U.S. track and field athletes spent the last month in the shadows as the top meets have been European- and Commonwealth-only affairs.
The resumption of the Diamond League, beginning in Stockholm on Thursday (Universal Sports, 2 p.m. ET), brings Americans back into the spotlight.
The marquee race features the biggest U.S. women’s sprint star at the last three Olympics — Allyson Felix — and the biggest U.S. women’s sprint star of 2014 — Tori Bowie.
Felix’s season, a comeback campaign from last year’s torn hamstring at the World Championships, has not reached her usual standard. She’s notched one Diamond League race victory — a 200m in Oslo on June 11.
Felix, a four-time Olympic champion, was on the track for one of the more memorable races of the season. She finished third in the Prefontaine Classic 200m on May 31.
That race victory was snagged by the then-unheralded Bowie, previously best known for long jumping at the World Indoor Championships in March.
Bowie proved no fluke, going down to 100m and winning Diamond League races in Rome, New York and Monaco, overcoming a hamstring injury at the U.S. Championships between New York and Monaco.
Bowie is the fastest woman this year in the 100m (10.8 seconds, after entering 2014 with a personal best of 11.14) and held the world’s fastest 200m time this year until Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers took the mantle at the European Championships on Friday.
Here are five events to watch in Stockholm:
Men’s shot put — 12:45 p.m. ET
The field is loaded — the top five men this year, the two-time reigning World champion and the two-time reigning Olympic champion.
Joe Kovacs, with zero global medals to his name, is the only man to throw farther than 22 meters this year, doing so to win the U.S. Championship on the California State Capitol grounds on June 25.
Kovacs will be looking for his second Diamond League win of the year, going against all of the other men to have won in 2014 — Reese Hoffa, Christian Cantwell and David Storl.
Men’s 400m hurdles — 2:03
This race features Olympic champion Felix Sanchez, World champion Jehue Gordon, Olympic and World silver medalist Michael Tinsley and 2014 world leader Javier Culson.
The American Tinsley is looking to match the Puerto Rican Culson in Diamond League race wins this season at three.
Men’s 5000m — 2:15
Galen Rupp became a father of twins during the Diamond League break. Now, the Olympic 10,000m silver medalist will try to better his two previous 5000m results from this season, a third and a fourth.
Rupp’s task will be difficult. The field in Stockholm is led by Kenyan Edwin Soi, who won a race in Paris that included Rupp, Ethiopian Hagos Gebrhiwet, the World silver medalist, and Kenyan Caleb Ndiku, the Commonwealth Games champion.
Women’s 200m — 2:32
Five different women have won the six Diamond League 200m races this season, but Felix and Bowie are the only ones returning to this field. They’ll both try to match Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare at two victories in 2014.
Will Bowie have her sights set on Schippers’ world lead of 22.03? She would need to knock .15 off her personal best from this year to match it. Felix is ranked No. 6 in the world this year at 22.34. Her best time in a season hasn’t been that slow since 2002, when she was 16.
Women’s 1500m — 3:50
The usual Abeba Aregawi–Jenny Simpson duel adds World Indoor 3000m champion Genzebe Dibaba for a little extra spice to cap off the night’s action in Stockholm.
The favorite may be none of them but Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan, who won the last two Diamond League 1500m races and the European Championship over Aregawi.
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