The world’s best athletes are chasing the Diamond League event titles and big cash incentives when the finals-only format are held in Zurich (30 August) and Brussels (31 August) this week.
The six Australians who will contest the Diamond League final events will be looking to take their sensational seasons to a lucrative next level.
In Zurich, Henry Frayne (long jump) and Ryan Gregson (1500m) will be in action. And the next night in Brussels, Brooke Stratton (long jump), Kurtis Marschall (pole vault), Brandon Starc (high jump) and Stewart McSweyn (5,000m) get their chance. (AUS event previews below)
Marschall will also compete on Wednesday night (18:30 local time, 02:30 AEST) in the famous Zurich train station. The men’s pole vault finalists will compete here before going to Brussels where the cash and trophy is on the line.
The IAAF Diamond League Series started back in Doha in May, with the 12 meets across four continents enabling athletes to secure points to qualify for the finals.
The 32 events are split across Zurich and Brussels, with every athlete in each event having the opportunity to win the trophy and $50,000 USD. In total there is a $100,000 per event with a $3.2 million USD prize pool. Athletes who finish second will win $20,000 through to eighth and $2,000.
Other Aussies in action in non-Diamond League finals are Eliza Ault-Connell (3000m Wheelchair) in Zurich and Steve Solomon (400m), Nicola McDermott (high jump) and Brittany McGowan (800m) in Brussels.
#fraynetrain on track for big jump
It’s a shame the #fraynetrain doesn’t get to jump in the Zurich train station like Marschall, instead he’ll be on the runway of the Letzigrund Stadium (20:45 local time, 04:45 AEST). The Olympic finalist will look to continue his career best season which began with a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games (8.33m), and a personal best of 8.34m in qualifying.
Since then he has jumped over eight metres in every competition and his best recent form was 8.24m in London in July and 8.01m in Birmingham.
“The body is feeling good, I have got on top of some issues I had around Birmingham,” Frayne said from Zurich.
“A successful meet would be breaking the world record! But I would also settle for a personal best and at a minimum 8.20 to be satisfied given it’s been a long season.”
His season best (and personal best) of 8.34m is the fourth best of the finalists behind South Africans Luvo Manyonga (8.58m), Ruswahl Samaii (8.42m) and American Jeff Henderson (8.44m) ahead of him.
Gregson gets his chance in 1500m
Ryan Gregson has had a strong season but looked to have just missed the Diamond League 1500m final. However, the Olympic finalist and Australian record holder has secured a lane and will be looking for a season best performance and to take down some big names on the way (20:48 local time, 04:48 AEST).
He was second in London on July 22 and a week earlier ran his season best 3:34.38. Kenyan Commonwealth Games silver medallist Timothy Cheruiyot secured the most points of the series.
Stratton ready to leap seven metres again
Commonwealth Games silver medallist and Diamond League podium finisher Brooke Stratton is ready to fly in Brussels on Friday night (19:08 local time, 03:08 AEST).
“I’d love to finish off the season on a high and I feel as though there is no reason I can’t. I’m feeling great and really looking forward to stepping onto the runway on Friday in my first Diamond League Final.’
She has big plans for Brussels, after a great training block back in Melbourne.
“I’d love to jump a season best (6.88m) or ultimately a PB (7.05m). It’s been over two years now since I jumped over seven metres and I feel as though after my body allowing me to put in nine months of uninterrupted work there is no reason why I can’t get back to jumping those distances.”
Stratton’s 7.05 metre best alongside the top girls and she isn’t going to be making up the numbers. English jumper Lorraine Ugen jumped 7.05m to win in Birmingham earlier this month.
“Winning the diamond league final would be pretty incredible, so I will be giving it my best.”
Zurich then Brussels for Marschall
Kurtis Marschall will be looking to resume his fantastic season after jumping an equal personal best of 5.80m in London in July, to round-out his first European stint. After a successful block of training back in Perth he’ll have an exciting hit-out within Zurich train station, where the crowd are sitting close to the competition, before the Diamond League final in Brussels (19:28 local time, 03:28 AEST).
The 21-year-old Commonwealth Games Champion will be part of what promises to be an enthralling competition. American Sam Kenricks qualified the most points from the Diamond League Series and has a season best of 5.96m. Earlier this month, Sweden’s Armand Duplantis jumped 6.05m to win the European title, from Timur Morgunov (ANA) with 6.00m.
Is Starc favourite for Diamond League final?
You don’t want to put any extra pressure on high jumper Brandon Starc, yet the 24-year-old consistently delivers under pressure and comes into this meet as the form athlete after equalling the Australian record with his 2.36m clearance last weekend. And he is definitely going for the win and the big cheque!
“The Diamond League jackpot has definitely crossed my mind, hard not to if I’m honest. Not only has the money crossed my mind but also the win comes with a wild card entry into the World Championships next year.”
Since jumping a 2.32m PB to win the Commonwealth Games he has continued to soar. American Bryan McBride with their 2.35m and Italian Gianmarco Tamberi with 2.33m are the main threats, with some big names finished for the season. Men’s high jump starts at 19:45 in Brussels (03:45 AEST).
Read more on Starc’s record season here>>>
McSweyn set for next major test
Tasmanian Stewart McSweyn has grown in confidence this year following his fifth place in the 5,000m at the Commonwealth Games and personal best performances from 1500m to 10,000m. His last hit-out was a win in the Mile in Birmingham.
He’ll be looking to beat his personal best of 13.19.96 from February, which he almost broke again in July. There are six Ethiopians and four Kenyans in the final but can they handle the ‘King of King Island’? The 5,000m starts at 21:22 on Friday night in Brussels (05:22 AEST)
Read more about his sensational season here>>>
Follow all the Diamond League Finals action via the AA social channels (Insta, Facebook and Twitter) for trackside coverage. Live results at iaaf.org, AUS event reviews at athletics.com.au and watch the action live on Eurosport Australia.
Andrew Reid for Athletics Australia