Caribbean athletes performed creditably throughout the 2016 Diamond League series. Here we look back at some of the standout performers.
Elaine Thompson was without doubt the most outstanding female sprinter this season. She ran the fastest 100m wind-legal time ever in an Olympic final (10.71) in addition to being the first woman to run four consecutive sub-10.8 times in one season.
The Rio double sprint Olympic champion also had the distinction of establishing a Diamond League 200m record (21.85) while equalling the 100m meet record (10.72) in Brussels. Thompson ran undefeated in the Diamond 100m races to claim her first of possible many Diamond Trophies.
Incidentally, Thompson shares the Brussels meeting record with compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, as well as the Jamaican national record of 10.70 seconds.
Over in the men’s equivalent, another Jamaican came out on top. Asafa Powell, a man who performs best on the circuit, won his second 100m Diamond Race Trophy in five years when he recorded his 97TH legal sub-10 clocking in the Zurich final. Powell (26 pts) denied upcoming Ivorian sprinter and African champion Ben Youseff Meite (24 pts) the title.
Stephenie-Ann McPherson won her first Diamond Race trophy in the women’s 400m and sealed an automatic qualifying spot to next year’s London World Championships. McPherson, who came third in the Diamond Race series last year, finished on 39 points this season, 7 ahead of runner-up Natasha Hastings of the United States. Olympic bronze medallist, Sherika Jackson, was fifth overall on 9 points.
On the men’s side, Grenada’s Bralon Taplin, a finalist in Rio, had a tremendous year. He started the 2016 season with a 44.89 PB and went faster on eight occasions. The 24-year-old gave his best performance on July 15th in the Monaco Diamond League when he ran 44.38 seconds to finish 3rd behind 2015 world champion Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa and Trinidad & Tobago’s Machel Cedenio.
In the IAAF Diamond Race final in Brussels, Taplin finished very strong in the last 50 metres applying a lot of pressure on eventual Diamond Race winner LaShawn Merritt (50 pts) whose heart rate must have been pounding in his ears as he desperately hung on to the tape on wobbly legs. Taplin finished as runner-up in the Diamond Race series on 24 points. Bahamian quarter-miler Steven Gardiner finished tied on fourth with 10 points along with Costa Rica’s Nery Brenes.
Trinidad & Tobago’s Olympic bronze medallist, Keshorn Walcott, finished fourth in the men’s javelin Diamond race series on 14 points behind Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch (50pts) and the German duo of Thomas Rohler and Julian Weber on 46 and 15 points respectively. Walcott could have finished higher; however, he failed to register a mark in the Brussels final.
Omar McLeod finished 2016 as the leading 110m hurdler in the world. He was responsible for running below 13.10 seconds on six occasions. He led the Diamond Race series up to the Monaco meeting with 20 points until he was surpassed by eventual Diamond Race winner Orlando Ortega of Spain.
Interestingly, it was in Monaco that McLeod’s unbeaten season came to an end. After another hiccup, McLeod shifted his focus solely on the Rio Olympics where he won the gold medal confirming his status as the world’s best. McLeod’s astounding early season victory at the IAAF Shanghai Diamond League meeting in 12.98 seconds made him the only man this season to dip below 13 seconds in the 110m hurdles discipline.
Julian Forte, a reserve at the Rio Olympics for Jamaica, sped to his first sub-20 clocking in the Brussels Diamond League when he won by the narrowest of margins ahead of Great Britain’s Adam Gemili who also ran the same PB of 19.97 seconds. Forte finished third in the overall standings on 25 points behind winner Alonso Edward (44 pts) and Churandy Martina (27 pts).
In the women’s 400m hurdles, four-time winner and two-time runner-up, Kaliese Spencer had her worst Diamond Race season by far. She finished fifth overall on 13 points, her lowest placing since the Diamond Race series began in 2010.
Elsewhere in the field events, St. Lucia’s Levern Spencer competed with distinction in the women’s vertical jump. She placed second overall (25 pts) in the women’s high jump behind runaway winner and Olympic champion Ruth Beitia of Spain (61 pts). In the women’s triple jump Diamond Race, Jamaica’s Kimberly Williams finished fifth on 15 points. The Caribbean’s best female shot putter, Cleopatra Borel, of Trinidad and Tobago placed sixth on 12 points against tough opposition.
Overall, the Caribbean went one better this Diamond Race season than in 2015 with three winners in Elaine Thompson, Asafa Powell and Stephenie Ann McPherson. Last year’s winners were Kirani James (400m) and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (100m). Athletes, who accumulate points during the Diamond Race season and are no-shows at the two finals, lose those points.