WOMEN’S HIGH JUMP
To kick off the celebrations, let’s start with a feast. Gathered together for this prestigious competition is the final podium from the Tokyo Games. In order, we have the Russian under the authorised neutral flag Mariya Lasitskene (2.04 m this summer, personal best of 2.06 m) and her incredible prize haul of triple world champion and now Olympic champion titles. Next up is Australian Nicola McDermott (2.02 m), who has won fame since the Games for the astonishing amount of training she has packed in from one competition to the next. And finally, we have Ukrainian Yaroslava Mahuchikh (2.03 m this season, personal best of 2.04 m), who embodies the future of the sport at 19 years of age. This inseparable trio – performing in Lausanne on Thursday evening, with victory ultimately going to Lasitskene on countback ahead of Mahuchikh with 1.98 m) – loves forging a way forward at high altitude. Will it be in excess of 2 metres again? Solène Gicquel (Stade Rennais) and the promising Laureen Maxwell (Athlé 91), just back from the junior Worlds, will be flying the French flag.
What does ballet and discus throwing have in common? The beautiful fluidity of their body movements and Valarie Allman, who was formerly a dancer with multiple passions (ballet, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary dance…) before switching to athletics. It was a decision that bore fruit for the American, since she secured an Olympic champion title in Tokyo. With a season’s best of 70.01 m, just 14 centimetres shy of her personal best, she’s the only contender to have thrown in excess of 70 m in 2021. However, she’ll have to watch out for the Croatian Sandra Perkovic (68.31 m), who has been slightly underperforming of late, and Cuban Yaime Perez (68.99 m), third in Japan. German Kristin Pudenz (66.86 m), Olympic silver medallist, will also be worth monitoring. Mélina Robert-Michon (Lyon Athlétisme), still smarting from her elimination in the Games’ qualifiers, may be able to regain her smile in front of a supportive crowd and several of her nearest and dearest.
MEN’S POLE VAULT
This is a competition that always provides a thrilling show in Paris, where pole vaulters receive a heroes’ welcome. World record holder Armand Duplantis (6.18 m), the logical Olympic champion, will start is campaign as the favourite. In fact, if conditions allow, he might even rank among the athletes capable of improving on the world record on Saturday in Charléty. However, pole-vaulting is a sport that can be very random. This was evidenced on Thursday evening in Lausanne, where the Swede had to make do with fourth place after a jump of 5.62 m, notably trailing the Americans Christopher Nilsen (2nd in Tokyo) and Sam Kendricks, both clearing 5.82 m. Duplantis will be keen to re-establish his pole position status in Charléty. Among the French contenders, Renaud Lavillenie (Clermont Athlétisme Auvergne), who has so often shone on home soil, will be looking to enjoy himself, despite still suffering from a painful ankle and heel. His brother and club mate Valentin, together with the talented Ethan Cormont (ASA Maisons-Alfort) will also have something to bring to the party.
MEN’S 100 M (NON-DL)
It may not have the Wanda Diamond League stamp, but the men’s 100 m cuts quite a dash on paper. In the starting blocks will be American Marvin Bracy, who on 15 August equalled his personal best in 9’’85. Suffice to say that the former US footballer, a sprinter at the top of his game as the season draws to a close, will serve as the perfect locomotive for the train of athletes hoping to post a sub-10” performance for the first time this summer. Leading the chase will likely be French athletes Jimmy Vicaut (SCO Sainte-Marguerite Marseille), semi-finalist in Tokyo, who will be looking to round off the year on a high, as well as Amaury Golitin (EC Orléans Cercle Jules Ferry) and Méba Mickael Zeze (SCO Sainte-Marguerite Marseille).
WOMEN’S 400 M HURDLES
A particularly open race, Shamier Little may well prove to be a cut above the rest. A victim of the famous Trials, where a fourth place took her out of contention for the three Olympic tickets, the American has shown that she’s got more to give by improving on her personal best of 52’’39 just a few days later at the Meeting in Stockholm. This time gives her a slight edge over the competition, Ukrainian Anna Ryzhykova (52’’96) and Jamaican Janieve Russell (53’’08) the two stand-out athletes hot on her heels.
MEN’S 200 M
With four sprinters at the start of the half-lap of the track, the American armada is a force to be reckoned with. This is especially true when it’s headed by Kenneth Bednarek, Olympic silver medallist in Tokyo in 19’’68, his personal best. The 22-year-old powerhouse, who only Canadian André de Grasse could keep off the top spot, has the ability to learn fast. His compatriots Fred Kerley (19’’90), Josephus Lyles (20’’03, younger brother of Noah) and Elijah Hall (20’’11) will naturally try to make things difficult for him. Also worth keeping an eye on: Canadian Arron Brown (19’’99). The Frenchman to watch: Mouhamadou Fall (Entente Franconville Cesame Val d’Oise) who, two weeks ago at La Chaux-de-Fonds, was within a whisker of becoming the second fastest Frenchman of all time in the 200 m, securing a wind-assisted 20’’10 (+2.1m/s).
MEN’S TRIPLE JUMP
It’s no secret: the man to beat in this competition is Hugues Fabrice Zango. From Burkina Faso and a member of Artois Athlétisme, he secured the first ever Olympic medal for his country with a bronze in Tokyo but is beginning to get heavy legs. In front of big fan base though, the world indoor record holder (18.07 m) is sure to be inspired to jump as close as possible to 18 metres, a distance he is yet to clear in outdoor competition. Algerian Yasser Mohamed Triki, fifth in Japan with 17.43 m, a new national record, will be there to give him his cue. Forming the French contingent, Jean-Marc Pontvianne (Entente Nîmes Athlétisme) and Benjamin Compaoré (CA Montreuil 93) will be eager to make a name for themselves after being slightly off the pace at the Olympic Games.
WOMEN’S 3,000 M
Boasting plenty of title pretenders, this race could really be anyone’s game. For starters, there are the Kenyans Beatrice Chebet and Margaret Chelimo Kipekemboi, both of whom have sub-8’30’’ records. Kenya means Ethiopia too of course, with Fantu Worku and Ejgayehu Taye poised to thwart the plans of their neighbours from the high plateaus. However, Francine Niyonsaba could well be the one to get everyone to see eye to eye. Sensational in the 800 m before being forced by World Athletics to switch to the longer distances due to an excessive amount of testosterone, the athlete from Burundi with an impressive peak speed is enjoying a brilliant second half of her career. Fifth in the 10,000 m in Tokyo, she’s just taken the win in the prestigious 2 Miles race at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Eugene. Also of note: Canadian Gabriela Debues-Stafford, whose record in the 1,500 m of 3’56’’12 means she’s a real threat in the sprint for the finish.
WOMEN’S 100 M
Even with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s last-minute withdrawal, this is one of the most eagerly awaited races of this MEETING WANDA DIAMOND LEAGUE DE PARIS. Olympic champion in Tokyo, Elaine Thompson-Herah posted the second fastest performance of all time over the distance in 10’’54 in Eugene. However, on Thursday evening in Lausanne, it was Fraser-Pryce who nailed it in 10’’60, the third fastest time in history. Even deprived of her favourite adversary, Thompson-Herah is certainly in a position to snatch the world record from American Florence Griffith-Joyner (10’’49), which has seemed so unattainable for so long. More possible contenders? Another Jamaican of course, in the person of Shericka Jackson, whose extraordinarily daunting 10’’76 went virtually unnoticed. Equally keen for a medal position will be Briton Dina Asher-Smith (10’’91), as well as Swiss athletes Ajla Del Ponte (10’’90) and Mujinga Kambundji (10’’95).
Bitterly disappointed by his performance at the Tokyo Games with a very below par ninth place, Johannes Vetter will be eager for revenge as the athletics world prepares to call it a wrap on the season. In the absence of the newly crowned Olympic champion, Indian Neeraj Chopra, who bagged the second-best performance in the world of all time (97.76 m), the German managed to set the record straight on Thursday evening at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Lausanne, taking the win with a throw of 88.54 m. Czech athlete Jakub Vadlejch (85.44 m this season) and Grenadian Anderson Peters (85.85 m), runners-up in Switzerland, will be his main rivals. The Polynesian thrower from France’s Entente de Haute Alsace club, Teura’itera’i Tupaia, third in the European U23 championships, will also have a part to play in this stellar competition.
MEN’S 800 M
There’s some serious jockeying for position in the double lap of the track with a whole slew of contenders for victory, including Canadian Marco Arop, who won Thursday’s race in Lausanne in style in 1’44’’50. Polish athlete and Olympic silver medallist Patryk Dobek, who has switched across from the 400 m hurdles, would have been the logical favourite. However, visibly dulled, he finished in tenth and last place in Switzerland. Kenyan Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich will certainly be a contender thanks to his 1’43’’57 time this summer, but the Charléty Stadium audience will only have eyes for Gabriel Tual. The 23-year-old middle-distance runner from US Talence, a surprise finalist in Tokyo (7th), has both the temperament and the panache. He’s still in good shape too, as he proved with his fourth place in Lausanne, his debut performance in the Wanda Diamond League.
WOMEN’S 400 M
Seven years on from her last appearance, the queen of the discipline, Allyson Felix, is back at the MEETING WANDA DIAMOND LEAGUE DE PARIS. Thanks to her charisma, her legendarily elegant stride, her commitments beyond the realms of the sport, and of course her incredible track record – she became the most medalled female athlete in the history of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, with eleven podium places, seven of which were victories – make her one of the star attractions of this 2021 edition. Taking bronze in 49’’46 on the lap of the track in Japan, the American will once again do battle with silver Olympic medallist, Marileidy Paulino (49’’20) from the Dominican Republic, who just so happened to take the win on Thursday in Lausanne in 50’’40. This duel will be umpired by Dutch runner Femke Bol, who secured bronze in the 400 m hurdles in Japan and is capable of a sub-50” time on the flat. For Amandine Brossier from France’s SCO Angers Athlé club, who is going from strength to strength with a semi-finalist spot at the Games, it will be a great opportunity to improve on her personal best (51’’25).
WOMEN’S 100 M HURDLES
Eight hurdlers within 22 hundredths of a second, equates to eight potential winners at the finish of a 100 m hurdles that is set to go to the wire. A bronze medallist in Tokyo and quite the sensation, Jamaican Megan Tapper has proven that she performs well at the major meets. However, her personal best of 12’’53 means that she’s unlikely to have a clear run with Nigerian Tobi Amusan and Dutch hurdler Nadine Visser, respectively fourth and fifth in Japan, right on her tail. Also worth watching: Jamaican Britany Anderson, who has previously posted the fastest time of all the entries, in 12’’40.
MEN’S 3,000 M STEEPLECHASE
On occasion it is said that the men’s 3,000 m steeplechase has been looking for a leader for several seasons. However, one would be forgetting Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali. Already handsomely rewarded twice over at the Worlds, this lofty 25-year-old struck gold in Tokyo. As comfortable with pace (record in 7’58’’15) as he is with tactical races, he’s expected to be the first across the finish line. Packing much less of a punch than before, the Kenyans are still in the game with Abraham Kibiwot (8’07’’81 this season) and Benjamin Kigen (8’10’’80) expected at the front of the pack. The highly rated Conseslus Kipruto is also a contender with his impressive track record, though he has not completed a single 3,000 m steeplechase event this year, making a notable retirement during the national Trials for the Games. Ethiopian Getnet Wale (8’09’’47) will be another man to watch. A distance that traditionally sees the French athletes excel, Mehdi Belhadj (A. Villeneuve La Garenne), who was not selected for the Games but secured an excellent time of 8’12’’43 during the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Monaco, and Abdelhamid Zerrifi (Montpellier A2M, 8’25’’74) will strive to hang onto the lead peloton for as long as they can.
MEN’S 110 M HURDLES
The grand finale will include the Olympic champion, Jamaican Hansle Parchment (13’’04 this season, personal best of 12’’94) and three very ambitious French athletes: Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (ES Montgeron), Aurel Manga (US Créteil) and Just Kwaou-Mathey (Amiens UC). PML, fifth in 13’’16 in Tokyo despite a preparation disrupted by physical niggles, has a real thirst for competition. Third on Thursday in Lausanne with a wind-assisted 13’’17 (+2.9m/s), he has the power to run close to 13’’. He’ll likely feel energised by the American Devon Allen, winner in Switzerland in 13’’07. Jamaican Ronald Levy (13’’08 this year), third in Japan, will also be going for gold, as will Aurel Manga, who equalled his personal best of 13’’24 at the Games and may well be able to tweak it down a few more notches. As for the 110 m hope, Just Kwaou-Mathey (13’’35), his focus will be on riding the learning curve in what is a whole new context for the French athlete.