Friday London DL Preview: What Will Usain Bolt Do At 100 & How Fast Will Mo Farah Try To Run At 3,000?
July 22, 2015
The Diamond League continues on Friday, and while it will be difficult to top last week’s action in Monaco (arguably the greatest single-day track meet of all time), a ton of big names will make for some terrific competition as the DL returns to London for the first time in two years.
The meet is headlined by two of the stars of the 2012 Olympics, held on the same track, as Usain Bolt will run in the 100 (his first race since June 13) and Mo Farah will contest the 3,000 meters. Farah, fresh off a 3:28.93 1500 in Monaco, is heavily favored to win, but Bolt hasn’t been Bolt in 2015 and with 2013 world bronze medalist Nesta Carter and 9.86 man Jimmy Vicaut also in the field, he won’t be able to cruise to victory.
Aside from Farah, the distance races include a stacked men’s mile (Asbel Kiprop, Ayanleh Souleiman, Matthew Centrowitz, Leo Manzano) and 800 (David Rudisha, Nijel Amos) plus Molly Huddle vs. 2013 world silver medalist Mercy Cherono in the 5,000 and Eunice Sum and Brenda Martinez in the 800. There’s also a women’s 1500 and men’s 3,000 steeplechase.
In other track action, 2012 Olympic heptathlon champ Jessica Ennis-Hill will compete in her first DL event in two years (she’s entered in the 100 hurdles, 200 and long jump), world leader Francena McCorory takes on world champ Christine Ohuruogu in the 400 and Tori Bowie leads the 200-meter field. The men’s 400 figures to be an African duel between the fifth- and 11th-fastest men of all time (Isaac Makwala and Wayde van Niekerk) while Olympic champ Greg Rutherford faces U.S. champ Marquis Dendy in the long jump.
There are so many events that the meet will be spread over two days (three, in fact, though Sunday won’t feature any DL action as the schedule consists solely of Paralympic events). We’ve broken our preview into two parts, with the day 1 events below and our Saturday preview here (great men’s mile, men’s 800, and Molly Huddle goes for the win in 5k)
What: 2015 Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games
Where: Olympic Stadium, London, England
When: Friday, July 24 – Saturday, July 25. Friday field events begin at 7:10 p.m. local time (2:10 p.m. ET), with the beIN Sports broadcast beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. Saturday field events begin at 1:45 p.m. local time (8:45 a.m. ET) with the beIN Sports webcast beginning at 10:00 a.m. ET.
How to watch: In the U.S., you can watch Friday action from 3:00 p.m. ET to 5:00 p.m. ET on beIN Sports and Saturday action from 10:00 a.m. ET to 12:00 p.m. ET on beIN Sports Connect (online only).
In the UK, Friday’s action is on BBC Three (7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.) and BBC Two (8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.). Saturday’s action is on BBC One (2:20 p.m. to 5:20 p.m.).
Friday, July 24 (all times U.S. Eastern)
2:10 p.m. Discus Throw Men Entries
2:15 400m Women Entries
2:28 4x100m Women
2:38 110m H. Men Heat A Entries
2:50 110m H. Men Heat B Entries
3:00 Pole Vault Men Entries
3:05 400m H. Women Entries
3:10 High Jump Men Entries
3:17 100m Men Heat A Entries
3:29 100m Men Heat B Entries
3:35 Triple Jump Women Entries
3:41 100m H. Women Entries
3:53 200m Men Entries
4:05 1500m Women Entries
4:17 110m H. Men Final Entries
4:29 100m Men Final Entries
4:43 3000m Men Entries
Men’s 100 (prelims Friday, 3:17 p.m. ET; final Friday, 4:29 p.m. ET)
|Harry Aikines-Aryeetey||Great Britain||10.08||10.16|
|Kim Collins||St. Kitts & Nevis||9.96||9.98|
|James Dasaolu||Great Britain||9.91||10.13|
|Ojie Edoburun||Great Britain||10.16||10.25|
|James Ellington||Great Britain||10.13||10.20|
|Richard Kilty||Great Britain||10.05||10.05|
|Andrew Robertson||Great Britain||10.10||10.22|
|Chijundu Ujah||Great Britain||9.96||10.06|
Yes, the 100 isn’t a mid-d/distance event (it’s also not a DL event at this meet), but since we imagine most LRC readers are interested in Usain Bolt, we felt it necessary to preview this race. Bolt hasn’t lost an individual race since June 2013, and most likely he will win this one as well. But he also hasn’t been racing very frequently — this will be just his third 100 since the start of 2014. Here’s what he’s done in his five individual races this year:
Bolt hasn’t raced as much as Justin Gatlin (eight individual races this year) which isn’t a concern in and of itself. The problem is that Gatlin’s season’s bests in the 100 (9.74) and 200 (19.57) are miles better than what Bolt has put together this year, even taking into account that Bolt has run into a headwind in three of his races this year. Gatlin destroys people: he beat U.S. champ Tyson Gay by .19 in Monaco, world #2 Asafa Powell by .17 in Lausanne and world #4 Jimmy Vicaut by .23 in Rome. All of those were 100s, not 200s, by the way.
Bolt, meanwhile, has withdrawn from his last three meets due to a pelvic injury — the Jamaican Champs from June 25-28, Paris on July 4 and Lausanne on July 9. And when he has raced, Bolt has been unconvincing, barely edging then-19-year-old Zharnel Hughes in the 200 in New York (Bolt won by .03) and otherwise posting unspectacular times. The World Championships start a month from today and right now Bolt occupies the position of underdog. If this were 2013, where Bolt only needed to run 9.77 to win Worlds (Gatlin was second in 9.85), we’d be more bullish on his chances of peaking by Beijing. But from what Gatlin has shown in the past two years, it is going to take a high-9.60s effort to take the gold, and Bolt, for all his accomplishments, hasn’t run anything close to that in 2015.
All of which means Bolt needs to win — and win convincingly — in London on Friday to prove that he has a shot to defeat Gatlin next month. What would such an effort look like? Two years ago, London was his last meet before Worlds and he won there in 9.85 (+0.2 wind), though that meet was just 16 days before the 100 final at Worlds (this year’s edition is 30 days before). In 2012, he didn’t run any meets between the Jamaican Championships and the Olympics, but in 2011 he ran the 100 at Monaco 37 days before and ran 9.88 (+1.0 wind), though he false-started at Worlds (he still won the 200 and the 4×100).
That tells us that Bolt needs to run somewhere in the 9.80s on Friday (assuming no serious winds; there aren’t any in the forecast) to contemplate gold in Beijing. It would also help if he could beat Vicaut by .15 or more (Gatlin beat him by .25 in Monaco). Bolt needs to run well not to prove anything to the fans — his status as the greatest sprinter of all time is already secure — but to prove to himself that he’s capable of beating Gatlin. Bolt likely has a marker he’s looking for in London, whether it’s a feeling in his body or a specific time on the clock, and if he doesn’t hit that marker, it’s possible he skips Worlds altogether. Bolt at 90% would still win a medal, but does he want to risk losing to Gatlin when he could call it a season and focus on returning to 100% in 2016? That’s something only Bolt can decide, but with Worlds rapidly approaching and Bolt raceless for six weeks, this is a crucial fitness test — and his most important race of the season so far.
Women’s 1500 (Friday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
|Jessica Judd||Great Britain||4:09.56||4:09.56|
|Laura Weightman||Great Britain||4:00.17||4:04.70|
Though the top three finishers at USAs (Jenny Simpson, Shannon Rowbury and Kerri Gallagher) won’t be in action, this race is very American-heavy; six of the women in this field made the 1500 final at USAs. Of those six, the Oregon Track Club’s Lauren Johnson, who secured her spot at Worlds by running a 3+ second PR of 4:04.17 in Heusden-Zolder on Saturday, was the highest finisher at USAs, placing fourth. Based on her performance in Heusden-Zolder, Johnson should be the favorite (she beat Katie Mackey, Rachel Schneider and Mary Cain in that race), but her other three races in Europe went horribly (4:16, 4:10, DNF), so there’s no telling which Johnson will show up.
Realistically, there are several Americans who could win this, including Mackey, Schneider, Sarah Brown and Treniere Moser, but they’ll have to deal with Morocco’s African champs bronze medalist Rababe Arafi and 18-year-old Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay, the runner-up at World Juniors in the 1500 last year. The time won’t be anywhere close to 3:50, but this figures to be a much closer race than the 1500 we saw in Monaco last week.
Men’s 3,000 (Friday, 4:43 p.m. ET)
|Othmane El Goumri||Morocco||7:48.95|
|Lee Emanuel||Great Britain||8:22.78|
|Mo Farah||Great Britain||7:36.85||7:38.22|
|Elroy Gelant||South Africa||7:41.38|
Mo Farah will win this race, as he always does. Farah hasn’t lost a track race on British soil since Eliud Kipchoge took him down over 2 miles in February 2012; he hasn’t lost a track race in Britain outdoors since 2010, when Bernard Lagat beat him over 3,000 meters.
Lagat is in this race as well, and even though he still moves pretty well for a 40-year-old (he ran 7:42.75 in Lucerne last week), he’s no match for Farah, who has shown no signs of slowing down since assuming the mantle of the world’s premier distance runner on the track in 2011. Farah’s 3:28.93 in Monaco last week demonstrated speed that most of this field could only dream of (Lagat is one of the eight men in history to have run faster than Farah over 1500, but he hasn’t broken 3:30 in nine years) and none of the men in this non-DL field are strong enough right now to break Farah in a 3,000.
Yenew Alamirew of Ethiopia owns the best PB in the field at 7:27 and though he’d be capable of challenging Farah at his best (he has six DL victories), Farah beat him soundly in Doha on May 15 (at 3,000) and Lausanne on July 9 (at 5,000). Belgium’s Bashir Abdi ran an impressive PB of 13:06 for 5,000 in Heusden-Zolder on Saturday, beating Ben True and falling only to Olympic silver medalist Dejen Gebremeskel, but he’s done nothing to indicate that he’ll pose a problem to Farah.
Really, Farah’s biggest opponent is the clock. Farah’s 7:36.85 PB (137th on the all-time outdoor list) is downright modest and well off what he’s capable of considering his other PBs of 3:28 and 12:53 (which in itself is also slow for Farah). With the win a formality, it’s up to Farah to decide whether he wants to attack a fast time, as he has in his last two track races in England (an 8:03.40 world record for 2 miles indoors in February and an 8:07.85 European record for the same distance outdoors last year).
We hope that he does. While Daniel Komen‘s 7:20.67 world record from 1996 appears unassailable, Farah’s certainly got a shot to break 7:25, which would put him in the top three on the all-time list at 3,000. Let’s take a look at what the athletes on the list did for 1500 and 5,000 the year they ran their 3,000 PB and see how Farah compares.
|Name||Year||1500 SB||3,000 SB||5,000 SB|
|Hicham El Guerrouj||1999||3:27.65||7:23.09||N/A|
|Haile Gebrselassie||1998||3:31.76 (ind.)||7:25.09||12:39.36|
|Mo Farah||2015||3:28.93||7:38.22 (so far)||13:11.77|
Ali Saidi-Sief tested positive.
Obviously the list comes with some caveats as not everyone ran their fastest possible times over every distance. But Farah’s 3:28.93 compares favorably with Saidi-Sief and Morceli, both of whom ran multiple 1500s in the year they ran their best 3,000s (granted they were a combined 6-0 in their 1500s and never got in a 3:26 race, while Farah was only 4th in his only 1500). And he showed in Birmingham in February that he is capable of chasing a fast time when properly motivated.
The problem is that Farah doesn’t have much of a reason to try for a fast time. The world record is out of reach, even for him, and Farah rarely chases fast times unless he’s in a super-fast race, as he was in Monaco. As great as it would be to see Farah go for it (it’s really the only way this race becomes interesting; otherwise it’s Farah sitting and kicking on a relatively weak DL field), Farah hasn’t said anything about attacking a record so we won’t get our hopes up.
Several Americans will be in action here. Lagat and Lopez Lomong (who narrowly edged Lagat to get the win in Lucerne last week) lead the contingent. Princeton/New Mexico grad Peter Callahan will run his first race since USAs (it’s possible he could be the rabbit as he’s never run a 3,000 according to All-Athletics.com), while Chris Derrick continues his comeback from injury after running 13:19 for 5,000 in Heusden-Zolder.