WRITTEN FOR THE BISLETT GAMES WEBSITE
A speedy sprint duo and a trio of high-flying pole vaulters graced the halls of the prestigious Oslo City Hall on the eve of the 54th edition of the Bislett Games, as the fifth leg of the IAAF Diamond League welcomed the world’s media.
World indoor 60m record holder, Christian Coleman of the USA opened his season in Shanghai with a 9.86 second place in the 100m last month – which still stands as a world-leading time – and the 23-year-old intends to show improvements as his makes his debut in the Norweigian capital on Thursday:
“There’s a lot of things I’m working on – some bad habits crept up in my first race and I didn’t perform as well as I wanted to but I was still satisfied. I took a lot of positives and negatives from it, it was a good opener from me,” the world indoor 60m champion explained.
“I’ve never been here before – I want a good experience, to come out with the win and better my time from a month ago.”
The world 100m silver medalist – who finished the 2018 season as world number one courtesy of his 9.79 lifetime best in Brussels – continued:
“I decided to miss indoors so I started my fall conditioning in January instead of November, and we pushed the whole schedule back to prolong the season.
“I’m going into more speed training now – we’re focusing on nailing down my race pattern and running consistently. I’ve been working on the transition from my start (the start is my strength) and on my finishing phase – getting more races under my belt will help, staying more relaxed and holding my form.”
The victor in the Rabat, Birmingham and Brussels IAAF Diamond League events last year, Coleman revealed:
“I feel like I’m where I want to be – I feel healthy and that’s the main goal. I had a hamstring injury last year so it’s good to be here this time, my goal is to compete well on the main stage in Doha (at the IAAF World Championships) later this year.
“Training in past month has gone well so I’m excited. With the world’s pushed back a bit, I only want to run a few races before (the US) trials and I have to be really diligent in training – it’s important not to race too much.”
On his ambitions for the Qatari capital, he continued:
“I definitely want to double in Doha (in the 100m and 200m event) – I’m doing the 100m here and the 200m next week – I’ve not run the 200m since 2017 and it will be interesting to see how the season goes with incorporating it.”
The NCAA 100m and 200m champion and NCAA indoor 60m and 200m champion in 2017, Coleman revealed:
“The US team is the hardest to make in the world – I represent with pride as it’s so hard to make the team, there will be four guys in the 100m and I hope to finish top three in both events.
“I always stay hungry and strive for more – I’m never satisfied and always want to be the best. In my young career, I feel I’ve done a few good things but compared to the greats and legends I look up to, I have big shoes to fill so as a natural competitor, I need to continue working hard – I hope to look back on my career and say I was best in the world.”
Back to familiarity for Schippers
Meanwhile, two-time world 200m champion, Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands reflected on her past achievements in Oslo:
The 200m winner in both 2016 and 2017, the 26-year-old said:
“I had a big injury problem but I’m coming back faster and faster so I’m happy to be here and am hoping to run fast. It’s nice to come back – I like the atmosphere here very much – the people are so nice, it’s really cool to come back.”
The Olympic 200m silver medalist and four-time European sprint champion has so far enjoyed an outdoor campaign which includes a 22.78 clocking for third place in Stockholm followed by a 11.06 100m victory in Hengelo recently. The 200m world number 5 in the past two summers continued:
“I couldn’t train for a long time so that’s why I’m racing myself fit. I’ll next do the 100m in Rabat then race in Eugene – it’s a long season so you need breaks in between phases of it, it’s important to rest in between. I hope to win tomorrow, we’ll see what the time is.”
A bronze medalist in the 2013 world heptathlon, Schippers explained:
“For Doha, my plan is the 100m, 200m and also the 4x100m relay. I’m working on my start and mainly the middle part of my race, as my finish is getting better and better. I would like medals for sure.”
Mouth-watering men’s pole vault rivalry between Duplantis and Kendricks to resume
Fresh from signing his first professional contract as an athlete, Sweden’s Armand (Mondo) Duplantis is in town for his debut appearance in Oslo.
The 19-year-old European champion currently leads the world rankings with a 6.00m clearance in Arizona last month, and he is keen on continuing his fine form in the next stage of his career:
“I’m very excited to become a professional athlete – it’s a very important step in my career, it was about time and I’m happy to be where I am now,” Duplantis revealed.
“There’s definitely a lot of expectation on me but I put a lot of pressure on myself to jump high and win medals, so the outside pressure doesn’t exceed my own, I use it as motivation.”
The World junior champion – and 2015 world youth champion – has also cleared marks of 5.94m and 5.80m respectively this summer in the US, as he looks to repeat his 2018 world number one status – which he sealed with a huge 6.05m world junior record to capture the senior continental crown in Berlin last August.
With victory in Stockholm and runner-up spots in Eugene and Paris on the IAAF Diamond League circuit in 2018, Duplantis spoke of his Oslo debut and long season ahead:
“I love the fans and the interaction with them, we’ll get some claps going. We can’t control the weather and we’re all just here to compete regardless, just trying to beat each other instead of focusing on the height.
“The main goal for the season isn’t a specific height, it’s to get more 6-meter jumps under my belt.
“I’m not quite sure whether I’ll do the European under23 Champs as they’re on the same week as the Monaco IAAF Diamond League. I’ll do the Eugene and Lausanne IAAF Diamond Leagues next. Doha will be very tough to win, I will be happy with a medal.”
Arguably his main rival for not just the top honour in Oslo but in the season finale in Doha, is Sam Kendricks.
The 26-year-old American also spoke of the expectations upon his shoulders as the reigning world champion:
“Being world champion is like wearing golden handcuffs – wherever go, people expect you to win – none of it is guaranteed, you have to compete for it – the day decides who will be on top that day,” he insisted.
The two-time world indoor silver medalist is a fan of this unique 2019 campaign where Doha sees the global championship staged a month later than usual:
“It’s a cool thing this being a long season as you can start as early or late as you want. I have a wild card entry for the world’s – it’s going to be fun,” Kendricks said.
“The IAAF Diamond League trophy is a stand-out for the season and it’s important for me to challenge for it, I like the way the D.L season is structured this year.”
On his first appearance in Oslo and on his season so far, the Olympic bronze medalist offered:
“Everyone wants to blame performance on the conditions but we’re all dealt the same hand and will do our best rain or shine.
“It’s a 6-meter meeting record here, that’s a beast of a bar. Getting a meeting record ties you to the history of that venue – I achieved it in Hengelo and hope to put up my best tomorrow – I’m a competition jumper, the more I get to compete, the better I get.”
The world number one in past two indoor seasons, the 6.00m vaulter took victory in Doha and Stockholm recently and in addition to five wins on the IAAF Diamond League circuit in 2018, Kendricks is keen to add to his collection.
Elsewhere, Norway’s Sondre Guttormsen – who improved by 34cm to 5.75m last season – is looking forward to competing in front of his home crowd.
The 20-year-old – who was sixth in the IAAF World junior Championships last summer – explained:
“I had a minor injury for 12 weeks but I am 100% healthy now and ready to take on the outdoor season – I’m excited to see what I can do here. It’s very exciting to jump in front of a home crowd, I’ll definitely take advantage of it.”
Sixth at the European indoor Championships in Glasgow back in March and fresh from a 5.60m clearance in Texas recently, he continued:
“This will be my first competition in Europe, next will be Germany and then the European under23 champs before Doha. I’m used to the weather here – we prefer better weather but can’t change it and we all get the same.”
The national record holder indoors and out revealed his main goal to be the magical six-meter mark:
“Every pole vaulter dreams about it,” he gushed.