2011 Birgmingham Diamond League Preview: Morgan Uceny Looks To Continue Her Hot Streak At 1,500 As Galen Rupp Looks To Break 13:00

By LetsRun.com
July 8, 2011

The 9th of 14 Diamond League meets takes place on Sunday in Birmingham, England. As usual, our preview focuses on the distance races, where American fans undoubtedly will be focused on seeing Morgan Uceny take on the world's best at 1,500 and Galen Rupp take on some of Ethiopia's best at 5,000.

Quick Previews Below:

Women's 1,500m: Morgan Uceny Versus Maryam Jamal

The women's 1,500 is full of intrigue and will certainly be one of the marquee events for LetsRun.com fans on Sunday, as the hottest 1,500 runner on the planet in US champ and Lausanne champ Morgan Uceny will clash with a slew of talented foes including 2007 and 2009 world champion Maryam Jamal.

Predicting what Jamal is going to do in this race is next to impossible, as her results of late make little sense. Last year, the woman who had been the world's best 1,500 runner in recent years was simply awful for virtually the entire year. Through August 15th, she finished 10th, 9th, 13th, 9th and 13th in her European 1,500s and only once ran faster than 4:06. But then she ended her European campaign with a race where she looked like the dominant Jamal of old - a stunning 3:58.93 victory in Rieti. If someone can explain that to us, by all means please email us.

This year, the dominant Jamal showed up at the start of the year as she ran 4:01.60 to win in Rome and 4:00.33 to win in Hengelo in May. But since then things have gotten worse, as she ran 4:05.44 for 2nd at Pre and then just 4:10.21 for 10th in Lausanne on June 30th. Clearly, she hasn't been headed in the right direction of late.

The victor at USAs and Lausanne was Uceny. Can she possibly win a third time? The Lausanne race was bizarre, as while the time was slow, Uceny won convincingly in 4:05.52 versus 4:06.00 for 2nd. 4:05.52 with a roughly 62-second lap is by no means an earth-shattering performance and yet it obliterated the world's best. You know the old saying, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there does it make a noise?" Well, we have a new one for track and field: "If you run 4:05 with a 62-second last lap but no one runs faster, do you still win a Diamond League race?"

The answer was clearly yes.

Uceny Wins In Lausanne

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We aren't trying to dismiss Uceny's win by any means with our tongue-in-cheek question above. Watch the race video for yourself below and you'll see that Uceny herself was seemingly shocked that no one was close to her in the final meters as about 20 meters from the finish she glanced over her shoulder with a look that seemingly said, "Where the hell is everyone?"

That being said, Uceny's victory in Lausanne was no fluke. Besides Jamal, there are two other women in the field in Birmingham with seasonal bests better than Uceny's 4:03.91 2011 best in Ethiopians Gelete Burka (4:03.28 SB) and Kalkidan Gezahegne (4:00.97 SB), but Uceny has already beaten both of them twice this year. Both Ethiopians were in Lausanne and Uceny beat both of them convincingly there - plus she also beat them both when she got second in New York earlier in the year at the adidas Grand Prix, when Gezahagne was third (.04 behind Uceny) and Burka fourth (1.42 behind Uceny). Gezahegne, just 20, was the world indoor champ this year at age 19 and is viewed by some as the future star of the event, but Uceny seems to be in better form now and headed in the right direction.

Uceny is not the only American in the field who will be expected to possibly contend, as Christin Wurth-Thomas - who led the first 1,400 of USAs before fading to an agonizing 4th - will get back at it in Birmingham. With a rabbit to set the pace for her, she should have a much easier time of hanging on to a fast pace.

2009 World Championships silver medallist Lisa Dobriskey of Great Britain will be the darling of the home crowd. She started her 2011 campaign with a 4:06.35 showing for 10th in Rome in May but hasn't raced since then. Has she been injured or has she just been laying low until later in the year? We'll probably find out on Sunday.

Other people worth looking at include 2011 NCAA third-placer in the mile, Zoe Buckman, who didn't have outdoor eligibility for the Oregon Ducks this year, as well as 3-time US champion Trenier Moser (formerly Clement), who has was 6th at USAs but is looking to run faster than 4:07 for the first time since 2007 (she's run 4:07-something for 3 straight years). The Olympic A standard is 4:06.00.

Our Thoughts: This race is one we are eagerly anticipating. So many great story lines. Can Uceny do it again? How will Wurth-Thomas bounce back? Will the African-born runners return to form? How will Dobriskey look?

Athlete DATE OF BIRTH Nation PB SB
09.06.1988
BRN
4:00.25
4:07.17
21.12.1988
AUS
4:09.38
4:09.38
23.01.1986
ETH
3:58.79
4:03.28
02.01.1974
GBR
4:01.10
23.12.1983
GBR
3:59.50
4:06.35
06.03.1987
GBR
4:04.29
4:10.70
08.05.1991
ETH
4:00.97
4:00.97
16.09.1984
BRN
3:56.18
4:00.33
07.12.1980
MAR
3:59.35
4:07.60
07.08.1981
NOR
4:02.20
4:10.76
27.10.1981
USA
4:03.32
4:07.57
15.10.1976
IRL
24.02.1990
GBR
4:10.00
4:10.10
10.03.1985
USA
4:02.40
4:03.91
11.07.1980
USA
3:59.59
4:03.72

Men's 5,000m: Rupp, Farah & The Ethiopians

The men's 5,000 certainly is one of the marquee events on the card for Sunday, as training partners Mo Farah of Britain and Galen Rupp of the US will take on some of Ethiopia's finest. The leading guy on paper in the field is 2011 World XC champion Imane Merga, who opened his 2011 track campaign with a 12:54.21 win in Rome back in May. After that win, it seemed as is Merga might be on top of the world, but Farah took his scalp in Eugene at 10,000 and Merga undoubtedly will be looking for revenge in Birmingham. Last week in Lausanne, Merga was second in 5,000 in 12:59.

In our minds, two other Ethiopians might contend for the win. One is 21-year-old Yenew Alamirew. Over the last year, we've openly wondered if Alamirew is the next big Ethiopian star. After all, he is in some great company on the all-time indoor 3,000 list, as showed by the following stat:

All-Time Indoor 3,000 List
1. Daniel Komen - 7:24.90
2. Haile Gebrselassie -7:26.15
3. Yenew Alamirew - 7:27.80

Outdoors, he's only run once in 2011 and it was a 13:02 5,000 in Hengelo on May 29th. With 5+ weeks of training behind him, we'd be suprised if he didn't break 13:00 if the pace ends up being that fast. And Alamirew has a great kick, so if he can stay in it, watch out at the end.

Fellow 21-year-old Dejene Gebremeskel ran 12:53 last year and opened up his 2011 campaign with a 12:55 in Rome. He also got the win over Bernard Lagat in New York. Based on that, he can't be counted out, but last week he was 6+ seconds back in Lausanne, so he'd have to turn things around quickly to be in the hunt.

20-year-old Abera Kuma isn't as accomplished as the other Ethiopians but he did run 13:00.15 in Rome and he did win a totally watered-down Ethiopian championships at 5,000 in May. But he only ran 13:07 last week in Lausanne, where he was 8+ seconds in arrears, so we'd be surprised if he was in the hunt for the win. That being said, Kuma isn't someone that the golden boy Galen Rupp - or anyone for that matter - will want to mess with, as Kuma is the guy who was infamously disqualified for fighting and throwing punches in the middle of the World Cross-Country Championships.

The race takes place the week before the Kenyan Trials, so the Kenyans are largely absent. As a result, this race sets up real nicely for both Rupp and Farah, as it will be unlike the normal Diamond League affairs, where there might be 10 guys who could break 13:00 in a given race. Once the rabbits drop off, there won't be a slew of Africans to push the pace, so if Farah and Rupp are having good days, they likely will be able to stay in contention with the pace possibly easing off. At Prefontaine, Farah himself was falling off the lead pack before he got the win, but no one was there to push the pace of the pack forward and he was able to hang on and get the win late.

Bobby Curtis, who was 4th in the US 10,000, is running as is former Villanova star Adrian Blincoe. 2005 World Championships bronze medallist Craig Mottram, who hasn't broken 13:00 since 2007, is running as well, although is goal is the A standard of 13:20 and not sub-13:00.

Our Thoughts: It wouldn't stun us if the winning time in this race was over 13:00.

Rupp had a fantastic double at USAs, but his 5,000 PR is a modest by world-class standards (13:07.35) and it will be very interesting to see how looks in this race. In the 10,000 at USAs, he smoked the 5,000-meter runner Matt Tegenkamp at the end of a 10,000. Here the tables are turned and we'll see how he looks against some of the world's best at 5,000. He couldn't hang with Lagat or Solinsky on the last 200 of the 5,000 at USAs, but that was the day after a 10,000m, so it's not impossible to imagine him in the hunt here. In the end, we think it will be a 3-person affair between Merga, Alamirew and Farah.

If Alamirew wins convincingly, we may have a new star.

Athlete DATE OF BIRTH Nation PB SB
27.05.1990
ETH
13:02.71
13:02.71
27.12.1984
AUS
13:10.97
13:42.14
04.11.1979
NZL
13:10.19
03.05.1989
NOR
13:28.07
13:28.07
28.11.1984
USA
13:18.97
21.08.1978
ESP
13:10.73
13:15.19
23.03.1983
GBR
12:57.94
24.11.1989
ETH
12:53.56
12:55.89
20.07.1988
KEN
13:09.34
13:13.77
24.05.1975
USA
31.08.1990
ETH
13:00.15
13:00.15
15.10.1988
ETH
12:53.58
12:54.21
12.01.1991
NOR
13:33.15
13:33.15
18.06.1980
AUS
12:55.76
13:25.15
08.05.1986
USA
13:07.35
13:25.52
07.01.1986
GBR
13:27.85
13:27.85

Men's 800: Abubaker Kaki Leads The Way

This men's 800 is without a doubt led by two-time world indoor champ Abubaker Kaki. Just as was the case in 2008 before the Olympics and 2009 before the World Championships, Kaki is undefeated in races that he finishes (he dropped out at New York earlier this year). Because he is overshadowed by world record holder David Rudisha and because he's never made an Olympic or Worlds final, many people don't realize how good Kaki is. Last year, he finished 14 800s (including heats) and he won 12 of the 14. He ran 1:42.23 and 1:43.84 in the two races that he lost to Rudisha. In 2009, he finished 5 races prior to Worlds and won all of them (although he also had one DNF) before he bombed out in the semis at Worlds. In 2008, he was a perfect 6-for-6 at 800 events heading into the Olympics, where he also bombed out in the semis.

Since this isn't a Worlds or Olympics and Rudisha isn't in the field, past history says Kaki should win this race. The thing to look for with him is how fast does he run, as his seasonal best of 1:43.68 is way off his 1:42.23 PR.

Who could possibly challenge Kaki? The only other guy in the field with a seasonal best under 1:45 is Poland's Marcin Lewandowski. The reigning European outdoor champion finished second and was within a full second of Rudisha last week in Lausanne, which is quite an accomplishment. He also ran 1:45.01 in that race, so he's in good form.

The biggest threat, though, might be Morocco's Amine Laalou. He can't be discounted, as he has good credentials (8 times he's broken 1:44 in his life, 5th at the 2009 World Champs, Moroccan national record holder with a 1:43.25 PR) and is in good form, as he was third in Lausanne just .10 behind Lewandowski. More recently, Laalou absolutely destroyed everyone over the last 200 in the 1,500 in Paris on Friday, where he won convincingly in 3:32.15. Another guy bouncing back from the 1,500 in Paris is Olympic 1,500 silver medallist Nick Willis, who was fourth in Paris in 3:33.22. With a 1:45.54 PR at 800, Willis is a bit overmatched at 800, but it will be worth noting how he looks in this race as he gets ready for Worlds.

1:43.89 performer Michael Rimmer leads the British hopes, but his form hasn't been good of late. He opened with a 1:45.12 in Doha in early May but only ran 1:47 and 1:46 in his two other races that month and then didn't compete in all of June. 2007 World Championships team member Duane Solomon is the lone US hope in this race (we think Matt Scherer is rabbiting). He comes in with plenty of motivation after having been eliminated in a tough first round at the US champs after having run 1:45.86 earlier in the year.

Our Thoughts: Laalou looked fantastic in Paris on Friday, but this is an 800, not a 1,500. Kaki should dominate. Now if this race wasn't rabbitted, we'd think it would be much more interesting, as Kaki and Rudisha are unproven in unrabbitted affairs.

Athlete DATE OF BIRTH Nation PB SB
21.06.1989
SUD
1:42.23
1:43.68
13.05.1982
MAR
1:43.25
1:45.11
13.06.1987
POL
1:43.84
1:44.61
01.12.1990
GBR
1:46.58
1:46.58
03.02.1986
GBR
1:43.89
1:45.12
21.11.1983
USA
1:46.11
18.12.1989
GBR
1:47.99
1:48.47
28.12.1984
USA
1:45.23
1:45.86
23.04.1983
GBR
1:46.47
1:46.95
25.04.1983
NZL
1:45.54
1:51.56

Women's Steeple: With Chemos Absent, An Opportunity Opens For Assefa

The Kenyan Trials take place next week and as a result, there will be a watered-down women's steeple in Birmingham (sorry, but the pun was intended) on Sunday. We say that because so far, there have been four Diamond League steeples and all four of them have been won by Kenya's Milcah Chemos, the 2010 African champ and 2009 World Championships bronze medallist, who is skipping Birmingham to get ready for her trials.

As a result, Ethiopia's Sofia Assefa, who was 2nd to Chemos in each of the last three Diamond League races, is the favorite. She may not be able outkick Chemos, but she apparently can outkick everyone else and she's the only one with a seasonal best under 9:20. Tunisia's Habiba Ghribi is the only other runner in the field with a PR under 9:20 and she can't be discounted. She was only 4th in Lausanne but only 1.15 behind Chemos, so she certainly should be in the mix.

Another Ethiopian is worth watching even though she probably won't win. 19-year-old Birtukan Adamu set the world junior record in Rome this year when she ran 9:20.37.

Two Americans are in the field in two-time US champion Lisa Aguilera and Delilah DiCrescenzo (of Hey There, Delilah fame). The two Americans enter the race with two different mindsets but with a common goal. Aguilera, the 2006 and 2010 US champ, comes in undoubtedly disappointed after a 7th-place showing at USAs, whereas DiCrescenzo is sky high after having upset the form charts to nab the final World Championships spot after a fortuitous face-plant by Stephanie Garcia on the final water jump. Regardless, both runners have yet to PR this year or get the Olympic A standard for next year, which they'll need if they are going to the Olympics, as the Olympics don't allow B qualifiers to go like the World Championships do (unless there is only a B qualifier).

The A qualifying time is 9:43.00 and Aguilera has run 9:43.95 this year (9:24.84 last year) and DiCrescenzo has run 9:46.31 this year (9:41.06 PR). A PR is out of the question for Aguilera, but the A standard is a reasonable goal for both.

Our Thoughts: It's hard to see Assefa losing. The bigger question is if the Americans can get the A standard.

Athlete DATE OF BIRTH Nation PB SB
29.04.1992
ETH
9:20.37
9:20.37
30.11.1979
USA
9:24.84
9:43.95
14.11.1987
ETH
9:15.04
9:15.04
21.11.1991
ETH
9:22.51
9:41.86
20.01.1987
ETH
9:20.23
9:45.91
24.09.1984
IRL
9:37.60
9:37.60
09.02.1983
USA
9:41.06
9:46.31
31.07.1981
FRA
9:25.62
9:48.83
09.04.1984
TUN
9:12.52
9:20.33
22.12.1972
JAM
9:27.21
9:46.15
25.11.1990
GBR
9:55.13
9:55.13
01.01.1982
MAR
9:22.12
08.11.1982
GBR
9:35.17

Women's 800m: Jenny Meadows

The women's 800 isn't an official Diamond League event in Birmingham, but it is included in the program undoubtedly so that World Championships bronze medallist Jenny Meadows can shine at home. On Friday, Meadows tried to challenge Caster Semenya in Paris over the final 100 but ended up fading to third at the end. She'll be challenged by three others who have broken 2:00 this year, including 2009 NCAA champion Geena Gall, who was 5th at the US champs. Nataliya Lupu of Ukraine has the best seasonal best of the competitors at 1:59.12. 2010 NCAA runner-up Molly Beckwith of the US also is in the field and will be looking to get under 2:00 for the first time this year.

Athlete DATE OF BIRTH Nation PB SB
04.08.1987
USA
1:59.83
2:00.08
07.03.1985
GBR
2:01.50
2:02.73
18.01.1987
USA
1:59.76
1:59.76
07.06.1988
GBR
2:00.24
2:00.24
20.11.1983
SVK
1:58.51
1:59.48
14.11.1987
UKR
1:59.12
1:59.12
20.07.1978
AUS
1:59.21
2:00.80
17.04.1981
GBR
1:57.93
1:59.27
23.09.1984
GBR
1:58.45
2:02.29
01.01.1988
KEN
2:00.28
2:00.79

Other Action:
Usain Bolt refuses to run in Britain due to their high taxation but the fans will get to see 2011 world leader Asafa Powell in the men's 100.

The timetable and start lists for all events can be accessed here.

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