The Wanda Diamond League got back into full swing in 2021 following a season when the Covid-19 pandemic had caused widespread cancellations and prompted organisers to new levels of ingenuity in putting together socially-distanced contests in empty arenas for the benefit of athletes and (virtual) spectators alike.
In the first of a two-part series, we look back at the highlights of a memorable 2021 Wanda Diamond League season.
Gateshead, 23 May
Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith coped best in driving wind and rain to beat a 100m field including US contender Sha’Carri Richardson at the opening Wanda Diamond League meeting of a full season.
Despite a headwind of -3.1m/s, Asher-Smith ran a season’s best of 11.35, with Richardson – who one month prior had moved to sixth on the world all-time list with 10.73 – finishing second in 11.44.
Spain's Mohamed Katir scored a breakthrough victory in the 5000m, defying the cold and wet conditions to win in 13:08.52.
Russia’s double world champion Mariya Lasitskene, winner of 14 straight competitions, finished fourth in the high jump as Poland’s Kamila Licwinko won with 1.91m.
And Sweden’s world pole vault record-holder Mondo Duplantis, 23 meetings unbeaten, also saw his run ended by USA’s two-time world champion Sam Kendricks, who cleared 5.74m.
Doha, 28 May
Rai Benjamin of the United States, running in the Khalifa International stadium where he had earned world silver in 2019, won the 400m hurdles in a meeting record of 47.38, with 21-year-old Brazilian Alison dos Santos second in a South American record of 47.57.
Kenya’s world champion Timothy Cheruiyot won the 1500m in 3:30.48. Another world champion, Jamaica’s 34-year-old double Olympic 100m gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, clocked 10.84 to win the 100m.
World champion Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela won the triple jump with a meeting record of 15.15m.
Local hero Mutaz Barshim, home world high jump champion in 2019, equalled his season’s best of 2.30m, but authorised neutral athlete Ilya Ivanyuk won with 2.33m.
Kenya’s world U20 cross-country champion Beatrice Chebet earned her first Diamond League win with a 3000m PB of 8:27.49, beating two-time world champion Hellen Obiri in the process.
Florence, 10 June
Norway’s 20-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen earned a landmark 5000m victory over a field including Uganda’s world record-holder Joshua Cheptegei as he set a European record of 12:48.45, which remained the fastest run of 2021.
It was a huge flourish for the European 1500m and 5000m champion at the Stadio Luigi Ridolfi in the face of an athlete who in 2020 had set 5000m and 10,000m world records of 12:35.36 and 26:11.00 respectively.
Ingebrigtsen’s time eclipsed the mark of 12:49.71 set by Belgium’s Mohammed Mourhit in 2000, while a season’s best of 12:54.69 was only enough to earn Cheptegei sixth place, one behind Mohamed Katir, who set a Spanish record of 12:50.79.
World 1500m champion Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands narrowly defeated Kenya’s Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon at that distance.
Hassan, world 10,000m record-holder for two days earlier in the week before her mark was bettered by Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey, won in 3:53.63, a meeting record and the fastest time run to that point in the season.
Twenty-one-year-old Femke Bol won the 400m hurdles in a Dutch record of 53.44.
Oslo, 1 July
Karsten Warholm, demoted from second to third on the 400 metres hurdles world all-time list by Rai Benjamin’s clocking of 46.83 four days earlier, responded at his home Diamond League meeting by setting a world record of 46.70.
In so doing, Norway’s 25-year-old double world champion broke the 46.78 mark set by Kevin Young of the United States when winning the 1992 Olympic title in Barcelona – the longest-standing men’s track record on the books.
A year earlier at this meeting, Warholm had clocked a personal best of 46.87 after clouting the last hurdle.
“It might take another world record to win the Olympics,” he said.
Brazil’s Alison dos Santos was second in a South American record of 47.38.
Australia’s Stewart McSweyn won the Dream Mile event – renamed in honour of the late former Oslo meeting director and European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen – in an Oceanian record of 3:48.37.
Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha set a Diamond League record of 7:26.25 to win the men’s 3000m.
Femke Bol won the women’s 400m hurdles, lowering her Dutch record to 53.33.
Stockholm, 4 July
In a thrilling duel with USA’s Shamier Little, Femke Bol lowered her Dutch 400m hurdles record to 52.38 to move up to fourth on the all-time list. Little, who had missed out on making the US Olympic team just one week prior, was close behind in 52.39, moving to fifth on the world all-time list.
Shortly afterwards in the men’s event, 21-year-old Brazilian Alison dos Santos took 0.04 off his own South American record in clocking 47.34.
In the women’s high jump, Ukraine’s 19-year-old world silver medallist Yaroslava Mahuchikh won with 2.03m with Australia’s Nicola McDermott second in 2.01m, adding a centimetre to her own Oceanian record.
Four-time world champion Valerie Adams, who last year returned to action after the birth of her second child, achieved her first Diamond League victory since 2016, taking the shot put with 19.26m.
Local hero Mondo Duplantis won the pole vault with a meeting record of 6.02m.
Monaco, 9 July
Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon laid down a huge marker for retaining her Olympic 1500m title in Tokyo as she lowered her national record to 3:51.07, moving to fourth on the world all-time list.
Kipyegon defeated her Dutch rival Sifan Hassan, who beat her to the world title in 2019, knocking almost three seconds off the national record of 3:53.91 she had set in Florence the previous month. Hassan was second in 3:53.60.
Kipyegon’s compatriot Timothy Cheruiyot, the world 1500m champion, re-opened the door to Olympic selection with victory in a personal best of 3:28.28, which remained the fastest time of 2021.
Jakob Ingebrigtsen – who revealed afterwards he had been unable to train for the previous two weeks because of illness – was third in 3:29.25 behind Mohamed Katir, who set a Spanish record of 3:28.76.
Nijel Amos of Botswana won the men’s 800m in 1:42.91, which also stood as the fastest time in the world for 2021, with Kenya’s Emmanuel Korir second in 1:43.04.
Mike Rowbottom for World Athletics