Zurich (AFP)

Pending the resumption of the season in normal form in August, several renowned athletes on Thursday experienced a very special distance competition contested simultaneously in seven stadiums around the world and marked by a big bug on the 200 m.

Zurich was originally slated to host the Diamond League final on September 11, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the organizers to cancel the meeting and completely revise their plans. Unable to accommodate athletes due to the health crisis, they had the idea of ​​setting up an evening in format like no other, pushing even further the concept of the remote meeting already attempted in Oslo, June 11 .

Entitled "The Inspiration Games", the event brought together a range of choices (Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles, Christian Taylor, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Ekaterini Stefanidi, Andre De Grasse, Omar McLeod, Jimmy Vicaut, Christophe Lemaitre ...) in seven cities in Europe and the United States (Zurich, Aubière in France, Lisbon in Portugal, Papendal in the Netherlands, Karlstad in Sweden, Walnut and Bradenton in the United States), the athletes, divided into three teams (United United, Europe and Rest of the world), competing in eight disciplines (4 women, 4 men), some very classic (pole, triple jump, 200 m) and others much more original (100 yards, 150 m, 300 m hedges, 3x100 m).

All the tests were disputed from a distance except the 100 yards (91.44 m) which pitted in Bradenton (Florida) the French Jimmy Vicaut, now based in Jacksonville in the United States, the Canadian Andre De Grasse, his new fellow trainer, and Jamaican Omar McLeod, Olympic champion in the 110m hurdles. The victory went to De Grasse (9 sec 68) ahead of Vicaut (9 sec 72).

- Lyles' false world record -

For the other races, the starter's shot in Zurich triggered that of the other two stadiums, the images then being synchronized for spectators on the internet and social networks by a manager in Zurich. What gave a rather strange feeling, with a screen divided into three making it difficult to guess who crossed the line first. Logically, understanding the competitions was easier.

Difficult also to draw real lessons from such a competition on the sporting level as the wind or temperature conditions were different between the sites (32 ° in Bradenton in Florida or 27 ° in Walnut in California but only 17 ° in Karlstad or 18 ° at Papendal). Valentin Lavillenie, aligned with the pole in place of his older brother Renaud, who had his thumb surgery last week, competed in the indoor hall at Aubière.

The evening even took a surrealist turn during the 200 m, the stopwatch displaying on arrival a breathtaking time of 18 sec 90 for the American Noah Lyles despite a huge headwind (-3.7 m / s), very far ahead of Usain Bolt's world record (19 sec 19). The explanation was not long in arriving: the new king of the U-turn, who was running alone in Bradenton, only covered 185 m, not starting at the right place on the track. This made the happiness of the French Christophe Lemaitre, winner in a poor time of 20 sec 65 at the Letzigrund in Zurich.

Enough to leave on their hunger some participants, even weaned from competition for months.

"It's very strange and difficult to jump without spectators and the other competitors," said Valentin Lavillenie, author of three entry failures at 5.36 m and beaten by the double American world champion Sam Kendricks (5, 81 m).

A mixed feeling shared by Allyson Felix. "It was like some kind of training but without teammates. It's hard to motivate myself by running solo. But I missed racing. I love this sport and I seize every chance to run," said the most successful athlete in history at the Olympics and Worlds.

© 2020 AFP