World Championships, Dina Asher-Smith's fight for supremacy and who to watch – Athletics in 2019

The Independent looks ahead to what promises to be another thrilling year of athletics

Samuel Lovett
Thursday 03 January 2019 12:01
There's plenty to get stuck into across the next 12 months
There's plenty to get stuck into across the next 12 months

Events to look out for:

European Athletics Indoor Championships – Glasgow (1-3 March)

For those competing, this year’s European Indoor Championships will set the tone for the year ahead. The event, held in Glasgow, offers the chance for a number of the sport’s biggest names to build up some momentum ahead of the World Championships in Doha later this year.

Laura Muir will be one of those names taking to the field as she bids to continue her medal-winning streak from 2018, during which she claimed silver in the 1500m and bronze in the 3000m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, as well as gold at the European Championships in Berlin. The home favourite will be eager to add to that medal haul come March.

The competition will also see Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam​ and Great Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson go head to head in what promises to be an engrossing battle in the pentathlon. The two have been fighting for supremacy since Rio 2016, with the Belgium currently holding the edge over her British rival. She notably pipped Johnson-Thompson at the European Championships last August and remains favourite for the Indoor Championships, though the Briton’s continuing development means this is likely to be another clash that goes down to the wire.

Muir will be eager to continue her medal-winning streak

IAAF World Championships – Doha (28 September – 6 October)

The showcase event of the year, the World Championships offers the top platform for the sport’s biggest and best athletes to tussle for glory. From Dina Asher-Smith to Christian Coleman, Armand Duplantis to Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Naomi Ogbeta to Mutaz Essa Barshim, there’ll be plenty of stars to follow as the competition unfolds across 10 days in Doha.

It’ll also be interesting to see how the adapted format of the Championships pans out. The capital of Qatar was controversially awarded the competition despite fears over the harsh climate. As a counter-measure, the IAAF has scrapped morning sessions – when temperatures would reach, on average, 37C.

As such, the scheduling will see the likes of the women’s 100m final starting at 11.20pm local time, the women’s 400m final commencing at 11.50pm and the women’s and men’s marathons each setting off at midnight. The final event of the heptathlon, in which Johnson-Thompson and Thiam will pursue gold, does not start until 12.05am. Given the climate and the event times, there are justifiable fears that this year’s World Championships will fail to attract the numbers seen in London.

The World Championships will be held in Doha towards the end of the year

London Marathon (28 April)

It’s set to be one of the biggest showdowns of the year: Mo Farah vs Eliud Kipchoge. Both men return to London in April after enjoying a successful 2018. While Farah claimed his first marathon title with a dramatic victory in Chicago, setting a new European record of 2hr 5min 11sec, Kipchoge stormed his way into the history books at the Berlin Marathon with a world record time of 2hr 1min 39sec. The Kenyan has the edge but Farah still holds the capacity to surprise and delight in equal measures.

British stars to look out for in 2019:

Dina Asher-Smith – Women’s 100m

After a stellar 2018, in which she became the triple European champion, set national records in the 100m and 200m and won two Commonwealth medals, Dina Asher-Smith will be looking to push on in her pursuit of supremacy. The 23-year-old has her sights fixed firmly on Doha, where she’ll be targeting a first World Championships gold. But up against the likes of Elaine Thompson, Shericka Jackson and Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Asher-Smith faces tough competition.

Will Dina Asher-Smith be able to build upon her remarkable 2018?

Laura Muir – Women’s 1500m

The Scot has taken great strides towards fulfilling her undoubted talent in recent years. Since Rio 2016, where she placed seventh in the 1500m, Muir has dazzled at the European Championships, the Indoor Champions and the Diamond League. She agonisingly missed out on a podium place at London 2017 but will no doubt be in the mix for a medal later this year in Doha. After missing out on the Commonwealth Games to focus on her veterinary medicine exams, Muir will be eager to make 2019 her year.

Reece Prescod – Men’s 100m

In a field stripped of the jaw-dropping talents of Usain Bolt, it’s time for a new star to put forward their claim to the crown. Although the US and Caribbean continues to lead the field in the men’s 100m, Britain’s Reece Prescod is surely one to watch. As with Bolt, Prescod struggles with his starts but at 22 he has time to work on this. He notably beat Justin Gatlin at the Diamond League in Shanghai last year and, during Oregon’s Prefontaine Classic, clocked in at 9.88sec – a millisecond behind the British record set by Linford Christie in 2009. The future is bright for this one, but how he fares at Doha is another matter.

International stars to look out for in 2019:

Sydney McLaughlin – Women’s 400m hurdler

The American 400m hurdler does not turn 20 until August 2019, but is already making waves in her field and could well break the world record as a teenager, having already set the junior record (52.75secs) in May of last year.

Armand Duplantis – Men’s pole vaulter

The 18-year-old Swedish-American announced his arrival onto the main stage with a sublime performance in Berlin, where he shattered the European Championships record to win the first major gold of his career. It was a display of agility that has rarely been seen by someone so young in the pole vault. At such a tender age, Duplantis looks destined for greatness.

The youngster shattered the European Championships record last year

Nafissatou Thiam – Women’s heptathlon

The Belgium’s clash with Johnson-Thompson in Doha is likely to be one of the highlights of the year. At 24, the only way is up for Thiam whose remarkable displays of athleticism, power and endurance ensured she ended 2018 as a triple champion – just the third woman, behind Carolina Kluft and Jessica Ennis-Hill, to do so.

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