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With the Tokyo Olympics less than two weeks away, many of the world’s top athletes will get a last chance to test their competitive form when they line up in the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Gateshead, England, on Tuesday (13).
US sprinter Trayvon Bromell, German javelin thrower Johannes Vetter, Jamaican sprint star Elaine Thompson-Herah and British heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson are among the top names entered in the Muller Grand Prix.
Despite the late withdrawals of British world 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith and Dutch middle-distance star Sifan Hassan, the meet features an array of world and Olympic champions and will serve as a crucial tune-up ahead of Tokyo.
The seventh Diamond League meeting of the season – and second in Gateshead – comes just 10 days before the 23 July opening of the Tokyo Games and 17 days before the start of the Olympic athletics competition on 30 July.
Many athletes are returning to the venue in northeast England for the second time this season. Gateshead hosted the Diamond League opener in May after the meeting was moved from Rabat, Morocco. Tuesday’s meeting was originally scheduled to take place at the Olympic Stadium in London but was switched to Gateshead due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
World 100m leader Bromell will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing performance in last Friday’s Herculis EBS Diamond League meeting in Monaco, where he clocked 10.01 and finished fifth in a race won by American teammate Ronnie Baker in 9.91. It was Bromell’s first 100m defeat since 2019, having won four races in 2020 and 10 this year.
Bromell, who ran 9.77 in June for the fastest time in the world this year and won the 100m in 9.80 at the US Olympic Trials in Eugene last month, will be determined to regain the form that made him the favourite for gold in Tokyo.
Bromell will go up against Fred Kerley, who qualified for Tokyo by finishing third in 9.86 at the US trials, and Canada’s Andre De Grasse, the Olympic and world 100m bronze medallist. Isiah Young, who has clocked 9.89 this season, is also in the 100m line-up, along with British sprinters Adam Gemili and Chijindu Ujah.
About 40 members of Team GB’s athletics team for Tokyo – more than half the entire squad – will be in action in Gateshead. Missing, however, will be Asher-Smith, who pulled out citing a tight hamstring. She opted not to take any risks ahead of the Olympics.
“As you all know, I love running in front of a home crowd but I have to make smart decisions for myself and my body ahead of Tokyo,’’ Asher-Smith said in a statement on Twitter. “I’m sorry to those who were hoping to see me run this week but I’m looking forward to making you all proud in a few weeks’ time.”
Asher-Smith had been scheduled to run the 200m in a marquee matchup against Thompson-Herah, the reigning Olympic 100m and 200m champion. The Jamaican will now be the favourite in a field that also includes American Tamara Clark, who finished fourth in the US Olympic Trials in a personal best of 21.98.
Hassan, the women’s world champion at 1500m and 10,000m, also withdrew due to a tight hamstring and preferring not to take any chances before Tokyo, where she looks set to contest the 5000m-10,000m double. Hasan had been scheduled to run the mile, in which she holds the world record of 4:12.33. Winnie Nanyondo of Uganda, who has a season’s best of 4:00.84 in the 1500m, and American Kate Grace, who clocked 1:57.36 for the 800m in Stockholm, now start as favourites.
The men’s mile has past winner Jake Wightman of Britain in the field along with European indoor 800m record-breaker Elliot Giles, who will be running the 800m in Tokyo.
If conditions are good, Vetter could challenge Jan Zelezny’s 25-year-old javelin world record of 98.48m. The German came close last year with a throw of 97.76m and threw 96.29m to win his event at the European Team Championships in May. Vetter has been successful competing in Britain, winning the world title in London in 2017.
Javelin records have been set in the UK before, with Zelezny throwing 95.66m in Sheffield in 1993 and Britain’s Steve Backley setting a mark of 90.98m at London’s Crystal Palace in 1990. Also in the javelin field in Gateshead are world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada and 2012 Olympic gold medallist Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad & Tobago.
Still making her way back to full fitness after an Achilles injury, Johnson-Thompson is entered in the women’s long jump, where she will take on world champion Malaika Mihambo of Germany. In Stockholm, Mihambo produced the best jump of 7.02m in the third round but settled for second place in the new final-three format when her final effort of 6.77m was bettered by the 6.88m of Ivana Spanovic of Serbia.
In the women’s 400m hurdles, 21-year-old Dutch star Femke Bol will resume her rivalry with US athlete Shamier Little for the third time this season.(07/12/2021) Views: 684 ⚡AMP