Round 8 on the ’18 Diamond League will take place in Lausanne’s Stade Pierre de Coubertin on Thursday night. As fantastic a meet as Paris was just a few days back, we think the Athletissima meeting will turn the sound up even a few more notches. Not quite to 11, perhaps, so here’s 10 things to buzz about:
1. Men’s PV: The Gang’s All Here
To be held the evening before the main meet, the vault promises July 4th fireworks as it brings together Olympic champion Thiago Braz, World Record holder Renaud Lavillenie, World champion Sam Kendricks and the crowd-pleasing teen star, Mondo Duplantis. All the top talent battling it out once again. If only we could get the chance to see this on a regular basis in the 100 or the 400H! Fans might thrill to that, rather than sigh over the regular headlines about who’s not competing.
2. Men’s 400H: Samba Is No International Man Of Mystery
Give Abderrahmane Samba his due, the man is not cagey about his race plans. Every other hurdler stepping up to the line Thursday knows that this could be one of the fastest races in history. Some may rise to the occasion and ride Samba’s momentum to big times of their own. Three of them have already run big PRs in Samba races this year: World champion Karsten Warholm (47.81), Commonwealth champ Kyron McMaster (47.54) and U.S. runner-up TJ Holmes (48.30).
3. Men’s 200: Lyles vs. Norman, Finally
This one we’ve all eagerly been waiting for. Noah Lyles is the world leader at 19.69—and has world-leading speed at 100 too (9.88). He hasn’t raced Michael Norman at 200 since the ’16 Olympic Trials. Norman, the USC star-turned pro, is just a few months younger than Lyles, but has come into his own this year, with PRs of 19.84 and 43.61. Lausanne has always been a friendly venue for the furlong: the meet record is 19.58 by Usain Bolt, and all told, 19.80 has been breached 6 times on the quick Swiss oval. And yes, there will be other athletes in the final event of the night, including a trio of sub-20 performers in Isiah Young (19.93), Alex Quiñónez (19.93) and Rai Benjamin (19.99). But in a momentous matchup like this, only their managers and mothers won’t be focused on Lyles and Norman. A major question that won’t be answered until the day before the meet: who gets which lane?
4. Women’s 1500: Houlihan’s Kick Will Get A Real Test
Shelby Houlihan fans will get to see how the latest version of her finishing speed—so untouchable at the USATF meet—will fare against a solid international field. Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia is on a 3-meet winning streak and is No. 2 on the world list with her 3:57.64. World Indoor silver medalist Laura Muir ran 3:59.30 behind Houlihan at Pre, improving to 3:58.53 behind Tsegay at Stockholm. Rabab Arrafi of Morocco, Olympic and World finalist, could also be in the mix. She has a best this year of 3:59.51 at Pre. But if Houlihan can be close enough to use that kick…
5. Men’s 110H: If Shubenkov Can Be Patient…
Sergey Shubenkov ruined his shot in Paris with a barely-noticeable false start. But blasting an earth-shaking 12.92 at the Gyulai Memorial a few days later only made fans realize what they missed. We get a chance for a redo here, with Shubenkov taking on Paris winner Ronald Levy as well as U.S. champ Devon Allen, who was 3rd in Paris with a season best of 13.23.
6. Women’s 100: Will Hobbs Travel Well?
After her powerful and rainy NCAA victory, Aleia Hobbs told us she expected the transition to the pro ranks might go smoothly because she and her coaches have been preparing for it for a while. Step 1, the USATF Championships, went swimmingly. But Thursday will mark her first-ever race in Europe and she will be facing a loaded field that includes list leader Marie-Josée Ta Lou (10.85), =No. 2 Blessing Okagbare (10.90), as well as USATF 3rd-placer Jenna Prandini. Could be more than a little fun to watch. If it rains—yes, thunderstorms are a possibility—we have a very good feeling about the woman from New Orleans.
7. Men’s TJ: Taylor Vs. Pichardo
Two consummate professionals will mix it up in the triple jump. Christian Taylor, with his 400 running behind him for the season and fresh legs for bounding, will take on world leader Pedro Pablo Pichardo (58-10¾/17.95), who won at Doha. Also in the field, the rapidly improving U.S. champion Donald Scott (57-0/17.37) as well as Chris Benard (57-1/17.40).
8. Women’s 400: A Do-Over For the Americans Against Naser
We were big on the chances of USATF champion Shakima Wimbley to take down Salwa Eid Naser in Paris, but the Bahraini powered to a national record of 49.55 and left Wimbley (50.81) far behind, with Jessica Beard (50.39) and Phyllis Francis (50.50) taking spots 2 and 3. With jet lag behind them and a few days to stew over what happened in Paris, maybe we’ll see a stronger race from the Americans on Thursday.
9. Women’s PV: Can Morris’s Hot Streak Continue?
With wins at Oslo, Stockholm and the USATF meet, Sandi Morris is in fine form. She will get to test it against the very best, with a field that includes Olympic champion Katerína Stefanídi, world leader Jenn Suhr (16-2/4.93) and Commonwealth silver medalist Eliza McCartney, who vaulted a NR 16-1¾ (4.92) in a small meet in Mannheim last week, winning by more than 2-feet. The biggest problem facing Morris? On Tuesday she tweeted, “Charles De Gaulle ate my poles again!”
10. Women’s 800: Suspense Returns To The 2-Lapper!
With no Caster Semenya in the field, the result of this race will not be a foregone conclusion. Francine Niyonsaba leads the entries with her 1:55.86 season best time, bravely run behind the Semenya juggernaut in Paris. However Ajee’ Wilson will be gunning for her and surely remembers the feeling of edging her at the line in this year’s Pre Classic, the only time in 10 meetings that the AR holder. has beaten the Burundian. Charlene Lipsey (1:58.05) and Margaret Wambui (1:58.07) are the next fastest entrants.