Lasitskene vs Levchenko vs Mahuchikh
World champion Mariya Lasitskene has been the undisputed queen of the women's high jump in recent years. Between 2017 and 2019, she won 19 of 21 Diamond League meetings on her way to three back-to-back Diamond Trophies.
Yet since the 28-year-old took a back seat in last year's truncated season, a handful of pretenders have emerged to challenge her for the Wanda Diamond League title in 2021. Most notably, the 2020 season was dominated by rising Ukrainian stars Yuliya Levchenko and Yaroslava Mahuchikh.
Levchenko took silver behind Lasitskene at the 2017 World Athletics Championships, while Mahuchikh did the same in 2019. At just 19, meanwhile, Mahuchikh has already got three Diamond League wins and a personal best of 2.00m under her belt. And in what might be a good omen for Gateshead, she has also won at the Diamond League season opener in each of the last two seasons.
The talented trio will all be on the startlist on Sunday, in a battle which could set the tone for an enthralling fight for the Diamond Trophy.
Duplantis launches title bid
2020 was a remarkable year for Armand "Mondo" Duplantis. The 21-year-old started off by breaking the world record twice in the space of a few weeks in the indoor season, before cruising to seven wins in eight meetings in the Wanda Diamond League season. Having already cleared the six-metre-mark four times in the course of the season, the Swedish star crowned his astonishing year with a world outdoor best of 6.15m in Rome.
One thing Duplantis is yet to get his hands on however is the Diamond Trophy. He launches his campaign in Gateshead this year, lining up against the likes of Renaud Lavillenie and world champion Sam Kendricks, who was the only man to beat him in 2020. In a year in which he is also targeting a first Olympic medal, can the freshly crowned king of the pole vault also claim the Wanda Diamond League throne?
Perhaps the most dazzling array of superstars on Sunday will be in the women's 100m, where home heroine Dina Asher-Smith takes on a field stacked with Olympic champions, world-beaters and Diamond-Trophy winners.
Asher-Smith claimed the 100m Diamond League title in 2019, and will be looking to get her defence of the Diamond Trophy off to a perfect start on home soil. Yet she has her work cut out with Jamaican superstars Elaine Thompson-Herah and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and rising US talent Sha'Carri Richardson also gunning for an early victory. Throw in the likes of Blessing Okagbare and Marie-Josée Ta Lou, and you have a field which has more than 50 Diamond League victories between them.
Ingebrigtsens at the double
Partly thanks to his surname alone, Jakob Ingebrigtsen has long been considered one of the stars of the future in the middle distance events. He lived up to that billing last season. After posting a European record of 3:28.68 with his second-place finish behind Timothy Cheruiyot in the 1500m in Monaco, he went on to claim his first ever Diamond League victory in Brussels later in the season.
He will be out to build on that success this season and potentially end Cheruiyot's four-year stranglehold on the Diamond Trophy. As he launches his campaign in the 1500m on Sunday, he will also be able to count on some family support, with older brother Henrik Ingebrigtsen lining up in the 5000m.
Muir on home soil
As well as Asher-Smith in the 100m, British fans in Gateshead will also be able to cheer on one of their own in the women's 1500m as Laura Muir launches her bid for a third career Diamond Trophy.
Muir, 28, currently trains in the US, and Sunday's meeting will be her first performance on UK soil for 15 months.
"The last time I actually raced at Gateshead International Stadium was in the National Junior League as a teenager!" she told British Athletics ahead of the race. "I didn’t win those races either so hopefully this month I can try to win my first-ever track race at the venue.”
Original text from diamondleague.com