Seven Australians will be competing on the field and track at the Birmingham Diamond League meet this Saturday, with another Australian record for the season possible. It has been a few weeks since they last competed due to the Area Championships happening in Europe, Africa and the Americas.
There is great interest across all events at this meet as it is the last chance for athletes to earn points in Diamond League events and qualify for the lucrative Finals in Zurich (30 August) and Brussels (31 August).
Commonwealth Games high jump champion Brandon Starc (NSW) is back in Europe to finish off his fantastic season. He is currently sixth on the Diamond League standings and looking to confirm his start in Brussels. He has placed in his last three competitions in Europe in late June and early July, including equalling his personal best of 2.32m in Hungary. German Mateusz Przybylko is in top form having cleared 2.35m to win the European title last week.
Commonwealth Games long jump silver medallist Henry Frayne (QLD) is ready to fly again and continue his career best season. Following his 8.34m personal best on the Gold Coast the 28-year-old has jumped over eight metres in all of the six meets he has contested in Europe and sits fourth on the Diamond League standings going into Birmingham, with his place in the Diamond League final in Zurich guaranteed.
There will be extra attention on the long jump runways at Birmingham with former Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth champion Greg Rutherford bidding farewell to fans in his final IAAF DL appearance. Among those in the field are South African world champion Luvo Manyonga and Cuban world leader Juan Miguel Echevarria.
Commonwealth Games and world championship representative Brittany McGowan (QLD) will race the non-Diamond League 1,000m in Birmingham. The 27-year-old is looking to give Zoe Buckman’s Australian Record of 2:37.84 from 2012 a shake, in the rarely run event.
McGowan is in good form having won her last race in Finland at the end of July over 1500m (4:12.33). And on the 22nd of July she ran 2:00.60 over 800m at the London Anniversary Games, to be close to her best of 2:00.24 from the Commonwealth Games Trials in February.
It promises to be a fast race with European 1500m champion Laura Muir attempting to break Kelly Holmes’ British record of 2:32.55 set 21 years ago.
Ryan Gregson (VIC), Stewart McSweyn (TAS) and Jordan Williamsz (VIC) will be chasing fast times in the famous Birmingham Mile.
Gregson, the Australian record holder over 1500m (3:31.06), has run his two quickest times for the season in his last two races. A month ago, he ran a season best of 3:34.38 when sixth in Rabat and 3:35.35 when he was second in London. His Mile personal best is 3:52.24 from 2010. The 28-year-old has had a strong season. He currently sits in 14th place for the 1,500m Diamond League rankings. Meaning he’ll need two athletes to not take their place for him to get a start in Zurich.
McSweyn will be looking to add another highlight to his career best season. Having set the second fastest Australian time over 3,000m (7:34.79) last month, he also set 1500m and 10,000m bests in June, and was just off his 5,000m best in London. His personal best for the Mile of 3:55.97 was from last June in Ireland. The Tasmanian is building towards the 5,000m at the Diamond League Final in Brussels.
All the stars are aligning for Williamsz to produce a great Mile. He ran his PB (3:56.89) last year at the same meet and last month he ran a PB over 1500m and 3000m. He also had his first win of the season in Finland over 1,500m in his last race. New Zealand’s Olympic medallist Nick Willis and Kenyan 2014 Commonwealth Games champion James Magut look to be the ones to beat.
Genevieve LaCaze (QLD) is back in great form and will run the 3000m Diamond League event in Birmingham. She set a personal best of 8:50.02 in Ireland last month and followed that up a few days later with 8:50.09 in London.
There will be a few Australians not competing in Birmingham but watching the results closely, to see how they impact final Diamond League standings and invitations for the finals.
Long jumper Brooke Stratton (QLD) is currently fifth with eight spots available in horizontal jumps for finals. Linden Hall (VIC) is 14th for the 1500m, with 12 spots for the finals. If no-one behind her earns points and two ahead choose to not run this event then she could sneak an invitation.
The events not on the program in Birmingham have already had all of their scheduled appearances in earlier qualifying meets. Pole vaulkter Kurtis Marschall (WA) has booked his place for the Brussels final. Kelsey Lee-Roberts (ACT) in seventh place on the javelin standings is set to throw in Zurich.
Dani Stevens (NSW) finished in ninth spot on the standings, despite not throwing since Doha in May due to a wrist injury. She could be back in the circle for Continental Cup.
Eurosport will telecast the Birmingham Diamond League from 9pm AEST on Saturday.
Andrew Reid for Athletics Australia