August 16, 2018
After a layoff of almost a month, the Diamond League track and field / atheltics series is back for its final regular season event on Saturday in Birmingham before the two finals take place in Zurich (Thursday, August 30) and Brussels (Friday, August 31). While there will be plenty of stars on display at this weekend’s stop in Birmingham for the Müller Grand Prix, the meet also represents the last chance for athletes on the bubble to earn qualifying points for the final, so every spot matters.
The highlight of the meet comes at the very end, as the final two events — the women’s 200 and men’s 100 — both feature stacked fields. The women’s 200 may just be the best women’s sprint race of the entire year as Dina Asher-Smith, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, and Marie-Josee Ta Lou will all square off. The men’s 100, meanwhile, features USA’s best (Noah Lyles, Christian Coleman) against Britain’s best (Zharnel Hughes, Reece Prescod) and should be quite a race.
In the mid-d/distance events, the race to watch is the men’s 800, which features Emmanuel Korir, Clayton Murphy, and Adam Kszczot, while the women’s 1500 could be interesting as Caster Semenya faces Sifan Hassan. Unfortunately, Laura Muir won’t be running that race as she’s in the 1000 instead, while the men’s steeple boasts a strong field (Conseslus Kipruto, Soufiane El Bakkali, Benjamin Kigen) even if Evan Jager is sitting this one out. Paul Chelimo and Nick Willis are the headliners in the Emsley Carr Mile.
Full breakdowns of the top events below.
What: 2018 Müller Grand Prix Birmingham
Where: Alexander Stadium, Birmingham, England
When: Saturday, August 18
How to watch: This meet will air live in the United States on the Olympic Channel from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. ET on Saturday. In Canada, it’s on CBC, while in the UK, it’s on BBC1.
Women’s 1500 (9:22 a.m. ET): Sifan Hassan should roll as Americans Kate Grace & Brenda Martinez seek spots in the DL final
|Sarah McDonald||Great Britain||4:04.28||4:04.28|
|Marta Pen Freitas||Portugal||4:04.53||4:04.53|
|Caster Semenya||South Africa||3:59.92||3:59.92|
|Charlene Thomas||Great Britain||4:03.74|
|Laura Weightman||Great Britain||4:00.17||4:01.76|
The last time Sifan Hassan ran in England, at last month’s Müller Anniversary Games in London, she came away with a dominant 4:14 victory to become the third-fastest female miler in history. Since then, she added an easy gold medal in the 5k at last week’s European Championships and enters Birmingham as the clear favorite in this event.
While Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay, who won in Stockholm and Ostrava earlier this year, was second behind Hassan in London in 4:16, Hassan blew her doors off at the end of that one. The woman with the best chance to beat Hassan is actually Caster Semenya, but that won’t happen either. While Semenya is the best 800 runner in the world by far and won the 1500 at the Doha Diamond League back in May, she was only 6th in her last DL 1500 in Lausanne on July 5. In that race, Semenya hung with the leaders until the late stages but her lack of aerobic strength showed over the final 200m; normally Semenya crushes the last 200 but in Lausanne she looked totally out of gas. And even if the race turns out to be slower than 4:00, we don’t think Semenya has a real chance as we often thik tactical 1500s still come down to who has the most left, not necessarily who is the fastest and plus we should point out that Hassan owns a 1:56 pb herself.
Americans Kate Grace and Brenda Martinez are both entered, and both women are on the bubble of making the 12-woman DL final. Right now, 12th has 6 points, Martinez is 17th with 2 points, and Grace is tied for 18th with 1 point. They may only need to end up in the top 14 as there are some women ahead of them (Habitam Alemu, Hellen Obiri) who could scratch in order to run other events at the DL final. Still, they’ll likely need to finish in the top four or five in Birmingham (5 points for 4th, 4 points for 5th) to give themselves a chance.
One more comment: we think it’s lame that Laura Muir isn’t in this race. Muir and Hassan dodged each other at the European champs last week and now they’re dodging each other again in Birmingham. Yes, Hassan did smoke Muir the last time they raced in London, but Muir beat Hassan the time before that in Lausanne. Instead, Muir is running the 1000 in Birmingham, a race no one cares about and one that she will win easily.
LRC prediction: Most likely, the pace won’t lag as Tsegay likes to push it from the front. That might be enough to burn off Semenya late, but it won’t be enough for Tsegay to get rid of Hassan, who will take the win.
Men’s steeplechase (9:33 a.m. ET): El Bakkali battles Kipruto once again
|Jamaine Coleman||Great Britain||8:31.91||8:31.91|
|Soufiane El Bakkali||Morocco||7:58.15||7:58.15|
|Zak Seddon||Great Britain||8:26.51||8:26.51|
|Ieuan Thomas||Great Britain||8:30.16||8:30.16|
It’s been an odd year in the men’s steeplechase. The season began with unheralded Benjamin Kigen crushing the Olympic gold and silver medalists (Conseslus Kipruto and Evan Jager) to win the Prefontaine Classic, and while Kipruto returned to winning ways five days later in Rome, that was a non-DL event; in the next DL points race in Rabat, it was Kigen who once again emerged victorious as Kipruto battled a back issue. El Bakkali then made a statement in Monaco by clocking the world’s first sub-8:00 in three years, only to get beaten at the African champs by Kipruto and his famous kick. What will happen here, and can American Hillary Bor, who has run 8:12 and 8:14 in his last two races, become the sixth American to crack the 8:10 barrier?
LRC prediction: It’s anyone’s guess as to who wins in Birmingham. At its best, Kipruto’s kick is unstoppable, but, due to a combination of illness and injury, Kipruto has rarely been at his best in 2018. El Bakkali looked terrific in Monaco, and though he lost at the African champs, he’s our pick for second behind Kipruto, with Kigen and European champ Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad (running just his second DL steeple in the last four years) making a rare DL appearance.
After winning the African champs, Kipruto reiterated he still wants to run fast this year so we will be watching intently to see if he looks like the Kipruto of old.
One last thing. We said above that it was lame for the fans that Hassan and Muir aren’t clashing. Well it’s also lame that Evan Jager isn’t in this one.
From a coaching perspective, we get it. Jerry Schumacher has a system that works, and for Jager, that means picking a couple of races a year to really focus on and forgetting about everything else. Jager is going all-in on the DL final in Zurich on August 30 and it’s easier for him not to race in Birmingham than it is for him to race there and plan around it while still peaking for Zurich.
That said, as fans, we want to see the big stars racing. If Jager breaks 8:00 and/or wins the DL final, all will be forgiven. If not, it’s pretty lame that in a non-championship year he’s only managed to race twice on the circuit (Pre and Monaco; three times total if you count USAs). And what if Birmingham turns into a super fast race while the pace in Zurich lags for a lap or two as maybe Kipruto wants to focus on the big dollars that come with a win? Jager wants to break 8:00 badly; why not take two shots at it instead of one? The best workout is often a race and it might be nice for him to get a rust-buster in before going for broke in the DL final.
For a detailed look at how and why Jager and Schumacher schedule their training and pick their races, check out this article of ours from May, which includes an interview we did with Jager before the Pre Classic.
Women’s 3000 (9:49 a.m. ET): Hellen Obiri seeks vengeance for last year’s upset
|Camille Buscomb||New Zealand||8:45.97||8:45.97|
|Rosie Clarke||Great Britain||8:51.02|
|Melissa Courtney||Great Britain||8:46.33||8:46.33|
|Eilish McColgan||Great Britain||8:31.00||8:48.03|
|Dominique Scott||South Africa||8:41.33||9:08.04|
|Stephanie Twell||Great Britain||8:40.98||8:47.93|
In 2017, Kenya’s Hellen Obiri entered this meet fresh off a comfortable world title in the 5k in London and wound up getting outkicked by not one, not two, but three women, including 20-year-old Konstanze Klosterhalfen. Though two of those women are gone (Sifan Hassan is running the 3k, while Margaret Kipkemboi hasn’t raced since May), Klosterhalfen returns and Obiri will be out for revenge.
Just as in 2017, Obiri will be favored to win here: she pounded out a 14:21 5k world leader in Rabat on July 13, followed that up with a 4:16 mile in London, and cruised to the African title in the 5k. And unlike last year, when she only had a week to recover between Worlds and Birmingham, 16 days will have passed since her run at the African champs, meaning she should be well-rested.
With Klosterhalfen not in the form she was last year having missed 3-4 months with knee pain (she did just get 4th at Euros in the 5000 however), Obiri’s biggest competitors figure to be two women whom Obiri has already gained revenge on this year. At the DL opener on May 4 in Doha, Obiri ran just 8:53 in the 3k, way back of winner Caroline Kipkirui and runner-up Agnes Tirop, both of whom clocked 8:29. Obiri beat both of them in Rabat, and while both Kipkirui (a 65:07 half marathoner) and Tirop (the 2015 World XC champ) may be more suited to a slightly longer race, if they are still able to run sub-8:30 they’ll at least make Obiri work for it.
LRC prediction: Obiri FTW.
Men’s Emsley Carr Mile (10:14 a.m. ET): Olympic medalists Paul Chelimo & Nick Willis battle it out.
|Charlie Da’Vall Grice||Great Britain||3:52.64|
|Neil Gourley||Great Britain||3:58.43||3:58.43|
|Youssouf Hiss Bachir||Djibouti|
|Jakub Holusa||Czech Republic||3:53.46|
|Chris O’Hare||Great Britain||3:53.34||3:57.17|
|Nick Willis||New Zealand||3:49.83||4:00.29|
For the second year in a row, the Emsley Carr Mile race is a non-Diamond League event and the top Kenyans are sitting this one out (at least there are more Kenyans than last year, when rabbit Andrew Rotich was the only representative). Therefore the top guys to watch figure to be American Paul Chelimo, New Zealand’s Nick Willis, and Australia’s Ryan Gregson. Chelimo, who hasn’t raced since earning his first career DL win in London on July 21, is one of the world’s best in the 3k/5k, but should still be a factor here as he has big-time wheels and was the U.S. 1500 champ indoors. Willis, meanwhile, has the most decorated 1500 resume in the field and is rounding into form after an injury early this year and won the Guardian Mile in Cleveland last week. Gregson was second in his last DL race in London, where he beat Willis but couldn’t quite run down Matthew Centrowitz. Chris O’Hare has had a rough last two races (DNF in London, 9th at Euros), but he ran 3:32 and has won the last two British titles on this track.
Drew Hunter, who was recently added to the field, has had a big year and is coming off a 1500 pb of 3:35.77 in London, .13 behind Willis. We expect him to run a big PR here but would be very surprised if he contends for the win.
LRC prediction: Chelimo hasn’t raced in a month and will be raring to go for this one. He’s our pick FTW, though if the race turns very tactical, we like either Gregson or Willis, both fast finishers, to take it.
Women’s 1000 (10:24 a.m. ET): Laura Muir in a glorified exhibition
|Esther Puigdevall Guerrero||Spain|
|Laura Muir||Great Britain|
|Angela Petty||New Zealand|
|Jemma Reekie||Great Britain|
|Katie Snowden||Great Britain|
|Adelle Tracey||Great Britain|
|Simona Vrzalova||Czech Republic|
Now that Mo Farah has moved up to the roads, it appears that Laura Muir has assumed the mantle of “British star who gets to face an easy field courtesy of British Athletics.” To be fair to Muir, she did take on a stacked mile field at last month’s London Diamond League, but this field is nowhere near as good, with Muir supposedly chasing Kelly Holmes‘ British record of 2:32.55 (we expect her to get it considering Muir already has the British record indoors, and it’s actually faster than the outdoor record: 2:31.93).
Victory for Muir isn’t a completely foregone conclusion — Renelle Lamote earned the silver medal at Euros last week, Adelle Tracey was 4th (though Muir spanked her at the British champs) and Kaela Edwards was 4th at USAs — but this field is certainly not DL-quality (hence why it’s not a DL event).
LRC prediction: Muir gets the win and the British record in 2:31.
Men’s 800 (10:24 a.m. ET): Emmanuel Korir leads a strong field
|Elliot Giles||Great Britain||1:44.99||1:45.04|
|Jake Wightman||Great Britain||1:44.61||1:44.61|
Emmanuel Korir may have finally suffered his first defeat of 2018 at the African champs on August 3, but he remains a perfect four-for-four in Diamond League races and the man who beat him at the African champs, Nijel Amos, is not entered here. Korir is at his best in fast races, so expect him to get to the front by the bell and power away from this field in similar fashion to what he did in London a month ago (though the time may not be quite as fast).
Behind him, there are four other men entered who have broken 1:44 this year, including American Clayton Murphy, who is still in search of his first DL victory, and Poland’s Adam Kszczot, the World Indoor champ who is coming off his third straight European title. Both Murphy and Kszczot are savvy tacticians, and if Korir does not assert control of the race, he will leave himself vulnerable for an upset here. Korir’s fellow Kenyan Ferguson Rotich had been in good form this year (wins in Stockholm and Paris) but could only manage 5th at the African champs; can he bounce back? And what will African/World 1500 champ Elijah Manangoi be able to do over the shorter 800m distance? He was an impressive second behind Korir in the Diamond League opener in Doha back in May.
While Murphy (currently tied for 5th in the standings) looks set to qualify for the DL final, the fact that Amos isn’t here unfortunately means that we won’t get an Amos-Korir rematch in the DL final as Amos is only 14th in the standings. With Amos out here, we think it’s like there is some truth to the rumors on the messageboard that Amos has decided to end his season due to an injury from the 4 x 400 at the African chammps. Otherwise, it makes no sense that man in such surpreme form wouldn’t run here.
LRC prediction: Korir is the best guy in the field and should win, but if he lets it go slow (1:45), watch out for Murphy and Kszczot.
Women’s 200 (10:44 a.m. ET): The race of the year in the women’s sprints
|Dina Asher-Smith||Great Britain||21.89||21.89|
|Shaunae Miller-Uibo||The Bahamas||21.88||22.06|
|Marie-Josee Ta Lou||Ivory Coast||22.08||22.34|
Shaunae Miller-Uibo‘s duel with Salwa Eid Naser in the 400 in Monaco was the sprint race of the year so far, but in terms of depth, the 200 in Birmingham has it beat. Let’s run through each athlete’s resume quickly:
Dina Asher-Smith: Coming off triple gold at Euros, including British records/world leaders in the 100 (10.85) and 200 (21.89)
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce: Double Olympic 100m champion
Shericka Jackson: Diamond League winner in Paris this year
Shaunae Miller-Uibo: Olympic 400 champ, DL winner this year in Shanghai & Rabat, bronze at Worlds last year, reigning DL champ
Jenna Prandini: US champ coming off PR/first DL win in London
Dafne Schippers: Two-time defending world champ, third-fastest woman in history
Marie-Josee Ta Lou: Undefeated in the 100 this year (five DL wins), silver in 100/200 at Worlds last year
Gabrielle Thomas: Harvard student won non-DL 200 in Lausanne, coming off PR in London, where she was just .03 behind Prandini
LRC prediction: This is an Olympic final-type field. So who’s going to win? Asher-Smith is the hottest runner on the planet right now, but she raced five times last week in Berlin. Will she feel any fatigue in Birmingham? Ta Lou has been unstoppable in the 100 this year but has only one win in four DL appearances in 2018 over 200 meters. Schippers has the fastest PR and is the world champ, but she’s had a down year and finished well back of Asher-Smith at Euros (though she did manage an SB in the final).
But none of them are our pick. We’re going with Miller-Uibo. She hasn’t lost a single race all year and is coming off a ridiculous 48.97 400 in Monaco (the fastest time in the world in nine years). She is also 2-0 against Asher-Smith in the 200 this year, with wins at the Commonwealth Games and in Rabat. If Asher-Smith runs 21.89 again, she’ll likely win, but Miller-Uibo is capable of going well under 22 seconds as well and will be much fresher.
Men’s 100 (prelims 8:42 a.m. ET, final 10:53 a.m. ET): Revolutionary War redux
|Harry Aikines-Aryeetey||Great Britain||10.08||10.18|
|Arthur Cisse||Ivory Coast||9.94||9.94|
|Ojie Edoburun||Great Britain||10.04||10.04|
|Adam Gemili||Great Britain||9.97||10.11|
|Jak Ali Harvey||Turkey||9.92||9.99|
|Zharnel Hughes||Great Britain||9.91||9.91|
|Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake||Great Britain||9.99||10.08|
|Reece Prescod||Great Britain||9.96||9.96|
|Akani Simbine||South Africa||9.89||9.93|
|CJ Ujah||Great Britain||9.96||10.06|
Jamaica may not want to hear it, Great Britain and the U.S. are the world’s top two countries right now when it comes to the men’s 100. And while a couple of the top Americans are sitting this one out (Ronnie Baker, Justin Gatlin), it should be a great battle between Team GB, led by European gold and silver medalists Zharnel Hughes and Reece Prescod, and Team USA, led by U.S. champ Noah Lyles and World Indoor champ Christian Coleman.
LRC prediction: If Coleman, who defeated a strong field to win in Rabat on July 13, is close to 100%, we like him here as well, but the fact that he was a late scratch from London last month with a hamstring injury — a problem that has plagued him the entire outdoor season — has us a little worried. Still, he’s had almost a month to recover since then, so if he’s on the start line, he’s our pick. If not, we’ll take Lyles, though Hughes and Prescod are both more than capable of winning this thing as well.
Be a fan and talk about the meet in our fan forum / messageaboard. MB: Official 2018 Birmingham DL Discussion Thread