July 19, 2017
What a meet!
Every year, the Herculis meet in Monaco is the greatest one-day regular season meet in the world and that’s the case once again in 2017 as this meet is STACKED. If you have to work on Friday afternoon, just print out this preview and show it to your boss. Consider it your permission slip for skipping out early.
The most intriguing/exciting race has to be the men’s 100, where Usain Bolt will race for just the third time in 2017. In his first two 100s, the big man looked shaky but managed to beat severely watered-down fields. Friday will be more of a test: USAs third placer Christopher Belcher (9.93 sb), Olympic fifth placer Akani Simbine (9.92 sb) and in-form CJ Ujah (9.98 sb) have all broken 10.00 this year, something Bolt has yet to do. With just two weeks remaining at Worlds, anything less than a win and a sub-10 for Bolt will be worrying.
While Bolt will earn the lion’s share of headlines, every event in Monaco is loaded. No athlete wants to turn down a trip to the seaside principality, which also hosts the track world’s best post-meet party (according to Nick Symmonds). Among the other highlights:
- Olympic champ Matthew Centrowitz takes on Asbel Kiprop, Ronald Kwemoi, Timothy Cheruiyot and more in the men’s 1500.
- Ajee Wilson goes for the American record against Caster Semenya in the women’s 800.
- NCAA sensation Emmanuel Korir is in the men’s 800.
- Hellen Obiri vs. Laura Muir vs. Molly Huddle in the women’s 3000.
- Evan Jager vs. Conseslus Kipruto in the men’s steeple.
- Two of the three furthest throwers in history, Thomas Röhler and Johannes Vetter, will battle in the men’s javelin.
- Wayde van Niekerk, fresh off a Diamond League record 43.62 in Lausanne, takes on Isaac Makwala, who just became the first man to break 20 and 44 in the same day, in the men’s 400.
We give you the meet details and preview the mid-d/distance events (plus the men’s 100 and 400) below.
What: 2017 Herculis
Where: Stade Louis II, Fontvieille, Monaco
When: Friday, July 21. 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 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. ET (full field events are also availble on the Gold package for a fee). In Europe, it’s on Eurosport. In Canada, he CBC broadcasts all 14 Diamond League events and live streams them also. For full TV/streaming details, see below.
Televised Events – ALL TIMES U.S. EASTERN
2:03 p.m. ET 400m Hurdles Women Entries
2:15 1500m Men Entries
2:20 High Jump Women Entries
2:25 400m Men Entries
2:35 800m Women Entries
2:45 200m Women Entries
2:45 Triple Jump Women Entries
2:55 800m Men Entries
3:05 100m Hurdles Women Entries
3:15 3000m Women Entries
3:35 100m Men Entries
3:45 3000m SC Men Entries
Men’s 1500 (2:15 p.m. ET): Fast times and plenty of intrigue await
|Chris O’Hare||Great Britain||3:34.35||3:34.35|
|Nick Willis||New Zealand||3:29.66||3:36.95|
There’s so much going on here that we could write an entire article on this race alone. The field is tremendous. The two fastest men in the world this year, Timothy Cheruiyot and Ronald Kwemoi, are both entered, and they’re joined by the other half of Kenya’s World Championship squad, Asbel Kiprop and Elijah Manangoi, who went 1-2 in Beijing two years ago. Two of the three medalists from last year’s Olympics are also running (Matthew Centrowitz and Nick Willis), as is British champ Chris O’Hare, who’s in the form of his life.
Then there’s this: Monaco is fast.
Because of the timing of the meet and the high-quality field, Monaco has produced a boatload of fast times in recent years. From 2012 to 2015, the world’s fastest time was run in Monaco every single year, and all 10 of the world’s fastest times this decade came at Stade Louis II. It should come as no surprise, then, that the five fastest athletes in this field (Kiprop, Kwemoi, Willis, Manangoi, Centrowitz) all set their PRs on this track as well. And with almost three weeks until the first round of the 1500 in London, there’s plenty of time for these guys to let loose and recover before Worlds.
Even though the field is packed with medal contenders, Monaco doesn’t offer the best preview of Worlds because Monaco is fast and championship finals, recently, have not been. But while Monaco is not a proving ground for tactical acumen, it does serve nicely as a fitness test, and fitness is a significant part of championship racing. If someone makes a statement victory here, they’ll have the inside track for World Championship gold.
We already know that Cheruiyot (world-leading 3:30.77 in Stockholm) and Kwemoi (world-leading 3:49.04 mile at Pre, 3:30.89 1500 at elevation at the Kenyan Trials) are supremely fit and should contend for the win. We’re more interested in seeing how the two Olympic champions in the field look. Let’s begin with Asbel Kiprop. The 28-year-old Kiprop began the year slowly (he was last at the Pre Classic in 3:58 on May 27) but after coming out hot and fading to sixth at the Olympics in 2016, his aim in 2017 has been to steadily gain fitness throughout the year. His last two Diamond League races both offered signs of progress as he clocked 3:33.17 for fourth in Stockholm on June 18th and followed that up with 1:44.43 for 800 in London on July 9. If Kiprop wants to peak at Worlds, he should be close to 3:30 shape right now.
Centrowitz, likewise, will be looking to make progress after his season was nearly shuttered in June due to a bout of pericarditis. Since finishing second at USAs, Centrowitz has run two additional races, finishing 7th in the Lausanne 1500 in 3:34.83 and 7th in an 800 in Lucerne in 1:49.12.
“I was a little bit disappointed with Lausanne,” said Centrowitz to LetsRun.com when we spoke with him on the phone in St. Moritz on July 12th, “but I felt lots better about it after speaking with [coach] Alberto [Salazar]. He was pretty thrilled about it. He thought I was going to run 3:36, so he was pretty happy with it. So that made me feel a lot better.”
As for Lucerne?
“I looked at my splits for that Lausanne race and … I closed in 55, which I was pretty happy with,” Centrowitz said. “I just couldn’t get out, I wasn’t getting going. So I looked at this 800 like it was close to St. Moritz (Centrowitz’s European training base), it was easy to get into and just get my legs spinning a little bit. So I got what I needed out of it. I’m pretty happy that I got into that 800 before Monaco because I think that will help me wake up a little bit, wake my legs up a little bit and get after this next race a little bit more aggressively, which I plan to do.”
Centrowitz said that he doesn’t have a time goal in Monaco, saying simply that he wants to be “more competitive than I was in Lausanne.” His PR is 3:30.40 from this race two years ago, and while that will be tough to beat, it’s not hard to imagine him slicing a few seconds off his 3:34 from Lausanne.
“Every workout, I feel like I’m getting my legs back underneath me,” Centrowitz said. “I think I’m definitely rounding into really good form and I’m excited about the progression I’ve had since USAs.”
As we mentioned above, Centrowitz’ fellow Olympic medalist Nick Willis will also be running Monaco. The Kiwi’s primary goal is to run under the 3:36.00 World Champs standard. He has until Sunday to hit that mark — though if he doesn’t he may still get a bid through the IAAF’s descending order list (he’s currently 43rd and the IAAF takes 45 entrants).
LRC prediction: If we knew he was 100%, we would not hesitate to pick Kiprop here as he’s terrific in fast races and won Monaco in 2012, 2013 and 2015. But Ronald Kwemoi is also great in fast races and has been more consistent this year. Kwemoi won the Kenyan Trials in 3:30 at altitude this year and, in case you forgot, won Monaco last year as well. We’ll take Kwemoi for the win, Kiprop to run 3:30 or faster and Centrowitz to run 3:32.
Men’s 400 (2:25 p.m. ET): Wayde van Niekerk vs. the clock
|Wayde van Niekerk||South Africa||43.03||43.62|
With world record holder Wayde van Niekerk in the field, there’s not much doubt as to what the outcome will be here. But we will be watching the clock carefully. Two weeks ago in Lausanne, van Niekerk broke the Diamond League record in the 400 by running 43.62 despite not really turning it on until the final 100 and easing up before the line. Even with Makwala in this race, Wayde won’t have to go all-out here, either, but we’d like to see what he’s capable of if he does.
U.S. runner-up Gil Roberts will also compete for the first time since the story of his ill-fated makeout session came out.
LRC Prediction: Another world leader for van Niekerk.
Women’s 800 (2:35 p.m. ET): Ajee Wilson chases the American record
|Sifan Hassan||The Netherlands||1:58.13||1:58.13|
|Caster Semenya||South Africa||1:55.28||1:56.61|
|Lynsey Sharp||Great Britain||1:57.69||1:58.80|
This one should be a barnburner. The big three of Caster Semenya, Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui are all entered, and according to broadcaster Steve Cram, Semenya has said she wants to run something fast in Monaco. Indeed, that’s exactly what she did in this race last year as she led wire-to-wire to clock the world’s fastest time in eight years (she later ran .05 faster in Rio). Given that Semenya did not run the best splits in that race (26-30-31-28 for her 200s) and considering Semenya has looked just as unstoppable over 800 in 2017 as she did in 2016, a time in the 1:54s is not out of the question on Friday. The women’s world record is 1:53.28, by the way. At almost 34 years old, it’s the longest-standing world record in all of track and field.
We don’t think she’ll approach anything close to that. We know there are many distance fans who believe that Semenya could run much faster if she went all out in an 800, but in our minds that theory took a hit last week in Rabat when Semenya only ran 51.53 for 400. in Rabat. That was not a good time at all for someone with a 50.40 pb. Of course, as Centrowitz said above, what one does in a shorter event isn’t always that important.
Aside from seeing how fast Semenya can run, the big story here is American Ajee Wilson. Wilson was forced to sit out the spring while her positive test for zeranol was being adjudicated, but she’s looked magnificent since she returned, running 1:57.78 — just .11 off her PR — to win USAs despite running a negative split (59.66-58.12). Just as her training partner Charlene Lipsey was able to lower her PR by getting in a fast race in Europe and running more conventional positive splits, we expect Wilson — who tuned up by running 1:59.19 FTW in Padua on Sunday — to run a a big personal best on Friday. It’s crazy in our minds that Lipsey currently has a much faster PR than Wilson (1:57.38 vs 1:57.67).
Just how fast can Wilson go? Well, Jearl Miles-Clark‘s American record of 1:56.40 has stood since 1999, but given how good Wilson looked at USAs, that is certainly within range, especially if Semenya will be towing Wilson along up front. In fact, Miles-Clark’s career is a good example of something most track fans know: it’s easier to run fast when you’ve got someone to follow.
Miles-Clark broke 1:57 four times, which represents two-thirds of all sub-1:57’s by Americans. Her finishes in those races? 3rd, 2nd, 3rd and 4th. In fact, of Miles-Clark’s 16 fastest times from her career, she won exactly zero of those races. The fastest she ran in a race she actually won was 1:58.78.
Likewise, we think Wilson has a much better shot at breaking the American record in Monaco than she does of actually winning the race.
But while Semenya is unbeatable, both Niyonsaba and Wambui have shown themselves to be vulnerable at times. It will take a massive effort in order to beat one of them — neither has lost to anyone other than themselves or Semenya since the start of the 2016 outdoor season — but if an athlete like Wilson runs a great race and either Niyonsaba or Wambui doesn’t run to their potential, it’s possible. Remember, Wilson was the last woman to beat one of the big three — she defeated Wambui at World Indoors last year in Portland.
This field is Olympic-final caliber, and it’s not hard to imagine someone running 1:57 and finishing sixth if Semenya really gets it rolling up front. Americans Lipsey and Brenda Martinez were both outclassed by Wilson in Sacramento, but both have been in tremendous form this year; PRs for both are very possible. The Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan will also get another crack at the 800 after running a PR of 1:58.13 in Lausanne. Melissa Bishop and Eunice Sum both medalled at Worlds two years ago.
LRC prediction: Semenya FTW in 1:54. Wilson runs 1:56, doesn’t break the American record, but does beat either Niyonsaba or Wambui.
Men’s 800 (2:55 p.m. ET): NCAA phenom Emmanuel Korir makes his Diamond League debut
|Elliot Giles||Great Britain||1:44.99||1:44.99|
|Bram Som||The Netherlands||1:43.45|
|Amel Tuka||Bosnia & Herzegovina||1:42.51||1:45.34|
Kenya’s Emmanuel Korir, the NCAA indoor and outdoor champion as a freshman at UTEP this year, has yet to lose a race all year. If he can keep that streak going for a few more weeks, he’ll wind up as world champion, emulating his coach Paul Ereng, who went from NCAA champ to Olympic champ as a freshman at Virginia in 1988. Korir has already proved he can compete with the best in the world, as evidenced by his triumph at the Kenyan Trials, where he ran 1:43.86 to defeat a field that contained World U20 champ Kipyegon Bett and Olympic finalists Ferguson Rotich and Michael Saruni. That’s actually a tougher field than the one he’ll face on Friday in Monaco as the men’s 800 isn’t an official Diamond League event.
That said, there’s still plenty of talent on hand. France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse was one spot off a medal in Rio and has run 1:42, but he’s still coming back from an injury that caused him to delay his season opener until June 28. Antoine Gakeme and Erik Sowinski both medalled at World Indoors last year, Brandon McBride is the Canadian champ and Drew Windle has been on fire of late. Amel Tuka medalled at Worlds in 2015.
LRC prediction: If Korir is a serious contender to win Worlds, he should win this race. We think he’s a serious contender to win Worlds, so we think he wins here.
Women’s 3,000 (3:15 p.m. ET): The Hellen Obiri show rolls on in Monaco
|Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal||Norway||8:39.47|
|Eilish McColgan||Great Britain||8:43.27|
|Laura Muir||Great Britain||8:38.47|
|Dominique Scott||South Africa||8:46.65|
|Stephanie Twell||Great Britain||8:40.98|
Kenya’s Hellen Obiri has been kicking ass and taking names throughout the outdoor season, and on Friday she’ll race her best distance — the 3,000 — in Monaco. Outdoors, the only women who have ever run faster than Obiri’s 8:20.68 PR were four Chinese women in Beijing in September 1993. In other words, Obiri is the clean world record holder.
She enters Monaco on the heels of a Kenyan-record 4:16.56 mile in London last weekend where she destroyed Laura Muir in the home straight after sitting on her for much of the race. When you factor in that Obiri also has also run the two fastest 5,000s of the year (14:18 in Rome, 14:22 in Shanghai), she’s the heavy favorite in Monaco. And as with the other events, we’ll be watching the clock. Could Obiri become the first non-Chinese woman to break 8:20 outdoors?
Muir actually beat Obiri convincingly the last time they met over this distance, running 8:26 indoors in Karlsruhe in February, but since then the Brit missed some time with a foot injury. Even if Muir won’t have to lead this race (though she still might), Obiri is too strong to overcome at this distance.
The more compelling battle is for second place. Muir is probably the favorite for that honor — after all, she did just 4:18 for the mile last week. Agnes Tirop is also formidable as the 2015 World XC champ has run 14:33 for 5,000 and won the Kenyan Trials in the 10,000.
Gelete Burka is more of a long-distance specialist — she ran 30:40 to win the Ethiopian 10,000 Trials in June — and she was beaten over 3,000 meters in Madrid last Friday (she ran 8:43.68). But we’re interested to see how she matches up against Molly Huddle. Remember, Burka was one of the women who outsprinted Huddle for a medal at Worlds in 2015. If Huddle can beat her in a 3k, that bodes well if Worlds go slow again.
Huddle won’t be the only American in action, as the other members of Team USA in the 5k, Shelby Houlihan and Shannon Rowbury, are both entered. This should be an intriguing matchup between the three of them as at USAs, Houlihan was fresh while Huddle and Rowbury were doubling back from the 10,000 and 1500, respectively. Houlihan has been in terrific form and at 24, she may have better wheels over 3,000 than Huddle or Rowbury, both of whom are 32. But all are fairly close in ability, so it wouldn’t shock us to see them finish in any order in Monaco.
One woman we would have liked to see in this race is Almaz Ayana. The Olympic 10,000 champ has not raced at all this year, and though she was initially entered in Monaco, she subsequently scratched. According to her agent, Jos Hermens, that was not by choice. He told LRC that though Ayana was injured earlier in the year, she is healthy, training well and intends to compete at Worlds. But Hermens told us that because she’s now in the Ethiopian federation’s pre-Worlds training camp, the federation won’t let her compete in Monaco — hence why other Ethiopian stars such as Genzebe Dibaba and Letesenbet Gidey are also absent (though we should note that Burka is still entered).
LRC prediction: Obiri wins this one handily. We’ll take Houlihan as the top American in 8:38.
Men’s 100 (3:35 p.m. ET): Usain Bolt runs his final tuneup before Worlds
|Akani Simbine||South Africa||9.89||9.92|
|CJ Ujah||Great Britain||9.96||9.98|
The last two years have followed a similar pattern for Usain Bolt. He’ll start slow, usually while battling some injury, before traveling to Germany to be treated by Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt. Then he’ll come back, run much better in a late-July Diamond League race before sweeping the medals at the global championships.
In 2017, Bolt has followed the same script. He looked lethargic in running 10.03 and 10.06 in his first two 100s of the year, but after the latter race, in Ostrava on June 28, he once again journeyed to Müller-Wohlfahrt, who will look to use his unique methods to cure the back issues that bothered Bolt late in his career.
Now Bolt’s back, and he’ll face a much bigger test in Monaco than he did against creampuff fields in Kingston and Ostrava. USAs third placer Christopher Belcher, who has run 9.93 this year, is entered, as is Olympic 5th placer Akani Simbine of South Africa and CJ Ujah of Great Britain, who has looked good in winning non-Diamond League 100s in Rome, London and Rabat. Yunier Perez of Cuba finished just .03 behind Bolt in Ostrava and has since improved to 10.00, while Olympic 110 hurdles champ Omar McLeod will also hop in to test his flat speed.
These men are no match for Bolt at his best, but right now, they provide a good challenge. If Bolt can win convincingly and/or dip under 9.90, he’ll immediately become the heavy favorite for gold in London (Christian Coleman is the only man to have broken 9.90 this year). But if he loses, there will be some cause for concern as many of Bolt’s biggest rivals in London — Coleman, Justin Gatlin, Andre De Grasse and Yohan Blake — are not running here and not necessarily by choice. De Grasse will be racing in Monaco – but he’s only running the 4 x 100.
And for that, you can blame Bolt. “We were in the  race. We got booted out. That’s all on Bolt,” De Grasse’s coach Stuart McMillan told CBC Sports recently. “Let’s just say he wanted not such an elite field against him.”
— Cathal Dennehy (@Cathal_Dennehy) July 19, 2017
LRC prediction: As usual, “Healing Hans” fixes up Bolt and the big man wins in Monaco. Even if Bolt loses in Monaco, it isn’t the end of the world — none of those rivals have risen up and stamped themselves as a clear world #1 this year — but it will dent his chances for London.
Men’s 3,000 steeplechase (3:45 p.m. ET): Can Evan Jager become the first American man to win a DL steeple?
Since the creation of the Diamond League in 2010, only five U.S. males have won a distance race (800, 1500/mile, 3k/5k, steeple) at one of those events.
The five American men to win a Diamond League mid-d/distance event
|Ben True||6/13/15||New York||5000||13:29.48|
On Friday, Evan Jager will try to join the club. Jager, who was second at the Olympics and the Diamond League final last year, has a shot to win any race he enters, and you could argue he’s the favorite in Monaco for a few reasons.
1) Conseslus Kipruto hasn’t been himself. The only man to beat Jager last year, Kipruto picked up an ankle injury at the Kenyan Trials in June and it’s continued to bother him since. It forced him to scratch from Ostrava on June 28 and drop out of last week’s race in Rabat. Considering he couldn’t even finish a week ago, he’s not going to be in top form in Monaco on Friday.
2) The other top guys from Rio aren’t running. Jager and Kipruto are the only men from the top six in Rio entered in Monaco. That means that Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali, who impressively won Rabat in 8:05, won’t be running.
3) Jager is in good shape. Jager ran 8:16 at USAs, closing in 56.70 — his fastest last lap ever — and since then says he’s only gotten fitter. Considering Jager closed an 8:15 race in 57.3 last year at Oxy and eventually ran 8:04, we’d estimate he’s close to that kind of shape right now. And Kipruto is the only guy on planet Earth to have run 8:04 this year.
So who could beat Jager? Americans Stanley Kebenei, Hillary Bor and Andy Bayer have been in good form this year, but Jager turned them back at USAs. We don’t think he loses to them. World U20 champ Amos Kirui was third in Rabat and has run 8:08 this year. He’s definitely a threat. But the best bet to defeat Jager is Kenya’s Jairus Birech. Birech owns Jager head-to-head, as he’s won their last eight matchups (he’s 8-2 lifetime; Jager hasn’t beaten Birech since 2013). That stat is a little misleading as they didn’t race last year when Jager had a better year than Birech, but Birech is fit — he was second in Rabat and is #3 on the 2017 world list at 8:07. This will be no walkover.
Still, Jager won’t have many better opportunities to win a Diamond League race, and he’s ready to go for the win.
“I’m feeling really good,” Jager told LetsRun.com during a live podcast we did with him on Tuesday. “And I think my gameplan is probably just to go out near the front, probably, hopefully in the first two or three guys behind the rabbit and not really stress too much about running fast times, just kind of try my best to stay relaxed until the final couple laps and just go for the win.”
For more from Jager, check out our interview with him from Tuesday. We spoke to Jager for almost an hour about the Fancy Bears hack, Monaco and a variety of topics.
LRC prediction: Jager ends the drought and becomes the first U.S. male to win a Diamond League steeple.
Talk about the meet on our messageboard: Official 2017 Monaco DL Discussion Thread – Oh baby what a meet