US shot putter Joe Kovacs smashed the Diamond League record on Wednesday as the first of six Wanda Diamond League champions were crowned at a city event in downtown Zurich.
After his win in Lausanne, the two-time world shot put gold medallist explained how he felt it was “about time” he threw beyond 23 metres. His performance at the Wanda Diamond League Final in Zurich reflected, remarkably, that belief, the two-time world gold medallist launching the shot 23.23m to move to second on the world all-time list.
The only athlete to have ever thrown farther is his compatriot Ryan Crouser, who recorded his 23.37m world record in Eugene last year, and the pair engaged in a spectacular showdown on Sechselautenplatz on Wednesday (during the first session of the Weltklasse meeting, held as a street event in one of the city’s most famous squares on the shore of Lake Zurich.
A total of six Diamond League champions were crowned in front of the Zurich Opera House, Kovacs winning his second Diamond Trophy ahead of Crouser and New Zealand’s Tom Walsh and world champion Chase Ealey joining her US compatriot in shot put success. Kenya’s Beatrice Chebet and Nicholas Kipkorir won the 5000m finals, while Australia’s Nina Kennedy claimed the women’s pole vault title and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi won the men’s high jump clash.
The shot put finals got the session under way, Kovacs and Crouser ensuring their event got off to a thrilling start. Kovacs opened with 22.67m to equal the meeting record that had been set by Crouser last year but the world record-holder responded in superb style, recording the exact same mark to take an early joint lead.
But Kovacs wasn’t prepared to have his recent run of victories come to an end and with the strong support of the circle-side crowd he achieved the throw of his life. His 23.23m Diamond League record in the second round is the third-best mark in the history of the discipline, improving on the previous PB of 22.91m he set when winning his second world title in an epic final in Doha in 2019. His series included two other throws over 22 metres: 22.58m in round three and 22.50m in round five.
Crouser, continuing his comeback after long covid, improved to 22.74m in the third round but couldn’t get closer to the 23-metre mark and so secured second place, with 2017 world champion Walsh throwing a best of 21.90m in the first round to finish third.
“I am super excited. I had so many throws this year over 22.80m, so I feel like I was building and building,” said Kovacs, whose last loss came at the World Championships in Oregon where he secured silver behind Crouser. The 33-year-old, who regained the Diamond League title after his first win in 2015, handed Crouser his first outdoor defeat since 2019 in Lausanne and also won in Brussels, Silesia and Szekesfehervar.
“It feels good to finally tick the box and be a 23-metre shot putter. There is a bigger throw left in there. I know that Ryan will throw farther, so I will have to throw even farther next year. Now with a throw of 23 metres, my goal for next year is to be able to achieve 23.50m.”
World champion Ealey was also a clear winner in the women’s contest, the 28-year-old throwing 20.19m in the third round to triumph by more than half a metre ahead of Canada’s Commonwealth and NACAC champion Sarah Mitton and Portugal’s world indoor champion Auriol Dongmo.
Ealey, who threw a world-leading PB of 20.51m when winning the US title in June, opened with 19.84m, which would have ended up being enough to win. But she improved to 20.19m and also recorded 19.62m in the fourth round as Mitton achieved a best of 19.56m in the first round and Dongmo recorded 19.46m from her third throw.
The performance extends Ealey’s unbeaten record this season to 11 finals, seven of those achieved with throws beyond 20 metres.
Jumps success for Tamberi and Kennedy
It has been a week to celebrate for Italy’s Tamberi. After getting married on the first day of this month, the joint Olympic high jump champion delayed his honeymoon to defend his Diamond League title and it paid off, the 30-year-old securing success with the best clearance of his season – 2.34m.
Tamberi had taken a gamble in the latter stages of the competition, deciding to retire after one attempt at 2.36m while USA’s JuVaughn Harrison still had a chance to clinch the win. But it proved to be a winning decision, as Harrison was unable to clear what would have been a PB-equalling height and so finished second on countback after his third-time clearance of 2.34m.
Canada’s Django Lovett finished third with 2.27m, while Qatar’s three-time world champion Mutaz Barshim, who shared the Olympic gold with Tamberi in Tokyo, finished sixth after his decision to move to single attempts at 2.27m and 2.32m after an initial failure at 2.24m didn’t work out.
“I am very happy with my performance, a season’s best in the last meeting of the season,” said Tamberi, who uncharacteristically asked for quiet from the crowd as he took his last attempt at 2.34m, to keep his Diamond League title dream alive.
“I stopped jumping because of the rain. In the moment, it was a bit scary, but I am happy that in the end I took the win. The crowd knows how much I entertain them, so when I asked them to be silent and to stop clapping, that gave me extra energy in an important moment. I had the exact same situation at the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow, where I also managed an important jump.”
In the women’s pole vault there was victory for Australia’s Commonwealth champion Kennedy, who cleared 4.80m to claim world pole vault bronze in Oregon and went one centimetre higher to add the Diamond Trophy to her cabinet and cap a successful season.
The second-best clearance of her career after the 4.82m Australian record she set in Sydney last year, the performance saw the 25-year-old win ahead of USA’s two-time world indoor champion Sandi Morris, who cleared 4.76m, and Slovenia’s world indoor bronze medallist Tina Sutej, who managed 4.61m to finish third on countback.
“I came third at the World Championships and I won the Commonwhealth Games. This is a season’s best, so to win the Diamond League, it’s just the top of a perfect season,” said Kennedy.
Looking ahead to future aims, she added: “I would obviously love to jump into the 4.90m range and then obviously the Paris Olympics are two years away now, so I’m going to be aiming for that gold medal.”
Chebet and Kipkorir win 5000m finals
Kenya’s Chebet might have finished second behind Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay in the world 5000m final in Oregon, but she turned the tables in Zurich, winning a four-way sprint to take her first Diamond Trophy. Always in contention, the 22-year-old Chebet, who won Commonwealth Games gold after her world silver, couldn’t be challenged as she surged ahead down the home straight of the temporary track in front of the Zurich Opera House, holding off Kenya’s world 10,000m bronze medallist Margaret Kipkemboi, Tsegay and Ethiopia’s world 5km record-holder Ejgayehu Taye.
The lead group had followed the pacemaker through the first 1000m in 2:50.35 before Tsegay led through 2000m in 5:47.08. The world 5000m champion and Chebet attempted to break away a kilometre later but they couldn’t shake off Taye, Kipkemboi, double Olympic champion Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands and USA’s Alicia Monson.
Monson took a turn at the front and led through 4000m in 11:46.97 before the eventual lead quartet made a break in an exciting sprint for the finish. Kipkemboi followed her compatriot over the line in 14:31.52, Tsegay was third in 14:32.11 and Taye fourth in 14:32.15. Hassan finished fifth and Monson sixth.
Like his compatriot Chebet, Kipkorir also timed his finishing kick to perfection, edging ahead in the closing stages to win the men’s 5000m in 12:59.05, just 0.35 ahead of South Sudan’s Dominic Lokinyomo Lobalu, with USA’s Grant Fisher third in 13:00.56.
As the daylight began to fade and rain started to fall, the pacemaker took the leaders through 1000m in 2:35.15 and 2000m in 5:11.35. Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega then took over at the front to lead through 3000m in 7:46.14, before Ethiopia’s defending champion and world 5km record-holder Berihu Aregawi moved to the fore, going through 4000m in 10:23.11. But Aregawi couldn’t hold on and as the pace dipped and Kipkorir, Lobalu and Fisher strode away, he faded to fifth, one place behind his compatriot Telahun Haile Bekele.
Kenya’s Brussels winner Jacob Krop, Burundi’s Monaco victor Thierry Ndikumwenayo and Ethiopia’s 2019 world 10,000m silver medallist Yomif Kejelcha did not finish.
The remaining 26 Diamond League titles will be decided on Thursday, when the action moves over to the Letzigrund Stadium. As well as the Diamond Trophies, there are top $30,000 prizes and wildcard entries to the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 up for grabs for all Diamond League winners.