September 9, 2015
Editor’s Note: It came to our attention after the publishing of this article that David Rudisha wasn’t running in the 800.
The 2015 track season unofficially ends on Friday with the second Diamond League final, the 2015 Memorial Van Damme in Brussels. Sixteen more Diamond Race trophies will be handed out, including ones for the men’s 100, men’s triple jump, women’s 200, men’s 800, women’s 100 hurdles, women’s mile, women’s 400 and men’s 5,000. The winner of each Diamond Race title takes home $40,000 and when you add in $10,000 for a victory on the day, some athletes will be earning $50,000 for an evening’s work.
The distance races are headlined by a loaded men’s 800 featuring that is certainly better than the field that competed in the final in Beijing a few weeks ago. The field features all three Beijing medalists (David Rudisha, Adam Kszczot and Amel Tuka), plus Nijel Amos, Mo Aman and the top two 1500 men from Worlds in Kenyans Asbel Kiprop and Elijah Manangoi. The men’s 5,000 and women’s mile will be very interesting for American fans. In the men’s 5,000, Galen Rupp, Ben True and Ryan Hill will all chase PRs (and the American record?) against Caleb Ndiku, Hagos Gebrhiwet and Yomif Kejelcha. Jenny Simpson and Shannon Rowbury take on Beijing medalists Faith Kipyegon and Sifan Hassan in the first-ever Diamond League women’s mile. Americans Emma Coburn and Stephanie Garcia also go in the women’s steeplechase.
With no Usain Bolt (who withdrew on Monday, citing fatigue), Justin Gatlin will again attempt the 100-200 double (the 200 is one hour and two minutes after the 100) after running 9.77 and 19.71 last year. In the latter race, he’ll face 400 world champ Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa. Christian Taylor and Pedro Pablo Pichardo will square off one more time in the men’s triple jump and the women’s 200 features a mouth-watering matchup between four-time global champ Allyson Felix and world champ/#3 all-time Dafne Schippers.
The full list of DL disciplines that will crown a champion on Friday is as follows:
Men: 100, 800, 5000, 400 hurdles, shot put, pole vault, javelin, triple jump
Women: 200, 400, 1500/mile, 100 hurdles, 3000 steeplechase, discus, triple jump, high jump
Note: Caterine Ibarguen (women’s triple jump) and Sandra Perkovic (women’s discus) have already clinched the DL title
Full details and mid-d/distance previews below.
What: 2015 Memorial Van Damme
Where: King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, Belgium
When: Friday, September 11. Meet program begins at 11:35 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. Details on the TV/streaming information here.
Men’s 1500 (2:20 p.m. ET)
|Dale Clutterbuck||Great Britain||3:38.65||3:38.65|
|Tom Lancashire||Great Britain||3:33.96||3:38.07|
|Chris O’Hare||Great Britain||3:34.83||3:34.83|
This non-DL race will be an entirely European/Australian affair, save for the presence of Kenyan rabbits Reuben Bett and Andrew Rotich. European Athletics president Svein Arne Hansen must love the makeup of this field (minus Australians Collis Birmingham and Ryan Gregson) after last week calling for European-only fields in distance races in Europe. Of course the lack of top Africans (and the fact that it’s a non-DL race) means that the field is far weaker than a typical Diamond League race.
That’s not to say it’s entirely devoid of talent. Four of these men (Morhad Amdouni, David Bustos, Pieter-Jan Hannes, Chris O’Hare) made the semifinals at Worlds, with Hannes and O’Hare barely missing the final (O’Hare was .08 from making it, with Hannes a further .02 behind O’Hare in their semi). Expect the winner to come from that group.
Women’s 3,000 Steeplechase (2:39 p.m. ET): Ghiribi and Kiyeng Battle Again as Nyambura Goes For DL Title
Diamond Race standings
1. Virginia Nyambura, 15 points
2. Hiwot Ayalew, 9 points
2. Hyvin Kiyeng, 9 points
In the DL final, the points are doubled so it’s 8 for first, 4 for second and three for third. The first tie-breaker is total wins on the DL circuit and the second is their finish in this meet.
Based on her three Diamond League victories (Ayalew and Kiyeng have one each), the 22-year-old Nyambura only needs to finish third to clinch the DL title. 2014 world #1 Ayalew and world champ Kiyeng are the only women who can catch Nyambura, but to do that, they would need to win the race and have Nyambura finish fourth or lower. That’s going to be tough considering Nyambura hasn’t finished lower than third in her five DL races in 2015. There is hope, however: Nyambura was only seventh at Worlds, and five of the six women who beat her (including Kiyeng and Ayalew) will be on the line in Brussels.
If you watched the first Diamond League final in Zurich last week, you’ll know that the results there beared little resemblance to the results in Beijing. But with an extra week of recovery, we’re banking on a return to normalcy in Brussels. And if that’s the case, expect a duel between Kiyeng and Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi. Those two were separated by just .13 of a second at Worlds and the other woman close to them, Gesa Krause of Germany, isn’t running here. Kiyeng and Ghribi also went 1-2 in the final pre-Worlds DL meet in Monaco (running the fastest two times in the world this year; unlike Worlds, Ghribi won that won). Kiyeng obviously has a lot more to run for (she’ll take home $50,000 for the win if Nyambura is fourth or lower; a win would earn Ghribi only $10,000) but Ghribi was in a similar position last year and still won the DL final in Zurich.
The top two Americans, Emma Coburn and Stephanie Garcia, will also be in action. Both had solid runs at Worlds (Coburn was fifth, Garcia ninth), but if one of them has a shot to PR on Friday, it’s Garcia. In her two pre-Worlds races, Garcia PR’d to win the Sir Walter Miler in Raleigh (4:28.84) and PR’d to finish second in the steeple at USAs (9:23.48). Coburn, meanwhile, is coming off a disappointing 8:59.76 3,000 in Zurich last week — given that her steeple PR is 9:11.42, it’s hard to imagine her running just 11 seconds slower once you add in barriers.
Men’s 800 (2:56 p.m. ET): Better Than The Bejing Final
|Thijmen Kupers||The Netherlands||1:45.28||1:45.28|
|Amel Tuka||Bosnia & Herzegovina||1:42.51||1:42.51|
Diamond Race standings
1. Nijel Amos, 12 points
2. David Rudisha, 6 points
3. Ayanleh Souleiman, 5 points4. Mo Aman, 4 points
4. Amel Tuka, 4 points
Despite missing the final at Worlds, Amos clinches the $40,000 DL title with a second-place finish here. Third would also be good enough for Amos, as long as Rudisha doesn’t win. If Amos finishes outside the top three, things become very interesting, however, as Rudisha, Aman and Tuka could all clinch the title with a victory.
Amos is the smart pick, however, given that he just ran 1:43.28 on Sunday in Berlin to defeat Aman and Adam Kszczot, among others. And remember, though he went home in the semis at Worlds, he was only .03 away from making the final. The reason he went home is that he allowed Rudisha to control the race and Rudisha slowed it way down (winning time: 1:47.70), eliminating any possibility of a time qualifier. In rabbitted races, Amos is 5-0 against Rudisha, and given Rudisha was only fourth in Zurich last week, we’re giving Amos the nod in that head-to-head matchup.
Assuming Amos does defeat Rudisha, that means he only has to finish in the top three to win the title. Amos should like his chances then, considering he’s finished outside the top three in just one 800 since the start of 2014.
It won’t be easy for Amos, however. In addition to Rudisha — only the greatest 800 runner of all time — he’ll have to deal with Kszczot (who won last week in Zurich), Aman and Tuka (who out-Amosed Amos in their last matchup in Monaco, kicking late for the win) plus two 1500 studs moving down in Asbel Kiprop and Elijah Manangoi. Kiprop could absolutely win this race. He boasts an 800 pb of 1:43.15, and though he was running the 800 a lot more in 2011 when he ran that time (seven 800s in 2011; this is his fourth in 2015), his 1500 sb was just 3:30.46 compared to 3:26.62 this year. The one concern with Kiprop is that he’ll really have to pay attention to tactics to win in Brussels. At Worlds and last week in Zurich, Kiprop was content to hang toward the back of the pack, confident that he could outsprint everyone in the final 200. It won’t be as easy in the 800 — he’ll have been running much faster for the first lap and a half, and it’s harder to pass a ton of 800 guys at the end of the race than it is to pass a ton of 1500 guys.
Kiprop’s countryman, Manangoi, the 22-year-old Worlds silver medalist in the 1500, will have to be similarly careful. Just like Kiprop, Manangoi employed the same strategy in Beijing and Zurich, using a furious final 100 to take second in both races. Clearly, he has terrific speed — the guy was a 400 runner two years ago, running 46.5 — but we won’t know how that translates to the 800 until Friday considering there is no record of Manangoi ever running an 800.
Women’s Mile (3:23 p.m. ET): With No Genzebe Dibaba, This One Should Be Interesting
|Name||Country||PB (1500)||SB (1500)|
|Sifan Hassan||The Netherlands||3:56.05||3:56.05|
Diamond Race standings
1. Sifan Hassan, 14 points
2. Dawit Seyaum, 6 points
There is only one scenario in which Hassan does not win the Diamond League title — Seyaum wins the race while Hassan finishes fourth or lower. In that case, both women would finish with 14 points, and with the first tiebreaker (DL victories) level (both would have two), it would go down to who finished higher at the DL final (in this case, Seyaum). In all other situations (and in all likelihood), Hassan will take the title and its accompanying $40,000 prize.
There’s no Genzebe Dibaba in this race (a rare international women’s mile), which is both upsetting and exciting. It’s upsetting because Dibaba is the best 1500 runner on the planet, setting the world record and winning the World Championships in her last two events. She’d be the favorite here for sure, but after two big defeats recently to Almaz Ayana (5,000 at Worlds, 3,000 last week in Zurich), she could theoretically be slightly vulnerable in Brussels. Perhaps that’s why she elected to skip the meet – to keep her feeling of invicibility in the 1500/mile.
It’s not all bad news, however. While Dibaba’s world record in Monaco and victory at Worlds were thrilling races, it’s unlikely that Dibaba would have run a world record or closed in 1:56.9 on Friday. And as great as those races were, there wasn’t much drama surrounding who was going to win (even though Hassan and Faith Kipyegon both closed in 1:57.6 at Worlds).
The most interesting thing about Dibaba’s absence, however, is that it totally changes the makeup of the race. In Monaco, Dibaba went out so fast that things strung out immediately — you won’t see many DL 1500s won by six seconds. In Beijing, the entire field was waiting for Dibaba to move, which she did at 700 meters. In both races, runners had to alter their normal race tactics to deal with the 3:50 monster in their midst. Without Dibaba, no runner towers above the rest of the field in Brussels, which should make for a closer race in which tactics are more important. That should help Americans Shannon Rowbury (seventh at Worlds) and Jenny Simpson (an impressive fourth behind 5,000 medalists Ayana, Dibaba and Senbere Teferi in the 3,000 in Zurich last week).
Rowbury and Simpson will still have their hands full with Kipyegon (silver at Worlds), Hassan (bronze at Worlds, 1:59.95 last week in Zurich) and Seyaum (fourth at Worlds), all of whom ran significantly better than them in Beijing (though it should not be forgotten that Simpson ran the final 600 with one shoe). A repeat of their dramatic 1-2 finish from the DL final in Zurich last year is possible, but unlikely. Hassan has been the best non-Dibaba runner this year (in six DL races, she hasn’t finished lower than third) and she deserves the nod as favorite, though this race still brings plenty of intrigue.
One other thing to watch for is the winning time. Miles are fairly common in men’s Diamond League races, but this will be the first time ever that a women’s mile we be contested as a Diamond League event. That means Fiona Benson‘s 4:25.79 world leader is almost certain to go down. We could even see the first sub-4:20 mile by a woman since Gelete Burka‘s 4:18.23 in Rieti seven years ago. The American record will be difficult, however: Mary Slaney‘s 4:16.71 from 1985 stands as the fourth-fastest mile ever run by a woman. Of course, she was later suspended for doping.
Simpson and Rowbury will have a quick turnaround after this one. After racing in Brussels on Friday night, they’ll fly to New York and run the 5th Avenue Mile on Sunday afternoon which will be broadcast live on ESPN2 (at the same time the NFL season kicks off).
Men’s 5,000 (3:41 p.m. ET): Can Galen Rupp Break the American Record? Can Ben True Break 13:00?
|Othmane El Goumri||Morocco||13:13.72||13:13.90|
Diamond Race standings
1. Mo Farah, 6 points
1. Yomif Kejelcha, 6 points
3. Hagos Gebrhiwet, 5 points
3. Thomas Longosiwa, 5 points
5. Caleb Ndiku, 4 points
5. Ben True, 4 points
7. Isiah Koech, 3 points
8. Yenew Alamirew, 2 points
This race is proof positive that Mo Farah is a very rich man. If he showed up, he’d almost certainly win and pick up $50,000 for effort, and possibly get a world leader as well. $50,000 is a lot of cash for most distance runners but not Mo Farah. He’s skipping this to run the Great North Run on Sunday instead, where we assume he’s getting more than $50,000. While we wish he’d do both races, the absence of Farah, the winner of the last four global championships at this distance, makes this a less predictable race.
With eight points for a victory, the entire field has a shot to win the Diamond League title, though only the seven men listed above can guarantee the DL title with a win (the rest of the field would need a win and some help).
Our hope is that the $40,000 prize for the DL title doesn’t create a tactical race as the weather (high of 71 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday, low of 54), the field, and the fact that Worlds is in the rearview mirror means conditions should be ideal for running fast. If the field commits to following the rabbits, we could be in for a slew of sub-13:00s. We imagine they will as Galen Rupp and Ben True certainly have no reason to let this go tactical (more on that below).
This race features eight of the top nine finishers from Worlds (Farah, obviously, is the one subtraction) and the other medalists, runner-up Caleb Ndiku of Kenya and third placer Hagos Gebrhiwet of Ethiopia, should be the men to beat here. Ndiku, who was seventh in a slow 1500 in Zurich last week, showed a terrific turn of speed to make the race at Worlds, could be at a slight disadvantage if things go really fast (he only began racing again in July following a knee injury), though Gebhriwet, his chief opposition, has also been banged-up this year. Those two, plus Worlds fourth-placer Yomif Kejelcha, have all won one DL race this year (Gebrhiwet and Ndiku’s victories were at 3,000) and they have the best shot at winning this thing on Friday. In a slower race, 1500 bronze medalist Abdelaati Iguider could also be a major factor.
The Americans, led by Galen Rupp, aren’t far behind though as they went 5-6-7 at Worlds (Rupp, then Ben True, then Ryan Hill). While it would be nice to see one of them battle for the win here, the bigger questions revolve around time. Can Rupp get the 12:53.60 American record? And can True or Hill become the seventh American under 13:00? (The other American in Brussels, Chris Derrick, battled a nagging Achilles injury earlier this year but told us after last month’s Falmouth Road Race that he felt his fitness was coming around. Derrick, whose PR is 13:08, said he felt sub-13:10 would be possible if he got in the right race).
As a reminder, here’s the current all-time U.S. list at 5,000 meters:
1. Bernard Lagat, 12:53.60 (2011)
2. Chris Solinsky, 12:55.53 (2010)
3. Dathan Ritzenhein, 12:56.27 (2009)
4. Bob Kennedy, 12:58.21 (1996)
5. Matt Tegenkamp, 12:58.56 (2009)
6. Galen Rupp, 12:58.90 (2012)
Let’s start with Rupp. By finishing fifth in the 5,000 in Beijing (his highest finish ever in a global championship 5,000), he assuaged any doubts about his finishing kick and his ability to double back after a brutal 10,000, where he ran 27:08 in the hot, humid conditions. Those two performances together showed that Rupp is in incredible shape right now, likely close to his 2012 form where he set his 5,000 PR and took silver in the 10,000 at the Olympics. Take the Rupp from Beijing, put him in a 5,000 with good rabbitting and pacing and he runs well under 13:00 and probably breaks Bernard Lagat‘s American record.
Of course you can’t do that. A double like the one Rupp pulled off in Beijing is draining — there’s a reason Rupp didn’t hop into a bunch of European races after USAs, even though that was a far less taxing double (physically, at least — USAs was likely more emotionally draining given its proximity to the ProPublica/BBC report about Rupp and coach Alberto Salazar). Though Rupp will have had 12 days of rest between the 5,000 final at Worlds and his race in Brussels, it’s hard to say whether that will be enough time to recover from the stress of Beijing. Here’s how he’s bounced back from his recent Worlds/Olympics efforts dating back to 2011 (the first year he doubled at Worlds):
|Year||Rest after Champs||Location||Time||Place|
|2011||11 days||Brussels||26:48.00 (AR)||3rd|
|2012||11 days||Lausanne||DNF (1500)||DNF|
His result in 2011 was clearly spectacular, and his 5,000 in Brussels in 2013 was his second-fastest time ever at the time (though he did benefit from more rest than the previous two years). His Lausanne result is less encouraging, though Rupp was battling bronchitis at the time. Even factoring in that Beijing likely took more out of him than any previous championship, expect Rupp to run well in Brussels. Salazar wouldn’t have entered him run here if he didn’t think Rupp had a chance to succeed.
Eleven days was the ideal amount of time for another Salazar–coached athlete to recover. As we wrote in our Beijing 5000 preview:
Back in 2009, when Dathan Ritzenhein ran 12:56 for 5000 on August 29, many people were asking, ‘Where did that come from?’ Not us. 11 days earlier, with little fanfare, he’d run 27:22 for sixth 10,000 in heat of Berlin at Worlds, something we figured had to worth something close to 27 flat in ideal conditions. Rupp’s 27:08 for 5th in the heat of Beijing is definitely worth a sub-27. The close may not be there but he’s in great shape and could do well if the pace is honest.
So yes, the American record is very much on the table.
If the rabbits take the field out on pace for a time in the low-12:50s, Rupp has the strength to hang at that pace. As in Beijing, he’ll likely lose out to kickers like Ndiku or Gebrhiwet in the end, but could still be able to summon enough to get the record. It’s also possible Rupp turns this into a full-blown record attempt and leads the pack to make sure the field goes with the rabbits, but that’s a less likely outcome. The best-case scenario for him is that he follows the very top guys for the first 4800 meters and hangs on well enough over the final 200 to earn the record.
True, who was just .17 behind Rupp in Beijing, has been running better than ever at all distances this year and it follows that he should be able to run under 13:00 if all goes right (he ran 13:02.74 last year), especially considering he ran 13:06 in Heusden on July 18 even though he said he was still dealing with fatigue from his double at USAs. Hill was further back at Worlds (1.03 seconds behind True) but after winning his first U.S. title in 2015 and improving on his finish at Worlds from two years ago (seventh versus 10th), a PR seems very possible (his best is 13:14.22 from two years ago). Sub-13:00 is harder to imagine from Hill considering his PR is so much slower than True’s, and when he went after a PR in Brussels after Worlds two years ago, he bombed (15th in 13:43). Hill is obviously a much better runner than he was then, but he doesn’t have the strength of Rupp or True, which could make sub-13:00 a tough ask.
We’ve only previewed the mid-d and distance races for you. The IAAF site has an update on the DL point totals for the other races.