Diamond League dilemma
In the English Premier League, we see big matches every week. Even with top ranked Chelsea focused on another competition, we still had Liverpool versus Manchester City as a feature match.
Track and field isn't quite like that. It does have school and club team competition, but fans tend to watch individual star names like Usain Bolt.
It's a sport that spikes interest, especially when major championships arrive. Yet, to give athletes competition practice and to entertain fans, track and field does have its own league, the Diamond League.
It's easy to remember who won the European Champions League last year, but it's far harder to remember the Diamond League winners in the various disciplines. That probably is the difference between major team sports and athletics.
Recently, the call was renewed for Bolt to race more in the Diamond League, which was designed to give fans more clashes between top rivals. It hasn't quite worked out. Since the League was formed in 2010, Bolt, Asafa Powell, Tyson Gay and, more recently, Yohan Blake have all had their fair share of injuries. Blake is out now, Gay and Powell have both suffered groin injuries and other inconveniences, and last year Bolt had surgery for a foot injury.
The tall man barely raced last year, but he isn't a Diamond League dodger. In 2013, when he was fit, Usain ran four League 100-metre races, losing to Justin Gatlin in his European season opener in Rome and winning in London, Zurich and Brussels. He beat top sprinters Mike Rodgers and Nesta Carter in London, Gatlin, Rodgers and Carter in Zurich and Brussels. He did the 200 in two Diamond League meets, Oslo and Paris.
That was in a World Cham-pionships season where he had the 100- and 200-metre titles on the line. I don't know about you, but I can barely remember those Diamond League races now. But I can well recall the rain drizzling down as the World Championships 100 final was about to start. With a real lightning bolt flashing in the distance, the tall man won in style from Gatlin and Carter.
Throughout the Diamond League and its predecessors, the International Association of Athletics Federations Grand Prix, the Golden League, some events have always featured regular meetings of the best. Hurdlers like Renaldo Nehemiah, Greg Foster and Roger Kingdom race often as do Dawn Harper-Nelson and Sally Pearson. The throwers, in the discus, shot, javelin and hammer, meet almost every week.
Last year, the Diamond League was illuminated by the men's high jump. World Champion Bogdan Bondarenko and Mutaz Essa Barshim met seven times, with the Ukranian Bondarenko winning four over the Qatari and with both making the lofty height of 2.40 metres commonplace. With Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov, Commonwealth champion Derek Drouin and 2012 silver medal winner Erik Kynaard also jumping well, it was brilliant entertainment.
That's what the Diamond League wants to have in all events every year. Sadly, injuries will intervene. That has hurt the Diamond League 100 metres in recent years. It isn't so much that the sprinters are dodging each other as has happened in other events in the past. It's just that with major championships to aim at, pushing it to race at less than 100 per cent in the League isn't the wisest thing.
At 29, Bolt will probably be best advised to do what he has always done, and that is to dominate championships. He is already the best sprinter in history and victories at the World Championships this year in Beijing and next year at the Olympics will put more distance between him and everyone else. He is already way ahead.
- Hubert Lawrence has scrutinised athletics since 1980.