Ready to pull out all the stops
With twenty-four hours to go till the last leg of the IAAF Diamond League before the finals in Zurich and Brussels, and one month away from the Worlds in Doha, the tension is mounting and the athletes are reaching peak performance. And even though the majority of the headline acts refused to pass comment about predictions for their upcoming performance at the Charléty Stadium, all of them were evidently keen to get down to business on Saturday evening.
“The track is brand new and it’s a real honour for us to christen it. It’s the same make as the one used at the Olympic Games in Beijing, so it should enable us to be quick”, commented French hurdler Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, in a thinly veiled reference to the world records set by Usain Bolt in 2008.
“I got up early to try the track on Friday morning, explains Karsten Warholm. It’s bouncy and quick, just the way we like it. I don’t want to commit myself, but I think there will be some nice surprises on Saturday”, concluded the Norwegian, who’ll be competing in the 400m hurdles.
A dream bill
In addition to having a brand new track, the athletes will be able to count on a very high turnout in nearly all the events that make up the competition. In this way, American triple jumpers Will Claye and Christian Taylor, long-standing friends, are delighted to get the opportunity to spur one another on to bring their A game. “I won in Paris last time, but there were only a few centimetres in it, recalled the double Olympic champion. It’s a real pleasure to be here each time. We’re going to be gunning for 18m. This mindset is just what the triple jump needs to ensure we perform well and pull something spectacular out of the bag.”
And when you put on a show, the performance is never far behind, as American Grant Holloway, this year’s best performer in the world in the 110m hurdles, explains. “I think that all the guys on the start line have the ability to take the win and run a sub-13’’ time. When you have a line-up of this quality, the key is to focus on the execution and do what we know best, and it’s the person who runs the cleanest race who will be the first to the finish line.”
The public will have a role to play
Making her debut performance in France, Venezuelan triple jumper Yulimar Rojas is expecting great things from the Parisian audience, which is set to exceed 16,000 spectators once the party is in full swing. “I’m very happy to be making my debut here; it’s a fantastic city. Since the Pan American Games where I jumped 15.11m, my aim has been to do better with every attempt I make. I’m hoping for the same atmosphere as in Lima, namely a great crowd and a great stadium.”
Much more experienced, American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks cannot deny how pleased he is to be competing in Paris. “It’s my tenth competition here, indoor and outdoor events combined, and I always get such a lovely welcome. As such, I come along every time I’m invited! On top of that, there’s always something amazing going on, so much so that I could write a book on everything that happens to me here. Us boys are not in the Diamond League so we’re going to try to warm up the atmosphere for the girls’ competition, which will be the highlight of the evening.” Fans of the other sports are allowed not to agree with the reigning world champion, but given the line-up, one thing for sure is that all athletics fans will have a ball on Saturday evening at the Charléty Stadium.