (USA/pole vault)
- Luvo Manyonga (RSA/long jump)
- Johannes Vetter (GER/javelin throw)