Friday’s fireworks marked the final flourish of a 14-date round the world tour of athletics. We take a look back at some weird and wonderful moments from the 2017 Diamond League.
The floodlights have been switched off at the King Baudouin Stadium. There’ll be no more elite open-air athletics in stadiums until next May [sad face emoji]. No more fantasy teams to agonise over. No more of that chamber music while you’re waiting for the page to load.
You’ll miss it when it’s gone, that soaring beat. So if you get bored this winter, learn the chords, or just hit play on the icon below. You're welcome.
1. Luvo Manyonga, Shanghai
And on the eighth day of the first month of the year marked 1991, a saviour was born deep in the south of great Africa. And the Lord speaketh unto the townsfolk of track and field and did doth proclaim:
This boy will be the one to breaketh the curse of the men’s long jump.
And the people sayeth unto the Lord: But what about Mike Powell from the land of America? Is he not surely destined to catapult himself far into the sand at the upcoming 3rd edition of the IAAF World Championships in Japan? Farther even than Bob Beamon doth leap afore, in the ancient times of unworthy broadcasting quality?
And the Lord sayeth: Do not count your medals until they are presented! And nobody dared answer back, fore it ‘twas many sunsets before the dawn of the Twitter.
And lo, so it was foretold. Mike Powell did claim glory in battle fought under bright Tokyo moonlight.
And he set a line in the sand some 20 cubits yonder (8.95m), that not man nor beast shall cross in wind legal conditions.
Decades passed in great haste, and many noble men of stout character tried to doth break the curse. But their legs did not haveth the might, nor their heart the courage.
The townsfolk of track and field had now growneth very restless, fore ‘twas the difficult dry period betwixt ye Olympics and ye world championships. And by now the townsfolk had long been enchanted by the Book of Twitter.
And across many timelines on continents far and wide, they unlocked their smartphones and harked unto the Lord:
Hear ye @Lord, why perchance do you maketh the men of today weaker in stride, and less springy in heel, than those who went before? (1/2)
@Lord have we not made clear our keenest desire to see records felled and statistics updated? #TrackNation (2/2)
And so it came to pass.
For the Lord was a kind Lord, and he tooketh time out of his day to hit reply:
I warned you this day would come. Hashtag Manyonga ✌️
(for the Lord was gracing a Mac keyboard and could not remember the shortcut key).
And the saviour, known by the full name of Luvo Manyonga, answered this call and set out for the Far East. For now he was a grown man of explosive leap and of sound technique. He went forth to the nearest chariot of the sky and flew it directly to Shanghai, to carry out the Lord’s work.
And soon, the townsfolk saw that it was good, stopped moaning and realised Luvo’s coming for you, Mike Powell 👀
2. Karsten Warholm, Oslo
Your casual athletics observer was tickled pink by the sight of Karsten Warholm in the 400m hurdles final at the IAAF World Championships. This fresh-faced boy, wearing a hairstyle and vest-top last seen in 1926, went out hard and somehow held on. Word.
But this was no surprise to you, you seasoned veteran of the Diamond League business. The Norwegian Warhammer, who only switched from the decathlon to the 400m hurdles two years ago, ran himself deep into the mondo en route to a national record at the Bislett Games eight weeks earlier.
It looked, for a moment, as if he had bravely perished in the charge. Legendary Olympic champ Edwin Moses was summoned from on high in the Bislett Stadium. Moses parted the sea of fans but even he could not revive the fallen hero with water.
Ten minutes ticked by and slowly, Warholm rose to his feet. A stadium erupted, a national hero was born and a track legend etched into folklore.
Athletics as it should be. But not for Carl Lewis. Boring.
3. Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor, Oslo
You sometimes forget that Nigerian jumper-sprinter Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor won an Olympic LJ silver medal at Beijing 2008. But then sometimes you forget all sorts of things: family birthdays; which day the recycling is; where you put your children. That’s just life.
If you ever did ask Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor (BOI) to count all of her blessings, SPIKES genuinely doubts whether she could list her entire medal bounty. There are 19 in total (from Olympics, world champs, Continental Cup, Commonwealths, All-African Games, African Champs, World Relays, ...) including 11 gold. Give this woman a narrow strip of earth, and she will tear it up.
Not to get carried away (too late!), but Okagbare-Ighoteguonor is a fantastic, courageous athlete who doesn’t mind competing in a few different events on the same day. If athletics was ever turned into one giant sports day, she’d probably be topping the podium.
At the Bislett Games in Oslo, she showed off another of her powers. There are no medals for styling stuff out, but if there was, Okagbare-Ighoteguonor would be tough to beat. After hitting the sand hard, a backwards jerk of her head sent her wig crashing down into the sand. Some might be mortified. Not BOI.
Zero F’s given, as they say in Swearish. 6.21m for the first ever Wig Record, on to the next round. Maximum respect gained.
4. Mutaz Essa Barshim, Birmingham
It’s my ball. And YOU’RE not playing with it! So says the kid with the ball when he’s losing. He owns the ball. But there’s no game without the ball. So technically the kid owns the whole damn game. But only ever in the same way that Conor McGregor “owns boxing”.
It’s hard to dispute that Mutaz Essa Barshim actually does own the men’s high jump. Cool, languid, kinda dorky and enormously talented. He is everything that’s good about high jump, packed fit-to-burst inside a light-weight 6ft 2ins frame set on hydraulic springs.
At the world champs in London, he broke his major title curse that his silky smooth skills have long deserved. One week later in Birmingham, he put on one of the Diamond League season’s hottest shows.
He needed all three jumps at 2.31m to seal the win, and cleared 2.33m and 2.35m before failing twice at 2.39m. Just when you thought he was done for the year, he popped the bar up to 2.40m, bent the arc of space of time in his favour and landed triumphantly onto the mat. He even took the high jump bar home with him, and his beaten opponents could only offer hearty and sincere congratulations. They know.
5. Mo Farah, Zurich
Some say he’s one of the greatest living Britons and it’s hard to argue otherwise. A distance legend who first dazzled a nation with his athletic prowess, then charmed it with his magnetic media presence. The people of the United Kingdom just cannot get enough of Steve Cram.
For those readers who don’t get to listen to the Jarrow Arrow call a race, he has developed a knack for the delivering the killer line for BBC viewers just as athletes power across it. And while cracks such as “The champion becomes a legend” may have been scripted in advance, other calls rely on his razor sharp wit.
And so, as Mo Farah spent the summer spoiling fans with the most stylish of farewells, Cram helped us through each of his thrilling, dominant and brave performances with increasing emotion in his voice, climaxing – as with Mo’s track career – during the breathless final moments of the 5000m at the Zurich Diamond League.
For years his rivals thought him untouchable. But now they are younger, and hungrier. They can smell blood. And suddenly, the Mo Farah Running Away From Things meme was starting to look like less like clickbait and more like genuine race footage.
In a final ten metres made for slow-motion video Mo Farah, Paul Chelimo, Muktar Edris and Yomif Kejelcha approach the line as part of a blurry four-man supergroup, bound together as if by rope.
With eight strides to go, Farah is in pole position on an F1-style grid of runners. He has Chelimo directly behind him in third, Edris to his right in second place, with Kejelcha behind Edris in fourth.
With five strides to go, Edris’ feet start to falter. Chelimo makes a desperate bid for the win by attempting to prize open a tiny gap between Edris and Farah. Kejelcha’s final surge sends him on a collision course with the now-flying Edris.
The photo-finish looks more like the breakdown in a game of Twister. But Farah takes it with Chelimo barging into second (before later getting disqualified). Edris somehow winds up both third (then promoted to second), and trapped in the lithe embrace of Kejelcha’s legs.
Now we know, Mo Farah is no longer crushingly dominant – but he is still the best.
Oh, and what did Steve Cram make of it all? Watch 👇
6. Darrell Hill, Brussels
For the second year in a row, the Memorial van Damme organisers took live action out into the streets by hosting the men's shot put final in Brussels’ city centre. Our putters were surrounded by breathtaking architecture on the Place de Monnais, and in easy range of finding moules-frites for afters.
The reigning world and Olympic champions (Tomas Walsh and Ryan Crouser respectively) were the supposed headline acts, with 2015 world champ Joe Kovacs the next favourite should they slip up.
The big men brought the biggest of big games to town. Crouser, wearing an American flag for a headband, has been irresistable at times this year and his first round meeting record 22.37m looked like it would be game over for everyone else. In round three he again surpassed 22 metres as seven of the eight finalists all went beyond 21 metres.
Going into the final round, Darrell Hill lay in seventh place. From the depths of hell he unleashed a monster of a throw. The iron ball landed at 22.44m, a meeting record and an improvement of his PB by 53 centimetres.
Thanks to the new winner-takes-all Diamond League format, Hill’s ginormous effort meant the Diamond Trophy was his – along with the whopping jackpot of $50,000 Diamond League winners get to take home. It was a welcome reward for Hill, whose dad last year could only come to watch his son compete in the Olympics after a generous uber passenger of his started a crowdfunding campaign. Good things happen to good people.
Don't know about you, but we're already counting down the days till the start of the 2018 Diamond League season.