Oslo Diamond League Preview – Five Aussies in Action

660335c7243ednmain2059488roberts20kelsey20leeThis article originally appeared on athletics.org.au – home of Athletics Australia: http://athletics.com.au/News/oslo-diamond-league-preview-five-aussies-in-action

Since 1965 Oslo’s Bislett Stadium has played host to over 23 world record breaking performances, the earliest of which involved the late Ron Clarke running 27:39.4 to break the 10,000m world record.

The fifth leg of the IAAF Diamond League, Oslo welcomes five Australians, including Brandon Starc (High Jump), Kelsey Barber (Javelin), Stewart McSweyn (10,000m), Ryan Gregson (Dream Mile) and Jordan Williamsz (1500m).

Commonwealth Games champion Starc will line up against one high jump’s true giants in Mutaz Essa Barshim (QAT), a 6-time major championship medallist, 19-time Diamond League meet winner and the reigning world champion with 12 jumps of 2.40m or higher. Barshim has only met Starc once outside a major championship, last paired together in 2016 at the Eberstadt Internationales Hochsprung-Meeting in Germany. Adding to the field, Danil Lysenko (ANA), a 2.38m performer, will look to challenge Barshim as will former world champion Donald Thomas from Bahamas (best of 2.37m). 

Commonwealth Games javelin silver medallist, Kelsey Barber is coached by husband Mike Barber who ahead of the Oslo competition provided a unique insight into the world of an international Javelin thrower. The event presents coach and athlete with a variety of training and warm-up challenges across the globe, highlighted by Mike’s often utilised phrase; “The most important lesson is to always have a Plan B”.

Mike takes a realistic approach to coaching whilst travelling, ““As a coach you need to be flexible with your overall plan and the athlete needs to accept that they can still get some positive training done that day.” This modifiable approach is best evidenced by sourcing soccer pitches for throwing, being chased by furious grounds staff, and staying calm when left without a warm-up space at a Diamond League final.

“The biggest challenge at competitions is finding areas to warm up. Most venues in Europe don’t have a specific long throw warm up area, if you’re lucky there may be a patch of grass to do some stabs, so you need to get creative.

 “Last year at the Diamond League Final, Kelsey was throwing balls in to a wall in the tunnel under the stadium.”

A cohesive team, Kelsey and Mike enter the season following an encouraging Commonwealth Games campaign, highlighted by a silver medal.

“Our mindset for competition in the last 12 months has been “work with what you have on the day”. As long as we keep that mindset, life on the road in Europe is a lot less stressful for coach and athlete!”

Barber will be joined on the runway by two-time World Championship medallist Huihui Lyn (CHN, 67.69m) and 2016 European Champion Tatsiana Khaladovich (BLR, 66.34m).

National 10,000m champion McSweyn will have an opportunity to improve upon his 28:29.65 personal best over 25-laps, in a race slated as a national record attempt for Sondre Moen (NOR), the Fukuoka marathon winner and 2:05:48 performer. Bursting onto the scene with a 59:48 half-marathon performance in 2017, the home-crowd favourite will provide convenient pace for McSweyn, as a field containing Daniele Meucci (ITA, 27:32.86), Andy Vernon (GBR, 27:42.62), Arne Gabius (GER, 27:43.93) and Julien Wanders (SWI,1:00:09 half-marathoner) lead proceedings.

Gregson takes to the track in an historically famous race, the Oslo Dream Mile, an event synonymous with international middle-distance racing which shot to fame in the 1980’s, as British athletes Steve Cram, Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett all set world records in the marquee event. A formidable field, Gregson will be tasked with navigating the challenges of home-crowd favourites, brothers Filip and Henrik Ingebrigsten (NOR, 3:52.23 & 3:50.72), alongside Kenyan duo, 1500m World Champion Elijah Manangoi (3:49.08) and Bethwell Birgen (3:50.72). Gregson wields a personal best of 3:52.24, good for fifth on the Australian all-time list, whilst the top three Australian all-time performances showcase the conditions available on the Oslo track which is home to the personal bests of Craig Mottram (3:48.98NR), Simon Doyle (3:49.91) and Jeff Riseley (3:51.25).

Williamsz races in a healthy 1500m field, including Chris O’Hare (GBR, 3:33.61), Robby Andrews (USA, 3:34.78) and the rapidly-improving teenage sensation Jakob Ingebrigsten (NOR, 3:39.06). Ingebrigtsen returns home following a stunning fourth place in the Prefontaine Classic Bowerman Mile, his 3:52.28 a World Under 18 age-best. Williamsz has broken the 3:37 mark on four occasions, and will look to improve upon his 3:36.74 personal best.

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