Mondo Duplantis: "I want to prove myself even more"
A new, faster track isn't just a boost for the track disciplines, but can also benefit the pole vault. "Definitely," says Mondo Duplantis. "The more even the surface is and the faster the approach, the higher I can jump. A new world record of 6m23? I feel it's possible. But all the pieces of the puzzle have to fit. It definitely won't be down to the crowd, they are always great here in Brussels, that gives me energy."
Last year the Allianz Memorial Van Damme was the only meet where Duplantis lost out on the win. The world and Olympic champion was beaten by Ernest John Obiena from the Philippines. "Every race is different and the result from last year doesn't say anything about what's going to happen tomorrow," said the Swede. "But I'd be lying if I said I didn't care and it's not a factor. I want to prove myself even more. But I don't feel the pressure, I'm naturally really relaxed."
Shericka Jackson: "The world record is within reach"
With temperatures of over 30 degrees celsius summer still has a firm grip on the Belgian capital. "Jamaican weather! That's ideal weather for sprinters," smiled Shericka Jackson, who won the 200m world title in Budapest with the second fastest time in history. "With a little bit of tailwind I could have taken the world record there, so I am fully ready mentally and physically. The world record is within reach. I'm knocking on the door. If everything falls into place tomorrow, it should be possible."
Jackson has a habit of writing down the time she aims for on her bib. At the worlds the 29-year-old wrote 21.40 before going on to win in 21.41, just 0.07 above the world record. Which time will she write down on Friday? "I haven't received my bib yet!," Jackson skilfully dodges the question. But if Florence Griffith's world record of 21.34 is still out of reach, then the 32-year-old meet record, Merlene Ottey's 21.64, could be a secondary goal.
Femke Bol: "This is a home race for me"
53.43. That's the 25-year-old Brussels meet record set by Nezha Bidouane in the 400m hurdles. With a personal best of 51.45 Femke Bol is surely headed for a new record on Friday? "I heard the track is super fast and the weather is amazing, so it's all looking good," the Dutch world champion nodded. "But at the end of the season your body gets more and more tired. On the other hand, the pressure will be lower than at the world championships."
"I am really happy to be able to make my debut at the Allianz Memorial Van Damme. The past two years I was sitting in the grandstands to support my boyfriend (Belgian pole vault champion Ben Broeders, who also features on the entry list). This feels like a home race for me. I love Belgium. There will also be a lot of Dutch fans in the stands tomorrow, so I'm really looking forward to it."
Yaroslava Mahuchikh: "Everything is possible"
Ukraine's high jump world champion Yaroslava Mahuchikh also considers the Allianz Memorial Van Damme as a home meet. "Since the war started in my country I live and train in Belgium, so this has become my second home," said the 21-year-old, who claimed an emotional gold medal in Budapest with a 2m01 jump. "That world title means a lot to me and my country. It was the first world title for Ukraine in 10 years and I've heard from a lot of people that they enjoyed it and that it gives them support in these difficult times."
Mahuchikh established a new personal best and meet record last year at 2m05 and is looking at going even higher on Friday. "I would like to improve my personal best tomorrow. For the high jump the new track is a big plus as well. A faster approach could also lead to a higher jump." Last year Mahuchikh undertook three attempts at a world record height of 2m10. "I feel good, so everything is possible tomorrow. If I can, I will try and attack the record again."