With the London Athletics Meet returning to the London Stadium for the first time in four years, four athletes assembled for the pre-event press conference with excitement growing at the prospect of performing in front of a sell-out crowd on Sunday 23 July.
Set to be staged in front of over 50,000 crowd, four of the event’s headline acts set out their stall for what they are hoping to be a spectacular event in the capital city.
2023 has already been a mesmeric year for Zharnel Hughes [GBR], claiming Linford Christie’s long-standing UK 100m record in New York last month, before sealing two UK Athletics Championship titles in Manchester. The 28-year-old is in the form of his life and goes into the 200m on Sunday as one of the favourites but will face a fierce opponent in the form of reigning world champion, Noah Lyles (USA).
Lyles’ 19.67 season best is the current world lead after a scintillating start to the 2023 season. The Olympic bronze medallist has already been in superb form this season with one Wanda Diamond League win already under his belt after victory in the 100m in Paris last month. With consecutive world 200m titles to his name, and one in the 4x100m, he comes into this one in optimistic mood.
“To be honest, it’s definitely going to be in the first 10 meters,” Lyles said. “Literally what me and my coach have been honing in, in that last week’s coming off covid, it’s been kind of hard to get back into the groove.
“You’ve had almost that peak going into the USAs, all I really wanted is that first 10 meters. I’ve been seeing a lot of good reports from it recently in practice. If that goes well, then the whole race will be smooth sailing from there. And if it’s not, I’ll make it smooth sailing.”
Hughes added, “For me, I’m just going to focus on myself. Obviously Noah is in the field, and many other guys are there as well. I give respect to who is there, but I am focusing on myself, and I am looking forward to a good race, executing my phases, trusting my speed and I’ll be fine.”
Back in London after capturing the hearts of millions for her spirited London Marathon victory earlier this year, Sifan Hassan [NED) is now hoping for success on the track in the 5000m on Sunday.
No stranger to London Stadium, the Dutch runner picked up a world championship bronze over the distance in 2017 and a European record at the event in 2019.
In a competitive field, where GB & NI’s Megan Keith will also be in action a week on from her European Athletics U23 Championships gold in Finland, Hassan is hoping to finish her final race before the World Athletics Championships, in Budapest, on a high.
“It is my final race before Budapest,” Hassan said. “I am in good shape, and I will do my best and run a good race. We have got some good female athletes here.”
Taking part in the women’s 800m wheelchair race, Hannah Cockroft will be up against many of the best GB & NI have to offer.
Fresh from the World Para Athletics Championships in Paris where she added world title number 13 and 14 to her CV, the 30-year-old now returns to the stadium where she announced herself to the world at the 2012 Paralympic Games.
Cockroft will face fellow world champion Sammi Kinghorn in the mixed classification race, and she spoke about her excitement to wow the 50,000 plus crowd in the capital city.
“Tomorrow is a massive opportunity,” Cockroft said. “It’s a mixed class race, so it is not just myself, it is Sammi Kinghorn who is the World Champion in the T53 class, there is another girl from my class (Fabienne Andre), and then there is Eden Rainbow-Cooper (T54), who came fifth in the 54 girls.
“For me, that is a massive opportunity to step up and race the quicker girls. I raced with them last February and I did a time of 1:44.43, which until Sammi broke it in May, was the quickest any British woman had ever gone. So, tomorrow is a really big opportunity for us to work together and try and go quick – and have a bit of fun while we are there.”
Entry lists and timetable for the London Athletics Meet – the tenth stop on the Wanda Diamond League – can be found here: london.diamondleague.com/lists-results-london/