Birmingham Preview: Mo Farah & Bernard Lagat in 1500, Nijel Amos & Eunice Sum in 800, Stephanie Garcia in Steeple and Rome Rematches Galore
June 5, 2015
Sunday’s Sainsbury’s Birmingham Grand Prix is going to feel very familiar. Twelve of the 16 official Diamond League events are exactly the same as they were three days earlier in Rome — including all four mid-d/distance events — so there are a lot of athletes competing again on short rest.
Dawit Seyaum and Sifan Hassan will go again in the women’s 1500, Nijel Amos will run his third 800 in nine days and Hagos Gebrhiwet, Thomas Longosiwa and Isiah Koech will all run it back in the 5,000 on just two days’ rest.
There are some athletes competing in Birmingham that weren’t in Rome, however, most notably Mo Farah, who will run the 1500 here. World champ Eunice Sum will run in the women’s 800, while the home fans will cheer for Olympic champ Greg Rutherford (men’s long jump), world junior champ Morgan Lake (women’s high jump) and world indoor champ Richard Kilty (men’s 100), among others (Jessica Ennis-Hill was scheduled to run the 100 hurdles but has withdrawn).
Before we get into our analysis, we’d like to point out how idiotic it is to run almost an identical schedule of events to the one that just happened in Rome. It’s one thing to add a non-DL event to a meet (the women’s 800 and men’s 1500 are non-DL in Birmingham), but if you really want the Diamond League standings to mean something, you shouldn’t be holding two point-scoring events in the same discipline in a four-day span. It’s not good for the fans or athletes.
Either the two fields are very similar, leading to a repetitive matchup, or the top athletes choose to compete at just one of the meets, leading to weaker fields. If the fields are the same, can fans really expect the results to change much in a few days?
For the distance runners, can athletes like Hagos Gebrhiwet be reasonably expected to run two world-class 5,000s in such close proximity? That’s the kind of behavior that burns an athlete out, and the IAAF is facilitating it by offering two DL 5,000s in four days.
The problem would have been easy to fix, even with two more DL events next week in Oslo (June 11) and New York (June 13) — choose 16 events to contest in Rome and Oslo and contest the remaining 16 in Birmingham and New York. Either that, or shift one of the four meets to earlier/later in the season.
This week has been an exceptionally busy one at LetsRun.com, between the Rome DL meet, the doping accusations against Alberto Salazar and Galen Rupp, the Adrian Martinez Classic and Grant Fisher breaking 4:00. Add in next week’s NCAA championships (and the time it takes to preview them) and we simply didn’t have time to produce a comprehensive preview of the Birmingham Grand Prix. Still, because we love our readers, we’ve got a rundown of the mid-d/distance events below with a few comments on each.
What: 2015 Sainsbury’s Birmingham Grand Prix
Where: Alexander Stadium, Birmingham, England
When: Sunday, June 7. Field events begin at 8:20 a.m. ET; TV broadcast begins at 10:00 a.m. ET.
How to watch: Live from 10 a.m. to 12:00 pm ET. In the US, it’s on beIN Sports – detailed TV/streaming information (including how to get beIN Sports on your computer) here. In Europe, you can watch the meet live on Eurosport.
Women’s 800 (9:41 a.m. ET): World Champ Eunice Sum Leads the Field
|Alison Leonard||Great Britain||2:00.08||2:00.50|
|Jenny Meadows||Great Britain||1:57.93||2:01.37|
|Laura Muir||Great Britain||2:00.67|
|Shelayna Oskan-Clarke||Great Britain||2:01.27||2:01.27|
Sum won the first DL 800 of the year, in Shanghai on May 17, and followed that up with a world-leading 1:57.82 to hold off Ajee Wilson for the win at the Pre Classic on May 30. This field isn’t nearly as strong as the one she faced in Eugene (it’s not an official DL event), so as long as she’s rested, she should notch another victory in Birmingham.
Women’s 1500 (10:14 a.m. ET): Hassan & Seyaum Feature in Rome Rematch
|Sifan Hassan||The Netherlands||3:57.00||3:59.68|
|Jessica Judd||Great Britain||4:09.93||4:12.67|
|Maureen Koster||The Netherlands||4:02.64||4:02.64|
|Angela Petty||New Zealand||4:11.72||4:12.59|
|Stephanie Twell||Great Britain||4:02.54||4:13.22|
|Laura Weightman||Great Britain||4:00.17|
With no Jenny Simpson in the field, this race figures to come down to the two women she beat in Rome — Hassan (who was second in 3:59.68) and Seyaum (who was third in 3:59.76). The two have split their encounters so far, as Seyaum won the DL opener in Doha in 4:00.96 while Hassan was second in 4:01.40. World indoor/outdoor champ Abeba Aregawi is also entered and will look to get back to her old form after finishing seventh in Doha. She may be ready to bounce back as she ran a solid 1:59.98 800 to take fourth at the Pre Classic last week.
Three Americans will toe the line in Birmingham and two are in very good form. Arkansas grad Stephanie Brown has had a great spring, dropping her PR from 4:11.06 to 4:08.51 at Mt. SAC in April and lowering that mark even further down to 4:07.55 at Furman last week. Gabe Grunewald DNF’ed the 5,000 at Pre but took second in the 1500 at the Hoka One One Middle Distance Classic, narrowly losing to Katie Mackey in 4:07.67. 2011 World #1 Morgan Uceny (4:09.74 at the Hoka One One meet) is the final American in the field. She’s been close in some races with 300 to go, can she finally finish one off?
Men’s 800 (10:25 a.m. ET): With No Mo Aman, Can Nijel Amos Get the Win in His Third 800 in Nine Days?
|Kyle Langford||Great Britain||1:47.41||1:49.33|
|Guy Learmonth||Great Britain||1:46.69||1:47.65|
Amos narrowly lost to Aman at both the Pre Classic (1:44.92 to 1:45.06) and in Rome (1:43.56 to 1:43.80). In Birmingham, he’s the favorite — assuming his body holds up. Amos withdrew from the DL opener on May 15 with a quad injury, so it’s curious to see him running three high-quality 800s in such quick succession. This one does count in the DL standings.
American Erik Sowinski will run his first race in two and a half weeks (most recently, he ran 1:45.82 for third at the Beijing IAAF World Challenge on May 20).
Men’s 5,000 (10:45 a.m. ET): Gebrhiwet, Koech and Longosiwa Are All Doubling Back from Rome
|Luke Caldwell||Great Britain||13:29.94|
|Elroy Gelant||South Africa||13:15.87||13:28.69|
|Jonathan Mellor||Great Britain||13:31.21||13:37.50|
|Stephen Mokoka||South Africa||13:11.44||13:11.44|
|Zane Robertson||New Zealand||13:13.83||13:25.41|
|Andy Vernon||Great Britain||13:11.50|
Running two 5,000s in four days is common at the World Championships, but it’s very rare for a top pro to do that outside of Worlds/Olympics, which is why, as we said above, we’re confused that the IAAF would schedule two DL 5,000s back-to-back. The race in Rome last week went fast, so the top guys (Gebrhiwet and Longosiwa) won’t have an incentive to try to break 13:00 again. The field behind them isn’t nearly as deep as in Rome, which means we’re probably in for a slow time.
It’s a good thing 17-year-old Yomif Kejelcha is not in this race. While he’s been incredibly exciting to watch in 2015, winning at Pre and Rome, this would have been his third 5,000 in nine days, which is an extremely heavy workload no matter your age.
One interesting man to watch is Stephen Sambu. The 26-year-old Kenyan has dominated the road racing scene over the past few years and this will be just his second track race since graduating from the University of Arizona in 2012. He hasn’t run a 5,000 since placing fifth at NCAAs in 2012, so he should be able to knock a big chunk off his 13:31.74 outdoor pb, especially considering he’s run 13:23 on the roads and 26:54 for 10,000 (13:27 pace) on the track. Sambu’s indoor pb of 13:13.74 from 2012 could also go down, assuming that the race goes fast enough.
Women’s 3,000 Steeplechase (11:04 a.m. ET): Will We See Another New Winner?
|Sara Louise Treacy||Ireland||9:47.92||10:04.78|
The first two DL steeples of 2015 have both been won by women who had previously never recorded a victory on the Diamond League circuit (Virginia Nyambura and Hyvin Kiyeng); in all, the last four DL events have been won by four different women, dating back to last year. Could we see the streak extended to five? Nyambura and Kiyeng are both in the field in Birmingham.
This race should be exciting for American fans as it marks the 2015 DL debut of Stephanie Garcia, who has been running great so far this year. Garcia smashed 24 seconds off her 5,000 PR in her outdoor opener at Payton Jordan, won the steeple comfortably at the Hoka One One meet (9:37.19) and then ran another huge PR in the 1500 last weekend, going from 4:13.33 all the way down to 4:05.39 at Furman. Garcia PR’d in all three of her DL steeples last year, so all signs point to another breakthrough on Sunday. Her 9:24.28 PR already puts her fourth on the all-time U.S. list, but she has a great chance to join Emma Coburn and Jenny Simpson as the only Americans to ever break 9:20.
Men’s 1500 (11:50 a.m. ET): Mo Farah Races on Home Turf
|Thiago Do Rosario Andre||Brazil||3:35.90||3:35.90|
|Lee Emanuel||Great Britain||3:36.55|
|Mo Farah||Great Britain||3:28.81|
|Charlie Grice||Great Britain||3:35.59|
|Ross Murray||Great Britain||3:34.76||3:39.06|
|Bram Som||The Netherlands||3:42.75|
|Jake Wightman||Great Britain||3:35.49|
Farah has had success in Birmingham in the past (it was the site of his 2-mile world record indoors) and though there are three men in the field who have already run 3:35 this year, Farah will be favored to win here. He’ll have to work for it though, as James Magut (3:30 pb, fifth in Bowerman Mile at Pre) and 19-year-old Hillary Ngetich (second at Shanghai DL) won’t be easy to beat.
Perhaps more interesting than the race, however, is what Farah says before and after it. This will be the first time Farah has been in the public eye since the doping allegations about his coach and training partner, Alberto Salazar and Galen Rupp, broke on Wednesday, and in the subsequent days, a couple of prominent figures in British running (Brendan Foster and Jo Pavey) have suggested that Farah should distance himself from Salazar. It will be fascinating to see how Farah responds to the assembled media on Saturday and after the race.
One other storyline in this one is Bernard Lagat‘s continued assault on the masters world record book. The 1500 record is 3:42.02, set by Great Britain’s Anthony Whiteman three years ago. Considering Lagat ran 3:54.91 in the mile indoors, that record appears to have mere hours to live.