June 15, 2016
Believe it or not, the 2016 IAAF Diamond League season is already halfway over. Timewise, that’s a bit misleading as the first seven meets took place over the span of five weeks while national championships and the Olympics mean the final seven meets stretch over the course of 12 weeks. But officially, Thursday’s Stockholm BAUHAUS Athletics marks start of the second half of the Diamond League season.
So what have we learned so far? A few predictable things: Asbel Kiprop is still the greatest miler on the planet; Almaz Ayana is going to break the 5,000-meter world record soon; Caster Semenya is unbeatable thanks to last year’s CAS ruling. And a few surprises: the women’s steeplechase is hot; Genzebe Dibaba, Ayanleh Souleiman and Sifan Hassan are mysteriously absent; the only American to win a Diamond League mid-d/distance event this year has stopped competing until the Olympic Trials (at least) because Nike is suing him.
In Stockholm, the men’s 800, featuring David Rudisha, is the headline event (Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, Ferguson Cheruiyot and Adam Kszczot are also entered). There are also 2016 steeple debuts for American Stephanie Garcia and Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi, who was recently elevated to 2012 Olympic champ after doper Yuliya Zaripova‘s gold was reallocated. Muktar Edris battles Yomif Kejelcha at 5,000 while Laura Muir does the same against Hellen Obiri at 1500.
In non-distance action, Keni Harrison looks to continue her hot season in the 100 hurdles, Christian Taylor goes in the men’s triple jump, Renaud Lavillenie and Shawn Barber battle again in the pole vault and World Indoor champ Brittney Reese faces World Outdoor champ Tianna Bartoletta in the long jump.
After Stockholm, the Diamond League will go on a month-long break as athletes return home for national/continental championships. So enjoy it while it lasts.
Below we preview the middle- and long-distance action.
What: 2016 Stockholm BAUHAUS Athletics
Where: Stockholm Olympic Stadium, Stockholm, Sweden
When: Thursday, June 16. The beIN Sports broadcast begins at 2:00 p.m. ET.
How to watch: In the U.S., it’s live on beIN Sports from 2:00 p.m. ET to 4:00 p.m. ET. Don’t have beIN Sports? Here is some info on how to sign up for beIN Sports.
Men’s 5,000 (2:15 p.m. ET): Ethiopians Muktar Edris & Yomif Kejelcha Square Off
|Zelalem Bacha Regassa||Bahrain||13:17.89||13:45.10|
|Mukhtar Mohammed||Great Britain|
As far as Diamond League 5,000’s go, this one is not particularly competitive. Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris, who ran the world’s two fastest times winning in Shanghai and Eugene, is the headliner, while his countryman, World Indoor 3k champ Yomif Kejelcha, is also entered. But while Kejelcha has run okay outdoors this year (5th Shanghai, 3rd Oslo), he hasn’t been as strong as he was indoors in 2016 or outdoors in 2015 (three Diamond League victories). Still, Kejelcha was only .23 behind Edris in Oslo last week (and .64 behind winner Hagos Gebrhiwet), a marked improvement on his Shanghai performance (3.33 behind Edris). When you consider that he may have taken some downtime after World Indoors, there’s no reason to panic about Kejelcha. Expect him to battle Edris for the victory here.
He better, because there aren’t any other studs in this field. Yenew Alamirew owns a 12:48 pb but he’s been 10th, 7th and 10th in three DL 5ks this year. Yigrem Demelash and Imane Merga have run 13:06 this year but both were seriously outclassed while doing so. Take out the guys in the previous paragraph and Ethiopian champ Getaneh Tamire and nobody else in this field has broken 13:10 in 2016.
One interesting name on the start list is Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese. The world’s greatest-ever half marathoner, the 34-year-old ran 27:00 for sixth in the 10,000 at the Pre Classic (the event he will likely contest in Rio) and has run just one 5,000 in the past seven years: a 12:59 victory in Barcelona back in 2011. Tadese’s probably not in that kind of shape right now (he ran 26:51 and a 58:31 HM that same year) but it will be interesting to see what he can do on the track. His medal-winning days are behind him (he earned Olympic bronze in ’04 and WC silver in ’09) but he’s finished 6th or better in all seven of his Olympic/WC appearances at 10,000. He could extend that streak in Rio.
Another interesting name on the list is Ibrahim Jeilan of Ethiopia. Jeilan was the last man to beat Mo Farah at a global championship on the track (2011 Worlds 10,000) and he was 5th at Pre in the 10,000 (26:58). After not making Worlds in 2015, he seems to be on the upswing in 2016. His 5000 pb is 13:09 so if he improves on that, he’s got to be considered a real medal threat for Rio in the 10,000.
LRC Prediction: Kejelcha shows he’s moving in the right direction. Kejelcha FTW.
Women’s 3,000 Steeplechase (3:10 p.m. ET): Season Debuts for Habiba Ghribi & Stephanie Garcia Against World Leader Ruth Jebet
This is an intriguing women’s steeple. Kenyan-born Ruth Jebet of Bahrain, who narrowly missed the world record her last time out at the Pre Classic, has to be the favorite, especially considering that her closest rival this year, world champ Hyvin Kiyeng, will not be running. But there is one woman in this field who could challenge her: Habiba Ghribi of Tunisia, the 2011 World/2012 Olympic champ (now that she’s been awarded the medals initially won by doper Yuliya Zaripova) and the runner-up in Beijing last year. Ghribi hasn’t raced at all in 2016, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as she started her outdoor season even later in 2015 (July 17 in Monaco) yet responded by winning in a quick 9:11. Ghribi also ran 9:05 in the DL final last year, which was the fastest time in six years until Jebet and Kiyeng went crazy in Eugene.
Ghribi is the only woman who can conceivably challenge Jebet/Kiyeng in their current form, but at 32, her ceiling is lower (Jebet is 19, Kiyeng 24). Still, she’s coming off a PR (even if it was nine months ago) and runs well at major championships. She doesn’t need to win in Stockholm; if she can merely keep it close, she will have a chance to contend for the gold in Rio.
The other woman to watch here is American Stephanie Garcia. Garcia was the runner-up at USAs last year and was 9th at Worlds, but it’s never been tougher to make a U.S. team. Take a look at the top three Americans so far in 2016:
- Emma Coburn, 9:10.76 (American record)
- Leah O’Connor, 9:18.85 (#3 all-time U.S.)
- Courtney Frerichs, 9:24.41 (#6 all-time U.S.)
The good news? Garcia is #5 all-time U.S. thanks to her 9:23.48 last year at USAs, and she’s already run PRs for the mile (4:28.47 indoors) and 5,000 (15:16.56) so far this year. Breaking 9:20 would be a best-case scenario and with Jebet in the field pushing the pace up front, Garcia certainly has a chance — that’s how Coburn and O’Connor ran fast in Eugene. But as long as Garcia is able to run something in the mid-9:20s on Thursday, she’ll be in a good spot heading into the Trials. Beating some of the second-tier Africans (Beatrice Chepkoech, Lidya Chepkurui, Purity Kirui) would also be a positive sign for her.
LRC Prediction: Jebet over Ghribi and a PR for Garcia.
Women’s 1500 (3:35 p.m. ET): With No Faith Kipyegon, Laura Muir Goes For Her Second Career DL Win Against Hellen Obiri
|Maureen Koster||The Netherlands||3:59.79||4:05.48|
|Laura Muir||Great Britain||3:58.66|
|Laura Weightman||Great Britain||4:00.17||4:03.04|
There’s no Faith Kipyegon in this one, nor is there Genzebe Dibaba, who was initially slated to stage a world record attempt before withdrawing. With the Americans remaining stateside as they prep for the Olympic Trials, that leaves a Brit, a Kenyan and an Ethiopian with the best odds of winning here.
Laura Muir came the closest of anyone to beating Kipyegon when they raced over the mile last week in Oslo (Muir was second in a Scottish record of 4:19.12) and she looks to be in sub-4:00 shape as she runs her first 1500 of the season in Stockholm. Her chief competition is Kenya’s Hellen Obiri, who was second to Kipyegon in Shanghai on May 14 in 3:59 and is coming off two straight victories, the 1500 in Beijing (4:02 on May 18) and the 5,000 at Pre (14:32 on May 27). It’s a classic battle of speed versus strength as Muir has primarily run the 800 this year while Obiri has prepared by running several 5,000s. Both of these women are medal threats in Rio this summer.
Dawit Seyaum, who ran 3:59 in Shanghai (third behind Obiri) and a 3:58 pb at Pre behind Kipyegon, is a late addition to this field and should challenge for the win as well.
There are two other women worth watching: young Ethiopians Gudaf Tsegay (19) and Besu Sado (20). Tsegay earned World Indoor bronze in March, was 5th in Shanghai and 3rd at Pre. Sado was 4th in Shanghai and is coming off a 4:05 win in Hengelo on May 22. Should Dibaba not run in Rio (and it’s becoming a possibility at this point), Tsegay and Sado will be Ethiopia’s best chance at a medal after Seyaum.
LRC Prediction: Obiri or Seyaum is your winner. It’s very hard to pick between the two as Seyaum is a 19-year-old phenom and Obiri impressed us a lot with her 14:32 win at Pre. Since Obiri beat Seyaum in Shanghai, we’ll give Obiri the edge here.
Men’s 800 (3:50 p.m. ET): How Fast Can David Rudisha Go?
|Bram Som||The Netherlands||1:43.45||1:51.64|
The Stockholm meet organizers saved the best for last as world champ/world record holder David Rudisha takes on a stacked field in the men’s 800. Aside from the debacle in Shanghai, where a starter’s error caused the field to get a jump on Rudisha, leaving him just fifth overall, Rudisha has looked very good this year. He won his two 800’s Down Under to start the season in March, clocking 1:44 each time out, and last weekend recorded the world’s second-fastest 600 ever, running 1:13.10 in Birmingham. That result had Rudisha feeling confident, as evidenced by his comments leading up to Stockholm:
|The last time David Rudisha…
Broke 1:44: August 1, 2015 (Nairobi)
Broke 1:43: July 18, 2014 (Monaco)
Broke 1:42: August 9, 2012 (London)
“I believe my body is back to its best form and I can challenge for medals,” he told John Kwoba. “My training has been better and my body is coming back to its best years.”
While Rudisha, who is still only 27, has yet to run a truly fast 800 this year, his 600 is better than what he ran in Birmingham two years ago (1:13.71), a year in which Rudisha ran 1:42. Stockholm is a good chance for him to prove his mettle before the Kenyan Olympic Trials at the end of the month.
But if Rudisha wants the victory, he’s going to have to work for it. Frenchman Pierre-Ambroise Bosse has been in fine form this season, as he won the Rabat Diamond League and was just .11 behind Rudisha in Birmingham. Though he was only third in Montreuil-sous-Bois last week, the two men who beat him (Kenyans Nicholas Kipkoech and Jonathan Kitilit) have the top two times in the world this year. Bosse isn’t the only danger man in the field; Ferguson Cheruiyot beat Rudisha at the World Championship Trials last year and won Shanghai this year (he was second behind Boris Berian at Pre) while Poland’s World Championship silver medallist Adam Kszczot is always a threat.
This race is about Rudisha, though. If his body is really coming around, he could run 1:42 here, which would send a message to the rest of the world.
LRC Prediction: Rudisha FTW in a new world leader (1:43.37 in the world leader).