IAAF Diamond League: Lyles steps into Paris spotlight

Lyles is the fourth fastest man of all time and is eyeing a performance in Paris’ Stade Charlety that will see him into the Diamond League final for the 200m.

Noah Lyles is touted as a possible name to help fill the now-retired Usain Bolt’s absence from the track.   -  AP

Almost 10 years to the day that Jamaican legend Usain Bolt scorched to a blistering world record of 19.19sec at the Berlin world championships, Noah Lyles again takes to the track as the athlete to watch in world championship year.

The 22-year-old, along with under-fire Christian Coleman and Michael Norman, has been touted as a possible name to help fill the now-retired Bolt’s absence from the track, and the American has notched up an impressive personal best of 19.50sec this season, making him the fourth fastest man of all time.

With this year’s world champs being held late in Doha, between September 28-October 6, Lyles has carefully mapped out his programme, with his immediate goal in Paris’ Stade Charlety to produce a performance that will see him into the Diamond League final for the 200m, in Brussels on September 6.

A strong field in the French capital, with a track newly-laid ahead of next year’s European Athletics Championships, features Turkey’s world champion Ramil Guliyev, who has a season’s best of 19.99sec.

Also taking to the blocks will be promising Nigerian Divine Oduduru, Ecuador’s Alex Quinonez, American Cravon Gillespie and Canadian Aaron Brown, with SBs of 19.73, 19.87, 19.93 and 19.95 respectively.

Home hopes of Renaud Lavillenie nailing a seventh Diamond League victory on French soil in the men’s pole vault might rest on how American Sam Kendricks feels on the night.

The formbook favours defending Charlety winner Hendricks, who nailed the second highest outdoor pole vault in the history of the men’s competition (behind Sergey Bubka), at July’s US championships thanks to a vault of 6.06m.

Lavillenie has gone out to 5.85m this season and will face more trans-Atlantic competition in the shape of 21-year-old Christopher Nilsen, the two-time defending NCAA champion who cleared 5.95m in Austin in June.

The women’s pole vault also boasts a stellar field, with six athletes having cleared 4.80m since the start of the outdoor season.

Kendricks’ compatriot Jennifer Suhr, the 2012 Olympic champion, leads the global leader board thanks to a jump of 4.91m back in March, but will be up against it with Greece’s reigning Olympic gold medallist Katerina Stefanidi as competition.

Back on the track, Norway’s Karsten Warholm, who claimed a shock world 400m hurdles gold at the world champs in London two years ago, has already claimed the European record this season, clocking 47.33sec in Oslo before reducing it further to 47.12, the best time in the world, in London last month.

Jamaican Elaine Thompson, double sprint champion at the Rio Olympics, will line up in Paris with the aim of picking up enough points to guarantee her spot in the IAAF Diamond League final, where she will be joined by the already-qualified Marie-Josee Ta Lou, Dina Asher-Smith and Blessing Okagbare.

Fellow Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will not compete in Paris, but her current tally could be enough to book her place in Brussels.

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