By Neil Leverett
- Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith wins her third Diamond League race of the season on the second night of finals in Brussels
- Katarina Johnson-Thompson finishes third in long jump, Noah Lyles cements position as 200m Doha favourite
- Orlando Ortega returns to winning ways in men’s 110m hurdles, whilst Timothy Cheruiyot again wins out in 1500m
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – As the 2019 Diamond League season concluded with the second night of finals, what did we learn from the Memorial Van Damme meet in Brussels?
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Full steam ahead for Asher-Smith
As the World’s top athletes gathered in Belgium for the final night of the 2019 IAAF Diamond League season, Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith left a emphatic message on the track in Brussels to win the women’s 100m, ahead of her closest World Championships’ rival Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce.
The 24-year-old Bromley Harrier recorded her third win of the Diamond League season, clocking a season’s best time of 10.88 – just three-one-thousandths outside her personal best – ahead of former Olympic Champion Fraser-Pryce, and Marie-Josee Ta Lou – both having also won on the calendar earlier this season.
For Asher-Smith, after finishing runner-up in the 200m during the last two meetings behind Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the win is a huge fillip for the Orpington sprinter who exploded from the blocks and held off her Jamaican rival, to take an impressive win just three weeks out from the worlds’ in Doha.
Having won in Qatar in 2019 also, the latest victory for the fast-improving Briton is now a real statement to the rest of the field that the reigning European champion is intent on taking not only a medal away from Doha, but to make it Gold into the bargain.
Solid outing for KJT
As Asher-Smith impressed on the track, Katarina Johnson-Thompson continued her solid run of form in preparation for the heptathlon, finishing third in the women’s long jump behind Germany’s Malaika Mihambo, and former Olympic and world champion Brittney Reese.
Johnson-Thompson, who took jumped 6.85 at the Birmingham Grand Prix last month – finishing a centimetre behind rival Nafi Thiam – recorded a distance 12cm off her distance at the Alexander Stadium, but again came in third place.
Having moved training based to Monaco, the 26-year-old Liverpudlian now looks to have matured away from the inconsistencies that have dogged Johnson-Thompson in the major competitions of late, but Qatar could be different for the Brit.
As the Commonwealth heptathlon champion last spring on the Gold Coast, the Briton is yet however to take a major world medal and despite the field she is set to face to end that statistic, Johnson-Thompson is in good shape ahead for at the very least a Middle East podium place.
Lyles cements position
For Noah Lyles, the clock is ticking down to what will surely be his world crowning in Doha, after again winning the 200m in Brussels – albeit by a less convincing margin – in a time of 19.74, ahead Ramil Guliyev and Andre De Grasse – both who ran season’s best times.
Though the American’s decision to opt in to the longer sprint distance, and to spurn the chance of a blockbuster 100m showdown in Qatar with the likes of Christian Coleman and defending champion Justin Gatlin may have disappointed many, but Lyles’ decision now looks a no-brainer.
Many had predicted the 22-year-old Floridian to run an electric time on what has historically been a fast track, but in cool conditions that did not accommodate world-beating times, it now appears the watching athletic fraternity must wait until the end of the month for sparks to fly on the track in the Middle East.
Lyles, who is had been arguably the breakout star of the 2019 season, is yet to win a major senior medal but as the 2014 Youth Olympic champion, Lyles surely, does not have long to wait.
Ortega makes hurdles riposte
In the men’s 110m hurdles, Orlando Ortega returned to winning ways in Belgium, coming home in first in a time of 13.22, ahead of Jamaica’s Ronald Levy and Sergey Shubenkov.
Having had his five-race winning streak ended by Daniel Roberts in Zurich last week, the Cuban-born Spaniard ran a controlled if not explosive flat, as Roberts himself withdrew shortly before the race began.
Ortega, having won three Diamond League races this season however, will still have his hands full in Doha at the worlds’, with no less six different men to take Diamond League winning points on the circuit – including Shubenkov.
With only Omar McLeod absent from proceedings with his own preparations for Qatar, the Jamaican still leaves an heir of uncertainty as the destination of Gold later this month, but it is however, certain to one of the most keenly-fought titles in Mesopotamia.
Britain’s Andrew Pozzi‘s difficult season continued, again finishing down the order in sixth. The Stratford athlete’s 19.50 was indicative of his form this term, running .36 short of his best time. If last year’s world Indoor champion is set to be in the reckoning in Doha, Pozzi needs to make changes and fast.
Cheruiyot returns with narrow win
Having watched his rivals take centre stage in recent weeks, Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot returned to action and to the winning circle, taking victory in the men’s 1500m, again proving the bane of the Ingebrigtsen brothers, with both Jakob and Filip finishing second and third.
After yet another contest that has gripped Diamond League fans in 2019, Cheruiyot proved to once more have that extra bit in the tank over the final lap, to cross the tape first – having won four Diamond League meets this season.
The 25-year-old who took Silver in London two years ago, has been in dominant from this campaign and despite the late winning surge of Uganda’s Ronald Musagala in Birmingham and Paris of late – who came in fourth here – still looks the one to beat for the world title.
Whatever the case, in conditions that will suit the athletes down the ground, the 1500m – like it has been for the duration of the season – is likely to be one of the most spectacular duels when the best in the world battle in Doha.
The 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships begin in Doha, Qatar on Friday 27 September.
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