Are You Ready For Some Saturday Morning Track and Field? 2017 Shanghai Diamond League Preview: Olympic Champs David Rudisha & Faith Kipyegon Open Their 2017 Seasons, Plus Jebet-Kiyeng Round II in the Steeple

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May 11, 2017

After a thrilling opener in Doha, the Asian leg of the 2017 IAAF Diamond League comes to an end on Saturday in Shanghai. The meet takes place Saturday night in Shanghai but that’s Saturday morning in the US (7 AM ET). So turn off the cartoons and tell the kiddos they’ll be watching track and field on Saturday. If you don’t have kids, maybe the exciting action will put you in the mood to start a family. 

While there were a ton of stars in action last week, not everyone was in Doha — Kenyan Olympic champions David Rudisha and Faith Kipyegon will both be opening their seasons in Shanghai. Rudisha will be facing fellow Olympic finalists Alfred KipketerFerguson Rotich and Marcin Lewandowski as well as American Cas Loxsom, who won 4×800 gold at the World Relays last month. The women’s steeple is also loaded as Olympic gold and silver medallists Ruth Jebet and Hyvin Kiyeng will battle it out again. The Nike Oregon Project’s Sifan Hassan, fresh off a win at Payton Jordan, will get a big test in the 5,000 against Olympic silver medallist Hellen Obiri and two-time World U20 XC champ Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia.

In field event action, Mutaz Essa Barshim faces Olympic champ Derek Drouin in the men’s high jump, all three Olympic medallists (Thiago BrazRenaud LavillenieSam Kendricks) battle in the men’s pole vault and world leader Luvo Manyonga takes on Olympic champ Jeff Henderson in the men’s long jump. On the track, Olympci champ Shaunae Miller-Uibo headlines the 400 while there are great showdowns in the women’s 100 (Elaine Thompson vs. Tori Bowie), men’s 200 (Noah Lyles vs. LaShawn Merritt vs. Adam Gemili) and the men’s 110 hurdles (Omar McLeod vs. Orlando Ortega).

We give you the meet details and preview the four mid-d/distance events below.

Talk about the meet on our fan forum / messageboard: MB: Official 2017 Shanghai Diamond League Live Discussion Thread.

What: 2017 Shanghai Diamond League

Where: Shanghai Stadium, Shanghai, China

When: Saturday, May 13. DL track events (and the Universal HD broadcast) begin at 7:00 a.m. ET.

How to watch: This meet will air live in the United States on Universal HD from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. ET on Saturday. In Europe, it’s on Eurosport. For full TV/streaming details, see below.

Schedule/entries/results * TV/streaming information *2016 LRC coverage

Women’s 1500 (7:10 a.m. ET): Olympic Champ Faith Kipyegon Kicks Off Her 2017 Track Season

Malika AkkaouiMorocco4:04.49 
Rababe ArafiMorocco4:02.71 
Jenny BlundellAustralia4:04.624:12.76
Claudia BoboceaRomania4:08.64 
Angelika CichockaPoland4:03.06 
Linden HallAustralia4:01.784:08.98
Faith KipyegonKenya3:56.41 
Maureen KosterThe Netherlands3:59.79 
Violah LagatKenya4:04.104:11.30
Katie MackeyUSA4:03.81 
Margherita MagnaniItaly4:06.05 
Cory McGeeUSA4:06.67 
Jennifer MeadowsGreat Britain4:19.36 
Besu SadoEthiopia3:59.47 
Dawit SeyaumEthiopia3:58.09 
Alemaz TeshaleEthiopia4:16.66 
Xiaogian ZhengChina4:10.324:20.10

Last year, Faith Kipyegon opened up her season with a personal best of 3:56.82 to win in Shanghai and didn’t lose again until August 27, a stretch that saw her claim victories in Eugene, Oslo and, most importantly, Olympic gold in Rio. Kipyegon is back in 2017 and will be hoping to follow the same path to her first world title in London this summer. Though this is Kipyegon’s track opener, it won’t be her first race of 2017, as the 23-year-old ran three cross country races, the last of which saw her finish sixth at World XC in Uganda to close out a historic 1-2-3-4-5-6 Kenyan sweep in the women’s race. Sixth at World XC is a good result for any runner, but for Kipyegon it was a testament to her outstanding range — very few Olympic 1500 champs would be able to step up and run that well in a 10,000-meter cross country race.

In our minds, there is only one woman in the field likely to challenge Kipyegon (as far as Diamond League fields go this one is a bit weaker than most which makes sense as it’s early in the year and far away). If Kipyegon, loses, we think the winner will be 20-year old Dawit Seyaum. Remember, Seyaum is the person who won world junior gold at the 1500 in 2014 and is a key reason why we believe Mary Cain opted for the 3000. Last year, Seyaum won world indoor silver and then was a consistent runner on the Diamond League circuit (she broke 4:00 four times last year, including three times under 3:59) and lowered her pb to 3:58.10 in finishing 2nd at Pre. 8th at the Olympics, Seyaum is one of three Olympic finalists in the Shanghai field besides Kipyegon as 21-year old Besu Sado or Ethiopia (9th in Rio, 3:59.47 pb) and 26-year old Rababa Arrafi of Morocco (12th in Rio, 4:02.71 pb) are also racing.

There are also two Americans: Cory McGee, who made the World Indoor team last year, and Katie Mackey. Mackey looked good in running 4:37 to win the U.S. road mile champs over Amanda Eccleston and Shannon Rowbury and after running the 5k at USAs in each of the past two years, she told Flotrack that she thinks she’s in 1500 PR shape right now (her best is 4:03.81) and that she’ll be focusing on that event this year. McGee also ran a road mile a few weeks ago and actually ran faster than Mackey (4:35.8 at the B.A.A. Mile), so it should be a close battle between the two Americans.

LRC Prediction: Seyaum is very good but Kipyegon beat Dibaba in the Olympics. Kipyegon FTW and Mackey takes top American honors in a new pb.

Men’s 800 (7:42 a.m. ET): David Rudisha Returns To Action

Kipyegon BettKenya1:43.761:44.2h
Robert BiwottKenya1:43.56 
Alfred KipketerKenya1:42.871:45.5h
Adam KszczotPoland1:43.30 
Thijmen KupersThe Netherlands1:45.23 
Marcin LewandowskiPoland1:43.72 
Cas LoxsomUSA1:44.92 
Brandon McBrideCanada1:43.95 
Ferguson RotichKenya1:42.841:44.7h
David RudishaKenya1:40.91 
Bram SomThe Netherlands1:43.45 
Dashan ZhangChina1:48.391:50.80

We hope that Shanghai has found a different starter for this year’s men’s 800. Do you remember how last year’s race was an absolute farce (mad props to pacer Bram Som, who sprinted like crazy to get to the lead after spotting the field a good five seconds)? If not, watch this:

Rudisha begins defense of his world title on Saturday in Shanghai

Rudisha begins defense of his world title on Saturday in Shanghai

Assuming there are no difficulties with the start, the headline attraction, as always, is David Rudisha. Now the double Olympic champion and world record holder, the 28-year-old has firmly established himself as the greatest 800-meter runner in history. Rudisha said this week that he’d like to go all the way through Tokyo 2020, where he could become the first man in history to win three Olympic 800 titles, and that journey begins on Saturday in Shanghai. We can’t know exactly what to expect from Rudisha, as he skipped the Australian outdoor season after running his first few races of the 2015 and 2016 seasons down under. But considering what we just said (that bit about being the greatest of all time and all that), he has to be considered the man to beat. For reference, here’s what Rudisha has run in his 800 opener over the last 10 years:

4/12/2008Nakuru (KEN)1:47.0h1st

Rudisha’s countrymen Kipyegon Bett (World U20 champ), Ferguson Rotich (4th Olympics) and Alfred Kipketer (7th Olympics) should provide stiff competition and will be looking for some vengeance on the U.S.’s Cas Loxsom, who was part of the American 4×800 squad that beat them at the World Relays. Bett, at 1:44.2 (hand-timed) has the best season best in the field, but with eight sub-1:44 guys entered, that could easily fall on Saturday. This will be Loxsom’s first open 800 of the outdoor season; he ran 47.67 in the 400 last week at Payton Jordan. Since Loxsom was dismissed from the Brooks Beasts team for violating team rules, he’ll be wanting to run fast to try to pick up a new sponsor.

LRC Prediction: Rudisha FTW. Loxsom has top American honors down by default but can he pb? We are tempted to say yes but since it’s his first outdoor 800 we’ll say no.

Women’s 3000 steeplechase (7:51 a.m. ET): Jebet-Kiyeng, Round II

Birtukan AdamuEthiopia9:20.37 
Birtukan AlemuEthiopia9:24.91 
Peruth ChemutaiUganda9:31.03 
Roseline ChepngetichKenya9:25.91 
Celliphine ChespolKenya9:05.709:05.70
Ophelie Claude-BoxbergerFrance9:34.96 
Stephanie GarciaUSA9:19.489:30.43
Ann GathoniKenya9:41.40 
Luiza GegaAlbania9:28.52 
Ruth JebetBahrain8:52.789:01.99
Norah JerutoKenya9:25.07 
Purity KiruiKenya9:17.749:31.73
Hyvin KiyengKenya9:00.019:00.12
Katie LandwehrUSA9:41.2210:03.92
Victoria MitchellAustralia9:30.849:44.09
Sarah PeaseUSA9:40.94 
Anastasiya PuzakovaBelarus9:42.91 
Caroline TuigongKenya9:28.81 
Xinyan ZhangChina9:28.549:57.02

The steeplechase is one of the events affected by the new Diamond League format, which means that there will only be five steeples that count toward the DL standings, as opposed to seven in years past. But that doesn’t necessarily mean fewer top-quality steeples, as the event in Shanghai won’t count for DL purposes but still contains three of the six fastest steeplers in history (additionally, we’re not opposed to their being fewer steeples as there are fewer top athletes in the event so we’d be fine with seeing fewer races as long as they are high quality – that beats seeing more races of a lower quality).

The matchup on everyone’s mind is Olympic champ Ruth Jebet vs. world champ Hyvin Kiyeng, and when those two collide, sparks usually fly: in four of their last five meetings, the winner has run 9:00.12 or faster. Jebet held the edge for most of 2016 (her only defeat in five matchups came on this track), but Kiyeng is now 2-0 in 2017 after defeating Jebet at World XC and again at the DL opener in Doha last week.

It will be interesting to watch whether Jebet decides to alter her tactics. The first Jebet-Kiyeng showdown of 2016, in Shanghai, played out in a very similar fashion to their first 2017 matchup, in Doha. In both cases, Jebet pushed the pace only for Kiyeng to run her down and pull away on the final lap. Last year, Jebet employed the exact same strategy in their next matchup in Eugene and was able to hold Kiyeng off, 8:59.97 to 9:00.01. From there, she kept running close to 9:00 for the rest of the season, and Kiyeng simply could not match her. That makes Saturday’s matchup very interesting. Will Jebet continue attacking from the front, with the hope that this time she’ll be able to gap Kiyeng? And will Kiyeng be able to stick with Jebet week-in, week-out? If Kiyeng shows the ability to consistently challenge Jebet, the latter may be forced to rethink her tactics.

And don’t forget about the event’s newest sensation, Celliphine Chespol. Chespol broke the world U20 record by almost 15 seconds in Doha, running 9:05, and she’s still only 18 (Jebet’s best time at that age was just 9:20). She doesn’t need to improve by much to make it a three-way conversation up front.

LRC Prediction: Jebet is the world record holder. We think it’s a matter of time before her fitness improves and she starts winning on the DL circuit. We’re just not sure if it happens here or in the next DL matchup. We’ll say it starts here. 

There are the three Americans in the field. Since Stephanie Garcia has the best PB and SB, we think she’ll get top American honors in a seasonal best (9:30) but not pb (9:19).

Women’s 5,000 (8:27 a.m. ET): Olympic Silver Medallist Hellen Obiri Takes on Sifan Hassan and Ethiopian Phenom Letesenbet Gidey

Tsige AbrehaEthiopia  
Sofia AssefaEthiopia15:59.74 
Mercyline ChelangatUganda15:34.09 
Etenesh Diro NedaEthiopia14:33.30 
Letesenbet GideyEthiopia14:45.63 
Sifan HassanThe Netherlands14:59.2315:13.15
Margaret KipkemboiKenya14:47.24 
Caroline KipkiruiKenya15:24.6 
Gesa Felicitas KrauseGermany  
Sentayehu LewetegnEthiopia15:06.49 
Stacey NdiwaKenya15:15.14 
Hellen ObiriKenya14:25.78 
Senbere TeferiEthiopia14:29.82 
Haftamnesh TesfayeEthiopia15:10.85 
Calli ThackeryGreat Britain15:37.4415:39.44
Tamara TverdostupUkraine  
Jip VastenburgThe Netherlands15:27.30 

With Olympic5,000 champion Vivian Cheruiyot moving up to the roads, Hellen Obiri is the top returner from last year’s Olympic 5,000 final, but her path to a first world outdoor title remains very tough with Almaz AyanaLaura Muir and potentially Genzebe Dibaba all standing in her way. None of those three will be in Shanghai, however, though Obiri will still be tested by Ethiopians Senbere Teferi (2015 World Champs silver, 5th in Rio), Etenesh Diro Neda (14:33 pb) and the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan (Ethiopian-born), who this year started being coached by Alberto Salazar.

A few weeks ago, Hassan kicked to a comfortable win at Payton Jordan, thanks to a 62-second last lap. Hover, Hassan only ran 15:13 on a slow night in Palo Alto, and her PR is “only” 14:59. 14:59 won’t win this race. We’re fully confident she will run a big PB but are looking to see how competitive she’ll be in terms of battling for the win. Regardless, she’s a big talent. We imagine a few years ago Salazar was fully confident he’d be coaching a mid-3:50s 1500 runners who could run 14 mid for 5k. Well, he’s doing that now but her name is Sifan Hassan, not Mary Cain.

Teferi, who was 10th at World XC, is probably the best bet to defeat Obiri (though we should point out she’s 0-6 in her career against her), but watch out for 19-year-old Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey. Gidey’s Diamond League debut last year in Rome did not go great (she finished 14th in 15:09), but she ran 14:45 last summer at age 18 and, more importantly, is a two-time winner of the U20 race at World XC as she won her second title in March in Kampala, Uganda. As we pointed out after World XC, only three other women have ever accomplished that: Genzebe Dibaba, Faith Kipyegon and Viola Kibiwot. The first two need no introduction, while Kibiwot (14:29 pb) has finished 4th in the 5,000 at the last two World Championships. Gidey is clearly a monster talent — at World XC, she beat Celliphine Chespol, who just ran 9:05 in the steeple, by 28 seconds in the 6k race in Uganda (Chespol got the bronze) — and we can’t wait to see what she does on the track.

LRC Prediction: Obiri FTW. Hassan under 14:50.

Talk about the meet on our fan forum / messageboard: MB: Official 2017 Shanghai Diamond League Live Discussion Thread.

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