July 8, 2015
Want to know which athletes will win gold in the distance events at next month’s World Championships in Beijing? You should probably start by watching Thursday’s Athletissima Lausanne Diamond League meet, where the fields in the four DL distance events — the men’s 800 and 5,000 and the women’s 1500 and 3,000 steeplechase — are completely stacked. With USAs over, many of the biggest American stars are trekking to Europe for the first time this summer. Add names like Jenny Simpson, Emma Coburn and Matthew Centrowitz to the typically stacked Diamond League fields, and the result is one of the best meets of the summer.
It’s basically impossible to pick a highlight; ever race is that good. Coburn and Americans Colleen Quigley and Leah O’Connor join 2014 world #1 Hiwot Ayalew of Ethiopia and Kenya’s Virginia Nyambura (wins in Doha and Birmingham) in the women’s steeple. 2014 world #1 Caleb Ndiku will make his season debut in a spectacular men’s 5,000 which includes Mo Farah, Yomif Kejelcha, Hagos Gebrhiwet and many more. Jenny Simpson faces Faith Kipyegon, Sifan Hassan and Dawit Seyaum in the women’s 1500. And the men’s 800 features Mo Aman, Nijel Amos and a guy by the name of David Rudisha.
There are some terrific non-distance events as well, led by the men’s 100 (Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell). Pedro Pablo Pichardo battles U.S. champ Omar Craddock in the triple jump, Dawn Harper-Nelson and Sharika Nelvis face off in the 100 hurdles and Allyson Felix runs her specialty, the 200 meters.
You’re not going to want to miss this meet. We give you the details below and then preview the women’s mid-d/distance events (men’s preview here: Worlds Comes Early: Thursday’s Lausanne DL Meet Is Totally Loaded – 5 Of The 6 Fastest 5,000 Men Will Battle With Mo Farah And Caleb Ndiku In 5,000; Amos, Aman, Rudisha And Centro In 800).
What: 2015 Athletissima Lausanne
Where: Stade Olympique de la Pontaise, Lausanne, Switzerland
When: Thursday, July 9. Field events begin at 12:00 p.m. ET; DL track events (and the beIN Sports broadcast) begin at 2:00 p.m. ET.
How to watch: Live on beIN Sports from 2:00 p.m. ET to 4:00 p.m. ET. In Europe, you can watch the meet live on Eurosport. Detailed TV/streaming information here.
Women’s 800 (1:46 p.m. ET): Shannon Rowbury attempts to join sub-2/sub-15 club
|Lenka Masna||Czech Republic||1:59.56||2:01.93|
This non-DL race falls before the TV window so we won’t spend too much time previewing it. The top runners in the field are Switzerland’s Selina Buchel and the U.S.’s Molly Ludlow, both of whom PR’d in the very fast Paris race on Saturday. Without Eunice Sum leading the way, it will be hard to go that fast again, but both are clearly in exceptional shape.
The other woman to watch is American Shannon Rowbury, who will be looking to dip under 2:00 for the first time. Rowbury, who finished second to Jenny Simpson in the 1500 at USAs, ran 2:00.54 at the Portland Track Festival on June 14 in a race that was won in 1:59.94. With good conditions in the forecast, she’s got a great chance to break 2:00, which would make her the fifth member of an exclusive club: women who have broken both 2:00 for 800 and 15:00 for 5,000 (Rowbury’s 5,000 PR is 14:48.68).
The Four Women in the Sub-2/Sub-15 Club
Regina Jacobs (USA) 1:58.08/14:45.35
Maryam Yusuf Jamal (Bahrain) 1:57.80/14:51.68
Natalya Artyomova (USSR) 1:58.05/14:54.08
Sifan Hassan (Netherlands) 1:59.95/14:59.23
Both Jacobs and Artyomova were known dopers, so really the club is even more exclusive than it appears. For Rowbury to join it would be quite an accomplishment.
Women’s 3,000 Steeplechase (2:10 p.m. ET): Americans hit the circuit
|Etenesh Diro Neda||Ethiopia||9:14.07|
On Saturday, the top three Americans from the U.S. Championships in the men’s steeple all lined up in Paris and acquitted themselves very well. As you may have heard, Evan Jager set an American record (8:00.45) while Dan Huling (8:15.21, #4 time of his career) and Donn Cabral (8:17.20, #2 time of his career) also ran well, finishing as the second and third non-Kenyans behind Jager.
Now it’s the women’s turn. Just as on the men’s side, the U.S. has never been stronger in the event, led by a singular talent in Emma Coburn. Coburn, like Jager, has run faster than any American in history (though her 9:11.42 from Glasgow last year doesn’t stand as the American record since she didn’t take a post-race drug test). And Coburn, like Jager, looked comfortable in running away from a quality field two weeks ago at USAs, going 3:12-3:06-2:57 for her three kilometer splits to run 9:15.59, .51 off the world leader. Coburn won that race, which was run in 90-degree temps, by eight seconds; she’s capable of much faster right now.
Coburn is in almost the exact same situation as a year ago, when she also won USAs by eight seconds in 90-degree temps. She ran 9:19 in that race and followed it up with a PR of 9:14 in Paris the next week. A week later, she ran 9:11. She’s now almost two weeks out from USAs and based on what we saw there, her 1500 pb at the Pre Classic in May and how much faster Jager ran pushing the pace in Paris, the American record should not just be a goal for Coburn, but an expectation. Diamond League steeples have gone slow in 2015 — the current world leader of 9:15.08 would be the slowest world-leading time since 2006 if it holds up — but Coburn doesn’t like to sit back in the pack. Rabbit or not, she will be pushing it in Lausanne, and with ideal conditions, she’s got a great shot to become the 11th woman to break 9:10.
The question is, will Coburn win the race? Kenya’s Virginia Nyambura (DL wins in Doha and Birmingham) and 2014 world #1 Hiwot Ayalew (winner of the most recent DL race in New York) are both in the field. We’ve yet to see what either can do in a fast race, but if Coburn can replicate her 2014 form (and indications are she’s even fitter this year), she should have a great shot at winning Lausanne — or any other race she enters.
“I was #2 in the world last year but I only won one Diamond League,” Coburn said. “I was often second, I was sometimes third, fourth, fifth. Also some of the world champions from the past weren’t competing last year and if they were, they weren’t competing strongly. So [2013 world champ] Milcah Chemos, the Russians, they weren’t as competitive last year as they had been in the past…If it was the exact same roster as 2014, I would maybe set that goal a little higher. There were just so many missing people last year.”
“The winners [at Worlds] have all been 9:05-type girls so I definitely have to be in PR shape to be competitive.”
Coburn does have a point, but until we actually see something from someone else, she needs to be regarded as one of the favorites for the gold at Worlds. Chemos announced in May that she won’t be running Worlds this year due to injury, so strike her off. 2011 World/2012 Olympic champ Yuliya Zaripova is serving a doping ban and may be stripped of her gold from London. Strike her off too.
It’s possible that Ayalew, Nyambura or world leader Hyvin Kiyeng work themselves into 9:05 shape by Worlds. But we’re only six weeks away at this point, and if Coburn run sub-9:10 and defeat Ayalew and Nyambura in Lausanne, she has to be labeled the favorite in Beijing.
Recent college grads Colleen Quigley and Leah O’Connor have developed a friendly rivalry this year. O’Connor took the early lead, winning the NCAA indoor mile in dominant fashion (Quigley was third) but since moving outdoors, Quigley has moved ahead. First, she won NCAAs in Eugene, pulling ahead of O’Connor after the final water jump. Two weeks later, the two were battling it out again on the same track at USAs for the final spot on the Worlds team, and once again, Quigley prevailed as O’Connor fell coming off the final water jump. Both have already PR’d multiple times this summer, and the newly-signed pros (Quigley with Nike’s Bowerman Track Club, O’Connor with adidas) will look to keep it going in their first Diamond League race.
Quigley’s PRs in 2015
O’Connor’s PRs in 2015
O’Connor has the better chance at PR’ing given she fell at USAs and still managed to PR; now she’ll look to become the 12th American to break 9:30. It will be tough to bring down Quigley, however, who has been on a roll this year and is 4-0 against O’Connor all-time in the steeplechase.
Women’s 1500 (3:26 p.m. ET): Jenny Simpson goes for five in a row
|Sifan Hassan||The Netherlands||3:57.00||3:59.68|
|Maryam Yusuf Jamal||Bahrain||3:56.18||4:15.00|
|Susan Kuijken||The Netherlands||4:05.38||4:06.37|
On July 5, 2014, Jenny Simpson ran 3:57.22 for 1500 meters in Paris, the second-fastest time ever by an American woman. She finished second to the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan in that race; we’re now over a year removed and Simpson has yet to lose another 1500.
Jenny Simpson’s win streak
Though the 1500 at Pre wasn’t officially a Diamond League event, it was DL-caliber (Mercy Cherono, Sifan Hassan, Shannon Rowbury). Aside from that, Simpson has three straight DL victories and two straight USA titles. During the streak, Simpson has relied on a terrific final 100 to put her rivals away; no other woman holds her form as well at the end of a race than Simpson.
Simpson has to enter Lausanne as the favorite, but she will be tested. Hassan will obviously be a threat. She’s finished second (Doha), third (Pre), second (Rome) and first (Birmingham) in her four 1500s this year, was the world leader last year and is has the #2 time this year behind Simpson. World junior champ Dawit Seyaum, the other sub-4:00 woman on the year and winner in Doha, is dangerous as well.
As good as those women are though, Simpson beat Seyaum in Rome and has won her last four 1500s against Hassan. But there is one other woman Simpson should be worried about: 21-year-old Faith Kipyegon of Kenya. Kipyegon, the 2012 World Junior champ and 2014 Commonwealth champ, owns a 3:56.98 personal best from two years ago and has been running the 5,000 this year after an injury kept her from running World XC (she won the Kenyan XC champs in February). But with Genzebe Dibaba and Almaz Ayana dominating the 5,000 this year (Kipyegon ran 14:31 at Pre in her 5,000 debut but was just seventh in Paris in 14:44), her best shot at a medal appears to be in the 1500.
Kipyegon has run one 1500 this year so far: her 4:00.94 in Oslo on June 11. That may not sound terribly impressive, but it was a fine performance, even though she didn’t win. In that race, Brit Laura Muir was the only one to follow the rabbit and she had a 3.5-second lead at the bell. Kipyegon closed most of that gap but couldn’t quite catch Muir, losing by .55 of a second. But Kipyegon was WAY better than everyone else in the race, beating Seyaum (third in 4:02.90) by almost two seconds (she also beat defending world indoor/outdoor champ Abeba Aregawi). Kipyegon will know better than to let anyone get away from her in this one; could she be the one to end Simpson’s streak?
Will it be fast?
Simpson said after USAs that she has no plans to attack Mary Slaney‘s 3:57.12 American record prior to Worlds. That said, if it’s going to take 3:57 to win the race — and with this field, it could — the record is in jeopardy. In addition to the fast field and good weather conditions, this is also a very large field (17 people). When that’s the case, it often makes sense for the top women to run faster so that the field strings out and there’s less traffic to deal with. Just don’t expect Simpson to be the one pushing the pace.