British athletes shone at their home Müller Birmingham Diamond League as Laura Muir, Dina Asher-Smith, Matt Hudson-Smith, Keely Hodgkinson and the women’s 4x100m relay took victory while there were also six world leads set at an impressively renovated Alexander Stadium.
Olympic silver medallist Hodgkinson (GBR), in her first race back from injury, picked up in March, was a comfortable winner of the women’s 800m to cap a fine British day after Muir (GBR), returning after her own setback, did the same in the women’s 1500m to kick start a quintet of wins.
Asher-Smith (GBR) held strong in the women’s 100m – and was impressive as the British women set a world lead in the 4x100m relay – and Birmingham’s own Hudson-Smith (GBR) also immoveable in the men’s 400m. Malaika Mihambo (GER), Dawit Seyaum (ETH), Hansle Parchment (JAM), Sandi Morris (USA) and Kristjan Ceh (SLO) were equally impressive as they set world leads at the second Diamond League of 2022, the latter also smashing a national, Diamond League and meeting record.
Mihambo jumped 7.09m in the women’s long jump, Seyaum surged clear to clock 14:47.55 in the women’s 5000m, Ceh threw 71.27m in the men’s discus while Parchment was supremely impressive in the 110m hurdles with victory in 13.09.
Canada had a quartet of winners thanks to Marco Arop in the men’s 800m, Aaron Brown in the men’s 100m, Django Lovett in the men’s high jump and the men’s 4x100m relay while World Championship hosts the USA had a hat-trick thanks to Dalilah Muhammad in the women’s 400m hurdles, Valarie Allman in the women’s discus and Morris’ 4.73m world lead in the women’s pole vault.
Paralympic champions Thomas Young, Sophie Hahn, and Hannah Cockroft (all GBR) all also enjoyed wins on their own track in Birmingham, which in just over two months will host the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Ceh was arguably the performer of the day in the men’s discus as he toppled a multitude of records with a third-round best of 71.27m. He went within a centimetre of the previous world lead with a 69.10 second up before that huge 71.27m which also set a Slovenian record, a Diamond League record and a meeting record.
The 23-year-old would win the three-way battle in the sixth round as well after a throw of 65.28m. Andrius Gudzius (LTU) battled to keep with Ceh and was second with a best of 66.40m while Olympic champion Daniel Stahl (SWE) was third with 65.97m.
Ceh said: “That was totally unexpected – to get a world lead, national record, meeting record and Diamond League record is amazing. In the warm-up I wasn’t in great shape, I missed all my throws and they all went to the left but once the competition started it all came together.
“This is my first goal of the season – to get a PB so now I need to raise the bar of my goals. I have a few more competitions, all the Diamond League events plus some in Slovenia throughout the season but the World Championships are my focus.”
Mihambo and Seyaum’s world leads came very closely together with the Olympic, world and European champion from Germany growing nicely through the rounds of the women’s long jump to finish top after five rounds and the sixth-round final three.
Mihambo responded to Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk’s (UKR) second round 6.66m to jump 6.78m in the third and a winning – and world lead – 7.09m in the fourth. Mihambo, Bekh-Romanchuk and Lorraine Ugen (GBR) were the final three and the German won with a 7.06m.
World heptathlon champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson (GBR) also took part in the women’s long jump, finishing with a best of 6.41m while Mihambo said: “It was really good. It was my season opener so I didn’t have too many expectations. I was really, really happy with it.
“I’m feeling really happy because it seems like we’re on the right way. I have had some struggles with my approach for the last two years so it’s nice to be back now and I feel at least as good as 2019 when I dominated. I think it’s a really good start and I’m really looking forward to the next competition.”
Olympic champion Parchment admitted to expecting a Games atmosphere in Birmingham in the pre-event press conference and he would have relished his victory in the men’s 110m hurdles as he was near faultless to win in 13.09.
That bettered the world lead by 0.01 while compatriot Omar McLeod (JAM) would rue an unfortunate mistake halfway through and settled for second in 13.17. Former world indoor champion Andrew Pozzi (GBR) was fifth.
Parchment said: “As Olympic champion, I do not feel any pressure. I just tried to execute my own race but also to feel less tense and help others to relax. I am pleased with a world lead but it is very early in the season so you can’t read too much into at the moment.
“It was a great turnout here, more than I expected, and there will be even more here at the Commonwealth Games with perhaps more Jamaicans making some noise and bringing their own vibes.”
Seyaum showed her class in the women’s 5000m as Ethiopia claimed an impressive one-two-three. She enjoyed a fine indoor season and was back setting a world lead – and a meeting record – in Birmingham, pulling clear in the final stages to win in 14:47.55.
Conditions were arguably suited for the longer distance events, and such was Seyaum’s run she was almost 90 seconds ahead of Hawi Feysa (ETH) in second in 14:48.94 while Fantu Worku (ETH) was third in 14:49.64. Jessica Judd (GBR) the recent British 10,000m champion ran an excellent personal best of 14:57.19 for sixth.
Morris really shone in the women’s pole vault, bettering her own world lead set nine days ago in Puerto Rico. An all-new challenge at the Alexander Stadium with the pole vault runway and bed moved, Morris hit her stride to finish at 4.73m, one centimetre better than on May 12.
Her card wasn’t clean but consistency was key as she jumped 4.73m at the third attempt before trying at 4.81m. Katerina Stefanidi (GRE) was joint second with Tina Sutej (SLO) at 4.65m while Sophie Cook (GBR) set a personal best of 4.45m for fourth. Olympic bronze medallist Holly Bradshaw (GBR) unfortunately failed to record a height.
Muir kicked started the five British victories in the women’s 1500m in a style that she is so famous for – much to the delight of home crowd. She hit the front after the pacemaker dropped out but was kept honest with Jessica Hull (AUS) lingering on her shoulder.
As the pair entered the final 150m it was still all to play for as Hull continued to stalk, but she couldn’t keep up with the Olympic silver medallist’s kick and grit as Muir powered down a noisy home straight to win in 4:02.81.
It is Muir’s first race of the summer as she recovers from a back injury and she said: “To come here and win in my first race of the season I am really, really happy. The win was more important than the time in my first race especially as it was quite windy out there.
“It was solid and running from the front too. There were no natural front runners in the race so I thought I needed to be prepared to take it out. I am looking forward to getting my first sub 4 [minute run] this year.”
Asher-Smith would follow in Muir’s footsteps in a highly competitive and equally as close women’s 100m. The world and European champion, in her season opener over 100m, underlined her class as she beat a fast-finishing Shericka Jackson (JAM) to win in 11.11.
Very much aware it was her season opener, Asher-Smith, who placed third in the 200m at the Doha Diamond League, was pleased with her performance in a race that saw compatriot Daryll Neita (GBR) finish third in 11.14. Gabrielle Thomas (USA), who chose to run the women’s 100m B race and won, was fifth.
“It was good. It is my first 100m this season, we’re easing our way into it,” said Asher-Smith, who combined with Beth Dobbin, Imani-Lara Lansiquot and Neita to impressively clock a world lead of 42.29 in the women’s 4x100m relay, the last leg runner leaving plenty to come for the summer.
“It was a very strong field. I could have done a few things differently if I am being picky. I am happy with that time, happy with win in this temperature and this kind of field. It was such a strong field and we are going to have a strong field next week [at the next Diamond League in USA].
“But being British, I wanted to come here, come to Birmingham to this beautiful new stadium, and put on a show. When the other girls are three of four races down you hope your opener is sharp enough to beat everybody and it just was, so all good.”
On a great afternoon for British athletes as the label was ripped off the Alexander Stadium for its biggest event since the renovation, Hudson-Smith won the men’s 400m a matter of minutes after Asher-Smith’s own victory.
A Birmingham boy, Hudson-Smith ran an incredibly strong race and didn’t let his own nearest competitor – Bryce Deadmon (USA) – catch him on the home straight. Hudson-Smith pushed through to the line very well to post 45.32 for the win.
Deadmon’s teammate Kahmari Montgomery (USA) was only 0.01 behind for third in 45.52 and Hudson-Smith, who’s fellow Brit Joe Brier (GBR) won the men’s 400m B race, said: “It is everything for me this year. It is my home town, my club, a new stadium and a home Games so I really want it to be my year. Everything is coming together so I am really happy.
“I just wanted the win and then I’ll concentrate on the times. No one remembers times at champs but you know the winners. I always thought I could come back but it is great to actually prove it.”
Hodgkinson spoke before the race about wanting to lead from the front in the women’s 800m and she did just that. Natoya Goule (JAM) valiantly tried to keep with her but it was also going to be Hodgkinson’s race as she won effortlessly in 1:58.63, her first outing since withdrawing from the World Indoor Championships with a quad injury.
Goule would finish third with Renelle Lamote (FRA) second in 1:59.53 and Hodgkinson, roared home by the Birmingham crowd and with a British winner of the women’s 800m B race in Isabelle Boffey, said: “It felt good out there today, I felt strong and I really enjoyed it. I was pleased with the time for my outdoor opener.
“I could see Goule out the corner of my eye getting close to me on the final straight but I felt in control and was able to wind it up a bit right to the end. The atmosphere was very special with so much support for the British athletes out there.”
Canada also enjoyed multiple wins in Birmingham as Arop (CAN) was too good for the field in the men’s 800m. Arop built a healthy lead going into the home straight to clock 1:45.41 for victory, which immediately followed Brown’s (CAN) in the men’s 100m.
Robert Benjamin (FRA) won a close battle for second place in the men’s 800m in 1:46.22 with Bryce Hoppel (USA) 0.11 behind in third and Jake Wightman (GBR) the best home athlete in fourth a further 0.06 away. Hoppel and Wightman both setting season’s bests like Arop. Ben Pattison (GBR) was a dominant winner of an all-British men’s 800m B race in 1:49.21.
Lovett made it three for Canada as he toppled Olympic champion Gianmarco Tamberi (ITA) in the men’s high jump. Tamberi had fun with the early rounds as he jumped in basketball shorts – a sport he has an outspoken love for – but Lovett got the better of him when it came down to business.
Fellow Olympic finalist Lovett was clean through 2.22m and took two attempts to Tamberi’s one at 2.25m. However when the bar was pushed to 2.28m – a season’s best height for both – Lovett cleared first time while Tamberi missed out. The next height – 2.31m, two centimetres short of the 2022 world lead – would prove just too much.
Canada’s day would end with victory in a men’s 4x100m relay and Arop said: “I did exactly what I planned, I was in race mode and am very happy with the way the race went. I knew coming into the race it wouldn’t be easy.
“We are all fresh at this time of the year, so I tried to stay out of trouble. I did a hard training session the day before the race so wasn´t sure how the body would respond but it turned out pretty well and I am excited going forward.”
Abel Kipsang (KEN) demonstrated why he’s the world’s most in-form athlete in the men’s 1500m as he won a competitive race in Birmingham. Kipsang was leading for much of the final lap, challenging his rivals to overtake him, but none could with his winning time 3:35.15.
Mohamed Katir (ESP) would win a scrap for second in 3:35.62 while Oliver Hoare (AUS) was third in 3:35.76, Michal Rozmys (POL) fourth a tenth behind before Olympic bronze medallist Josh Kerr (GBR) in fifth.
The first Diamond League event on the track was the women’s 400m hurdles and Muhammad (USA) would win in 54.54. Muhammad wasn’t best pleased with the race – which saw Viktoriya Tkachuk (UKR) place second in 55.25, Anna Ryzhykova (UKR) third in 55.37 and Lina Nielsen (GBR) the best Brit in fourth.
In the first of the Diamond League events to finish, Allman (USA) and Sandra Perkovic (CRO) and shared in an element of success in the women’s discus. Allman threw the furthest over the five rounds with a best of 67.85m to take eight Diamond League points.
As Allman, Perkovic and Laulauga Tausaga (USA) entered the sixth round as the top three in that order, the Croatian would throw a season’s best 67.26m to win that particular contest. Allman managed 65.23m while Tausaga fouled.
In the men’s 100m there were two false starts before Brown (CAN), who had earlier raced in the men’s 100m B race without winning, led from gun to tape to reverse his fortunes at the Alexander Stadium.
It was Jeremiah Azu (GBR) who won the men’s 100m B race in 10.19 – shouting ‘don’t blink Azu is coming’ into the camera – with Brown second in 10.23. However, the Canadian would knock 0.10 off in the final.
One of the favourites Trayvon Bromell (USA) was the first to false start before the same fate fell on Zharnel Hughes (GBR). The third start went off clean and Brown, the best out of the blocks, would not be reeled in.
He took victory in 10.13 with Yohan Blake (JAM) second in 10.18 and Brown’s compatriot Jerome Blake (CAN) third while Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (GBR) was the best of the home sprinters, placing fifth in 10.31.
Paralympic champions Young, Hahn and Cockroft (all GBR) gave the home crowd plenty to cheer as the schedule ramped up in Birmingham, all winning competitive races at the Alexander Stadium.
With more Paralympic events at the entire Commonwealth Games later this summer, there was plenty of drama on show as Young and Zac Shaw (GBR) went head-to-head in the men’s ambulant 100m, the race almost too close to call on the line.
Both clocked the same time of 10.95 but Young would take the win. He said: “I knew Zac was going to be there chasing me. He’s a great athlete and a great person and I love racing against him.
“Of course, winning is always nice but I’m just really happy to come here to this brand-new fantastic stadium get the win. It’s amazing to have para-athletics at the Diamond League so a huge thank you to the organisers and British Athletics.”
Like Thomas, Cockroft underlined the importance of not just the inclusion of Paralympic events at the Müller Birmingham Diamond League but the mixed nature of the races after she won the women’s 400m wheelchair race.
Cockroft clocked 57.45 to win ahead of Mel Woods (GBR) and she said: “I actually felt quite nervous which is odd as I race with these girls every weekend but there was such a big crowd.
“I am so grateful for everyone for coming. After the silence of Tokyo it is so good to see and hear the crowd and they are very loud here. It is very important for me to race with different categories to challenge me and keep me focussed.”
Like Thomas, fellow Paralympic champion Hahn took time off her season’s best as she won the women’s 100m ambulant race in 12.81. Olivia Breen and Sophie Kamlish (both GBR) placed second and third.
The mixed F55/57 seated shot was the first event to official open the biggest major event at the Alexander Stadium since it’s impressive renovation for the Commonwealth Games – and Adam Donnachie (GBR) earned his place in history by winning with a best effort of 7.85m.
The men’s 800m wheelchair race was also a competitive one as Nathan Maguire beat Danny Sidbury (both GBR) by 0.22. Both spent the early spring racing in the UAE and Maguire would cross the line first in 1:48.32.
It was a special day for Robbie Grabarz (GBR) as he received his Olympic high jump silver medal from London 2012 and Zoey Clark (GBR) acknowledged the presentation as helping her on her way to victory in the women’s 400m.
Clark dominated an all-British final, finishing in a season’s best 51.88, 0.69 ahead of Ama Pipi (GBR), and the Scottish sprinter said: “The track felt nice but my goodness to have a crowd again felt wonderful. The atmosphere was unreal. To have Robbie get his medal just before gave me such a boost so I felt great as I started.
“I have not had the best preparation this week, so I just wanted to execute the race well which I think I did. I am going to have a couple of weeks off to recover now then get back to solid training and hope to sneak in a couple of 100 and 200m races in to work on my speed.”
William Battershill (GBR) was also a winner in Birmingham, taking the men’s 3000m steeplechase in a season’s best 8:36.56 while Daniel Jarvis (GBR) also deserves a note for his personal best of 8:37.58 in second.