JOHANNESBURG - Caster Semenya, Wade Van Niekerk and Luvo Manyonga are scheduled only to return home after participating in the IAAF Diamond League finals in Zurich, Switzerland at the Letzigrund Stadium on August 24.
Upon their return, Athletics South Africa, SASCOC and Department of Sport and Recreation SA will then afford them an opportunity to be paraded in front of local media and all South Africans.
Considering the star-studded entry lists, singling out individual highlights is almost impossible. But in at least three events, the scenarios seem to guarantee athletics blockbusters providing thrill and goosebumps for everyone attending.
The 400m duel between Van Niekerk and Makwala
The men’s 400m will not be a mere rematch, but rather a postponed world championship duel between world record holder, Olympic champion, and world championship gold medallist Wayde van Niekerk and his greatest rival Isaac Makwala (Botswana). Makwala missed out on the London 400m final in a dramatic manner. Now, he is looking forward to challenging top favourite van Niekerk in the IAAF Diamond League title race.
Mo Farah’s farewell
Mo Farah (Great Britain) just added another silver medal (5000m) and a title (10,000m) to his four consecutive double triumphs at global championships and wrote another chapter to the sport’s history books in the process. In Zurich, Farah, one of athletics’ greatest, will run his final track race before moving on to the road and to longer distances.
Letzigrund Stadium is a worthy arena to bow out of an impressive track career. It is where Farah broke the 13-minute barrier for the first time in 2010, and it is where he was crowned double European champion in 2014. His final track appearance, the 5000m race, could quite possibly come with an IAAF Diamond League title. His opponents will include the five top London finalists.
The Swiss stars and their home crowd
After their impressive appearances in London, Switzerland’s stars will be getting a particularly warm welcome at Letzigrund Stadium. The legendary Zurich crowd will be cheering for both 400m hurdles finalists, Lea Sprunger and Kariem Hussein. And there will be thunderous applause for the Swiss 4x100m team when they step onto the track for the Zürich Trophy.
In London, they came in fifth in the final – a historic success. Next week, they will be up against the best sprint relay teams once again. Mujinga Kambundji (200m), Selina Büchel (800m), and Fabienne Schlumpf (3000m SC) all missed the championships finals narrowly, and will get another opportunity to prove their skill and top form.
The new format stands the test
All new world champions qualified. The IAAF Diamond League Finals will be held according to the revised system for the first time this year. The best athletes of the current season could qualify for the final at the 12 preceding Diamond League meetings.
100,000 US dollars will be awarded in prize money in each event. IAAF Diamond League champions will win 50,000 US dollars.
“The new system enhances the status of our meeting even further. And it provides for added suspense and drama, as the points collected at the qualifying meetings have no influence on the outcome of the finals. Everyone starts at zero. In addition, the prize money at stake has been increased considerably,” Andreas Hediger, Weltklasse Zürich Co-Meeting Director, explained.
The revised qualification procedure has already stood its first test, according to Hediger.
“All 16 final events feature the new world champions of London. The IAAF Diamond League thus also proves to be an ideal forum to get to the top of one’s game for major championships,” he added.
Department of Sport and Recreation South Africa