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Thursday, 24 August 2017 23:19

SHUBENKOV HUNTING WORLD CHAMPION MCLEOD AND MERRITT IN FINAL DIAMOND LEAGUE RACE

Written by Connor Craig-Jackson
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A first year back for Russian hurdler Sergey Shubenkov since his country was banned from competing internationally in November 2015 has seen him face a number of huge battles in what has been a “really hard season”.

Having to relinquish his world title from Beijing in 2015 after finishing 2nd in the IAAF World championships in London to Jamaica’s Omar McLeod was understandably disappointing.

However, the task for the defending champion could not have been bigger, with the ghosts of Russia’s unrelenting doping ban often still haunting him throughout the year, despite competing as a neutral athlete without a Russian colours.

“This world championships compared to the previous one was 100 times harder for me,” said Shubenkov “just because of everything, because of pressure, last year’s ban and because of those stupid questions about my colleague or ‘what do you think about this uniform?’

“But physically, I can say that my condition and my shape is about at the same level as it was in Beijing, but there I was super positive, I was on the high wave of everything so it was really easy for me to compete there.”

With the long wear and tear of the long world championships out of the way, the three time world medallist still has more to come this season in the Diamond League circuit, with a first ever Diamond League trophy now firmly on his radar.

The 26-year-old’s latest outing in Birmingham however has left him with plenty to ponder, narrowly losing out to winner Aries Merritt, who finished fifth in the world final.

“My confidence was a lot bigger before that race started,” joked Shubenkov, “the false start at the beginning hit me pretty hard, usually if somebody does a false start I don’t care but this time I really felt my heart beating and I’d really pulled my switch on when it was the first attempt to start.

“So for the second attempt I gathered what I had left and the race wasn’t my best race, it was pretty slow, but still it’s been a really hard season you know...I’m still preparing myself the best way for the end of the season.”

Despite a disappointing performance Shubenkov still remains in the driving seat, albeit by the skin of his teeth, with a mere three points separating the clear top three of him, Merritt and Olympic champion Orlando Ortega.

The final Diamond League meeting in Brussels on 1st September therefore, looks set to be an exciting prospect, with all three set to see out an already dramatic season with one last battle for the diamond.




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