2017 Athletissima Lausanne Preview: Centro Returns to the Diamond League; Dibaba Runs the Mile; Hassan Faces Niyonsaba Over 800 Meters

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By LetsRun.com
July 4, 2017

The 2017 World Championships kick off in London in a month’s time (August 4), but there are still four Diamond League meets between now and then that will shape the medal picture in the British capital. The first of those comes on Thursday in Lausanne, Switzerland, and from an American perspective, the biggest storyline is the return of Matthew Centrowitz, who will race his first Diamond League 1500 in almost two years and clearly his first since he became Olympic champ. Lausanne has been good to Centrowitz in the past — two of his five career sub-3:33 clockings have come on this track — and he’ll look to add to that total this week against World Championship silver medalist Elijah Manangoi.

In the other distance events, Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris will look to make it two-for-two in the month of July as he headlines the 5,000 — which will could serve as a de facto Ethiopian World Champs trials — just five days after winning a strong 3,000 in Paris. In the women’s 800, Francine Niyonsaba will be favored with Caster Semenya absent, but Laura Muir and the red-hot Sifan Hassan are also entered and the latter will be aiming to lower her 1:58.50 pb. Genzebe Dibaba will run the women’s mile in her first race since June 8. Other highlights include Wayde van Niekerk in the 400, U.S. champ Justin Gatlin against fellow Olympic finalists Akani Simbine and Ben Youssef Meite in the 100, Christian Taylor vs. Will Claye in the triple jump, Sam Kendricks in the pole vault, Ryan Crouser in the shot put, Tori Bowie vs. Dafne Schippers in the 200 and Mariya Lasitskene in the high jump.

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

What: 2017 Athletissima

Where: Stade Olympique de la Pontaise, Lausanne, Switzerland

When: Thursday, July 6. DL track events (and the international TV broadcast) begin at 2:00 p.m. ET.

How to watch: This meet will air live in the United States on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET on Thursday. In Europe, it’s on Eurosport. For full TV/streaming details, see below.

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

Televised Events – ALL TIMES U.S. EASTERN
2:03 p.m. ET 400m Hurdles Women Entries
2:13 1500m Men Entries
2:23 100m Hurdles Women Entries
2:25 Pole Vault Men Entries
2:33 Mile Women Entries
2:44 200m Women Entries
2:45 High Jump Women Entries
2:54 400m Hurdles Men Entries
2:55 Triple Jump Men Entries
3:04 5000m Men Entries
3:20 100m Men Entries
3:30 800m Women Entries
3:40 400m Men Entries
3:50 4x100m UBS Trophy Women Entries

Men’s 1500 (2:13 p.m. ET): Matthew Centrowitz makes his long-awaited return to the Diamond League

NameCountryPBSB
Andy BayerUSA3:34.473:40.60
Bethwell BirgenKenya3:30.773:32.27
Robert BiwottKenya3:30.103:34.30
Matthew CentrowitzUSA3:30.403:33.41
Filip IngebrigtsenNorway3:32.433:36.74
Vincent KibetKenya3:31.963:32.66
Silas KiplagatKenya3:27.643:32.23
Elijah KiptooKenya3:33.81
Elijah ManangoiKenya3:29.673:31.90
Andrew RotichKenya3:43.43
Ayanleh SouleimanDjibouti3:29.583:38.55
Teresa TolosaEthiopia3:34.473:34.47
Aman WoteEthiopia3:29.913:31.63

The last time Matthew Centrowitz raced a 1500 or mile on the Diamond League circuit, he had no global titles. It was July 30, 2015, and Centrowitz finished 11th in the 1500 in Stockholm in 3:39.29. Since then, of course, he’s won World Indoor and Olympic crowns and now, 24 months later, he’s back on the circuit in Lausanne (where, we should note, he did run a  non-DL 1k five days after the Olympics in 2016).

Centrowitz, who has battled an abductor injury and pericarditis (which caused him to take off 2-3 weeks in May/June) this spring, was not 100% at USAs and we don’t expect him to be 100% in Lausanne either. But this race and Monaco (July 21, which we assume Centrowitz will run) will offer a chance to check up on his progress, even if they’re not the same championship-style races Centrowitz will face in London later this summer.

With 75% of the Kenyan team (Asbel Kiprop, Ronald Kwemoi, Timothy Cheruiyot) sitting this one out, this field isn’t incredibly strong, but it will still test Centrowitz, particularly Elijah Manangoi, who has finished 1st, 2nd and 2nd in his three Diamond League races in 2017. Vincent Kibet, 4th in Doha and Eugene, will also be one to watch, though he was only 11th at the Kenyan Trials. Ethiopia’s sub-3:30 man Aman Wote is also coming off a solid third-place run in Stockholm, clocking an SB of 3:31.63.

Beyond that, though, a fully-fit Centrowitz would normally expect to beat most of the other guys in this race. Stalwarts Silas Kiplagat and Ayanleh Souleiman have not been in great form this year. Between them, the pair have 24 victories on the DL circuit, but aside from Kiplagat’s 2nd in Doha back on May 5, this is how their results read in DL races in 2017: 11th, 12th, DNF, 7th, 10th.

Centrowitz has overcome rough springs to perform well at championships in the past, so we expect he will be ready to roll at the London World Champs. But if he contends for the win in Lausanne, we’d be surprised — and impressed. In the past, he’s really struggled in his first race of the European season. Check out what he’s done in his first race in Europe during his career:

DateMeetDistanceTimePlace
7/8/11Paris DL15003:34.4611th
7/14/12London DL8001:48.4211th
7/6/13Paris DL1500DNFN/A
6/11/14Oslo DLMile3:52.238th
7/9/15Lausanne DL8001:49.209th
8/25/16Lausanne DL10002:16.676th

If Centro can finish in the top three on Thursday, the race will definitely be a success. But even if he doesn’t he’s still got some time to peak for Worlds. Fellow American Andy Bayer is also in the field. Bayer is in great steeple shape right now (he ran a PR of 8:14 in Rome last month) — will that translate to the 1500?

LRC prediction: Manangoi FTW. Centro 3rd in 3:34.

 

Women’s Mile (2:33 p.m. ET): Genzebe Dibaba runs her first 1500/mile of the outdoor season

NameCountryPBSB
Malika AkkaouiMorocco4:04.49 (1500)4:05.83 (1500)
Jenny BlundellAustralia4:36.5h4:07.72 (1500)
Caroline ChepkemoiKenya4:05.31 (1500)4:13.2h (1500)
Genzebe DibabaEthiopia4:13.31i3:58.80 (1500i)
Axumawit EmbayeEthiopia4:26.844:14.13 (1500)
Linden HallAustralia4:36.904:36.90
Nelly JepkosgeiKenya4:39.094:02.75 (1500)
Gesa KrauseGermany4:29.584:10.28 (1500)
Margherita MagnaniItaly4:06.05 (1500)4:07.88 (1500)
Jennifer MeadowsGreat Britain4:19.36 (1500)
Senbere TeferiEthiopia4:01.86 (1500)
Fantu WorkuEthiopia4:05.84 (1500)4:06.93 (1500)
Dibaba en route to victory at the Pre Classic in May

Dibaba en route to victory at the Pre Classic in May

So far in the 2017 outdoor season, Genzebe Dibaba has run one 800 and two 5,000s. Though she did win one of those races (14:25 5,000 at Pre), she got her butt kicked by Caster Semenya and Hellen Obiri in the other two. In Lausanne, she’ll finally debut in her best event (okay, technically he 1500 is her best event, but we’re counting it). This is not a Diamond League race, so there will be no Faith Kipyegon or Sifan Hassan (wouldn’t it have been nice if Dibaba had joined them in Paris last week?), but it will still be interesting to see how Dibaba does.

Expect Dibaba to run fast. Or, at least, to try to run fast. Women’s miles aren’t common on the DL circuit, so when there is one, you can expect an athlete to be taking a run at a record. That’s what Dibaba did last year, when she went after the indoor world record (successfully) in Stockholm, running 4:13.31, and the outdoor record (unsuccessfully) in Rovereto, Italy, running 4:14.30. The world record outdoors is 4:12.56, and while Dibaba hasn’t shown anything to indicate she’ll get it so far this year, she is #2 on the all-time list.

Though Dibaba hasn’t run a 1500 this year outdoors, it should be the event she focuses on moving forward. She’s the world record holder and reigning world champ and took silver last year in Rio despite battling a toe injury. At her best, no one can touch her at this distance. Thursday will offer a chance to see how close to her best Dibaba actually is. Last year, when she ran 4:14.31 in Rovereto, she came through 1500 in 3:57.31, and a 4:14 mile is equivalent to a 3:55 1500 (once you account for the additional 109 meters Dibaba had to run after passing 1500). If she can produce something similar in Lausanne, it will show she’s close to the level of Hassan/Kipyegon right now.

LRC prediction: No matter what, we expect Dibaba to win. Only one other woman in the field has broken 4:06 this year, Kenya’s Nelly Jepkosgei. But Jepkosgei was only 7th in Paris on Saturday while Dibaba was coming in fresh. We’ll say 4:16 for Dibaba.

 

Men’s 5,000 (3:04 p.m. ET): Muktar Edris looks to make it two in a row as Ben True and the Ethiopians chase sub-13:00

NameCountryPBSB
Antonio Abadia BeciSpain13:12.6813:32.22
Yenew AlamirewEthiopia12:48.7713:25.72
Selemon BaregaEthiopia13:15.3213:15.32
Solomon BerihuEthiopia13:12.6713:17.27
Collins CheboiKenya
Joshua CheptegeiUganda13:00.6013:02.84
Yemaneberhan CrippaItaly13:36.65
Muktar EdrisEthiopia12:54.8313:01.04
Dejen GebremeskelEthiopia12:46.8113:25.95
Cornelius KangogoKenya13:10.8013:22.10
Aron KifleEritrea13:13.3113:13.31
Stephen KiisaUganda13:13.0013:13.00
Sylvester KipchirchirKenya14:09.1h
Caleb NdikuKenya12:59.1713:31.45
Albert RopBahrain12:51.9613:04.82
Cyrus RuttoKenya13:03.4413:03.44
Ben TrueUSA13:02.7413:17.94
Julien WandersSwitzerland13:37.4813:37.48
Dawit WoldeEthiopia13:17.04

Ethiopia traditionally picks its 5,000-meter squads for Worlds and the Olympics using a simple descending order list of season’s bests. Which explains the serious Ethiopian presence in Lausanne on Thursday. Though there are a few notable absences (Hagos Gebrhiwet, who has a bye as DL champ and hasn’t raced outdoors this season; Yomif Kejelcha, currently #2 on the 2017 list), many of the top Ethiopians are entered and will, presumably, be looking to run fast.

Though Lausanne will be a little on the warm side (high of 86), there doesn’t look to be much wind in the forecast and the race will start at 9:04 p.m. ET, at which point the sun will almost have set and it is expected to be 77. But that’s no guarantee that we’ll see a sub-13:00, especially when you take account who is in the field. Remember, though Muktar Edris basically clinches a spot at Worlds if he wins this race, he’s also the fastest Ethiopian this year. Which means he’d also likely go as long as three guys don’t better his time on Thursday. So he doesn’t have a huge incentive to make it fast. And of the other Ethiopians in the field, none have run faster than 13:15 this year. Yenew Alamirew and Dejen Gebremeskel ran well under 13:00 in their primes, but they’re not in their primes anymore. Can they still go low?

Even if the Ethiopians don’t (or can’t) get after it, there are several other men — Joshua CheptegeiAlbert RopCyrus RuttoBen True — capable of flirting with sub-13:00 and challenging Edris for the win. All four of those men will be doubling back from Paris five days earlier, however, where all of them lost to Edris (though Cheptegei and True managed PRs).

LRC prediction: Considering all the best guys just raced in Paris and all should be equally tired (except, perhaps, for Rutto, who fell early and only ran 8:04), we’ll go with the guy who won there, Edris. After his 7:35 in Paris, True is in shape to break 13:00 in the perfect race. But races rarely go perfectly, and with Paris in his legs, we say he misses out.

 

Women’s 800 (3:30 p.m. ET): Francine Niyonsaba takes on 1500 specialists Sifan Hassan & Laura Muir

NameCountryPBSB
Habitam AlemuEthiopia1:58.921:58.92
Selina BuchelSwitzerland1:57.951:59.46
Sifan HassanThe Netherlands1:58.50
Lovisa LindhSweden1:59.231:59.23
Laura MuirGreat Britain2:00.42
Francine NiyonsabaBurundi1:56.241:58.18
Nataliya PrishchepaUkraine1:58.602:01.53
Lynsey SharpGreat Britain1:57.692:00.19
Eunice SumKenya1:56.991:58.76
Ilona UsovichBelarus1:59.38

One of the big three is entered here, which means the “women’s 800 rule” is in effect and Francine Niyonsaba will win this race. As for the who gets second, that could go in a variety of directions. Eunice Sum and Habitam Alemu and have both run under 1:59 this year (both did so in Doha, where they went 3-4 behind Caster Semenya and Margaret Wambui), and Sweden’s Lovisa Lindh was the runner-up behind Niyonsaba in the most recent DL 800 in Stockholm on June 18. But the most formidable challenge could come from a pair of 1500 runners.

First, there’s Sifan Hassan, who’s in terrific shape right now. Hassan has gone 3:56-3:56-3:57 in her last three 1500s, all wins, suggesting that she’s close to her 3:56.06 PR shape from 2015. At Worlds that year, Hassan closed her final 800 of the 1500 final in 1:57.6. Two days later, she ran 1:58.50 in the 800 semis, her third race in three days. That suggests that, at her best, Hassan is capable of 1:56-1:57 in the 800. Hassan’s speed may not be all there right now — she began this season by running 5Ks and still has a month to go until Worlds — but Niyonsaba likes to run from the front and could drag her to a fast time.

The other 1500 stud entered here is Brit Laura Muir, but we’re less bullish on her prospects. For starters, though Muir has a faster 1500 pb (3:55.22), she’s never broken 2:00 for 800. Second, she hasn’t raced since May 27 due to a foot injury. As a result, we expect this race to serve as more of a rustbuster for her mile in London on Sunday than as an end in and of itself. But it’s hard to imagine the ferocious Muir holding back at all once the gun has fired.

LRC prediction: Niyonsaba FTW, but we expect Hassan to PR and perhaps challenge Niyonsaba in the home straight.

 

 


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