London: Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba will shift his focus from the 400m hurdles to the 400m dash today afternoon when the IAAF Diamond League returns to London.
Along with fellow Qatari star Abdalleleh Haroun, Samba will start at the iconic London Stadium against a strong line up which includes Kirani James, the Grenadian who struck Olympic 400m gold as a 19-year old at the same venue in 2012.
James is on the comeback trail after being diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, and will be looking to pose the biggest threat to the Qatari star Samba who graduated to number two on the world all-time 400m hurdles list in Paris last month.
In the men’s 100 metres, world indoor 60m champion Christian Coleman has a chance to establish his credentials as the leader of the sprint pack in the post-Usain Bolt era on the opening day of the London Diamond League meeting today.
The 22-year-old US sprinter ended Bolt’s four-year unbeaten 100m streak in the world championship semi-finals at the London Stadium in August last year, before finishing in between compatriot Justin Gatlin and the retiring Bolt as the silver medal winner in the final two hours later.
After shattering Maurice Greene’s 19-year-old world indoor 60m record in February and claiming the world indoor 60m crown in March, Coleman looked set to become the dominant force in the 100m in 2018.
But he finished second to Ronnie Baker in Eugene and fourth behind his victorious fellow-American in Rome in an injury-hit start to the outdoor season in May.
Having taken time out to cure a hamstring problem, Coleman returned to Diamond League action with a wafer-thin 100m win over Baker in Rabat, both men being credited with 9.98sec after finishing a mere 0.006 sec apart.
“I kind of look at this as my season reopening,” said Coleman, who will be seeking to improve that modest season’s best in London when he once again locks horns with Baker.
The 24-year-old Baker took world indoor 60m bronze behind the victorious Coleman on English soil in Birmingham in March and clocked a lifetime 100m best of 9.88sec in Paris last month.
Baker jointly heads the 2018 world rankings with Noah Lyles, who clocked 9.88sec to take the US title ahead of him in Des Moines last month.
But Coleman remains the fastest man at 100m since the 2016 Rio Olympics, courtesy of the 9.82sec he recorded when winning the US collegiate title last year.
The 100m field in London also includes the current US collegiate champion Cameron Burrell, son of former 100m world record holder Leroy Burrell, plus 2011 world champion Yohan Blake from Jamaica, South Africa’s Commonwealth title holder Akani Simbine and British champion Reece Prescod.
Coleman will not be the only big name athlete with a point to prove in the English capital.
After her two-year unbeaten streak came to an end in Rabat following 45 consecutive wins, Russia’s Mariya Lasitskene will be determined to get back into her dominant stride in the women’s high jump tomorrow.
Lasitskene, who struck world outdoor gold at the London Stadium last year, faces world indoor champion Vashti Cunningham of the USA.
The meeting doubles as the Anniversary Games, in recognition of the Olympic Games held in the stadium six years ago, and on Sunday long jumper Greg Rutherford, will be bidding an emotional farewell to the arena where he claimed gold at London 2012.
The 31-year-old Briton, who plans to retire at the end of the season, faces South Africa’s world outdoor champion Luvo Manyonga and Olympic champion Jeff Henderson of the USA.
The women’s 200m pits Jamaica’s Olympic champion Elaine Thompson against Dutch world champion Dafne Schippers and Ivorian world indoor medallists Marie-Josee Ta Lou and Murielle Ahoure.