Sprints and Hurdles: How the Diamond Trophy Was Won
It was the year of the Ivory Coast in the women’s 100m. Marie-Josée Ta Lou dominated the Road To The Final with four wins in Doha, Eugene, Lausanne and Monaco. Her compatriot Murielle Ahouré added victory in Oslo to a string of second place finishes, meanwhile, while Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith challenged the Ivorian dominance with a win in Stockholm, and as freshly crowned double European Champion, looked in with a chance ahead of the Final. Ultimately, though, it was Ahouré who had the edge in Zürich, clocking 11.01 to win by stride and become the first Ivorian to get her hands on the Diamond Trophy.
After a brilliant indoor season, Christian Coleman had been touted as the favourite to win the Diamond Trophy in the men’s event, but suffered an early setback as injury blighted the first half of his campaign. Coleman would eventually win in Rabat, but not before Ronnie Baker had staked his claim as the new favourite with a couple of world leading times on the Road To The Final. With Reece Prescod also on fine form, it looked a close run thing going into the Final, but Coleman ultimately delivered, snagging a personal best of 9.79 to win the Diamond Trophy.
The 200m was more of a one-man affair, but gracious, what a man he is. The new rapping, dancing, sprinting superstar of the USA, Noah Lyles was dominant on the Road To The Final. Though world champion Ramil Guliyev picked up wins in Lyles’ absence in Oslo and Stockholm, the American won four out of four when he was there, and demonstrated his imperious form once again in the Final, obliterating the field in Zürich to take a second successive Diamond Trophy.
Last year, Shaunae Miller-Uibo won the Diamond Trophy in both the 200m and the 400m. The back-to-back finals this year meant that was always going to be slightly less likely in 2018, yet that didn’t stop Miller-Uibo from showing her class in the 200m. An early win in Shanghai was consolidated by another eight points in Rabat, and she capped her impressive Road To The Final by edging victory in a thrilling battle with Dina Asher-Smith in Birmingham. The Bahamian then sailed to victory in the Final, leaving Dafne Schippers and the rest trailing in her wake in Brussels.
Miller-Uibo did take two wins on the Road To The Final in the 400m, breaking the Diamond League Record with the second of them in Monaco. Yet it was Salwa Eid Naser who stole the show for most of the season. With repeated victories over the likes of Phyllis Francis and Jessica Beard, the Bahraini rising star took four consecutive wins on the Road To The Final before thoroughly dominating the Final in Brussels, coming in over a second ahead of Francis to win her first Diamond Trophy.
Steven Gardiner got his Road To The Final campaign off to a blistering start with wins in Doha and Shanghai, before Fred Kerley got points on the board in Rome. After three second place finishes, Abdalleleh Haroun finally picked up a win in London, before Kerley picked up another win in Birmingham. With a win for Akeem Bloomfield in Rabat and even triple jumper Christian Taylor finishing a strong fourth in Birmingham, the 400m seemed wide open going into the Final. It was Kerley who ultimately triumphed, running 44.80 to get his hands on the Diamond Trophy in Zürich.
From very early on, it looked like the Diamond Trophy would be a straight fight between Brianna McNeal and Kendra Harrison in the women’s 100m hurdles. With so many hurdlers performing brilliantly this year, McNeal and Harrison have been the two that have stuck out the most, and their duels have been fascinating. Harrison beat McNeal in Doha, before McNeal returned the favour in Shanghai and went on to dominate the Road To The Final with wins in Stockholm and Rabat. Sharika Nelvis and Danielle Williams also shook things up with some superb races, but Harrison hit back in London, winning once again on the scene of her 2016 world record. All of which provided much hope for a brilliant Brussels Final, and boy did they live up to it. Harrison and McNeal took it down to the wire, with the latter just about taking the Diamond Trophy in a photo finish at the Memorial Van Damme.
There was an equally fascinating competition in the men’s 110m hurdles, as three or four athletes battled it out for the Diamond Trophy. Omar McLeod, who is still yet to win the Diamond Trophy, took wins in Shanghai and Eugene, but it was reigning champion Sergey Shubenkov who looked the most dangerous in mid-season, running sub-13 in Lausanne before adding another victory in Monaco. Orlando Ortega got in on the action in Birmingham, but it was Shubenkov who triumphed, running a brilliant 12.97 to win the Diamond Trophy in Brussels for the second year in a row.
Another man to defend his title in the hurdles this year was Kyron McMaster, who for the second year in a row took a back seat on the Road To The Final before delivering when it truly mattered. Things may have turned out differently had Abderrahman Samba competed in Zürich. The Qatari took a full sweep of six victories on the Road To The Final, breaking the Diamond League record four times as he did so.
It was a much less one-sided affair in the women’s event, and there was littl to choose between Dalilah Muhammad, Shamier Little, Janieve Russell and co. heading into the Final in Zürich. Reigning champion Muhammad had taken early wins in Shanghai and Oslo, before Little had responded in Lausanne and London. Russell, for her part, had beaten both of them in Eugene before finishing second in Lausanne, London and Birmingham. Yet it was Muhammad who delivered when it counted, posting an excellent 53.88 to defend her Diamond Trophy.