Thursday, August 30, 2018

Zurich Diamond League is About to Begin

The Diamond League: What's It All About?

copyright 2018, Mark Cullen/, all rights reserved

Well, this took almost half a century.

I’ve known of Het Weltklasse (The World Class) since my early days at the University of Oregon in the 1971-72 school year.

The purpose of the Weltklasse has changed over the years. It used to be the greatest single-day meet in the world. Now it is one-half of the Diamond League finals; the other is in Brussels, tomorrow.

Matt from Australia is sitting behind me - and I thought I had come a long way. We sat next to each other last night at the men’s pole vault in the train station. It’s his first Diamond League meet outside of the Prefontaine Classic; he made his pilgrimage to Eugene a year ago.

My first DL meet away from Eugene as well, though I’ve been privileged to have attended more than a few of the Eugene meets over the years, just the last four with a badge hanging around my neck.

We’ll be on the 6:00am train to Brussels together tomorrow where, joyfully, we’ll do this again.

I just entered the stadium, set up my technology, and note already the remarkable level of hospitality that greets us in the press tribune. Water bottles already at our work stations, volunteers coming by offering us sandwiches.

It’s a cool and blustery day, and I ask Max if I dare say here what the weather reminds me of.


In October.

Herewith some notes about the Diamond League and what it is we’re here to accomplish.

The Diamond League has 14 meets:

- 12 regular season
- two finals, in Zurich (August 30) and Brussels (August 31).

The 12 regular season meets are divided into 2 groups of 6.

There are 32 events, 16 in each grouping, with a final for each grouping.

The 12 regular season meets serve as qualifying for the finals.

Athletes score points by virtue of their place finishes during the season and have the option of participating in the final. Barring injury, most do, especially as the Diamond League title is the most prestigious one can win in this non-Olympic, non-World Championships year.

Number of athletes in each final:
-         top 7 in 200m, 400m, and 400m hurdles
-         top 8 in other lane events
-         top 12 in HJ/PV, throws, and middle/long distance events.

Some athletes have qualified in more than one event. Most choose one event or the other, while a few brave souls will double on consecutive days at meets 657 km/408 mi apart.

For those of you familiar with the Diamond League in the past, you’re correct if you detect an important difference this year.

Previously, the points leaders in each event could accumulate so many points that they would have won the Diamond League title before the final (though they were required to participate in the final to cash the check).

Now all previous results are erased and the finalists are in single-day championship events.  Multiple events serve as qualifiers; single-day events determine the Diamond League titleists.

The schedule is as follows:

Wednesday, 8/29 - non-DL men’s pole vault at Zurich Central Train Station; completed and won by Russia’s Timor Morgunov

Thursday, 8/30 – Zurich Diamond League

Thursday, 8/30 – women’s shot put

Friday, 8/31 – Brussels Diamond League

For the eagle-eyed among you who have detected the overlap between these meets, good eye.

If you’re in Zurich you can’t see the women’s shot put in Brussels tonight; the finals have been scheduled in such a way that you need to be in two places at once to see all the events.

To deflect any more criticism of this year’s schedule, IAAF has released next year’s already and there will always be 5-7 days between major meets in 2019.

I spoke off the record with an IAAF official yesterday who said that the concept was to focus the sports world on track and field for these two days. 

Understood, but how about Friday/Sunday? Friday night to get the weekend started, Sunday afternoon to finish it in style, Saturday a day of travel and rest.

The official acknowledged that they got ahead of themselves with the concept without working through its full implications. Sifan Hassan (5000/1500) and Dafne Schippers (100/200), both from the Netherlands,  will be doubling on consecutive days.

Must be the hardy Dutch!

While each event is almost as deep as it can possibly be, two events stand out for special note in Zurich.

The women’s 800m is likely Caster Semenya’s (South Africa) last opportunity to break Jarmila Kratochvilova’s (Cze) world record of 1:53.28, set in 1983, before the new rules governing hyperandrogenism go into effect this October. Interestingly, there will be no pace setters in the women’s 800m, by agreement of the competitors, including Semenya.

The men’s 200m features a showdown between Noah Lyles - last year’s Diamond League champion in this event – and Turkey’s unexpected World Champion last year, Ramil Guliyev, who scared Pietro Minnea’s  IT) European record 19.72 in winning the European Championships in Berlin earlier this month with his 19.76. 

Lyles has better top end speed than most other sprinters; he did not take the lead in the US men’s 100m national title race until 17 meters to go this June. Guliyev blew the field off the track in the last 20m in Berlin. Lyles’ PB is 19.68.

This is why we run the races.

Meanwhile, the first event is about to begin: the mixed kids’ sprint relay with six runners on each team. Five exchanges, all the more kids texting grandparents about their moment in the sun.

Have you noticed how they take care of the future here?  

Letzigrund Stadium during the tech check last night.

Photo copyright 2018, Mark Cullen/, All rights reserved.

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