As the last stop on the Diamond League before the World Athletics Championships in Budapest next month, it’s no wonder so many of the sport’s big stars are heading to the British capital for the London Athletics Meet on Sunday.
Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim is one of them. The 32-year-old enjoyed a confidence-boosting victory in Silesia last weekend ahead of the defence of his world high jump title in Budapest.
The Olympic champion cleared a world-leading 2.36m, pushed by the improvement of Tobias Potye, who cleared 2.34m. Both men will clash again in London today, along with USA’s JuVaughn Harrison and Australia’s Joel Baden.
It was Barshim’s first appearance since finishing third in May in his home Diamond League meeting in Doha. “For me it is still early season, it is only my second competition,” said Barshim after his victory in Silesia. “I am on my way back, I have been ill over the past month. I think I still have a 2.40 jump in me, hopefully this year,”
Barshim is the Qatar national record holder with a best of 2.43m, the second-highest jump of all time. Twice an Olympic silver medallist (2012 and 2016), he shared one of the greatest sporting moments ever when he was crowned joint Olympic champion with his long-time friend and rival Gianmarco Tamberi in Tokyo 2021.
Having won his first world title at the Olympic Stadium in London 2017, Barshim went on to top the podium in front of a home crowd in Doha 2019, before winning an unprecedented third successive global title with victory in Eugene (2022). And he is already looking in ominous form ahead of next month’s World Championships in Budapest.
“I know I’ve achieved a lot, but I’m still chasing and aiming for more. I have set my own goals and targets for 2023 and the World Championships and the Asian Games are at the top of that list. Competing in London is the perfect preparation for Budapest where I’m aiming to win my fourth global title,” he had said recently.
In addition to his London 2012 and London 2017 medal-winning exploits, Barshim has delivered a series of impressive competition performances in the UK. Highlights include his silver at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham (2018) and clearing 2.40m – one of his all-time top ten jumps – for victory in the 2017 Diamond League meeting at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium.
The London event is the tenth meeting of the Diamond League series. And every discipline boasts either a world or Olympic champion or a past winner of a global title of some sort. And most events feature a clash between several of those, perhaps the most enthralling battle being the women’s 5000m, where the Olympic, world and Diamond League champions will collide.
Sifan Hassan is the Olympic champion at that distance – and at the 10,000m. The Dutch runner is undefeated across four distances this year, having won over 5000m in Portland last month, and prior to that winning both the 10,000m and 1500m on successive days at the FBK Games in early June.
Not forgetting, of course, that her last appearance in London was a triumphant one, as she won the London Marathon in April on her debut at the distance, clocking 2:18:33.
But today’s race could be her toughest test of the year so far as she’ll take on world champion Gudaf Tsegay and world cross-country champion Beatrice Chebet, winner of the 5000m at last year’s Diamond League Final, the African Championships and the Commonwealth Games.
Like Hassan, Tsegay is also undefeated this year. The Ethiopian enjoyed a stunning indoor campaign, clocking world-leading times at 1500m, 3000m and the mile. She has raced twice outdoors so far, winning the 1500m in Rabat in 3:54.03 and the 10,000m at Ethiopia’s World Trials in a PB of 29:29.73.
But Chebet is also a formidable contender. Following her well-timed triumph at the World Cross in February, the Kenyan won the 5000m at the Kip Keino Classic in May, the 3000m at the Bislett Games in Oslo in a world-leading 8:25.01, and the 5000m at the Bauhaus Galan in Stockholm in 14:36.52.
All three of these global champions would have watched with interest as Faith Kipyegon broke the world record for this distance in Paris last month. But while all three have the potential to challenge that mark of 14:05.20, their focus in London will be to get one up on their rivals ahead of the World Championships.
Shot putter Ryan Crouser and pole vaulter Katie Moon, the world and Olympic champions in their respective disciplines, are among the star names in the field events. Competition will be fierce, too, as both disciplines feature the top eight athletes in the world rankings.