THE youth of the world gathered once more at the Olympic Stadium yesterday, the Diamond League meeting rife with nostalgia, but also with intent.
One year to the day since the cauldron was lit to signal the start of London 2012, and exactly 365 nights until the track and field competition begins at Glasgow 2014, there were plenty of reminders of this arena’s glorious past. Plus hints at what might lie ahead at Hampden Park when the best athletes of the Commonwealth come together next summer.
Mo Farah has yet to commit to joining the party. He has, in truth, bigger fish to fry before opting in or out. His current priority is next month’s IAAF World Championships in Moscow, where he will attempt to defend his 5000 metres title and claim, additionally, the 10000m crown to replicate the golden double at the Olympics.
Encouraged by a capacity crowd, he set off in pursuit of David Moorcroft’s 25-year-old British 3000m record but despite a lifetime best of 7 minutes and 36 seconds, he came up short. It is, as ever, about the priorities. Russia, first and foremost, before Glasgow and his planned marathon debut get due consideration.
“It’s good to be back and win here again,” said the Londoner. “I have so many nice memories of racing here. I wanted to make them proud. I’m in great shape, so it’s going well for Moscow.”
Jessica Ennis-Hill, another member of the UK’s Super Saturday troika, has had entirely contrasting preparations for Moscow. Having only returned to action last week following a lengthy lay-off, the Olympic heptathlon champion was forced to use this weekend as a live fitness test on her troublesome Achilles.
The performances were short of her finest, coming eighth in the long jump and only fourth in the 100m hurdles. “I’m just disappointed that I’m not in the shape and the fitness that I need to be in,” she conceded. She will now take 48 hours to reflect before making a final call on her readiness. “It’s hard because obviously it’s only a couple of weeks until the worlds. I’m running out of time a bit.”
Ahead of her own global challenge, Eilidh Child set a personal best over 400 metres of 51.83 seconds, an accomplishment which bodes well for when she reverts to the hurdles in Moscow, and for her position in the British 4x400 relay quartet.
Despite that landmark, she was still eighth with 2012 Olympic silver medallist Christine Ohuruogu running the fourth-fastest time of her career – exactly 50 seconds – to present her own case for world domination. Although Child won European Indoor silver on the flat earlier this year, she is still learning her secondary event.
“I felt a little bit out of place,” she said. “But it’s nice. Normally when I’m warming up, I know all the hurdlers. Whereas there, I was thinking ‘I think she’s in the 400.’ Apart from Christine and the other British girls, I wasn’t sure what I was up against. But obviously they were quick.”
Jake Wightman laid down a marker for the future by winning the European Under-20 title in Rieti last week, but the Scottish teenager was simply outclassed in the Emsley Carr Mile. The historic race was won for the second time by Kenya’s Augustine Choge for the second time in a time of 3:50.01, with Wightman in 17th place, over ten seconds back. And the 19-year-old, who is based at Loughborough University, admitted it was a harsh lesson learned. “I’ll be back but that was a bit rubbish,” he said. “I thought I’d be all right, but these guys are in a different class.”
Elsewhere, Usain Bolt anchored Jamaica to victory in the 4x100m relay, while France’s Renaud Lavillenie won the pole vault, but struck out at 6.16m in his attempt to break Sergey Bubka’s long-standing world record.
This afternoon’s Paralympic Challenge will mark the end of an era for the stadium itself, its final event before undergoing an extensive makeover. The roof will be replaced, the iconic triangular towers removed, and seats extracted to better suit the needs of its primary tenants, West Ham United.
Visually-impaired sprinter Libby Clegg will become one of last to run on the track, making a quick return from the IPC World Championships in Lyon where she won two silvers but ceded her 100m title to China’s Zhou Guohua.
“I’m a little disappointed,” the Scot said. “It’s a shame she’s not competing in London, but I’m going to go out and enjoy running in front of 60000 people and see how it goes.”