May 13, 2015
At the time of the last Diamond League track and field / athletics meet on September 5, 2014, Derek Jeter was still the Yankees’ starting shortstop, Wilson Kipsang still owned the marathon world record at 2:03:23 and the word Deflategate had no meaning. It’s been a while.
Track and field fans, the wait is almost finally over. On Friday, the IAAF Diamond League is back for its sixth season as Doha is the first top of a four-month, 14-city journey that culminates with the Memorial Van Damme in Brussels on September 11. This weekend brings stops in Doha (Friday) and Shanghai (Sunday) before the action shifts to the U.S. for the Prefontaine Classic May 29-30. This is the first major athletics event to be held in Doha since the city was awarded the right to host the 2019 World Championships back in November.
Track and field isn’t like the NFL or MLB in that it starts slowly. Doha is far from a pre-season contest. You can re-live last year’s action here, but it was amazing as the women’s 3k was won in 8:20, Asbel Kiprop broke 3:30, Chanelle Price broke 2:00 and Mo Aman and Nijel Amos waged an epic battle.
There likely will be some more terrific mid-d and distance action this year. Mo Farah takes on a stacked field in the men’s 3,000, Mo Aman faces Asbel Kiprop in the men’s 800 in a battle of world champions and Abeba Aregawi and Sifan Hassan square off in the women’s 1500. We preview the mid-d/distance action in Doha in great detail below (we’ll have a Shanghai preview later this week).
Non mid-d/distance wise, there is plenty to watch as well. In addition to Sanya Richards-Ross vs. Francena McCorory in the women’s 400, there’s a loaded women’s 100 hurdles (Jasmin Stowers, Sally Pearson, Dawn Harper-Nelson, Queen Harrison), Allyson Felix in the women’s 200 and Justin Gatlin in the men’s 100. The field events will feature Americans Christian Taylor (triple jump), Reese Hoffa (shot put) and Joe Kovacs (shot put) are also entered.
What: 2015 Qatar Athletic Super Grand Prix
Where: Suheim bin Hamad Stadium, Doha, Qatar
When: Friday, May 15. Field events start at 10:30 a.m. ET, running events at 12:04 p.m. ET.
How to watch: Live on beIN Sports from 11:45 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET in the US, live on Eurosport in Europe. Full TV/streaming info here.
Women’s 1500 (12:15 p.m. ET): Ethiopians vs. Former Ethiopians
|Sifan Hassan||The Netherlands||3:57.00|
With the Hoka One One Middle Distance Classic on Thursday, there are no Americans in the 1500 in Doha. Still, there’s plenty of talent in this one, and the top runners break down conveniently into two categories, outlined below.
The Ethiopian-Born Europeans
The second- and third-ranked women in our 1500/mile rankings last year, Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands and Abeba Aregawi of Sweden, have quite a rivalry going. They raced each other seven times last year, and though Aregawi, the 2013 world outdoor champion and 2014 world indoor champion, won the first two, Hassan claimed the next five, including a win at the European Championships in Zurich in August. At 24 (Aregawi) and 22 (Hassan), the duo are still in their primes, and though Aregawi faded slightly at the end of last season (10th and 8th in her final two DL races), they both figure to factor heavily into this year’s World Championship picture. Indeed, Hassan has already staked her claim as the best in the world this year, putting together an even more impressive indoor season than Shannon Rowbury. Hassan opened up with a 4:02.57 1500 on January 31 and bettered that three weeks later by running 4:00.46 on February 19, which remains the fastest time in the world this year, indoors or out, by over two seconds. She capped off her undefeated indoor season with a win at the European Championships in Prague on March 8.
Hassan ran much faster indoors this year than she did in 2014 (4:05.34) and though that’s partly because she made a big breakthrough in the outdoor season (lowering her PR from 4:03.73 to 3:57.00), breaking 4:01 indoors is a rare feat: only nine women have ever done it. Based on her indoor form and 2014 outdoor season, Hassan deserves to be the favorite in this one. Aregawi hasn’t raced since August so we’ll get a read on her fitness here, but that may be a good thing for her as she’s sometimes barely been hanging on in August (just 5th in 2012 Olympics).
It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see a fast time in this race. Aregawi ran 3:56.60 here two years ago and Hellen Obiri‘s 8:20.68 led seven women under 8:30 in the 3000 in Doha last year. With 16 runners in the field, the top women may want to push the pace early to keep themselves out of traffic.
The Next Generation of Ethiopians
Three Ethiopian women, all under the age of 21, will be looking to replicate Hassan’s breakthrough 2014 season and join her and Aregawi in the medal hunt for Beijing. Axumawit Embaye, the oldest at 20 years old, was the World indoor silver medalist behind Aregawi in 2014 and ran a pair of fast races indoors earlier this year, clocking a 4:02.92 in Karlsruhe on January 31 (losing only to Hassan) and a 4:23.50 mile in Birmingham on February 21, handing Rowbury her only loss of the indoor season. Dawit Seyaum, 18, had quite a year in 2014, breaking 4:00, beating Jenny Simpson at the NYC DL stop and winning World Juniors. She has yet to lose in 2015, recording a pair of victories in Boston (5:35 for 2k at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on February 7, followed by a 4:34 win at the B.A.A. Invitational Mile on April 18) and said after the B.A.A. Mile that her goal is to get down to 3:57 this year. Gudaf Tsegay is the youngest of the bunch at just 18 (she’s six months younger than Seyaum) and took silver at World Juniors last year. She’s the only one of the three to run an outdoor race yet this season, clocking 4:03.09 in Japan last weekend where she was second to Ukraine’s Anna Mishchenko (more on her below). Chances are good that at least one of those three makes a big jump this year and graduates to the Hassan/Aregawi/Simpson group.
Ethiopia’s women’s 1500 team will be hard to make this year, but it could be a lot worse. 3:55 woman Genzebe Dibaba is focusing on the 5,000 at Worlds and Hassan and Aregawi, both of whom were born in Ethiopia, represent other countries. An Ethiopian trials with Embaye, Seyaum, Tsegay, Dibaba, Hassan and Aregawi would be on par with an Olympic final in terms of quality.
One other woman to watch for in this race is Anna Mishchenko of Ukraine. Mishchenko ran a world-leading 4:02.47 last week in Japan, a surprising performance by the 31-year-old, who hadn’t broken 4:05 since July 2012.
Men’s 800 (12:29 p.m. ET): Aman vs. Kiprop vs. Souleiman
|Musaeb Abdulrahman Balla||Qatar||1:43.93||1:46.74|
|Ferguson Rotich Cheruiyot||Kenya||1:42.84||1:47.0h|
|Bram Som||The Netherlands||1:43.45|
Aside from a pair of Qatari runners (one of which was born in Sudan), France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse and rabbit Bram Som, this is an all-African affair, with Ethiopia’s reigning world indoor/outdoor champion Mo Aman taking on Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop (defending world outdoor 1500 champ) and Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman (defending world indoor 1500 champ, bronze medallist at World Outdoors in 2013). Add in reigning world junior champ Alfred Kipketer and there will be a lot of gold medalists flying around the track in Doha on Friday. The top two men from the 2012 Olympics — David Rudisha and Nijel Amos — won’t be in attendance, but this should still be a terrific race.
It’s foolish to pick a winner here since it’s still early in the season and we have little evidence of athletes’ current fitness. Souleiman (13:17.97 win at the Arab champs 5,000 on April 27) and Kiprop (1:44.4h 800 on March 21) both looked impressive in their only races of 2015 so far but neither tells us a whole lot about what they’re going to run in an 800 on Friday (Aman hasn’t raced since 2014). Souleiman’s race was a 5,000 — good luck projecting an 800 off of that — and almost two months have passed since Kiprop’s last race, during which time he was forced to withdraw from the World Relays due to a hamstring injury.
But can we pause just for a moment and appreciate what big talents those two are? Souleiman has run 1:43.63 for 800 and he’s winning the Arab Champs in the 5000. He’s got to be one of the few humans in history who has broken 1:44 in the 800 and 13:20 for 5000: MB: How many humans have run sub-1:44 for 800 and sub 13:20 for 5000? Alan Webb, Ayanleh Souleiman and who else? Kiprop, as a former world junior xc champ, clearly is a guy who has the endurance to go sub-13:20 if he so desired.
We do have more recent results for a few of Kiprop’s Kenyan countrymen. Rotich should be capable of something fast in Doha, provided he runs a smarter race than the DMR leg he ran at the World Relays (a 1:44.49 after going out in 47.84). Neither of the other Kenyans from the World Relays — Kipketer or Jeremiah Mutai — were particularly impressive. Kipketer split a 1:47.62 for Kenya to lead off the 4×800 at the same meet (he handed off in second, just .02 seconds behind the U.S.’s Duane Solomon) while Jeremiah Mutai anchored in around 1:48.7 (Kenya was DQ’ed so that split is approximate).
Rotich was competitive on the circuit last year (four top-five finishes in DL races; 1:42.84 sb) so he should be in the mix for the win on Friday. Bosse, who finished with the world’s second-fastest time at 1:42.53 last year, will also contend in his 2015 opener. The safest bet may be Aman, however. Aman has not raced since August but he’s remarkably consistent in Diamond League races. In 15 career DL 800s, he’s won nine and finished second in four more. So his odds of finishing in the top two (86.7%) are over six times higher than finishing third or worse (13.3%). We like those odds.
Discuss this race in our world famous fan forum: Doha 800m – Asbel capable of something very, very Special…
Women’s 3000 steeplechase (1:02 p.m. ET): How Low Can Aisha Praught Go?
|Salima El Ouali Alami||Morocco||9:21.24|
The women’s steeplechase has been an unpredictable event on the global scene in recent years. If you look at the three London 2012 medalists, the three Moscow 2013 medalists and the three top women in LRC’s 2014 Year-End Rankings, the only woman to appear on more than one list is Sofia Assefa of Ethiopia (she was third in all three). Assefa comes into Doha with the fastest PR at 9:09.00, one of only three sub-9:19 women in the field. Her main competition should be countrywoman Hiwot Ayalew, who won the DL title last year and ran the world’s fastest time (9:10.64). The only other woman close to those two by PR is 2013 World silver medalist Lidya Chepkirui, but she struggled last year, never running faster than 9:24 in eight races (she broke 9:30 just twice).
For American fans, Aisha Praught makes this event worth watching. Praught, 25, was fourth at USAs last year and achieved a major breakthrough last week by running 4:05.52 for 1500 in Japan, a staggering 10-second PR if you are looking at actual 1500s although she did split a 4:08.92 for 1500 last year in a 4:27 mile race in Dublin. After that performance, Praught seems capable of much faster than 9:40 in the steeple (what she ran at Payton Jordan) and her 9:34.69 PR should go down as well.
To put things in perspective, Praught is now almost as fast as Emma Coburn over 1500 meters (Coburn’s PR is .23 of a second faster). That doesn’t mean Praught will do what Coburn did last year and win the first DL steeple of the year, but it suggests that Praught could be ready to make a significant leap in the steeple this season.
Men’s 3000 (1:45 p.m. ET): Mo Farah vs. a Top-Notch Field
|Abrar Osman Adem||Eritrea||7:39.70|
|Mo Farah||Great Britain||7:36.85|
|Frederick Kipkosgei Kiptoo||Kenya|
|Isiah Kiplangat Koech||Kenya||7:30.43|
|Edwin Cheruiyot Soi||Kenya||7:27.55|
Did Doha save the best race for last?
Since switching to coach Alberto Salazar in 2011, Farah has been the world’s dominant force on the outdoor track, losing just three times (and one of those was in a 1500 to Kiprop where Farah ran 3:28.81). There will be some incredibly quick men trying to beat Farah on Friday, but history suggests that if he is racing outdoors, he’s the man to beat.
It’s been a long time since the last Diamond League meet and even longer since double Olympic/World Champ has taken on a strong field on the oval. Come Friday, 637 days will have passed since the men’s 5,000 final at the 2013 World Championships, Farah’s last real test on the track. He’s hardly been dormant since then, running a marathon, breaking a world record at 2 miles indoors and running 59:32 in the half marathon.
The biggest question is, how fast does this race go? On February 21, Farah set the world indoor record at 2 miles indoors, running 8:03.40 in Birmingham, which equates to around 7:27.51 for 3,000 meters according to LRC stat guru John Kellogg. There’s reason to believe Farah (whose pb is 7:36.85) could run even faster than that in Doha. He’s got three more months of training under his belt, the race is outdoors (turns aren’t as tight) and the pacing could be slightly better. Farah ran the final 1300 meters of his 2-mile WR alone and could run slightly more even splits after going 4:05/4:01. Plus he’s got the confidence of having run 59:32 for 13.1 on March 22nd.
Of course, there are arguments against Farah going fast as well. Farah’s priority on the track is usually winning the race, not placing highly. If he is to run fast, it may be up to the rabbits and the rest of the field to push it — something that could definitely happen given there are five guys who have broken 7:31 in the field. The other worry is that it might be too hot for a truly fast time (the low in Doha on Friday is forecast to be 86 degrees Fahrenheit; the high is 104) though Doha has produced several fast marks, including a historically deep women’s 3,000 last year (For comparison’s sake, the low last year was 79 and the high 103).
If Farah wants a truly fast time, what should he aim for? Daniel Komen‘s record of 7:20.67 seems out of reach, even for someone as good as Farah. Hicham El Guerrouj took a shot at it in 1999, the same year he set the world records in the mile (3:43.13) and 2000 (4:44.79) and he couldn’t come within two seconds of it, running 7:23.09. Could a 32-year-old Farah really run faster in the 3,000 than El Guerrouj at his absolute peak? It seems unlikely. If Farah wants a target, he should go after 7:25.00. Only Komen and El Guerrouj have ever broken that barrier, and no one has done it for 16 years. Trying to run the world record would be epic, but 7:20 is really, really fast. That’s 3:56 pace through the mile. Is Farah really going to go out in 3:56-3:58 and try to risk blowing up? Probably not. The best chance of Farah challenging 7:25 is if other guys are willing to attack that time too.
Four years ago, Doha produced a very fast men’s 3,000 as Yenew Alamirew won it in 7:27.26, leading four men under 7:30 and eight more under 7:35. Both Alamirew and the runner-up in that race, 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Edwin Cheruiyot Soi, are back this year and in addition to Farah, they’ll be joined by 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Thomas Longosiwa (7:30 pb) and 2013 Worlds silver medalist Hagos Gebrhiwet (7:30 pb). 2013 Worlds silver medalist Isiah Koech is also entered, but doesn’t sound totally confident about his fitness.
Of course, we don’t know exactly what kind of shape these guys are in. Soi hasn’t raced at all in 2015. Alamirew and Longosiwa were just 9th and 13th at the World’s Best 10K on March 1 (29:24 and 30:25), though Longosiwa did win a 5,000 in Kenya on April 17 at 6,000 feet in 13:45 over 2014 world steeple #1 Jairus Birech. Koech ran 3:41.1 for 1500 last week in Kenya, finishing second to World XC champ Geoffrey Kamworor. Gebrhiwet has the best evidence of recent fitness as he was 4th at World XC on March 28. Gebrhiwet is much better at the shorter stuff than the 12k XC distance, so he may be a real threat in this race. One final man to watch is 17-year-old Yomif Kejelcha, the world junior champ at 5,000 who has already run 7:36.28. For comparison, Gebrhiwet’s 3,000 pb was 7:44 at age 17.
No matter how fast it goes, it will be exciting to see Farah in a big race again on the track. We’ll get to see exactly where he stands against many of his top rivals in the 5,000 this summer (Caleb Ndiku was initially entered but didn’t think he was fit enough to race coming back from an offseason knee injury and will debut at Pre on May 30 instead). Does Mo still rule the outdoor track? We’ll find out on Friday.
Discuss this race and the meet on our fan forum: MB: Official 2015 IAAF Doha Diamond League Live Discussion Thread
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