Over 30,000 people packed into the Zurich Stadium for the first night of Diamond League Finals, to determine the top athlete in 16 events for the season. Australians Henry Frayne and Ryan Gregson were competing for glory and big cash incentives.
On a cold night for jumping and almost five months after they met at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Frayne was again battling with South African duo Luvo Manyonga and Ruswahl Samaai.
World champion Manyonga (8.36m) came out on top again, with Samaai (8.32m) almost causing an upset and leaping over Frayne, with the Australian Commonwealth Games silver medallist holding on for third.
It wasn’t a simple competition for any of the athletes, and the lead switched back and forth between the South Africans.
Frayne opened his account with a foul, then 7.92m and another foul, which left him in 8th position coming into the change of jumping order.
“From the third to the fourth round I ended moving my mark back about half a metre, which is a big change in a comp like this,” Frayne said.
“But with those guys jumping 8.32m I was thinking, I could win a Diamond League here.”
His fourth-round attempt of 8.16m extended his 8m+ jump streak to 10 competitions, beginning with the qualifying round at the Commonwealth Games where he jumped his 8.34m personal best.
“To be honest, after Birmingham, I thought ‘I hope I’m not petering out here’, and when I opened with 7.92 I was thinking ‘ughhhh’,” Frayne explained. But he held it together to keep the streak alive.
He fouled his last two attempts and it was a nervous wait in the last round, as he had to wait for all the other competitors to complete their jumps before he could relax and it couldn’t have been any closer.
“Ooh when Tajay jumped that (8.15 in the last), it was an anxious wait. He’s done that to me a few times.”
However, the 28-year-old Queenslander had done enough for third and to earn a $10,000 USD cheque for his efforts.
Frayne will round out his season, like the rest of the Australians, at the Continental Cup in the Czech Republic, next weekend.
“I’m not chasing all these end of season comps like the other guys, so hopefully it tires them out and I get snag a win in Ostrava.”
Gregson 10th in 1500m
Gregson, Australia’s other Diamond League finalist in Zurich, was a late call up to the race after a few other athletes had called their season early.
Coming off a second-place finish in the Emsley Carr Mile in Birmingham, behind training partner Stewart McSweyn, this trip to the Diamond League final was a bonus on top of a great season.
The pace was on early with the lead pack going through 800m in 1:52.27. A second pack including Gregson was a little off the pace.
Unfortunately, this second pack couldn’t close the gap, and this left Gregson with work to do, a good 10m off the back of the main pack with a lap to go. The task was too much and Gregson finished tenth in 3:39.04, just 0.74 faster than his 1500m split during his mile run 12 days earlier.
Eliza Ault-Connell was the third Australia on the track in Zurich, competing in the non-Diamond League mixed 3000m wheelchair event. The Gold Coast 2018 silver medallist in the marathon finished seventh in 6:10.42, in a fast-paced pursuit around the track.
Strong Aussie contingent for Brussels
The final 16 Diamond League titles will be awarded in Brussels on Friday night (local time). The four Aussies contesting the finals are: Brooke Stratton (long jump), Kurtis Marschall (pole vault), Brandon Starc (high jump) and Stewart McSweyn (5,000m).
Starc and Marschall have jumped PBs in the last week. Stratton feels ready to get back to seven metres and McSweyn seems to deliver a new PB every time he races this season. Preview including start times here>>
Also in action in non-Diamond League events, as they prepare for the Continental Cup final, are Steve Solomon (400m), Nicola McDermott (high jump) and Brittany McGowan (800m).
Diamond League Finals Winners from Zurich
The 16 Diamond League titles and $50,000 USD went to the following athletes in Zurich (in order of events): W Triple Jump – Caterine Ibarguen (COL) 14.56m, W High Jump – Mariya Lasitskene (ANA) 1.97m, W Pole Vault – Katerina Stefanidi (GRE) 4.87m (SB), W Javelin – Tatsiana Khaladovich (BLR) 66.99m, M Shot Put – Tomas Walsh (NZL) 22.60m, M 400m – Fred Kerley (USA) 44.80, W 800m – Caster Semenya (RSA) 1:55.27, M 3000m SC – Conseslus Kipruto (KEN) 8:10.15, W 100m – Murielle Ahoure (CIV) 11.01, M Long Jump – Luvo Manyonga (RSA) 8.36m, M 1500m – Timothy Cheruiyot (KEN) 3:30.27, M Javelin – Andreas Hofmann (GER) 91.44m, W 400mH – Dalilah Muhammad (USA) 53.88, M 200m – Noah Lyles (USA) 19.67, W 5000m – Hellen Obiri (KEN) 14:38.39, M 400mH Kyron McMaster (IVB) 48.08.
Matt Lynch and Andrew Reid for Athletics Australia