Inside Track: This league has not reached the diamond level yet
Might the Diamond League be snake-bitten in its initial season? Injuries and other setbacks have taken away a chunk of glitter from the initiative, which was to bring new fans and interest to the sport.
Out for the season apparently are two of the circuit’s biggest names, Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and Ethiopian distance king Kenenisa Bekele.
World record holder Isinbayeva decided to take a break from the sport after failing to medal at the world indoor championships.
Then came word on Thursday that Olympic and world champion Bekele had ruptured a calf muscle, sidelining the world record holder until at least August if not for the season.
Both were Track & Field News magazine’s athletes of the decade.
IAAF female athlete of the year Sanya Richards, who was expected to be part of an awesome 400 metres duel with fellow America Allyson Felix, also has been injured.
All three were designated top promotional athletes for the global circuit of one-day meetings.
Other glitches also have hurt.
The biggest draw in athletics, Jamaican triple world record holder Usain Bolt, never was scheduled to be a part of the circuit opener in Doha.
He sizzled in a 200 metres at the next Diamond League meeting, in Shanghai, but an anticipated 110 metres hurdles showdown fizzled when Chinese former world record holder Liu Xiang ran poorly and his successor in the record books, Cuban Dayron Robles, was not even in town.
So where does the circuit stand heading into meeting number three in Oslo on June 4? Not at the diamond level if one judges the series by major head-to-head competition, one of the key promises of the series.
Neither Bolt, chief sprint rival Tyson Gay nor former 100 metres world record holder Asafa Powell have been on the track together.
That likely will not change until the series’ fifth meeting in New York on June 12 when Bolt and Gay are expected to test each other at 100 metres.
Two other showdowns between Bolt and Gay probably will occur, including the 100 metres finale in Brussels on Aug 27 where all three sprinters are scheduled to run.
The circuit does not fare exceptionally better in another, broader area.
Of the 34 men’s and women’s season’s bests as of Thursday, just 13 were set in the two Diamond League meetings.
Now comparing the two against all competitions might not be fair, but if the Diamond League is going to be the sport’s showcase, it needs to stack up higher.
No doubt league officials are hoping the best is yet to come.
Reuters athletics writer Gene Cherry blogs about the sport on Fridays
PHOTO: David Oliver (C) of the U.S. competes with Liu Xiang (R) of China in the men’s 110m Hurdles at the IAAF Diamond League athletics meet in Shanghai May 23, 2010. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic