World champions set for season finale at Muller Grand Prix Birmingham
Four newly-crowned world champions spoke to the media prior to tomorrow’s Müller Birmingham Grand Prix which promises to be a great celebration of the sport as the IAAF Diamond League resumes in the West Midlands.
Dafne Schippers was once again one of the stars of the IAAF World Championships in London, winning gold in the 200m as well as adding a bronze medal in the 100m. This weekend she will focus on the shorter sprint, taking on world silver medallist Marie-Josée Ta Lou from the Ivory Coast as well as 100m hurdles world champion Sally Pearson, 200m bronze medallist Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Olympic 100m champion Elaine Thompson.
Schippers said: “London provided the perfect championships, and it was obviously a tight race but I am delighted to be a world champion. I am excited to be racing again here in Birmingham.”
In one of the best men’s shot put competitions in World Championships history, New Zealand’s gold medallist Tom Walsh will return the throwing circle knowing the likes of Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs will be gunning to beat him at the Alexander Stadium. With bronze medallist Stipe Žunic also in the field, it is all set to be yet another world-class competition on UK soil.
Walsh added: “This one is going to be different because usually I don’t do as well at the majors, so when I return for my next competition, I feel like I have something to prove. This time I don’t have anything to prove.
“I hold a lot of pride in the fact that people are going to find it hard to beat me. So I’m going to compete like a world champion and make it hard for anyone to beat me because I know on my day, I’m better than all of them.”
Greek athlete Katerina Stefanidi has dominated the pole vault in recent times, adding the world title to her Olympic and European outdoor titles. The charismatic vaulter was in optimistic mood ahead of the Birmingham meeting, after attempting world record height in the London Stadium last week.
Stefanidi commented: “Birmingham was the first Diamond League I ever won so it is a very special place and I am looking forward to returning. I love the stadium because the crowd are so close to the vault which is great.
“I went into London to jump high and I was pleased with a personal record but I think I have more in me so I am looking forward to this competition.”
Adding to a truly world-class field is Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim who has commanded the high jump throughout 2017. He will take on Syrian world bronze medallist Majed Aldin Ghazal as well as the best of the Brits, Robbie Grabarz and Tom Gale, the teenager who recently cleared 2.30m.
Barshim said ahead of the event: “The only thing I remember from the competition [in London] was two things: the crowd, and my coach. I was so focused and so determined – this was the title I didn’t have, but the support from the crowd; I couldn’t ignore it.
“First of all I want to enjoy tomorrow – my target for this season was to win gold in London; now that is done I want to go out there, enjoy it and jump well. I know I’m in good shape and hopefully I can be pushed and get some pressure to jump higher; I’ve jumped here two times and cleared 2.37m and the meeting record of 2.38m previously, so hopefully I can jump high once again.”
The IAAF Diamond League meeting will be the culmination of an outstanding summer of global athletics events in the UK and include Mo Farah’s last ever track race on home soil.
The Müller Grand Prix Birmingham is supported by Birmingham City Council and takes place exactly one week after the end of the IAAF World Championships in London which finished on 13 August.