Break (Welt)klasse in case of emergency: your backup Zurich preview

(outrageously large image courtesy of Getty)

The phrase “Letzigrund Stadium” might not be one to draw instant recognition in Australia, with mention of the Weltklasse Zurich possibly raising a few athletic eyebrows. The first of two Diamond League finals will take place in Zurich this evening, with four Australian’s taking on the best in the world.

Use of ‘best in the world’ often occupies a space in the English language of over saturation – however, this evening is a relatively accurate representation. Each Diamond League final of the evening is filled to the brim with various national heroes, names instantly recognised in athletic circles.

For Australian’s to have been awarded a place in such a final should be celebrated, a final effort prior to Doha for many, an opportunity to compete at the top echelon of a history-crazed sport.

Timetable available here:


  • Stewart McSweyn (5000m)
  • Brandon Starc (High Jump)
  • Linden Hall (1500m)
  • Kelsey-Lee Barber (Javelin)

Men’s 5000m

McSweyn has trod an unlikely path to the upper echelon of 5000m running, a King Island native educated in Ballarat, the 6’2″ St Stephen’s Harrier will stand out in a largely East-African field. Two Melbourne Track Club teammates are tasked with pacing duties this evening, as national 1500m record holder Ryan Gregson is set to tow the field through 1km in 2:35 & 2km in 5:11, followed by 13:12.68 5000m man Patrick Tiernan clicking through 3000m in 7:47.

Approaching 3000m at such a clip elicits a brief act of mental arithmetic, placing McSweyn firmly on 13:00 pace, carving out each lap in 62.40 seconds in an ideally even world.

Whilst likely unspoken throughout the evening (in the same spirit as jinxing a no-hitter in baseball), Australian distance fans will be aware of the territory this approaches, as Craig Mottram’s 2004 national record looms large at 12:55.76.

Putting records aside briefly, breaking the 13-minute barrier is a feat achieved by six individuals born outside of Africa: (Country/Year of performance)

  • Chris Solinsky (USA, 2010) – 12:55.53
  • Craig Mottram (AUS, 2004) – 12:55.76
  • Dathan Ritzenhein (USA, 2009) – 12:56.27
  • Bob Kennedy (USA, 1996) – 12:58.21
  • Matt Tegenkamp (USA, 2009) – 12:58.56
  • Galen Rupp (USA, 2012) – 12:58.90

I could wax lyrical for a few seconds here, but all you folks playing at home get it…
This is staggering running territory, merely showing the intent to target a sub-13 clocking should be documented in the month leading up to Doha.

As one might have fathomed, there’s a ‘slightly’ competitive field assembled, with 12 individuals sub-13:10, nine of whom are sub-13 performers.

The wily individuals likely to set off pace-based fireworks after Tiernan steps off include:

  • Selemon Barega (12:43.02, ETH)
  • Hagos Gebrhiwet (12:45.82, ETH)
  • Yomif Kejelcha (12:46.79, ETH)
  • Telahun Haile Bekele (12:52.98, ETH) – fun name, entertaining fellow
  • Paul Chelimo (12:57.55, USA) – not a man to be trifled with on social media, enjoys leading

If anyone is looking for a comprehensive 5000m preview, please visit: – it’s a strange day when an American publication manages to reach out to Gregson to query pacing/record-chasing, whilst Zurich remains one-tweet worthy in Australia.

Women’s 1500m

Linden Hall had a less than enjoyable start to the season, juggling nagging injuries whilst attempting to kick-start an overseas racing campaign resulted in a 4:24.78 1500m performance. For those made of softer foundations, running the same time as your 18-year old self might’ve triggered the end of the season – fortunately, Hall is arguably cast from boron nitride (go on, google it).

Fronting up at the London Diamond League off a solid training block, Hall’s 13th place finish was one filled with relief, as the 4:04.29 clocking righted the metaphorical seasonal ship. A brave fourth placed finish in Birmingham secured Hall’s position in the final, following the withdrawal of Laura Muir.

With an 800m split of 2:05 requested (3:54 pace), Hall will likely bide her time and look to close strongly, as the likes of Dibaba, Hassan, Tsegay, Klosterhalfen, Simpson and Arafi flock to the front of the pack.

Take a moment to consider the absurdity of Hall’s situation, running a faster mile in Birmingham (4:24.72) than her 1500m opener at Stanford (4:24.78). As the Australian record holder for both distances, the redemption arc writes itself, possibly worth promoting.

Men’s High Jump

I wouldn’t blame the casual bystander for querying who Starc is, or which Diamond League event he’s the current defending champion for. However, don’t let social media fool you, Starc is in fact one of the world’s preeminent high jumpers.

Whilst the Sydney-based 25-year old has had a rocky season of sorts, a 2.30m win in Birmingham indicates Starc has indeed retained his high-flying abilities, whilst ironing out a technical kink or two.

Starc will enter the competition equal 5th on season’s best, as four competitors join him with a 2.30m SB. High jump is wildly unpredictable at the best of times, often weather permitting – look for Starc to rise to the occasion.

Women’s Javelin

Per the IAAF’s current world rankings, there are only three more competent women on earth when it comes to launching a javelin – Kelsey-Lee Barber sits fourth.

Taking Barber’s 10 best career throws, four have come in 2019, as the ACT-based thrower gave the stratosphere a brief scare during her 67.70m personal best in July (Luzern, Switzerland).

A grand total of one competitor wields a superior season’s best to Barber, Huihui Lyu’s 67.98m performance in Shenyang (China) sets the stage for a compelling battle for $50,000 (USD). A season highlighted by consistency places Barber in a position to be promoted as a genuine gold-medal threat in Doha.

Just throwing it in here once more for effect, fourth best on world ranking points, second furthest throw in the world in 2019 – athletic community, feel free to promote.

Meet Program:

The event will be broadcast on Eurosport from 4-7am AEST.

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