Diamond League athletics returns to Gateshead this Sunday, 23rd May, for the Müller Grand Prix. With the Olympic Games approaching and competition having been relatively sparse in the past year, athletes and fans are starved of action.
So what are the most anticipated clashes this weekend? Here are six of the best.
Such is the quality of this event, world 200m champion and home crowd favourite Dina Asher-Smith (GBR; coach: John Blackie; club: Blackheath & Bromley) is only fifth quickest based on paper. Sha’Carri Richardson of the United States is surely the one to beat after her 10.72 (+1.6) clocking at the Miramar Invitational last month, whereas the field also includes Olympic 100m and 200m champion Elaine Thompson-Herah and world champion and fellow Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, plus Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria – all of whom have faster PBs than the Brit.
What a showdown awaits. The sprinters in this event in Gateshead have earned a staggering 41 global championship medals during their careers. Don’t discount Asher-Smith either. She looked in fine form when winning a 200m race in Italy a few days ago and will have up to 2000 spectators cheering her on in both the heat and final.
Men’s pole vault
Two years ago in Doha the American Sam Kendricks successfully defended his world title and beat up-and-coming Mondo Duplantis of Sweden in the process with 5.97m. Since then, though, Duplantis has broken the world record with a best of 6.18m and is the man to beat.
Throw in Piotr Lisek of Poland – the bronze medallist from those World Championships – and we have the one-two-three from Doha in a rematch. British record-holder Harry Coppell (Scott Simpson; Wigan & District) and fellow Brit Charlie Myers (Chris Boundy; Birtley) will need to be at the top of their game to mix it with some of the greatest pole vaulters of all-time.
Women’s high jump
Mariya Lasitskene is the three-time world champion in her event but in Gateshead she faces the rising force of Yaroslava Mahuchikh of Ukraine. Mahuchikh won silver behind Lasitskene at the last World Championships in Doha but the Ukrainian is still only 19 and leads the world rankings in 2021 with 2.06m – the best height in the year by a woman for nine years.
Mahuchikh is also fresh from winning the European indoor title in Poland whereas Latiskene could be a little rusty. She is one of the few Russians to be allowed recently to return to competition as an Authorised Neutral Athlete and be hoping to make her mark in the run-up to the Olympic Games.
Throw in the talented Yuliya Levchenko, who is also from Ukraine, and this event has the makings of a brilliant showdown on Sunday.
The stadium record of 20.23 held by Bernard Williams from 20 years ago could be under threat as Andre de Grasse of Canada takes on Britain’s Adam Gemili (Rana Reider; Blackheath & Bromley) and in-form American Kenny Bednarek.
De Grasse won 200m silver at the Rio Olympics behind Usain Bolt plus bronze in the 100m and 4x100m and is hitting great form so far in 2021, whereas Gemili will be buoyed by his home crowd. If the track record falls, too, an interested spectator will be British Athletics head coach Christian Malcolm, because he was runner-up behind Williams back in 2001.
Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway will be strong favourite for this race but don’t write off the ever-improving Australian Stewart McSweyn. Ingebrigtsen holds the European record with 3:28.68 but McSweyn’s best is 3:30.52 and he is joined by training partners Ryan Gregson, who held the Australian record prior to McSweyn, and Matt Ramsden.
Added to this is the US-based Australian Ollie Hoare, who has been in good form too lately. Surely Ingebrigtsen is the man to beat, though, as he looked so imperious two months ago when winning the 1500m and 3000m double in Poland.
Laura Muir (Andy Young; Dundee Hawkhill) could bring the house down in the final event of the night if she pulls off a win in front of her home crowd. She has been in great form lately and posted another win just a few days ago over 800m in California before travelling back to the UK this week.
In Gateshead she faces former world champion Jenny Simpson of the United States and recent European indoor champion Elise Vanderelst of Belgium, plus fellow Brits Eilish McColgan (Liz McColgan; Dundee Hawkhill), Holly Archer (Andrew Parmenter; Cambridge & Coleridge) and Adelle Tracey (Craig Winrow; Guildford & Godalming) and Katie Snowden (Dan Stepney; Herne Hill Harriers), the latter of whom was in winning form with a 4:02.98 PB last weekend.
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The Müller Grand Prix Gateshead will be broadcast internationally from 7-9pm on 23rd May with BBC Two showing the action live for domestic viewers.