Thompson hunts 100m Diamond
With the Opera House providing the backdrop, yesterday's men's shot put final at the AG Insurance Memorial Van Damme Brussels Diamond League took to the streets with the busy square, Place de la Monnaie, witnessing the crowning of the first of 16 Diamond Race winners to be confirmed here.
Place de la Monnaie translates to 'Coin Square' with its name coming from the minting workshop that stood here from 1420 to 1890 and while there were no riches for Jamaican shot putter O'Dayne Richards, who missed out on the US$50,000 ($6.4 million) jackpot handed to the winner of the event, the season on a whole has provided a wealth of lessons.
The main meeting will take place today inside the King Baudouin Stadium where another 10 Jamaicans will go on the hunt for the lucrative title - led by defending women's 100m champion Elaine Thompson.
Competing on a specially-built sector and in front of a lively crowd of mainly passers-by, drawn to the action in the ring, Richards managed a best of 21.07m and seventh place in a thrilling contest that saw Darrel Hill's final effort, a meeting record of 22.44m, knocking Ryan Crouser, who threw the meeting record of 22.37m on his first attempt, into second place. Joe Kovacs, 21.62m, secured an all-American podium.
For Richards, it was the end of a season that saw the down of missing the World Championships final and the high of further improving his own national record mark to 21.96m in Rabat just before that.
"I have learnt a lot talking to these guys, seeing the shot put in my opinion reaching the highest level that it has been for quite some time and to be a part of that era and to see and learn what these guys are doing, it's been a very educational season," said Richards.
"I think it's good to bounce back from the disappointment from World Champs and to have a strenuous week back-to-back and then coming here and throwing my furthest throw after the World Championship, I think I did well," added Richards. "It's an improvement, I am always about improvement and once again I have improved the national record and I plan to do so for maybe a next couple of years and hopefully I would approach the world record."
Thompson, is the favourite to lift the Diamond Race trophy in the 100m where Jura Levy and Christania Williams are also expected to compete. Her main threat will, however, come from World Championships silver medal winner Marie-Josee Ta Lou with Blessing Okagbare and Michelle-Lee Ahye also listed in a tricky field.
Three Jamaicans will also line up in the women's 400m with Shericka Jackson, Novlene Williams-Mills and Stephenie-Ann McPherson coming up against Eid Salwa Naser, the World Champs silver medal winner, Natasha Hastings and Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo.
Fedrick Dacres should challenge for top honours in the men's discus final where he will renew his rivalry with Daniel Stahl and Andrius Gudzius while Janieve Russell will fancy her chances in the women's 400m hurdles against the likes of Dalilah Muhammad, Zuzana Hejnova and Ashley Spencer.
The men's 110m hurdles will feature Jamaican Ronald Levy, who will be hoping to recapture his pre-World Championships form against a field that includes Sergey Shubenkov, Aries Merritt, Orlando Ortega and Garfield Darien, while Rasheed Dwyer faces a 200m line-up that features World Champion Ramil Guliyev, Ameer Webb and Christophe Lemaitre.