September 5, 2013
Tomorrow’s Belgacom Memorial Van Damme is the last Diamond League meet of the year. Meet promoter’s often like to save the best for last and we’ve already told you how the last men’s distance event – the men’s 5000 – is going to be must-watch theatre. Well the last women’s event – the women’s 1500 – is pretty darn good as well.
All season long the main theme running in the women’s 1500 has been, “Is there any chance Jenny Simpson can catch up to the brilliance of the Abebe Aregawi?”
Aregawi started the 2013 DL campaign with a bang, with a world leading 3:56.60 win in Doha on May 10th, to mark herself as the favorite for the 2013 Moscow Worlds. When Aregawi first faced Simpson, the 2011 World Champion, in Rome one June 6th, the race wasn’t even close as Aregawi won by 2.07 seconds. However, Simpson has been getting closer ever since.
When Simpson next showed up on the DL circuit in Monaco on July 19th, Aregawi wasn’t there but it looked like Simpson had maybe made up half of the distance between Aregawi and herself as in Monaco Simpson closed in 44.1 while running 4:00 whereas in Rome she closed in 45.2 and ran 4:02.
|The Gap Between Aregawi and Simpson|
June 6th – 2.07 Seconds
August 15th – .33 Seconds
September 6 – ?????
Simpson’s gains on Aregawi were confirmed in women’s 1500 final in Moscow as after a courageous display of front-running Simpson ended up with a much deserved silver. Simpson really made Aregawi work for her gold as after a 58.8 last lap, Aregawi was your winner by just .32 of a second.
Who wins on Friday?
A win by Simpson on Friday wouldn’t shock us for two reasons.
1) Aregawi has little motivation as she has the DL $40,000 prize all locked up
Aregawi has amassed a dominating 22 points during her undefeated 1500 season to Simpson’s five.
2) It’s been a really long year for Aregawi and she’s not running as well now as she was early in the season.
Remember, this is a woman who nearly broke the world indoor 1500 record in her new country of Sweden on February 21st when she ran 3:58.40. 11 weeks after that she ran 3:56.61 in Doha and now she’s still racing outdoors some 17 weeks after Doha. Please tell us when she had time to get a proper base in the period.
Confirming that she’s tired, Aregawi in her only race after worlds ran a disappointing 2:01.22 800 in her new country of Sweden. Contrast that to the 14:56 5000 personal best that Simpson ran in her lone race since Worlds.
|All Time US 1500 Outdoor List|
3:57.12 Mary Slaney USA – 1983
3:57.40 Suzy Favor Hamilton – 2000
3:59.38 Anna Willard – 2009
3:59.59 Christin Wurth-Thomas – 2010
3:59.90 Jenny Simpson – 2009
Whether Simpson wins or not, she might leave Brussels very happy if she gets a new personal best time. Simpson hasn’t been in a sub-4:00 race all season long so it would be nice to move up the all-time US ranks. A vault to #3 all-time in US history is very conceivable but our dream of seeing former doper Mary Slaney loser her American record will probably have to wait until next year.
The problem with dreaming of a super, super fast time in the 3:56-7 range is that non of the African runners are still in form to approach those times any more (three ran 3:57 or faster in Doha) so if the rabbits go out super hot, it’s unlikely they’d have anyone chasing them.
Behind Simpson and Aregawi, the field is loaded as it includes six of the top seven finishers in the Moscow women’s 1500, with the lone exception being Kenyan teen Faith Kipyegon who was fifth in Moscow. Kipyegon’s absence proves our point that the top runners from Africa are tired after running so fast in May as Kipyegon ran 3:56.98 in Doha.
But none of those women should challenge Simpson or Aregawi if they are on their games as in Moscow Simpson was the only one within one-second of Aregawi.
The field also includes some women’s 5000 runners from Moscow in silver medallist Mercy Cherono of Kenya (4:02.31 pb) and Shannon Rowbury of the US (4:00.33 pb, 4:01.28 sb). Rowbury is the third fastest American on the year at 1500 (Brenda Martinez is #2 at 4:00.94). The fourth fastest American for 2013, Gabriele Anderson, who has run 4:01.48 this year, is racing as well.
Quick Take (QT) #1: We’d rather see a sub-4 (ideally sub 3:59) here by Simpson than we would a win but we’re a little worried few people in the field are up for that type of race. Aregwai herself has only broken 4:00 once all year – in the season opener.
QT #2: In compiling the all-time US list at 1500 above, it’s hard to believe that given where they are now that Christin Wurth-Thomas and Anna Willard ran their times after Simpson ran her 3:59.
QT #3: In doing some research for this article, we decided to look at the last 400 and 300 of Simpson’s three big 1500s so far this year. As shown below, her close in Moscow wasn’t any better than it was in Monaco. In fact, the last 400 and 300 in Moscow and Monaco for Simpson were nearly identical. Since the overall time in Moscow was more than two-seconds slower than in Monaco one could claim the close in Moscow was a little bit worse (of course, the final in Moscow was the final of three races whereas Monaco was a one-off affair):
Jenny Simpson’s Last Laps This Year (1100 split, 1200 split)
June 6th: Rome – 3:02.10, 3:17.10 – 4:02.30 – last 400 60.20, last 300 of 45.20
July 19th: Monaco – 3:01.18, 3:16.35 – 4:00.48 – last 400 of 59.30, last 300 of 44.13.
Aug. 15th: Moscow – 3:03.78, 3:18.91, – 4:02.99 – last 400 59.21, last 300 of 44.08.
Our point? Simpson’s gain on Aregawi from July to August is largely based on the fact that Aregawi is slowing down and desperately trying to hang on to her early season form. As a result, we were going to say if you are a betting man or woman it might be smart and pick Simpson for the upset win.
But then we realize track is so unpopular right now, you can’t even bet on it in Europe. You can bet on the outcome of the television show Big Brother in the UK but not the Diamond League final.
QT #4: The full field is as follows:
|ATHLETE||DATE OF BIRTH||NATION||PB||SB|