5 storylines to watch for during the 2019 Diamond League season
Olympian Anson Henry helps preview the upcoming track and field season
The IAAF Diamond League season is set to kick off on May 3 in Doha, Qatar.
With a new season right around the corner, Olympian and CBC Sports track and field analyst Anson Henry provided some of his insights into the upcoming season and what storylines Canadian fans should pay attention to.
CBC Sports: Canadian Aaron Brown set his personal best in the 200 metres last year with a time of 19.98 seconds. Can the Toronto native improve on his time this year?
Anson Henry: Aaron can definitely improve on his 19.98. It was new territory for Aaron to be the lone Canadian on the circuit competing in the sprints, and even with the added pressure he was able to finish fourth in the Diamond League finals in the 200m. That's impressive, and I think it was the justification he needed to show that he belongs at that level. With that added confidence, this season is going to come a lot easier to him, and times will drop.
WATCH: Aaron Brown race the 200m at 2018's Diamond League final:
CBC Sports: Ahead of the Diamond League season, Andre De Grasse, Alysha Newman, Derek Drouin and Brittany Crew are either dealing with injuries, or overcoming injuries. How will that impact their season?
AH: I saw Andre open up at the Florida Relays in the 4x100m and the 4x200m and he was flying. He's healthy and is coming back with a bit of a chip on his shoulder as a lot of his "supporters" have jumped ship — feeling like his career is over. It's important for him to come back and make people remember who he is and what he's capable of.
WATCH: Andre De Grasse back in full form at Grenada Invitational:
Alysha Newman had a lot of success last season before her knee injury. She's a Canadian record, Commonwealth Games gold medallist, and she seemed to be headed for a record-breaking summer. She came back this season healthy and was able to break the Canadian indoor pole vault record, so she's obviously in form to make some real noise by the time the world championships roll around. She's going to want to make up for the lost time she had over the summer last season.
Derek is probably going to have the most difficult comeback. He didn't compete at all last year. It usually takes about a year to get back into the swing of things after such a long layoff. I feel like he's going to use this season to get prepared for next year's Olympics, as he will be looking to defend his gold medal. If he had some personal bests, or even ended up on the world championship podium, I would be surprised. But it would be an amazing feat if he pulled that off somehow.
I was sorry to hear about Brittany's injury [broken foot]. It's one thing to get an injury from overuse, or because of some imbalances in your body. But her injury was really just a freak accident during training. She had just broken the Canadian record in the shot put, and looked to have more in the tank for the remainder of the season. She will be hungry to get back to where she was and improve on her sixth place finish at the 2017 world championships.
All in all, because there was no world championships or Olympics last season, it was seen as a "down year." So if you were going to be injured, that was the best year for that to happen. But with the world championships this year and Olympics next year, it's time for people to get in gear.
CBC Sports: Will this be the year Olympian Mo Ahmed will finally capture an elusive Diamond League win?
AH: Mo is always in the mix, but his field of competitors is deep. Distance runners need to be capable of handling various situations — maintaining strength when the early pace of the race is fast; have strong sprint speed to be able to have that finishing kick when the pace goes out slow; evading getting boxed in; picking the right times to make moves — overall [running] a tactical race. With Mo coming a difficult fourth at the Olympics in 2016, he has the motivation necessary to be able to push himself in his preparation to be on the podium in Tokyo. Starting with a league circuit is the best place to start to make that happen.
CBC Sports: The women's 100 metres is another marquee event. Who are the runners that have the best chance to win?
AH: Look out for Elaine Thompson of Jamaica. She was trying to compete with an Achilles problem last season, and was never able to find her form. Now with a new season, and a fresh start, she will want to assert herself on the Diamond League circuit that she dominated in 2016. I've heard that her Achilles has gotten better, but not 100 per cent. But she has a lot of time to heal before the world championships as they happen later than usual this year. I expect her to compete at her best in the latter part of the Diamond League circuit heading into worlds. The world championships may be a bigger deal to her than most — though it's a big deal to everyone — as even though she has two Olympic golds, she has no individual golds at the world championships.
WATCH: Elaine Thompson wins 2018 Diamond League season 100m:
CBC Sports: Sticking with the 100 on the men's side, there are several people who have a shot to win. Will we see a new king?
AH: With Justin Gatlin winning the world championships in his late 30s, it's expected we will start to see a decline. And it's expected someone else will take the throne. Christian Coleman seems like the leading candidate with his diamond league victory in the 100m after spending most of the season injured. An amazing comeback at the end of the season. But we all have to remember he blossomed at the previous world championships when Andre De Grasse got injured the week heading into the event.
In 2017, the week before the world championships, Andre De Grasse had run a wind-aided 9.69 and seemed to be peaking at just the right time — with many believing he would be the man to take down Usain Bolt. That didn't happen. But he was so close. And I'm sure he remembers that. With the way he looked starting his season at the Florida relays, and following it up with a 20.20 run in the 200m in Grenada (fastest opener in the 200m ever), he is looking like he will be a real problem for everyone in the 100m and the 200m. Plus, he's got that added motivation of being so close to world championships gold just two years ago.
The Diamond League seasons kicks off on May 3 and runs until Sept. 6, which will all be lived streamed on CBCSports.ca.