2011 Monaco Diamond League Preview: What A Meet!!!

By LetsRun.com
July 21, 2011

The 10th of 14 Diamond League meets takes place on Friday in Monaco and it should be something special.

Usain Bolt returns to the 100 but know LetsRun fans care mostly about the mid-d and distance action and those race in Monaco should really be a treat to watch. In the women' s 1,500 Morgan Uceny will look to continue her win streak in a race that has 8 of the top 10 on the 2011 world list; in the men's 800, Nick Symmonds and Khadevis Robinson will race world record holder David Rudisha; in the 1,500, Silas Kiplagat, Andrew Wheating and Ryan Gregson will look to re-create the magic they experienced in Monaco last year in a field that also includes American champ Matt Centrowitz and Gregson's Aussie rival Jeff Riseley. And then there is the men's 5000 with the Big 4 Americans of Lagat, Solinsky, Rupp, and Tegenkamp in a race not only where many expect the American record to fall, but that is a mini-preview of the world championships as it includes most of Kenya and Ethiopia's best plus Mo Farah. All of that and more including a men's steeple.

We preview all the action below with the mid-d and distance races first and getting more emphasis. All times listed are Eastern Standard Times. The distance events are listed in the order they take place so you can use this as an Internet viewing guide. The timetable and start lists for all events can be accessed here.

Men's 1,500m: A Cocky Kiplagat + Wheating, Centro & Willis
2:15 pm

The men's 1,500 in Monaco isn't technically a Diamond League event (meaning no points will be on the line) but it's a great race with many plot lines.

The biggest is: Can the magic of last year be replicated? Truth be told, we doubt it as the race last year was truly incredibly as guys were leaving the race left and right with massive 5+ second personal bests.

Last year, Silas Kiplagat came in with a 3:34 pb and left with a 3:29.27 stunner (becoming an instant star just as we predicted earlier in the week). Behind him, Andrew Wheating, who came in with a 3:37 pb (or 3:34 if you used his mile pb), left as the #2 American-born runner in history thanks to his 3:30.90. Just behind him, 20-year old Aussie Ryan Gregson, who came in with a 3:37 pb, left with a 3:31.06 Aussie national record.

Up front, once again the race will likely be all about Silas Kiplagat. The 10th fastest metric miler in history talked really big coming into the year - as he talked about breaking the world record indoors - and then proceeded to not really impress anyone as he hadn't won a single race all year long. That is until last weekend at the Kenyan trials where he ran a stunning 3:31.93 at altitude in Nairobi where he so dominated he had time to wag his finger and mock his competitors. Will that form hold up in Monaco? Will he get his first European victory of the year?

One would think so but there is a reason why the race is held after all. Given how Kiplagat dominated the Kenyan Trials, it's hard to imagine another Kenyan would get the win but Collins Cheboi is racing and he was 4th at the Kenyan Trials - just over 2 seconds behind Kiplagat.

2009 world championship silver medallist Deresse Mekonnen of Ethiopia was only 8th in Paris two weeks ago but if anyone is going to beat Kiplagat, he's probably the one most likely person to do it. His finish in Paris was a bit misleading as that was his 2011 outdoor opener. Running 3:33.84 is by no means a disgrace for a guy just opening up. If he improves on that in Monaco, it means it looks like he's rounding into form for the world championships.

There are a lot of subplots in this race worth taking a look at.

Let's star with the Americans or should we broaden that and say the American based runners. For fans of white guys whose first language is English, American runners and/or American based runners  there is a lot to pay attention to.

How will US champion Matt Centrowitz fare in his 2nd European race? Considering he spent much of his 3:34.69 pb race in lane two, one would think he'd be able to run faster, but late July is pretty late for a collegiate runner. If Centro doesn't improve, one might start to think he won't be in good form come the end of August at World's. If he improves, then US fans should be pumped as his magical 2011 season will still be going incredibly strong.

How will 2010 NCAA champion Andrew Wheating run? Last year Monaco was truly magical for him. Will it be so once again? We imagine he's feeling good going into the race as after getting the Olympic A standard out of the way two weeks ago, Wheating said the pressure was off and it was time for him to start running up to his expectations. Friday's race should reveal a lot as to whether or not he's going to be able to get back to the 3:30 type form he showed last year.

What about 2008 Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis? He's pb is 'only 3:32.17.' That could go down considering he ran 3:33.22 in Paris and has looked pretty good so far in 2011.

Then there is the Australian plot line. The Americans get Centro v. Willis and the Aussies get Ryan Gregson v. Jeff Riseley. Australia's two best milers who are both under 25 years of age (with Riseley 24 and Gregson 21) will clash at 1,500 for just the third time in their careers and for the first time since Gregson defeated Riseley at the Australian champs in April of 2010.

Oh yeah, and while American fans are wondering if US mile record holder Alan Webb will race again in 2011, French fans will get to see their beloved mile hope in Mehdi Baala for the first time outdoors in 2011. Has the 32-year old Olympic Bronze medallist been laying low simply because he wants to peak come August and he realizes he's a little up there in age? Or was there a hiccup that prevented him from debuting earlier in the year. We'll probably find out on Friday when the 6th fastest 1,500 meter runner in history races in Monaco.

One other guy worth paying close attention to is Abubaker Kaki. The 1:42.23 800 man is making a rare appearance at 1,500. His pb is just 3:39.71 but it should be noted he was a 1,500 meter runner as youth as he won World Youth bronze in 2005. Might he ultimately end up as a 1,500 man?

LRC Prediction: The finger waving for Kiplagat will continue; Willis PRs; Wheating over Centro both with seasonal bests; Gregson over Riseley.

Athlete DATE OF BIRTH Nation PB SB
17.08.1978
FRA
3:28.98
09.03.1989
FRA
3:35.29
3:35.29
18.10.1989
USA
3:34.69
3:34.69
25.09.1987
KEN
3:33.82
3:33.82
12.12.1990
KEN
3:31.42
3:31.42
21.01.1987
KEN
3:29.47
3:33.38
26.04.1990
AUS
3:31.06
3:36.64
21.06.1989
SUD
3:39.71
20.08.1989
KEN
3:29.27
3:31.39
19.03.1980
KEN
3:46.40
15.03.1985
FRA
3:33.86
3:33.86
20.10.1987
ETH
3:32.18
3:33.84
11.11.1986
AUS
3:32.93
3:36.60
21.11.1987
USA
3:30.90
3:34.39
25.04.1983
NZL
3:32.17
3:33.22

Men's 800m: World Record Holder David Rudisha Vs Nick Symmonds and Khadevis Robinson
2:35 pm

The 800 should entertain as America's two best 800 runners in Nick Symmonds and Khadevis Robinson will race world record holder David Rudisha. Rudisha is the star as is always the case when he runs the 800. He hasn't lost an 800 since the 2009 world championships and there is zero reason to think his 27 wins in a row won't become 28.

The question likely will be who gets second? Either of the Americans could end up second as both are running well. US runner-up Khadevis Robinson is clearly enjoying one of the greatest years of his career at age 35. Yes 35 as he celebrated a birthday on Tuesday by running a seasonal best of 1:44.65 in Italy - his third straight victory since USAs. For the year, he has run ten 800s this year and won eight and finished second in the two others. One of the victories was a Diamond League victory as he won in Rome in his only other big European race on the year. While this will be the 4th race since USAs for Robinson, it will be the first for Symmonds. Symmonds has fond memories of Monaco as in 2008, he broke 1:44 for the first time in his life in Monaco as he ran 1:43.83 (pb since lowered to 1:43.76).

Kenya's Alfred Kirwa Yego, who has medalled at the last 3 global outdoor championships (gold in 2007, bronze in 2008, silver in 2009), was third in the Kenyan Trials last week. While he won the 800 in New York, he hasn't run faster than 1:44.76 so far this year. It would surprise us if he didn't get at least a seasonal best.

Former Rend Lake junior college runner and 2008 Kenyan Olympian Boaz Lalang will be motivated to make up for an embarrassing last place showing in the finals of the Kenyan Trials. The Kenyan besides Rudisha with the best seasonal best is 19-year old David Mutua who was 5th at the Kenyan Trials. Mutua ran 1:44.06 for the win in Brazil in mid-May in a race where the top 3 all set PBs and top 9 set seasonal bests. Talk about a perfect day for everyone in the race.

Oh yeah, 2008 Olympic 1,500 champ Asbel Kiprop is also in the race. IT will be interesting to see how he does as his last 800 was terrible - 1:49 - but he was 2nd at the Kenyan champs last week at 1,500.

LRC Prediction: Rudisha makes it 28 in a row in his first 1:42 of the year; one of the Americans runs 1:43 and finishes top 3 and gets everyone excited for Deagu; Kirop???

Athlete DATE OF BIRTH Nation PB SB
11.04.1984
MON
1:47.03
1:48.49
30.06.1989
KEN
1:43.17
1:44.74
08.02.1989
KEN
1:42.95
1:44.20
26.08.1987
FRA
1:45.56
1:45.56
20.04.1992
KEN
1:44.06
1:44.06
19.07.1976
USA
1:43.68
1:44.45
17.12.1988
KEN
1:41.01
1:43.46
30.12.1983
USA
1:43.76
1:44.17
16.09.1984
KEN
1:49.39
28.11.1986
KEN
1:42.67
1:44.76

Men's 5000: The Big 4 Americans vs. Each Other And The World's Best
2:55 pm

What a race.

Who will win?

Will the American record of 12:54.12 fall?

Who will win the grudge match between Chris Solinsky and Galen Rupp? Clearly some bad blood a rivalry (or fake rivalry) exists between the two Nike sponsored athletes and it will great to see them clash. How will those two and Matt Tegenkamp fare against Bernard Lagat and many of the world's best in what might be a great preview of the world championship final?

So many questions. The race really is going to be sensational.

The race from the perspective of most LetsRun.com visitors is primarily about how will the Americans stack up against many of the world's best. How many will break 13:00? The most Americans that have ever broken 13:00 in a single race is two but in this race there are three Americans who have gone sub 13:00 in their careers and one more in Galen Rupp who is in good form and seemingly ready to do it. Bernard Lagat has said that not only does he want the AR - he also wants a sub 12:50 at this meet. If he's in that type of form, then he'll likely be battling for the win.

Who will be battling with him? Well so far in 2011 no one has been better than Britain's Mo Farah. The winner of the 10,000 at Pre and 5,000 in Birmingham is running. In Birmingham, both Farah and his training mate Rupp, who was third at the US champs at 5000 behind Lagat and Solinsky, defeated world xc champion and 2011 world 5000 leader Imane Merga. Will Merga or any of the other Ethiopians like Yenew Alamirew who also in Birmingham look any better in this race?

If they do look better, one  might think that spells trouble for Daegu for the Americans but if the Ethiopians struggle again it will be a big boost to the American hopes for medal(s) in Daegu.

But the real reason why this meet is like a mini world championship preview is because unlike in Birmingham, it features the top Kenyan talent. The top Kenyans skipped Birmingham to get ready for their trials but the top 3 from the Kenyan Trials are all here - Isaiah Koech, Thomas Longosiwa and Eliud Kipchoge. After running 12:53 (indoor) and 12:54 in his first two 5000s of the year, Koech, the was only 4th in New York at 5000 but he won the Kenyan trials last week in dominant fashion (almost one full second up on Longosiwa and more than 1.5 seconds ahead of Kipchoge) so it will be interesting to see how the "17-year old" phenom fares here. He's clearly one of the world's top new talents and with a win here would be the favorite for world champs, but let one thing be clear, there is no chance he's actually 17-years old.

(Let us take a minute to say something to the people at the IAAF who we know read our site. Something has to be done about the age-cheating. Penalties need to be assessed. If there was a fear that you would be barred from future championships if caught age cheating, then people probably wouldn't do it. Instead, everyone just looks the other way and jokes about it. Last year "17" year old Paul Lonyangata got a bronze at the World juniors. Nearly 4 years earlier he was a 16 year old competing at Nike XC).

2005 world championship Craig Mottram's comeback will continue in Monaco as well. He's run 13:11 this year - can he get near 13:00?

One thing to think about is the rabbitting. Will it be good enough to get the field to a new 2011 world leader (12:54.21) and under 12:50? The world leader could happen but we'd be pretty surprised to see a sub 12:50. To get the pace going for a sub 12:50, you're going to need something like a 13:10 type guy to push it really, really hard for like 8 laps. Otherwise, everyone will be so worried about saving something for the kick for home that the pace will come up short.

If a sub 12:50 does happen, people should enjoy it as only 10 men in history have broken 12:50 with 20 different performances. It's only been done once since 2005 and we're coming up on more than 4 years since it was last done as Kenenisa Bekele ran 12:49.53 on July 28, 2007.

LRC Prediction: Koech wins as Lagat is close to the win; Galen Rupp breaks 13:00 (but won't be in it for the win - stat of the day- Rupp has never beaten Mo Farah in his life at any distance); as for what happens between Solinsky and Rupp, we can't wait to watch and find out; a total stud will finish way back in this race as it's loaded with 24 guys entered; only 3 have broken 13:00 so far this year - close to 10 might do it in this race.

More: LRC MONACO 5k is stacked!

Athlete DATE OF BIRTH Nation PB SB
27.05.1990
ETH
13:02.71
13:02.71
28.02.1987
ETH
12:52.45
13:06.06
12.06.1990
KEN
12:57.43
13:19.96
21.08.1978
ESP
13:10.19
13:10.19
23.03.1983
GBR
12:57.94
13:06.14
05.11.1984
KEN
12:46.53
12:59.71
19.12.1993
KEN
12:54.59
12:54.59
24.05.1975
USA
31.08.1990
ETH
13:00.15
13:00.15
12.12.1974
USA
12:54.12
13:05.46
15.07.1975
UKR
13:10.78
13:39.25
14.01.1988
KEN
12:51.95
13:06.62
15.10.1988
ETH
12:53.58
12:54.21
18.06.1980
AUS
12:55.76
13:11.51
01.01.1982
KEN
13:21.96
13:22.86
16.04.1990
KEN
12:55.06
13:00.02
08.05.1986
USA
13:06.86
13:06.86
01.10.1982
ESP
13:19.21
05.12.1984
USA
12:55.53
13:10.22
19.01.1982
USA
12:58.56
13:16.27
11.07.1989
KEN
13:04.50
13:11.69

Women's 1500: The Big 4 Americans vs. Each Other And The World's Best
3:25 pm

 2011 World's Top 10 Performers
1  4:00.33  Maryam Jamal      Hengelo 29 May 
2  4:00.97 Kalkedan Gezahegn Hengelo 29 May 
3  4:01.33 Siham Hilali      Hengelo 29 May 
4  4:02.12 Meskerem Assefa   Roma 26 May 
5  4:02.59 Irene Jelagat Hengelo 29 May 

6  4:03.00 Anna Mishchenko Doha   6 May 
7  4:03.28 Gelete Burka Roma 26 May
 
8  4:03.66 Nancy Langat      Roma   26 May 
9  4:03.72  Christin Wurth-ThomasRoma 26 May 
10  4:03.91 Morgan Uceny     Eugene  25 June

The Morgan Uceny show will try to continue in the women's 1,500. As of late, no one has been better than the 2011 US champ who after winning her first US titles has gone on to win two straight Diamond League 1500s in Lausanne and Paris plus PR at 800 earlier this week 1:58.37. In Monaco, she'll be looking to keep that win streak alive plus possibly PR as her seasonal best of 4:03.91 and pb of 4:02.40 are incredibly modest for someone who is dominating the world's best of late.

The world's best will be lined up to try to stop Uceny as the field includes the top five on the 2011 world list and 8 of the top 10 including 2007 and 2009 world champion and 2011 world leader Maryam Yusuf Jamal. However, no one in the field is likely to intimidate Uceny. After losing to Jamal at Pre, Uceny has beaten her two straight races

Besides Uceny, the field also includes the next 3 finishers from the 2011 US champs. This race will be a good test for Jenny Simpson and Shannon Rowbury. Have they progressed since USAs? Rowbury definitely appears to be on the upswing coming back from injury can she continue? Is Simpson ahead of where she was 2 years ago?

LRC Prediction: The women's 1,500 has been weak this year; odds would say that Uceny doesn't win again although she is the favorite but we'll go with the hot hand and say Uceny PRs and wins.

Athlete DATE OF BIRTH Nation PB SB
05.07.1990
ETH
4:01.96
20.09.1985
ETH
4:02.12
4:02.12
23.08.1986
USA
3:59.90
4:05.66
04.08.1987
USA
4:17.22
4:17.22
23.01.1986
ETH
3:58.79
4:03.28
17.03.1979
FRA
3:59.76
4:06.58
23.12.1983
GBR
3:59.50
4:06.35
26.01.1980
FRA
4:01.17
4:19.59
08.07.1981
USA
4:05.86
4:11.67
08.05.1991
ETH
4:00.97
4:00.97
02.05.1986
MAR
4:01.33
4:01.33
16.09.1984
BRN
3:56.18
4:00.33
10.12.1988
KEN
4:02.59
4:02.59
07.12.1980
MAR
3:59.35
4:07.60
07.08.1981
NOR
4:02.20
4:06.82
05.05.1986
AUS
4:05.65
4:05.65
14.09.1984
USA
4:00.33
4:06.20
10.03.1985
USA
4:02.40
4:03.91
11.07.1980
USA
3:59.59
4:03.72

Men's Steeple: Olympic Champion Brimin Kipruto And The Top-2 Americans
3:48 pm

We pity the guys in the steeple as the meet director has done them a disservice. Talk about anti-climatic. The men's steeple is the final event and comes just after Usain Bolt races in the men's 100 and just before the post-meet fireworks can begin. How cool would it have been if it was reversed and fireworks started going off as Usain Bolt crossed the finish line. Maybe the meet director should shoot the fireworks off in the middle of the steeple. That would be pretty exciting.

Anyway, the race is led by 2007 world champion and 2008 Olympic champion Brimin Kipruto. Kipruto comes into Monaco full of confidence as he won the Kenyan champs last week. Afterwards, he talked glowingly to The Standard about his current form as he said, "At the moment I am in a very good form, I believe better than in 2008 when I won gold in Beijing." That's good news for Kenyan fans as Kenya has never lost a world or Olympic steeple title but France's Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, who isn't running in Monaco, looked great in winning in Paris in 8:02.09.

3-time world or Olympic medallist Richard Matelong, who was the runner-up at the Kenyan trials, is in the field as is a third member of the Kenyan world championship team in Ezekiel Kemboi. Kemboi, the 2004 Olympic and 2009 world champion, only ran the trials of the Kenyan champs as he was guaranteed a world spot being the reigning champion. He was the winner at Pre and runner-up in Paris this year.

2011 world leader and 2011 Diamond League points leader Paul Kipsiele Koech, who was only 7th at the Kenyan champs, also is running. Koech may end up as the 4th person the Kenyan team - at least that's what he's hoping. He's petitioned Athletics Kenya for there be a race-off in Europe for the final spot.

You can read about Koech's plight here and here but he shouldn't be discounted just because he finished so poorly at the Kenyan trials. First of all, Kenya is incredibly deep in the steeple. Secondly, Koech never runs well at altitude in Kenya. In 11 years, he's never finished higher than 4th at the Kenyan champs and yet he's an Olympic bronze medallist. He just doesn't handle the altitude well and actually has said he never thinks he'll ever be top 3 in Kenya. Check out this quote he gave The Standard:

"I have never finished in the top three at the Kenyan Championships for the 11 years that I have been involved at the very top of global athletics. My body just cannot adapt to the local conditions. The best placing I ever made was a fourth during the 2008 National Championships. I sometimes finished 11th, eighth, seventh etc. I don’t think I will ever make it,"

The race also includes top 2 from the US champs in the men's steeple in Billy Nelson and Dan Huling who both will be seeing their first action since the US champs. Nelson will undoubtedly looking to break his 8:21.47 pb. Huling's pb of 8:13.29 is much harder to get.

LRC Prediction: Kipruto wins and Nelson PRs.

Athlete DATE OF BIRTH Nation PB SB
12.04.1982
ETH
8:09.87
8:10.03
17.02.1980
FRA
8:16.03
8:16.03
03.08.1989
CAN
8:24.87
8:24.87
16.07.1983
USA
8:13.29
8:25.95
25.05.1982
KEN
7:58.85
8:07.14
31.07.1985
KEN
8:00.90
8:02.28
10.11.1981
KEN
7:56.37
8:01.83
15.08.1983
KEN
8:25.04
8:26.49
14.10.1983
KEN
8:00.89
8:11.07
01.01.1985
KEN
8:16.22
8:24.64
18.09.1991
KEN
8:17.28
8:20.89
11.09.1984
USA
8:21.47
8:22.44
17.07.1978
RSA
8:11.63
8:14.06
20.12.1978
FRA
8:01.18
02.04.1992
KEN
8:07.71
8:07.71
20.06.1983
FRA
8:25.42
8:25.82
12.10.1980
FRA
8:14.74
8:30.85

Now let's turn to the sprints and field events.

Usain Bolt to Be Challenged in Men's 100m? -3:40 pm Eastern
Any race with Usain Bolt takes center stage. On paper, the men's 100m should be a challenge for Usain Bolt. In reality it won't be. Michael Rodgers and Michael Frater both have season's best faster than Usain Bolt. That means little here. Rodgers ran 9.85 but it was on the fast Eugene track. He was only third at USAs, and was beating convincingly by Steve Mullings on Tuesday. If Bolt loses to him, he's in trouble. Frater has run 9.88 but was only 5th at the Jamaican trails and Usain Bolt didn't even run there. If Bolt loses to the sixth best sprinter from his home country he's in trouble.  Nesta Carter, 4th at the Jamaican Trials, who did nearly beat Asafa Powell in Birmingham is also in the field. If Bolt were to lose somehow, Worlds gets even more interesting.

Allyson Felix Vulnerable in the 200? She's Only Got the 6th Best Time This Year - 2:45 eastern
In the women's 200m, believe it or not Allyson Felix only has the sixth best season's best in the field although she beat most of the field in New York. Felix gets a chance versus Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie, Carmelita Jeter, Kerron Stewart, Jeneba Tarmoh, and US Champ Shalonda Solomon to show her loss in Rome at 200m was due to doubling back from 400m.

Men's 400m Hurdles a World Championship Final Preview: 2:05 pm Eastern
The men's 400m Hurdles is a preview of the World Championship final as the top 6 in the World in 2011 battle with the European pro debut of NCAA and USA Champion Jeshua Anderson. Anderson will have his hands full as he faces 2011 World Leader LJ Van Zyl,who suffered his first defeat in his last race in NY, plus USA compatriots Angelo Taylor (2 time Olympic champ), Bershawn Jackson (2005 World Champ), and Kerron Clement (defending World Champ who has struggled in 2011). Birmingham winner Dai Greene will hope to beat them all in a totally stacked field.

Other action:
In the women's short hurdles, world leader Sally Pearson of Australia takes on Olympic champ Dawn Harper, Danielle Carruthers, and two time defending  US Champ Kellie Wells.

In the men's shot 2011 World Leader Dylan Armstrong takes on Reese Hoffa and Christian Cantwell. Blanka Vlasic is in the women's high jump, and Alexis Copello of Cuba and Phillips Idowu face off in the triple jump.

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

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