London Saturday Preview: Kiprop Vs. Souleiman In The Mile As Centro, Leo And Blankenship Try To Go Sub-3:50; Amos Vs. Rudisha (And Berian) At 800, Molly Huddle Tries To Win The 5k

July 23, 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 1,500 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 KipropAyanleh SouleimanMatthew CentrowitzLeo Manzano) and 800 (David RudishaNijel 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.

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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 2 events below. We previewed Friday’s action which features Usain Bolt and Mo Farah here.

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.).

Saturday, July 25 (all times U.S. Eastern)
8:45 a.m. Long jump Women Entries
9:20 Pole Vault Women Entries
9:40 100m Women Heat A Entries
9:50 100m Women Heat B Entries
9:57 Shot Put Women Entries
10:05 400m Men Entries
10:15 5000m Women Entries
10:35 Long Jump Men Entries
10:38 400m H. Men Entries
10:43 Javelin Throw Women Entries
10:48 800m Women Entries
10:58 200m Women Entries
11:08 3000m SC Men Entries
11:23 800m Men Entries
11:35 4x100m Men
11:44 Emsley Carr Mile Entries
11:54 100m Women Final Entries

Friday & Full Schedule Here * TV/streaming information

Women’s 5,000 (Saturday, 10:15 a.m. ET): Can Molly Huddle Get the Diamond League Win?

Name Country PB SB
Rhona Auckland Great Britain 15:51.01 15:51.01
Kate Avery Great Britain 15:25.63 15:25.63
Mercy Cherono Kenya 14:34.10 14:34.10
Jessica Coulson Great Britain 15:44.85 15:50.03
Mary Cullen Ireland 15:19.04 15:26.46
Gabe Grunewald USA 15:19.01 15:19.01
Marielle Hall USA 15:06.45 15:06.45
Molly Huddle USA 14:42.64 14:57.23
Janet Kisa Kenya 14:52.59 15:28.1h
Kristina Maki Czech Republic 15:35.62 15:49.47
Dominika Nowakowska Poland 15:16.11 15:29.26
Beth Potter Great Britain 15:40.79 15:50.97
Emily Sisson USA 15:25.84 15:25.84
Haftamnesh Tesfaye Ethiopia 15:22.79
Nicole Tully USA 15:05.58 15:05.58
Liv Westphal France 15:30.61 15:30.61
Laura Whittle Great Britain 15:20.92 15:22.00

With only one Ethiopian and two Kenyans on the start list (the Kenyan World Champs trials are next weekend), this field is far weaker than your typical Diamond League event. What that means, however, is that American record holder Molly Huddle has a shot at the win in her 2015 DL debut. Huddle’s personal best of 14:42.64 from last year is second-best in the field and she’s one of only three women entered to have broken 15:00. Huddle has raced sparingly this year — this will be only her fifth race — but she’s been very successful.

Molly Huddle in 2015

Date Race Time Place
3/15/2015 NYC Half Marathon 68:31 1st
4/18/2015 B.A.A. 5K 14:50 (AR) 1st
6/13/2015 NBB Twilight 5K 14:57.23 1st
6/25/2015 USA 10,000 31:39.20 1st
Huddle looked great in her last race, closing out her USA 10,000 victory with a 65.56 final lap Huddle looked great in her last race, closing out her USA 10,000 victory with a 65.56 final lap

The problem is one of those other sub-15:00 women is Mercy Cherono. Cherono is the reigning world silver medalist and Diamond League champion at 3k/5k. And though she’s been focused more on the 1500 this year, she ran a PR of 14:34.10 in her only 5,000 of the year in Paris on July 4. Huddle has been working on her strength this year, and while that should benefit her come Worlds, it works against her in this race. Since there are only a few women who can win this race (Kenyan 5,000 champ Janet Kisa is the other) and Cherono has no incentive to push it with 4:01 1500 speed (Huddle’s best is 4:08; Kisa’s 4:14), it could well come down to a kick, in which case Cherono becomes a massive favorite.

The truth is that Huddle will be hard-pressed to defeat Cherono in any style of race, but given Huddle’s form this year and the weak field behind her, she should finish no lower than third (and has a great shot at second). The top two Americans from USAs, Nicole Tully and Marielle Hall, will be hoping that the pace is honest in this one so that they can join Huddle among the ranks of sub-15:00 Americans (currently the club numbers 14 women). Given that both women ran 15:06 in a championship setting at USAs, knocking six seconds off in a DL race a month later should be doable. They may have a familiar face rabbiting them — Gabe Grunewald is entered here in addition to the 1500 on Friday, and the smart money says she will serve as the rabbit rather than racing both events.

Another storyline to watch is a battle of collegiate stars as NCAA champ Emily Sisson takes on Kate Avery (4th at NCAAs) and Liv Westphal (8th). Sisson, a Providence grad, signed with New Balance after NCAAs (though she still has a year remaining to receive her MBA at Providence) while Avery (Iona) and Westphal (Boston College) still have eligibility remaining. Both Sisson (at Heusden-Zolder on Saturday) and Westphal (who won the European U-23 Champs on July 12) are coming off outdoor PRs in their last races.

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Women’s 800 (Saturday, 10:48 a.m. ET): Can Eunice Sum Keep the Train Rolling?

Name Country PB SB
Selina Buchel Switzerland 1:57.95 1:57.95
Angelika Cichocka Poland 2:00.20 2:01.64
Sifan Hassan The Netherlands 1:59.95 2:00.62
Molly Ludlow USA 1:58.68 1:58.68
Brenda Martinez USA 1:57.91 1:59.06
Shelayna Oskan-Clarke Great Britain 2:00.90 2:00.90
Chanelle Price USA 1:59.10 1:59.10
Lynsey Sharp Great Britain 1:58.80 1:59.72
Eunice Sum Kenya 1:56.99 1:56.99
Sum delivered a huge 1:56.99 PR her last time out in Paris Sum delivered a huge 1:56.99 PR her last time out in Paris

The women’s 800 in Beijing could be a battle for second. Since the start of 2013, Eunice Sum has run 24 800s and won 20 of them, including her last five in a row. She’s been particularly dominant in 2015, making it look easy on the Diamond League circuit, most recently running a PR of 1:56.99 in Paris on July 4, the fastest time in the world since June 2013. And considering the only woman who has challenged her at all this year — Ajee Wilson, who lost to Sum by .05 of a second at Pre in May — is absent from this race (Wilson hasn’t raced at all since USAs), Sum enters as the heavy favorite to run her win streak to six.

She’ll have plenty of challengers in this one, though. Switzerland’s Selina Buchel has been on a roll in 2015, as she had won nine of her 10 800s entering this week, including a European indoor title in March and a 1.26-second PR in Paris. However, she lost to Germany’s Fabienne Kohlmann and the U.S.’s Molly Ludlow in Bellinzona on Tuesday (she still ran 1:59.23) so her confidence may have taken a slight hit.

Ludlow was second in that race in 1:59.05, her second-fastest time ever, and, like fellow American Chanelle Price, has been able to produce some great performances in Europe after the disappointment of missing out on Team USA. Brenda Martinez did make Team USA and she’ll be looking to do something big in her first overseas race of 2015. Fellow 2014 DL winner Lynsey Sharp, who won the British Championships three weeks ago, will also be hoping for a breakthrough after a pair of solid but unspectacular efforts in Madrid (3rd in 2:00.55) and Lucerne (4th in 1:59.72) in recent weeks. The Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan is first and foremost a 1500 runner, but she’s got good speed (1:59.95 800 PR) and coming off a 3:56.05 performance in Monaco last week, she’ll be dreaming big in London.

With Sum leading a strong, deep field, this one has the potential to go very fast.

Men’s 3,000 Steeplechase (Saturday, 11:08 a.m. ET): Someone’s Got To Win This One

Name Country PB SB
Andy Bayer USA 8:21.44 8:21.44
Victor Garcia Spain 8:15.20 8:41.88
Stanley Kebenei USA 8:23.93 8:23.93
Clement Kemboi Kenya 8:12.68 8:12.68
Abraham Kibiwott Kenya 8:39.7h 8:39.7h
Conseslus Kipruto Kenya 8:01.16 8:05.20
Paul Koech Kenya 7:54.31 8:11.39
Haron Lagat Kenya 8:15.80 8:25.04
Cory Leslie USA 8:20.08 8:25.74
Taylor Milne Canada 8:19.90 8:19.90
Rob Mullett Great Britain 8:31.62 8:33.65
Abel Mutai Kenya 8:01.67 8:20.38
Bernard Nganga Kenya 8:05.88 8:15.66
Chris Winter Canada 8:28.17 8:29.86
Hillary Yego Kenya 8:03.57 8:16.01

No Jairus Birech and no Evan Jager makes for a bit of a letdown in the first DL steeple since their epic encounter in Paris three weeks ago. Birech, who rarely misses a DL race, is battling malaria according to the Daily Nation (get well soon, Jairus!), while Jager is holed up in Park City with training partner Dan Huling prepping for Worlds.

With those two absent, 2013 world silver medalist Conseslus Kipruto is the smart pick, as he’s been extremely consistent this year (3rd, 3rd, 2nd and 3rd in the four DL steeples); he’s also got the fastest season best in the field at 8:05.20 (no one else has broken 8:11). While Kenyans Paul Koech (#3 all-time) and Clement Kemboi (5th in Paris in 8:12.68) are formidable, with no Jager, Birech, Brimin Kipruto or Ezekiel Kemboi, this is a weak steeple field.

The flip side of that is that it grants an opportunity to second-tier Americans Andy Bayer (4th at USAs), Stanley Kebenei (5th) and Cory Leslie (6th) to shine. Bayer and Kebenei have both PR’d this year, while Leslie will have a quick turnaround after earning a bronze medal at the Pan American Games in Toronto on Tuesday. If one of them can dip under 8:20 on Saturday, it will mark the first time in 10 years that four Americans have eclipsed that barrier in a single year.

2015 U.S. Men’s List for 3,000 Steeplechase
1. Evan Jager, 8:00.45 (AR)
2. Donn Cabral, 8:13.37
3. Dan Huling, 8:14.11
4. Andy Bayer, 8:21.44
5. Stanley Kebenei, 8:23.93
6. Cory Leslie, 8:25.74

Men’s 800 (Saturday, 11:23 a.m. ET): Nijel Amos vs David Rudisha (and Boris Berian!)

Name Country PB SB
Nijel Amos Botswana 1:41.73 1:42.66
Boris Berian USA 1:43.34 1:43.34
Pierre-Ambroise Bosse France 1:42.53 1:43.88
Mark English Ireland 1:44.84 1:45.83
Adam Kszczot Poland 1:43.30 1:43.45
Kyle Langford Great Britain 1:47.41 1:48.28
Cas Loxsom USA 1:44.92 1:44.92
Michael Rimmer Great Britain 1:43.89 1:45.75
David Rudisha Kenya 1:40.91 1:43.58
Erik Sowinski USA 1:44.58 1:44.84
Sammy Tangui Kenya 1:49.39

Now we arrive at the meat of the Saturday action. If the first three distance races (women’s 5,000, women’s 800 and men’s steeple) are appetizers; the men’s 800 and mile (the final two distance races of the meet) serve as a double portion of Beef Wellington, a main course drenched in mouth-watering storylines.

The biggest matchup in the men’s 800 is between Botswana’s Nijel Amos and Kenya’s David Rudisha. The last time the two raced on this track, this happened. It’s safe to say that Rudisha and Amos have some history with the Olympic Stadium track.

The last time Rudisha ran in the Olympic Stadium, this happened The last time Rudisha ran in the Olympic Stadium, this happened

As we pointed out after Lausanne, though Rudisha got the win (and the world record) at the 2012 Olympics, Amos has dominated him ever since. Amos — who, it should be pointed out, is still only 21 years old — is 5-0 against Rudisha since the Olympic final, most recently defeating him in Lausanne on July 9, where he won in 1:43.27 to Rudisha’s 1:43.76. Amos bettered his time the following week in Monaco, but his 1:42.66 was only good for second place as breakout Bosnian Amel Tuka stole the win in the final meters in a world-leading 1:42.51.

If last year was a building year for Rudisha (as much as a year where he runs 1:42.98 can be considered a “building year”), 2015 was the one in which Rudisha — and his fans — were hoping that he would return to his once-dominant form. And though he’s only lost once this year, to Amos in Lausanne, if Rudisha can’t manage faster than the 1:43.58 he ran in New York on June 13, he’ll be in a different place than he was entering his last two global championships.

In 2012, Rudisha held an SB of 1:41.54 entering the Olympics and walked away with a gold medal and a world record. In 2011, Rudisha’s SB was 1:42.61 prior to Worlds, which he also won. Right now, this year’s Rudisha more closely resembles the 2009 edition (when he went out in the semis at Worlds), as his SB entering Worlds was 1:43.54 — just .04 off his 2015 SB.

Of course, Rudisha could run much faster than that on Saturday, but since returning from the knee injury that cost him the 2013 season, Rudisha hasn’t shown he can do what he did routinely from 2010 to 2012: reach a level that no one else is capable of reaching. Perhaps Rudisha and his coach, Brother Colm O’Connell, don’t want to show all their cards until Worlds. After all, Rudisha has consistently done his best running at the ends of seasons. From 2007 to 2012, Rudisha has run his fastest time of the season in August or September (excluding 2008, when he stopped competing in June).

But in the past, even though Rudisha has peaked well at the end of the year, at his best he’s been unbeatable prior to championships. In his two gold-medal-winning years, Rudisha didn’t lose a single race before Worlds/Olympics. He’s already lost once this season and with Amos on the line on Saturday, another defeat is a distinct possibility. The 2015 model of Rudisha is still more than capable of winning gold, but from what we’ve seen so far, he’s not the same runner as he was pre-injury. Amos can beat him. So too can Mo Aman, when he’s on his game. And Tuka, who has gone from 1:46.12 to 1:42.51 this year, cannot be discounted either.

When Rudisha is merely great as opposed to legendary, his front-running style becomes more of a liability. When Rudisha runs 1:41 pace from the front, he breaks even the best of runners; when he runs 1:42-high/1:43-low, he can serve as a rabbit for a guy like Amos.

London is a crucial race for Rudisha. A win over Amos would be a good sign; a commanding win from the front, and he’ll have partially restored that aura of invincibility that accompanied him to the start line in 2012 — when he could address the field before the Olympic final and tell them, “If you want to die, follow me.”

Amos, who has DL wins in Birmingham (June 7) and Lausanne (July 9) this year, is Rudisha’s biggest competition, but the race has depth behind him. European champ/World Indoor runner-up Adam Kszczot ran his fastest time in four years in Monaco (1:43.45) and won his second straight Polish championship on Monday.

The field also contains three of the top Americans: USA second- and third-placers Erik Sowinski and Cas Loxsom and U.S. leader Boris Berian (1:43.34). Berian struggled with the rounds at USAs, but his one-off races this year have been terrific as he became the fifth-fastest American of all time in Monaco last week. Loxsom (who hasn’t raced since USAs) and Sowinski (who was only sixth in Bellinzona on Tuesday, running 1:46.95) will gain some valuable experience against a top-level field in London as both prepare to make their World Championships debut next month.

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Men’s Emsley Carr Mile (Saturday, 11:44 a.m. ET): Kiprop vs Souleiman as Centro, Leo, and Blankenship Try and Go Sub 3:50

Name Country PB SB
Ben Blankenship USA 3:54.10 3:55.72
Matthew Centrowitz USA 3:50.53 3:51.20
Collins Cheboi Kenya 3:49.56 3:52.63
Dale Clutterbuck Great Britain 4:22.60
Charlie Grice Great Britain 3:54.61 3:57.80
Jakub Holusa Czech Republic 3:53.46 3:53.46
Abdelaati Iguider Morocco 3:49.09 3:53.21
Henrik Ingebrigtsen Norway 3:50.72 3:53.43
Asbel Kiprop Kenya 3:48.50 3:51.25
Ismael Kombich Kenya
Tom Lancashire Great Britain 3:53.39
Leo Manzano USA 3:50.64 3:53.55
Zakaria Mazouzi Morocco
Ross Murray Great Britain 3:52.77
Chris O’Hare Great Britain 3:58.77
Andrew Rotich Kenya
Ayanleh Souleiman Djibouti 3:47.32 3:51.10
Jake Wightman Great Britain 4:00.62 4:05.19

As you may have heard, Asbel Kiprop ran rather fast last week in Monaco. His 3:26.62 moved him up to number three on the all-time list at 1500 meters, behind only Hicham El Guerrouj and Bernard Lagat, and Kiprop will be in action once again this week in London as he takes on rival Ayanleh Souleiman over the one-mile distance.

It’s somewhat odd for Kiprop to be racing again so quickly. In the past three years, Kiprop has run a fast 1500 at Monaco and then shut it down until championship season. But with a Diamond League mile on the calendar in London, Kiprop has opted in and will face Souleiman, who will be hungry for a fast time after missing out on the 1500 in Monaco (he did run a PR of 1:42.97 in the 800).

Could a fast time materialize? Possibly, but it’s going to be on Souleiman to make it happen. Going all-out in pursuit of fast times every week takes a toll on the body, and Kiprop, who said he was only at 70% fitness heading into Monaco, may want to take a more reserved approach in London (though El Guerrouj ran a 3:44.60 mile two days after setting the 1500 WR in 1998; interpret that how you will). And after Souleiman was burned chasing 3:44 in Oslo earlier this year, will he be willing to chase such a time again in London? He’s certainly in shape to run well into the 3:40s given his win in the Bowerman Mile, his 3:30.17 1500 in Paris and his 1:42.97 in Monaco, but it’s extremely tough to go it alone up front (despite how easy Kiprop made it look).

If Kiprop or Souleiman does decide to chase a fast time, 3:46 is the number to watch for. Only El Guerrouj, Noah Ngeny and Noureddine Morceli have ever broken that barrier.

Kiprop and Souleiman will garner the attention, but it’s worth remembering there are 16 other runners in this race. Morocco’s Olympic bronze medalist Abdelaati Iguider became the eighth-fastest man in history thanks to his 3:28.79 in Monaco, so he should give the big dogs a run for their money. Plus three of the top four Americans from USAs are entered (Matthew CentrowitzLeo Manzano and Ben Blankenship). Centro and Manzano have both had success on this track in the past; they went 2-4 in the Olympic final here three years ago.

In fact, no city better epitomizes the highs and lows of Manzano’s career than London. Here’s what he’s done there since 2009 (his first full season as a pro).

The Olympic Stadium track is familiar to Centro and Manzano Centro and Leo are no strangers to the track in London

2009: Runs 3:53.01 mile (2.28-second PR) to place second at Aviva Grand Prix behind Bernard Lagat, who takes bronze at Worlds a month later.

2010: Lowers that PR to 3:50.64 to place third at Aviva Grand Prix. He has not run faster since.

2011: Wins the mile at the Aviva Grand Prix in 3:51.24 (to this day, his second-fastest time ever). This remains the only DL 1500/mile victory by an American man.

2012: Runs 4:00.78 to finish dead last in the mile at the Aviva Grand Prix. Less than four weeks later, he returns to London and delivers the signature performance of his career, earning the silver medal in the 1500 at the Olympics.

2013/2014: Manzano does not compete in London (no DL meet in ’14)

In all, three of Manzano’s four fastest miles have come in London plus the greatest race of his life, the 2012 Olympic 1500 final. His performances there have been a fitting microcosm of his career: brilliant at his best, with the occasional stinker.

With the IAAF standard out of the way, Manzano can focus on racing, and he’ll have his hands full with Centrowitz and Blankenship, both of whom ran well in Monaco last week. Despite finishing way back in 10th place, Centrowitz still ran 3:30.40 to move up to #3 on the U.S. list at 1500; he also crushed Manzano by over five seconds. Blankenship ran the 3,000 and acquitted himself well, slicing eight seconds off his PR to finish sixth in 7:38.08.

Centro should finish as the top American again barring some Manzano heroics (and since this race is in London, we can’t count that out) and on paper Kiprop, Souleiman and Iguider are the only runners that are out of his league in a fast race. Any type of race should benefit Centrowitz, though. If it goes fast, he can be dragged to a fast time as he was in Monaco, perhaps becoming the seventh American under 3:50 (a goal of his for a few years now). If it goes slow, he’s got a shot to contend for the win. Blankenship, who set his PR of 3:53.13 in Boston indoors in February, should be able to slice a second or two off of that time in a quicker race.

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More: Friday Preview: What Will Usain Bolt Do At 100 & How Fast Will Mo Farah Try To Run At 3,000?

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