While many Canadian track and field athletes enjoy some down time before a return to training in October ahead of an Olympic year, others will be looking for a positive finish to a season disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Seventeen medallists from last year’s world championships in Doha, including six champions, will return to the Qatar capital for the Diamond League season finale at Suhaim bin Hamad Stadium on Friday that will be live streamed at CBCSports.ca at 12 p.m. ET.
“It’s been a tough summer for everyone, yet we’ve witnessed some exceptional track and field performances,” Doha meet director Khalid Al Marri said in a statement on the Diamond League website. “I’m confident that in Doha … that we’ll provide a fitting finale.”
Pole vaulter Armand (Mondo) Duplantis is the headliner of Friday’s event after the American-born Swede broke Sergey Bubka’s 26-year-old outdoor world record of 6.14 metres a week ago by clearing 6.15 on his second attempt at the Golden Gala meet in Rome.
“It’s just one of those feelings where you are kind of dreaming a little bit,” Duplantis said in a story on the World Athletics website. “It’s surreal, it’s surreal, it’s a super-crazy feeling when everything lines up like that and you do a really good performance.”
WATCH | Armand Duplantis breaks 26-year-old pole vault record:
Friday’s event will be held without fans in compliance with Qatar’s precautionary measures for COVID-19.
But despite no crowd noise to inspire the athletes, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a continuation of the “astonishing” performances Diamond League commentator Tim Hutchings discussed in a recent interview with CBC Sports’ Scott Russell.
“People normally come into a summer season of track and field with six or seven months of hard training behind them,” said Hutchings. “They’ve come into [this] summer with probably 10 months of hard training behind them, and a lot of them got it right.
WATCH | Diamond League commentator Tim Hutchings on 2020 season:
“The [Tokyo] Olympics was meant to be what was happening in July and August and that’s gone, so there are so many unusual variables you have to build into this, sort of, mix. It’s hard to figure out exactly why the performances have been so special. We may never know for sure.”
The 20-year-old Duplantis, who set an outright indoor world mark of 6.18 in Glasgow in February, will battle 2019 world champion Sam Kendricks of the United States and fellow medallist Piotr Lisek of Poland on Friday at 11:18 a.m. Also in the field is Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie, the 2012 Olympic gold medallist.
“We’ve had fun this summer going right back to our [Ultimate Garden Clash remote backyard] competition in May,” Kendricks said, “but after some solid blocks of training, it’s been great to get back out and compete with these guys on the [Diamond League professional] circuit.”
Mondo Duplantis in the 2020 Diamond League:
Women’s events to watch
At 12:56 p.m., Jamaica’s double Olympic champion, Elaine Thompson-Herah, will try to improve upon her season world-leading 10.85-second run from Rome in her fourth Doha showdown against 2019 world bronze medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast.
Ta Lou holds a 2-1 edge, having prevailed in 2018 and a year ago at worlds in Qatar — where Thompson-Herah was fourth — after the latter took their first matchup in 2017 in the 200.
WATCH | Thompson-Herah posts world-leading 10.85 at Golden Gala:
Former heptathlete Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands was scheduled to make her season debut in the 100 at Doha but has withdrawn with a sore back. Schippers is the European record-holder in the 200 and 2015 and 2017 world champion over the distance.
A talent-laden 3,000 at 1:18 p.m. will feature a clash between world 5,000 champion Hellen Obiri and Kenyan teammate Beatrice Chepkoech, the reigning 3,000 steeplechase world champion.
Obiri has enjoyed a successful run in Doha, where she won the world 5,000 a year ago, the 3,000 at Doha Diamond League last year and set a Kenyan record of 8:20.68 in the 3,000 in 2014. Chepkoech placed second in the steeplechase earlier this month at a Continental Tour event in Berlin, Germany.
All 16 women in Friday’s field have medalled at a global or continental championship or hold a world or continental record.
Golden Gala highlights
Besides Duplantis, several athletes put forth memorable performances in Italy:
- World champion Karsten Warholm of Norway ran a meet record 47.07 seconds in the men’s 400 hurdles, stopping the clock less than 3-10ths of a second off Kevin Young’s 46.78 world mark from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
- South Africa’s Akani Simbine dipped under 10 seconds to post a winning time of 9.96, ahead of Ivory Coast’s Arthur Cisse and Italy’s Filippo Tortu.
WATCH | Simbine reaches top of podium in men’s 100:
- Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo set several records, including a national mark, with his 2020 world-leading 7:26.64 showing to win the men’s 3,000. His personal-best time is also a Diamond League and Golden Gala record. Fellow podium finishers Jakob Ingebrigsten (7:27.05) of Norway and Australia’s Stewart McSweyn (7:28.02) also ran PBs.
- Jemma Reekie of Great Britain defeated training partner and housemate Laura Muir, clocking 1:59.76 for the fifth time this season in a tactical women’s 800. The 22-year-old Reekie had never run under two minutes before 2020.