July 14, 2017
Only two Diamond League meets remain before the start of the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London. The second of those, Monaco, which will be held one week from today (next Friday), is going to be incredible (just check out the fields, which the meet has been rolling out on its Twitter feed). But before that, there’s the lone Diamond League stop in Africa in Rabat, Morocco, on Sunday, where athletes like Nijel Amos (800), Conseslus Kipruto (steeplechase) and Ruth Jebet (steeplechase) will get a chance to test themselves before the big one next month. Jebet figures to have it easy in a depleted women’s steeple, but Amos will be challenged by American Donavan Brazier while Kipruto squares off against home favorite Soufiane El Bakkali (4th at the Olympics). Americans Brenda Martinez and Shannon Rowbury will square off over 1500 meters, while Stephanie Garcia and Andy Bayer will also go in the steeples.
In non-distance action, Ryan Crouser will look to extend his undefeated season in the shot put, Yohan Blake goes in the 100, Andre De Grasse faces Fred Kerley and Ameer Webb in the 200 and Elaine Thompson leads the 100 field. The most mouthwatering matchup, however, comes in the 400 where Olympic 400 champ Shaunae Miller-Uibo takes on Olympic 800 champ Caster Semenya.
We give you the meet details and preview the four mid-d/distance events below.
What: 2017 Meeting International Mohammed VI d’Athlétisme de Rabat
Where: Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium, Rabat, Morocco
When: Sunday, July 16. 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 the Olympic Channel from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. ET. In Europe, it’s on Eurosport. For full TV/streaming details, see below.
Televised Events – ALL TIMES U.S. EASTERN
2:00 p.m. Javelin Throw Women Entries
2:03 400m Hurdles Women Heat A Entries
2:13 100m Men Entries
2:22 800m Men Entries
2:30 Long Jump Men Entries
2:32 3000m Steeplechase Women Entries
2:50 200m Men Entries
2:58 1500m Women Entries
3:12 100m Women Entries
3:20 3000m Steeplechase Men Entries
3:37 400m Women Entries
3:46 3000m Men Entries
Men’s 1500 (1:38 p.m. ET)
|Abdelkarim Ben Zahra||Morocco||3:46.18||3:46.18|
|Fouad El Kaam||Morocco||3:33.71||3:34.86|
This race takes place before the TV window begins and it’s a non-Diamond League event, but those watching live in the stadium should be interested as the field contains eight Morrocans. Of those eight, the fastest is Fouad El Kaam, the reigning African champion, who has run 3:34 this year, though 24-year-old Younes Essalhi has also run 3:35 in 2017. Head-to-head, El Kaam has owned Essalhi though, as he’s 2-0 this year and 9-3 in his career. Most recently, he beat Essalhi in Rabat two weeks ago in an extremely tactical race (3:55 winning time) at the Coupe du Trone.
El Kaam and Essalhi will be the crowd favorites, but a Moroccan victory is by no means guaranteed. Spain’s David Bustos was an Olympic finalist last year, while his countryman Adel Mechaal has run 3:34 this year (tops in the field, though El Kaam did beat him in Prague on June 5). Bahrain’s Benson Seurei has a 3:31 pb, but the guy we’re most interested in is Kumari Taki of Kenya. Only 18, Taki is a big talent as he was World Youth champ in 2015 and World U20 champ last year. He was only 10th in his last race in Stockholm on June 18, running 3:38, and he didn’t run the Kenyan World Champs Trials, but if he can win World U20s, he should be capable of faster than his 3:36 pb.
LRC prediction: Taki has the highest upside but a lot of uncertainty. We’ll take El Kaam FTW on home soil.
Men’s 800 (2:22 p.m. ET): Amos looks to keep rolling as Brazier looks for revenge
|Bram Som||The Netherlands||1:43.45|
After a win in Paris and a world-leading 1:43.18 in London last week, Botswana’s Nijel Amos is the world’s hottest 800 runner right now and he’ll look to make it three Diamond League wins in a row in Rabat on Sunday. Amos also showed that his speed is on point right now as three days after that victory in London, he traveled to Lignano, Italy, and set a personal best of 45.55 in the 400 in a race won by Josephus Lyles (Noah’s younger brother): MB Nijel Amos 45.55 tonight pb. The field in Rabat is just as, if not more, impressive as the one assembled in London but considering the ease with which Amos demolished his competition in the British capital, he has to be considered the heavy favorite in this one.
The man who finished second behind Amos last week, 20-year-old Donavan Brazier, is also entered here. In London, Brazier recorded the second-fastest time of his career, a 1:43.95 that is second only to his already legendary 1:43.55 NCAA-winning run last year. Clearly, he is very fit right now. But we already know Brazier is excellent when the pace is hot and he can get in good position early in the race. However, one area Brazier still needs to develop is his tactics. Yes, he was third in Rome earlier this year, a good result against a good field in a slow race (only one guy broke 1:46) but he needs as much big-race experience as possible to prepare for Worlds and we’re glad to see him in Rabat.
If the pace is fast early, Brazier will likely try to do what he did in London and settle in near the front. But from a development standpoint, it’s better for Brazier if the race goes slow. His chances are better in a fast race, but not every race at Worlds will be fast and the field in Rabat is similar to what he can expect to face in a World Championship semifinal. The more Brazier exposes himself to different styles of race, the more prepared he is in the future.
Adam Kszczot was a disappointing sixth in London but won in Rome. Brazier’s former SEC rival Brandon McBride is coming off a win and a season’s best of 1:45.23 at the Canadian champs last week, while World U20 champ Kipyegon Bett of Kenya, who was the runner-up at the Kenyan Trials, has not finished lower than second in a race all year. All of those men could conceivably challenge Brazier but it would take something special to stop Amos the way he is running right now.
LRC prediction: Amos wins it and the hype train continues to gain steam for London.
Women’s 3000 steeplechase (2:32 p.m. ET): Ruth Jebet tries to reassert herself before Worlds
|Fadwa Sidi Madane||Morocco||9:27.87||9:28.75|
|Maria Teresa Urbina||Spain||9:41.95||9:43.48|
Update: Jebet has scratched from the meet
Entering 2017, the women’s steeplechase looked as if it would be one of the easiest events to predict this year. Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet was fresh off a year in which she broke the world record and won the Olympic title and, at just 20 years old, seemed set to dominate the event for years. But Jebet has won just one of her four Diamond League steeplechases this year as women like Celliphine Chespol, Beatrice Chepkoech and Hyvin Kiyeng have raised their games. Of the five women’s steeples contested on the DL circuit this year, each has been won by a different woman.
That is likely to change in Rabat, as Jebet has run over 13 seconds faster than anyone else entered in the race. Her chief rival figures to be Kenya’s Norah Jeruto, who won against a watered-down field in Oslo but was smoked (11th place) in the loaded Paris race two weeks ago. Jebet ran 9:10 in that race, which included a fall (for her, that’s slow) but still beat Jeruto by 16+ seconds. So this race is less about Jebet vs. the field and Jebet vs. the clock. Jebet won the Olympics last year because she was in better shape than any woman in the history of the women’s steeplechase. There was no profound strategy; Jebet just ran for a long time and by the end of the race, her rivals had vanished.
This year, Jebet employed the same tactics early in the season, but she hasn’t been able to run quite as fast (after breaking 9:00 three times last year, her 2017 SB is 9:01.99) while her rivals have all improved. In Rabat, she won’t face any of the other gold-medal contenders. Jebet could relax and coast to the win in 9:10, but she is an aggressive runner, and with three and a half weeks until the steeple begins at Worlds, she’ll have plenty of time to recover from a hard effort. If Jebet can go out there and solo a sub-9:00, it will be a good sign for her fitness and a good way to head into Worlds.
Stephanie Garcia is the lone U.S. representative in the field, and after PRs in her last two races (8:52 3k in New York, 4:24 mile in London), she could be ready to challenge her 9:19 steeple PR here.
LRC prediction: Jebet dominates, but since she couldn’t break 9:00 against good competition earlier in the season, we don’t expect her to do it here. No PR for Garcia.
Women’s 1500 (2:58 p.m. ET): Americans Brenda Martinez & Shannon Rowbury headline the field
|Jennifer Meadows||Great Britain||4:19.36|
|Solange Andreia Pereira||Spain||4:08.29||4:09.40|
|Laura Weightman||Great Britain||4:00.17||4:01.95|
From an American perspective, this is the most interesting mid-d/distance event of the meet as two of America’s best middle-distance runners, Brenda Martinez and Shannon Rowbury, will square off. 1500 meters is a good distance for them to race as Martinez will run the 800 at Worlds while Rowbury will run the 5,000. Rowbury may be the American record holder at 1500, but we’re giving Martinez the slight edge. Not only has Martinez looked exceptional over 800 meters this year — she’s gotten faster every time out, from 1:59.21 to 1:58.78 to 1:58.46 at USAs — but she’s run 4:03 for 1500 twice, including a win over Rowbury at the Pre Classic. Rowbury has been fine — she ran 4:04 at Pre and was second in the 5,000 at USAs — but, at 32, she may be starting to lose some of her top-end speed (with that said, she was still 4th at the Olympics last year).
But there are reasons for optimism for Rowbury fans. Although she started somewhat slowly this year outdoors, she’s looked better and better with each meet and she’ll have had three weeks to recover from a tough 1500/5k double at USAs. Expect her to run an SB in Rabat and contend for the win.
Rowbury will have to bring her A game, however, as Martinez is very fit. Just check out her workout from July 5:
?Not sure if I killed that workout or if that workout killed me…
3x400m 1 x300m
300m (41.23) pic.twitter.com/WY1T1kLoRb
— Brenda Martinez (@bmartrun) July 6, 2017
Granted, we don’t know what the rest was, but the fact that Martinez can run even one 400 in 52.89, let alone come back for a second in 53.95, is super impressive. Based on her results in 2017, she definitely seems ready to challenge her 4:00.94 pb, but Rabat may not be the best race for her to do it in — Rowbury is the only woman in the field who has broken 4:00. Should Martinez do it, she’d become the seventh American to join the club. Still, with Rababe Arafi (4:01.75 pb at Pre, ahead of Martinez and Rowbury), Olympic finalist Laura Weightman and Pole Angelika Cichocka (4:01.61 1500 pb in Paris, 4:19.58 mile pb in London), there will be some fast women to run with.
LRC prediction: Cichocka, who, in case you forgot, won a Diamond League in Stockholm last year, is in terrific form and just beat Jenny Simpson in London. Simpson is a better 1500 runner than Martinez or Rowbury right now, so we’ll go with Cichocka FTW. Martinez is probably in sub-4:00 shape but we don’t think the race will go out fast enough for her to get under.
Men’s 3ooo steeplechase (3:20 p.m. ET): Conseslus Kipruto takes on Soufiane El Bakkali on home soil
|Soufiane El Bakkali||Morocco||8:05.17||8:05.17|
|Altobelli Santos da Silva||Brazil||8:26.06||8:26.06|
A month ago, 21-year-old Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco gave Olympic champ Conseslus Kipruto a run for his money in Rome, hanging with him until the final barrier. They’ll meet again on El Bakkali’s turf in Rabat on Sunday. The smart money is on Kipruto, who still had time to celebrate before the line in Rome while clocking a world-leading 8:04.63. He’s just been so good over the past two years (he hasn’t lost a race he was trying to win since September 2015) that it’s foolish to bet against him. We don’t expect a terribly fast time, however. Kipruto is headlining a ridiculously loaded steeple in Monaco five days after Rabat, and he’ll need to be at his best there to win. Still, with El Bakkali and fellow Kenyan Jairus Birech (8:07 for third in Rome), Kipruto could be challenged here as well.
The entire U.S. World Champs team will be in Monaco next week, so Andy Bayer is the sole American representative in Rabat. He’s been in terrific form this year (most recently, he set a 7:38 flat 3k PR in London on Sunday, defeating Eric Jenkins and Ryan Hill in the process), so he could well stand to improve upon the 8:14 pb he set in Rome back in June. Only four Americans have ever broken 8:10, but Bayer is getting close.
LRC prediction: Kipruto FTW, but he’ll have to wait until Monaco for his first career sub-8:00. Bayer runs a PB.
Women’s 400 (3:37 p.m. ET): Semenya vs. Miller-Uibo in a battle of Olympic champions
|Shaunae Miller-Uibo||The Bahamas||49.44||49.77|
|Caster Semenya||South Africa||50.40||51.60|
Let’s face it: Caster Semenya is so dominant that it’s not particularly interesting to watch her run the 800 meters. We all know the outcome: Semenya will hang with the pack for the first 600-700 meters before destroying them in the home straight. She has won her last 17 races at 800 meters, a streak that began in September 2015. The only way a race featuring Semenya is interesting is if she’s out of her comfort zone, which is why we’re excited to see what she can do against the world’s best at 400 meters.
Semenya is also a talented 400 runner; remember, she won the Diamond League final in that event last year in Brussels. But in that race, she didn’t face either of the two best women from Rio — Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Allyson Felix. And though Semenya is a staggering 31-1 in finals since the start of last year, her one defeat came in a 400 (granted, it was all the way back in March 2016).
This will be Semenya’s biggest test yet as the Rabat field is stacked. Felix may be absent, but three of the top four from Rio will be in the blocks: Miller-Uibo, Shericka Jackson of Jamaica and Natasha Hastings of the U.S. Miller-Uibo has been in terrific form in 2017 as she’s already broken 50 seconds twice; her only defeat came on May 27 at the Pre Classic, where she still set a blazing 200 PR of 21.91. Quanera Hayes also looked terrific in winning the 400 at USAs in a personal best of 49.72 and should contend for the win here.
Yet even though Semenya is the second-slowest woman in the field by PR, we don’t expect her to finish second-to-last. Since returning to a world-class level in 2016, she’s consistently raced up to the quality of her competition, and she won’t find much better competition in the women’s 400 than this field.
Based on her 400 in Brussels last year (below), Semenya may want to go out harder through 200; if she goes out conservatively, she risks getting left behind by a speedster like Miller-Uibo. But if Semenya is even close entering the home stretch, the rest of the field should watch out as her middle-distance strength should help her power through the final 100.
LRC prediction: It’s hard to say what Semenya is capable of as we rarely see her go all-out, but this field should push her to her limits. One LetsRun.com staffer believes 48 seconds isn’t out of the question but most of us think that’s ridiculous and say anything under 50 would be quite impressive. Think about it: there are lots of good high school boy 800 runners that can’t break 50. If she’s a sub-50 400 runner, she should certainly be at least a 1:53 800 runner.
In terms of winning, we’re much more confident – we’ll go with the known quantity, Miller-Uibo, for the win. We’re also excited to see what Hayes does. Should she challenge Miller-Uibo in this one, it would set the stage for a terrific three-way battle between those two and Felix in London.
Men’s 3000 (3:46 p.m. ET): Abdelaati Iguider tries to send the crowd home happy
The Rabat Diamond League will finish just as London did last week: with the home nation’s best runner trying to win the men’s 3000. The difference is, Abdelaati Iguider is no lock for victory. The 30-year-old Iguider did win this race last year, but he was only 10th in Paris two weeks ago. He’s also been overmatched in his specialty 1500/mile as in three Diamond League meets he’s finished 6th, 14th and 9th. With that said, only one of the men who defeated him in Paris is entered in this non-DL event (Bethwell Birgen), though Bahrain’s Albert Rop (5th Doha 3k, 5th Pre Classic 5k) and Kenya’s Vincent Kibet (top-4 in all four of his DL 1500/miles in 2017) will both challenge Iguider.
LRC prediction: If it comes down to a kick, we like Kibet, but he’s only ever run two 3ks in his life. In a faster race, we’ll go with Rop, who has been the best at 3k/5k this year.
Talk about Sunday’s meet on our fan forum / messageboard: Official 2017 Rabat DL Discussion Thread – BMart vs. Rowbury + Caster at 400
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