London DL Preview: Mo Farah vs. Bernard Lagat in 5K & Usain Bolt in 200 Headline Final DL Meet Before 2016 Olympics

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By LetsRun.com
July 21, 2016

This is it. The final Diamond League meeting before the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio takes place this weekend. So it’s only appropriate that the venue for the Müller Anniversary Games in London is the same one that hosted the last Olympics in 2012. Though many of the top Americans will be staying stateside, two of the biggest stars from those 2012 Games — Usain Bolt and Mo Farah — headline the fields in London. Bolt will run for the first time since withdrawing from the Jamaican Olympic Trials on July 1 with a hamstring injury. He’s in the 200. Farah will look to follow up his 3:31 1500 in Monaco last week by claiming the 5,000 here, where he’ll take on several top Americans, including U.S. champ Bernard Lagat, World Indoor silver medallist Ryan Hill, Ben True and Eric Jenkins.

There are several other mid-d/distance stars in action. Reigning Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos takes on Ferguson Rotich and Pierre-Ambroise Bosse in the 800. Leo Manzano and Chris O’Hare take on Kenyans James Magut and Timothy Cheruiyot in the Emsley Carr Mile. Recently upgraded 2012 Olympic champ Habiba Ghribi leads the women’s steeple field against Shalaya Kipp and Stephanie Garcia. Plus there’s a strong women’s 1500 (Sifan HassanLaura Muir, Morgan UcenyAmanda Eccleston) and Lynsey Sharp vs. Molly Ludlow in the women’s 800.

The sprint and field events are loaded. The women’s 100 hurdles is Olympic final-worthy (Keni Harrison, Brianna Rollins, Tiffany Porter, Cindy Roleder, Jessica Ennis-Hill), Jimmy Vicaut faces Kim Collins and U.S. Olympian Marvin Bracy in the men’s 100, Christian Taylor headlines the men’s triple jump, reigning world champ Joe Kovacs battles two-time world champ David Storl and two-time Olympic champ Tomasz Majewski in the men’s shot put, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce faces Dina Asher-Smith in the women’s 100 and world champ Dafne Schippers goes in the women’s 200.

Below we give you all the details on the two-day London meet and preview the middle- and long-distance action plus Bolt’s race in the 200.

What: 2016 Müller Anniversary Games

Where: The Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, England

When: Friday, July 22 – Saturday, July 23. The beIN Sports broadcast begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on Friday and 10:00 a.m. ET on Saturday.

How to watch: In the U.S., it’s live on beIN Sports from 3:00 p.m. ET to 5:00 p.m. ET on Friday* and 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Saturday. Don’t have beIN Sports? Here is some info on how to sign up for beIN Sports. In the UK, coverage starts on BBC Red Button at 19:00 BST on Friday and then it moves to BBC2 at 20:00 BST. On Saturday, it’s on BBC1 starting at 13:15 BST. There also is radio coverage and post-race coverage as explained here.

*Right now, Day 1 is only listed as being shown on beIN Sports ñ — the Spanish language version of beIN Sports — but we believe it will also be shown on the actual beIN Sports.

Press conferences: The IAAF will stream three pre-meet press conferences on Thursday and Friday. The schedule is as follows (all times U.S. Eastern). You can watch them live here.

Thursday, 6:00 a.m.: Usain Bolt
Thursday, 8:00 a.m.: Renaud Lavillenie, Dafne Schippers, Christian Taylor and Kendra Harrison
Friday, 8:00 a.m.: Mo Farah

Schedule/entries/results * TV/streaming information

Men’s 800 (Friday, 3:50 p.m. ET): What will Nijel Amos do?

NameCountryPBSB
Nijel AmosBotswana1:41.731:45.11
Pierre-Ambroise BosseFrance1:42.531:44.51
Mark EnglishIreland1:44.841:47.23
Charlie GriceGreat Britain1:46.951:46.95
Charles JockUSA1:44.671:45.48
Thijmen KupersThe Netherlands1:45.251:45.25
Brandon McBrideCanada1:44.501:44.50
Jeffrey RiseleyAustralia1:44.481:45.85
Ferguson RotichKenya1:42.841:44.05
Bram SomThe Netherlands1:43.451:51.64
Erik SowinskiUSA1:44.581:45.44

How fit is Nijel Amos? It’s a question we asked last week in our Monaco preview, before the Olympic silver medallist withdrew from the meet. Now Amos is slated to return to the site of his greatest result against a slightly underwhelming Diamond League field. The 22-year-old has only raced once on the Diamond League circuit in 2016, running just 1:47 to take sixth in Rabat on May 22. Though he’s run better recently — a 1:45 victory at the African Champs on June 24, followed by a 45.93 400 on July 9 — we don’t know how he stacks up against the world’s best over two laps.

A lot of the top competition in Rio has elected to skip this meet — none of the world’s six sub-1:44 guys this year are entered — but it won’t be a walkover for Amos. Kenya’s Ferguson Rotich and France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse are both here and they finishede 4-5 at Worlds last year and both have already won DL meets in 2016. If Amos can contend with them in London, he will be a threat to medal at the Olympics. But if he struggles as he did in Rabat — or if he scratches from the meet again — that suggests he’ll have some trouble landing on the podium again. Likewise, for Bosse, this is an opportunity to bounce back after a disappointing fifth-place finish at the European Championships earlier this month.

Three North American athletes will compete here: U.S. Olympian Charles Jock, Olympic Trials fifth placer Erik Sowinski and Canadian champ Brandon McBride. Compare Jock and Sowinski’s results in 2016 and it’s hard to believe that Jock, not Sowinski, will be going to the Olympics:

Jock

DateCompetitionCnt.Cat.TypeNr.Pl.ResultScore
30.04.2016Irvine Steve Scott InvitationalUSAFF12.1:48.531068
20.05.2016Los Angeles Hoka One One Middle Distance ClassicUSAEF32.1:47.671093
01.07.2016Eugene U.S. Olympic TrialsUSABH13.1:48.711063
02.07.2016Eugene U.S. Olympic TrialsUSABSF23.1:47.351103
04.07.2016Eugene U.S. Olympic TrialsUSABF3.1:45.481159
16.07.2016Heusden-Zolder KBC Night of AthleticsBELDF110.1:48.231077

Sowinski

DateCompetitionCnt.Cat.TypeNr.Pl.ResultScore
30.04.2016Des Moines Drake RelaysUSADF3.1:47.701093
08.05.2016Kawasaki Seiko Golden Grand PrixJPNBF1.1:45.921146
14.05.2016Shanghai Golden Grand PrixCHNGLF8.1:47.221107
18.05.2016Beijing IAAF World ChallengeCHNBF1.1:45.801149
01.07.2016Eugene U.S. Olympic TrialsUSABH22.1:46.171138
02.07.2016Eugene U.S. Olympic TrialsUSABSF12.1:45.821149
04.07.2016Eugene U.S. Olympic TrialsUSABF5.1:46.441130
18.07.2016Székesfehérvár Gyulai István Memorial – Hungarian GPHUNDF4.1:45.441160

Results courtesy All-Athletics.com

But it’s the result of the race on July 4 that matters, and Jock was the one who prevailed on that day — though Sowinski wasn’t done any favors by the waterfall start, that saw him begin the race on the far outside of the six person inside waterfall. Jock has shown that he can come through when it counts, but given that he’s broken 1:47 just once this year — and the fact that he barely scraped through the prelims at the Trials — it would be a nice confidence boost if he could at least break 1:46 on Friday. If not, his stay in Rio may be brief.

The top North American finisher may be McBride, however. Though he didn’t win NCAAs, he claimed the Canadian title with ease, winning by almost a second over Anthony Romaniw, and was a very respectable fourth in Monaco in his Diamond League debut, clocking 1:44.90.

LRC Prediction: Rotich follows his runner-up finish at the Kenyan Trials with Diamond League victory #2.

Emsley Carr Mile (Friday, 4:00 p.m. ET): Leo Manzano looks to rebound from a stinker in France

NameCountryPBSB
Andy BayerUSA3:52.90
Nate BrannenCanada3:52.63
Timothy CheruiyotKenya3:55.80
Richard DoumaThe Netherlands
Lee EmanuelGreat Britain3:54.753:59.66
Vincent KibetKenya3:52.153:52.71
Silas KiplagatKenya3:47.883:56.60
Elijah KiptooKenya4:00.244:00.24
Tom LancashireGreat Britain3:53.39
James MagutKenya3:49.433:56.89
Leo ManzanoUSA3:50.644:00.27
Chris O’HareGreat Britain3:56.35
Johan RogestedtSweden
Andrew RotichKenya4:10.144:10.14
Jake WightmanGreat Britain3:57.80
The Olympic Stadium track will always bring fond memories for Manzano

The Olympic Stadium track will always bring fond memories for Manzano

This is not a Diamond Race event and with two-time defending champ Asbel Kiprop sitting out, the 2016 Emsley Carr Mile will not be one of the event’s stronger editions. In fact, of the 15-man field, only two athletes — Canada’s Nate Brannen and Great Britain’s Chris O’Hare — will be competing in Rio. But the absence of a bona fide star such as Kiprop or Matthew Centrowitz makes for a wide-open race. Silas Kiplagat has been a consistent winner on the Diamond League since the series began in 2010, but he’s struggled this year, with finishes of 3rd, 2nd, 9th, 4th and 7th — plus he was only seventh at the Kenyan Olympic Trials. Kiplagat got back on track on Monday with a 3:36 win in Hungary over several of the guys in this field; now he’ll look to excel in the mile, where he ran just 3:56 for 9th at the Pre Classic. He’ll be challenged by countrymen Timothy Cheruiyot and James Magut, who went 4-5 at the Kenyan Trials and have each won their last two races against Kiplagat.

Based on personal best and 2016 form, one of those three is likely your winner, but there are a few other guys who could steal the victory. O’Hare has been consistent this year, running 3:52 indoors, taking 8th at World Indoors and running 3:36 and 3:35 so far outdoors. But he’s yet to produce a truly dazzling performance, which is what may be required to win this race. American Leo Manzano is also entered, and as we pointed out in our 2015 Emsley Carr Mile preview, no city brings out the best in Leo like London. Of course, Manzano is famously inconsistent. After barely missing out on his third Olympic team on July 10, he traveled to France this week and got embarrassed, running 4:06 on Monday – fr 1500. This wasn’t some hypertactical affair, either: the winner ran 3:37. But no one bounces back like Manzano — recall that in 2012 he was dead last in this race only to come back and earn a silver medal in the Olympics three weeks later. Anywhere from first to last is on the table when Manzano toes the line, and that is why his races are so exciting.

However, if Manzano struggles here, it may be a sign that his fitness just isn’t that good. We were talking with one coach who wishes to remain anonymous about the Trials and he said he was amazed Manzano was even battling it out for the final Olympic spot at the Trials. He thought that was a testament to Manzano’s competitiveness as none of his other results so far this year indicated he’d be contending for an Olympic spot.

LRC Prediction: Essentially a toss-up between Cheruiyot and Magut, but we’ll go with Cheruiyot since he beat Magut at the Kenyan Trials.

Women’s 1500 (Friday, 4:27 p.m. ET): Potential Rio medallists Hassan and Muir do battle

NameCountryPBSB
Meraf BahtaSweden4:01.344:04.37
Amanda EcclestonUSA4:04.884:04.88
Axumawit EmbayeEthiopia4:02.354:04.00
Karoline Bjerkeli GrovdalNorway4:09.034:09.03
Linden HallAustralia4:01.784:01.78
Sifan HassanThe Netherlands3:56.054:13.45
Maureen KosterThe Netherlands3:59.794:05.48
Mary KuriaKenya4:03.184:04.13
Ingville Makestad BovimNorway4:02.204:06.03
Eilish McColganGreat Britain4:09.67
Laura MuirGreat Britain3:58.664:05.40
Renata PlisPoland4:03.504:07.69
Chanelle PriceUSA4:16.524:17.59
Charlene ThomasGreat Britain4:03.744:05.98
Stephanie TwellGreat Britain4:02.544:10.90
Morgan UcenyUSA4:00.064:03.94
Laura WeightmanGreat Britain4:00.174:03.04

There’s no Faith Kipyegon or Genzebe Dibaba — who may be struggling to receive Diamond League invites right now given the drug suspicion surrounding her coach Jama Aden. But World Indoor champ Sifan Hassan is entered and British champ Laura Muir, who gave Kipyegon her biggest scare on June 9 in Oslo, will be the crowd favorite. She, like Hassan, will be a threat to medal in Rio, which makes for a fun race in London.

Hassan is the one to keep an eye on here. While Muir (5th) was not at her best in Stockholm on June 16, she has already impressed this year outdoors, clocking 4:19 for the mile in Oslo. Hassan does not have a similar performance to hang her hat on. After her terrific run at World Indoors, Hassan suffered a hamstring injury that kept her out of action until this month’s European Championships in Amsterdam. In the 1500 final on home turf, the 3:56 performer didn’t look like herself over the final 200 meters as Poland’s Angelika Cichocka pulled away to win comfortably in the end; Hassan had to fight just to hold off Ireland’s Ciara Mageean for second.

The race only got going with 650 meters to go, and the slow winning time (4:33, slowest in event history) certainly helped the 1:58 800 performer Cichocka take the victory. But Hassan has a faster personal best over 800 than Cichocka and closed her bronze-medal run in Beijing last year in 1:57.6. Mageean’s best 800 is just 2:02 and she almost ran Hassan down as well. A faster race may have helped Hassan, but the bigger issue is that her fitness likely isn’t all the way back after missing time this spring. London represents a chance to show the progress she’s made since Europeans. Muir is someone she’ll have to beat out for a medal in Rio, so if Hassan is at least close to her, she can feel good about her Olympic chances with three more weeks to prepare.

The fourth and fifth placers at the U.S. Trials, Amanda Eccleston and Morgan Uceny, are also entered, with both in great form. Eccleston kicked off her European campaign with a personal best 4:04.88 win in Padua on Sunday and is capable of going even faster here against top-tier international competition. Uceny hasn’t broken 4:03 since 2012 but given her results so far this year and her run at the Trials, that should be within her reach on Friday. The U.S. leader, in case you were wondering, is 4:01.57 by Jenny Simpson, and while it would be a surprise to see that mark go down, if Muir and Hassan push the pace up front, Eccleston and Uceny have an outside shot at taking it down. Uceny told us after the Trials she wants to PR and break 4:00 this summer (pb is 4:00.06).

Prediction: Muir closes out the distance action on day one by delivering a win for the home fans.

Men’s 200 (Friday, 4:52 p.m. ET): Bolt is back

NameCountryPBSB
Nickel AshmeadeJamaica19.8520.07
Usain BoltJamaica19.19
Alonso EdwardPanama19.8120.06
Adam GemiliGreat Britain19.9820.37
Bruno Hortelano-RoigSpain20.3920.39
Christophe LemaitreFrance19.8020.24
Sean McLeanUSA20.2420.24
Brendon RodneyCanada19.9619.96
Daniel TalbotGreat Britain20.2720.37
Bolt en route to victory in London last year

Bolt won in London last year

We don’t normally preview the sprints at LetsRun.com, but when Usain Bolt is testing out his balky hamstring in his final race before the Olympics, you better believe we’re writing something about it. As you likely know, Bolt ran the first two rounds of the 100 at the Jamaican Olympic Trials on June 30 and July 1 but withdrew before the final, citing a Grade 1 hamstring tear. This news, obviously, produced a lot of questions. Chief among them: How serious is the injury?

There’s no way to know for sure, but the guess here is that Bolt is all right. First, a Grade 1 hamstring injury is actually classified as a strain; a tear is reserved for Grade 2 or 3. And there has been speculation about how severe Bolt’s injury really is. Bolt reportedly felt the 100-meter athletes were brought out too early for the semifinals at the Olympic Trials, causing his hamstring to go cold. Most athletes would have no choice but to continue, but Bolt’s star power (and the Jamaican selection policies) gave him an out. He took it, withdrawing from the Trials, with the condition that he prove his fitness in this race in London.

Bolt will be expected to do just that. He gradually improved in his first three races of the year before the Trials, opening up in 10.05 on May 14, then running 9.98 six days later before his best result, 9.88 in Kingston on June 11. That 9.88 is more impressive than it sounds; not only did he defeat his top Jamaican competition in Nickel AshmeadeYohan Blake and Asafa Powell, but he did so stumbling out of the blocks and shutting it down early at the end. Even if Bolt’s not 100%, he’s had to manage injuries before major championships for most of his career. He should be fine in London, and his biggest competition in the 200 in Rio — Justin Gatlin and LaShawn Merritt — won’t be running here. Bolt’s toughest opponents are Ashmeade, who was second at the Jamaican Trials and eighth at Worlds last year, 24-year-old Canadian Brendon Rodney and 200m specialist Alonso Edward of Panama. Rodney, who was third at NCAAs for LIU Brooklyn, busted out a massive 19.96 pb to win the Canadian title on July 10. As the only man in the field to have broken 20.00 this year, Rodney may be Bolt’s toughest competition, though Edward has run 20.06 this year and has finished in the top three in all five DL events this year, including wins in Rabat, more recently, Monaco.

We’re three weeks out from the Olympics, which means Bolt is going to be ready to go. He hasn’t lost a race at any distance since June 2013, and assuming the hamstring injury isn’t that serious, that streak should continue. Technically, Bolt could still be left off the team if he fails to show fitness (Jamaica named four guys to the Olympic team in both the 100 and the 200 but only three can compete in Rio) but that’s unlikely to happen — if Bolt is healthy enough to run, he will run well. The only danger is if Bolt does further damage to his hamstring, as a setback this close to the Games will be tough for even the fastest man in history to overcome.

LRC Prediction: The 29-year-old Bolt has been down this path before. Just last year, he put together his two best races of the season (to that point) in London, running 9.87 twice into headwinds after struggling earlier in the spring. He knows how to manage his body and how to peak at the right time. Predicting the time is a bit of a crapshoot (it’s supposed to be in the 60’s and rainy on Friday, not great for sprinting), but expect Bolt to get the comfortable win.

That being said, NBC will be watching this one as a DNF by Bolt will kill a lot of the casual fan’s excitement for the Olympics.

That’s it for our Friday preview. If you are short on time, you can go now and come back tomorrow for our Saturday preview which appears below.

Women’s 3000 Steeplechase (Saturday, 10:37 a.m. ET): Habiba Ghribi returns to London for first time after being upgraded to 2012 Olympic gold

NameCountryPBSB
Nicole BushUSA9:24.599:39.84
Jamie CheeverUSA9:29.139:37.12
Rosie ClarkeGreat Britain9:52.209:52.20
Ophelie Claude-BoxbergerFrance9:34.969:34.96
Stephanie GarciaUSA9:23.489:28.99
Habiba GhribiTunisia9:05.369:31.22
Madeline HillsAustralia9:21.569:24.73
Jessica KamilosUSA9:41.289:41.28
Shalaya KippUSA9:28.729:28.72
Purity KiruiKenya9:17.749:22.47
Genevieve LalondeCanada9:32.179:32.17
Katie LandwehrUSA9:41.229:41.22
Aisha PraughtJamaica9:34.69
Erin TeschukCanada9:40.079:48.65
Sara Louise TreacyIreland9:42.169:42.16
Caroline TuigongKenya9:28.819:28.81
Lennie WaiteGreat Britain9:35.919:35.91
Ghribi ran 9:05 in Brussels last year

Ghribi ran 9:05 in Brussels last year

Most of the big dogs of the women’s steeple won’t be in London. Ruth Jebet and Hyvin Kiyeng, the women who have waged war with the record book this year, are skipping it, as is Emma Coburn; in fact, none of the world’s 11 fastest women of 2016 are entered in this race. Purity Kirui, at 9:22, has the best time this year among entrants but she won’t be in Rio as she was only fifth at the Kenyan Trials.

The only woman here that figures to challenge for a medal in Rio is Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi. Earlier this year, Ghribi was upgraded to gold at 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics after Russian doper Yuliya Zaripova was stripped of her medals. For Ghribi to defend her title in Rio, however, she’ll have to show more than she did in her 2016 debut, when she was just sixth in Stockholm in 9:31 on June 16. Fortunately for Ghribi, she has a track record of coming on strong late in the season. In 2012, she ran just two races (one steeple) before claiming Olympic gold. Last year, her only outdoor race before taking silver at Worlds was a 9:11 victory in Monaco. A win in London will stamp her as a medal contender in Rio.

But to challenge for gold, she’ll have to go fast. When Ghribi ran 9:05 last September, it was the fastest time in seven years and put her #2 on the all-time list. Now she’s #4 thanks to Jebet and Kiyeng’s duel in Eugene. Less than a year removed from that 9:05, Ghribi has the potential to challenge them at the Olympics, but if she can’t beat this field in London, the best she can hope for in Rio is bronze.

Six Americans will cross the pond for this one, including Trials 4th and 5th placers Shalaya Kipp and Stephanie Garcia. Both women should run in the lead pack and have an outside shot at the win if Ghribi struggles again.

LRC Prediction: Ghribi FTW.

Women’s 800 (Saturday, 11:04 a.m. ET): Lynsey Sharp & Molly Ludlow in a Monaco rematch

NameCountryPBSB
Alexandra BellGreat Britain2:01.292:01.29
Kendra ChambersUSA2:00.762:00.76
Winny ChebetKenya1:59.302:00.16
Alison LeonardGreat Britain2:00.082:00.71
Molly LudlowUSA1:57.681:57.68
Shelayna Oskan-ClarkeGreat Britain1:58.862:00.73
Angela PettyNew Zealand1:59.062:00.62
Chanelle PriceUSA1:59.102:00.80
Lynsey SharpGreat Britain1:57.711:57.75

With no Caster Semenya in the field, there will actually be some drama over who finishes first in this race. It should be a good one: Molly Ludlow and Lynsey Sharp waged a terrific battle to the finish last week in Monaco, Ludlow running a lifetime best of 1:57.68 that was just good enough to edge out Sharp’s 1:57.75 (.04 off her pb). World Championship fifth placer Shelayna Oskan-Clarke, who beat Sharp in Birmingham last month to become UK champion, should also contend. She’s coming off a 2:00.73 runner-up showing in Heusden on Saturday. Winny Chebet, whom Oskan-Clarke beat in that race, should also be a factor: she was third in the Kenyan Olympic Trials on July 1, behind only Margaret Wambui and 2013 world champ Eunice Sum.

One other woman to watch for is Texas grad Kendra Chambers. The 25-year-old PR’d by almost a second at the Trials to run 2:01.07 and followed that up with her second-fastest time ever in the semis, clocking 2:01.46 (she was the first woman out of the final). She went faster still in her first race in Europe, running 2:00.76 to win in Lignano on July 13 but took a step back with a 2:05 in Hungary on Monday.

Finally, there’s Great Britain’s Alison Leonard, whom British Athletics won’t be sending to the Olympics despite the fact that she finished third at the British Trials and ran the standard six times since the qualifying window opened. Leonard already provided a passionate, eloquent explanation for her situation here, so read it if you haven’t already. She’ll have to settle for competing against a top field in the 2012 Olympic Stadium instead of taking on the real thing in Rio next month.

Let’s hope she runs really fast and embarrasses the British selectors.

LRC Prediction: Ludlow beat Sharp last week in Monaco, but Sharp is the more accomplished runner; we like her to turn the tables and get the win in London, though without Semenya dragging them along, the time won’t be close to the 1:57 they ran at Herculis.

Men’s 5,000 (Saturday, 11:36 a.m. ET): Mo Farah Takes on Bernard Lagat, Ben True, and Ryan Hill in his first 5k of the year

NameCountryPBSB
Bashir AbdiBelgium13:06.1013:14.92
Bethwell BirgenKenya13:04.6613:04.66
Andrew ButchartGreat Britain13:13.3013:13.30
Mo FarahGreat Britain12:53.11
Tom FarrellGreat Britain13:10.4813:27.77
Ryan HillUSA13:05.6913:35.74
Eric JenkinsUSA13:07.3313:24.67
Isiah KoechKenya12:48.6413:08.34
Paul KoechKenya13:05.1814:16.2h
Bernard LagatUSA12:53.6013:35.50
Hillary MaiyoKenya13:56.4h
Ross MillingtonGreat Britain13:36.3913:38.43
Stephen MokokaSouth Africa13:11.4413:40.81
Rob MullettGreat Britain
Vincent RonoKenya13:16.42
Cyrus RuttoKenya13:12.9113:20.32
Edwin SoiKenya12:51.3413:03.26
Getaneh TamireEthiopia13:05.5913:05.59
Ben TrueUSA13:02.7413:12.67
Tetsuya YoroizakaJapan13:12.6313:48.07

This should be good. Mo Farah is, of course, the favorite, as he is whenever he steps on the track for a race 3,000 meters or longer ( and some cynics might add particularly when it’s in the UK and the competition isn’t necessarily the stiffest). But unlike his last appearance in the UK — a glorified time trial in Birmingham where Farah broke the British record for 3,000 meters — he will face some legitimate competition in London. Americans Ben True and Ryan Hill went 6-7 at Worlds last year and will be looking to take out their frustration after missing out on the U.S. Olympic team; likewise for Farah’s Nike Oregon Project teammate Eric Jenkins, who beat both of them in Eugene but came up .06 short of third. As good as those men are, however, it seems unlikely that someone who didn’t even qualify for the Olympics will be able to defeat the world’s greatest distance runner.

But what about Bernard Lagat? A year ago, it would have seemed crazy to suggest, but after Lagat’s run at the Trials, it’s a possibility. After all, his 52.82 final lap to win in Eugene was still a world-class performance. Check out how it compares to some of Farah’s recent 5,000 victories (note: 2013 and 2016 splits official, others approximate):

RaceTimeLast 1600Last 800Last 400
2016 Olympic Trials (Lagat)13:35.504:03.331:55.5252.82
2015 Worlds (Farah)13:50.283:551:48.652.5
2013 Worlds (Farah)13:26.983:57.751:50.7553.51
2012 Olympics (Farah)13:41.663:57.47N/A52.94
2011 Worlds (Farah)13:23.364:061:5552.8
Farah after winning the 3k in London last year

Farah borrowing Usain Bolt’s “To Di World” pose after winning the 3k in London last year

Lagat’s last lap is right in line with what is needed to close out a global championship 5k, and 2016 Lagat would have given 2011 Farah a great battle (indeed, 2011 Lagat did give 2011 Farah a great battle, finishing just .28 behind him in Daegu). In a race like the Trials, where the pace doesn’t dip below 62 seconds until the bell, Lagat is still a threat; but in Beijing last year, Farah closed even faster over the final 400 than Lagat despite a MUCH FASTER final 1600 (3:55 vs. 4:03) and 800 (1:48 vs. 1:55). Can Lagat handle a hard change in pace with three or four laps to go and still kick off that? We may not find out until Rio.

We’ll hold off on further Lagat vs. Farah analysis until our Olympic preview, but we’re going with Farah in this one. Farah showed he’s fit last week in Monaco, running 3:31, and he’s competing in his de facto home stadium. Lagat, meanwhile, is 41, and while that didn’t impact his ability to kick in Eugene, it will likely affect his ability to recover from two 5,000’s — plus 7,200 meters of a 10,000 — in the span of nine days earlier this month. Older guys take longer to recover, and quite frankly, we’re surprised Lagat is making the trip to London at all.

Of course, there are other contenders aside from Lagat. Edwin Soi was actually the last man to beat Farah over 5,000 meters when he took him down at the 2013 Prefontaine Classic, and though his results this year haven’t been tremendous (9th Shanghai, 5th Pre, 11th Oslo, 5th Kenyan Trials), he’s always around in DL races and has the fastest 2016 time of any entrant. 2013 World Champs bronze medallist Isiah Koech, second at the Kenyan Trials, may have the best chance of anyone to upset Farah, but he was only 9th at Pre and 5th in Oslo. The fact is, you have to be on top of your game to beat Farah on the track, and even then it’s hard — Koech is 0-8 all-time against the Brit.

Most of the guys who have been running the best on the circuit this year (Muktar EdrisHagos GebrhiwetDejen Gebremeskel) are absent, as is Kenyan Trials champ (and 2015 World Champs runner-up) Caleb Ndiku. Put one of these guys in the field and maybe they have a shot to topple Farah. That doesn’t make this field weak — it’s stronger than the competition Farah usually faces in the UK. It’s simply a byproduct of Farah’s recent dominance that he will win the majority of his races.

LRC Prediction: Farah wins it, but don’t expect a fast time unless someone else opts to push the pace early.

 


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