12 juillet, 2018

Rabat: Press Conference Highlights

  • © Jean-Pierre Durand

It’s beginning to hot up on the 2018 IAAF Diamond League circuit, which this week stops in Rabat, Morocco, for the Meeting International Mohammed VI D’Athlétisme.

 

A selection of the year’s stars gathered at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium this morning to meet the press, where there was plenty of talk of fast times and big marks as the season begins to reach its peak.

Thomas Rohler, the reigning Olympic champion in javelin, is one man looking to prove his form in Rabat. The German, whose personal best 93.90m ranks him third on the all-time lists, said he has just completed a block of training as the European Championships in Berlin moves into focus. He believes another 90m throw is possible here, although the conditions will need to play ball. 

Röhler won’t have the runway to himself, though. Also present is German teammate Andreas Hoffman, who has thrown 92.06m this year to rank second in the world. And there is Pole Jakub Vadlejch, who beat them both in last year’s final to claim his second Diamond League title. Game on. 

Current Diamond League Trophy owner in  men’s pole vault is Sam Kendricks, who compared the 6m mark in his event to the 90m distance in javelin.

The American, who breached that barrier for the first time last year, referred to it as a “silver bullet”, adding that not many had made a six-metre jump and not won a competition.

Yet Kendricks is just one of three in the line up with such a mark in his armoury, so the contest in Rabat could need something better still. Brazil’s Thiago Braz won the Olympic title in 2016 with 6.03m, while Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie owns the world record of 6.16m.

Fair to say that Lavillenie, who has won seven Diamond League trophies in a glittering career, was not being unduly-optimistic when he said the 5.85m meeting record of Pawel Wojciechowski (also present in Rabat) could be under threat. 

The last time Diamond League champion Hellen Obiri and one-mile world record holder Genzebe Dibaba met over 5000m, at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, the latter athlete breezed to victory in a world leading 14:26.89. Obiri was coming off an early start to her season that saw her collect Commonwealth Games gold for Kenya, so perhaps that race wasn’t an accurate precursor to what will happen in Rabat.

Both athletes commented on the fast feel of the track and the warm, favourable conditions that a North African evening provides for distance runners. If both hit the front feeling strong then that world lead could well drop. 

In another distance treat, Rabat brings together the current Diamond League champion in steeplechase, Conseslus Kipruto, and recently-crowned Mediterranean Games steeple champion Soufiane El Bakkali. 

The record of Kipruto – the Kenyan also holds the Olympic, world and Commonwealth titles – suggests he should prevail, but with the backing of his Moroccan fans on Friday night, El Bakkali could be inspired to push him all the way. Kipruto said he wouldn’t mind that happening, so long as he wins. 

After Christian Coleman won the world indoor title in March, running a non-ratified world record at the US indoor nationals as part of that quest, many expected 2018 to be his year. Injury, however, meant the American has had to watch on as Noah Lyles and Ronnie Baker have scorched the track with 9.88 personal bests to lead the world in the short sprints. 

“It’s been a learning experience,” admitted Coleman, who added he’s never had to deal with injuries in his career before the recent set back.

It’s great to see him back for Rabat. It’s greater still to know he’ll be up against both Baker and Lyles when he settles into the blocks. Get set.

Shaunae Miller-Uibo made her name as a 400m runner – who can forget her dramatic dive for Olympic gold in 2016? Last year she announced her class as a 200m sprinter, too, claiming the Diamond League titles in both the half and full lap events. 

In Rabat she will run the 200m, an event she has a 1/1 record in on the Diamond League circuit this year, courtesy of a dominant win in Shanghai. 

The Bahamian says she’s been working on 400m tactics in training, and this race will be a chance to turn the legs over at maximum speed. Unbeaten all this season, it could be another race in which Miller-Uibo underscores her talent across both long sprint distances. 

Watch the press conference in full here: