July 14, 2016
Every year, the Herculis meeting in Monaco produces outstanding performances, and the 2016 edition — the penultimate Diamond League event before the Olympics in Rio — looks set to continue the tradition. On Friday, the world’s top track and field athletes will gather in the tiny principality once again in what is annually one of the greatest meets on the DL circuit. Unlike the other Diamond League competitions, you won’t find any local/youth races here (perhaps because, with a population of 38,000, Monaco would be unable to fill the fields). Instead, it’s just 17 events. Only one is not an official Diamond Race event — the men’s 800 — but with three of the five fastest men in the world this year, that race is hardly weak.
The highlight, as usual, is the men’s 1500, which has seen Asbel Kiprop break 3:30 four years straight, capped with his epic 3:26 last year. Olympic champs Mo Farah and Taoufik Makhloufi and 2015 World Champs medallists Elijah Manangoi and Abdelaati Iguider are some of the other men in that loaded field. In the men’s 800, African champ Nijel Amos battles European champ Adam Kszczot and 1:43 Kenyans Nicholas Kipkoech, Jonathan Kitilit and Alfred Kipketer, while Caster Semenya faces Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui will race in the women’s 800 that will captivate hyperandrogenism experts. Kenyans Hellen Obiri and Mercy Cherono square off in the women’s 3000 (which also features the pro debut of Arkansas star Dominique Scott) plus Conseslus Kipruto chases sub-8:00 in the men’s steeple.
In non-distance action, Wayde van Niekerk goes in the men’s 400, Omar McLeod leads the men’s 110 hurdles and Euro champ Dafne Schippers faces U.S. runner-up Tianna Bartoletta in the 100. The highlight, though, is the men’s high jump, which includes Euro/World Indoor champ Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy, Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko, who has won in all three of his DL appearances in 2016.
Below we give you all the details on Monaco and preview the middle- and long-distance action.
What: 2016 Herculis
Where: Stade Louis II, Fontvieille, Monaco
When: Friday, July 15. 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.
A Look Back
Before we dig into this year’s event’s, it’s worth taking a brief look back at the recent history of this meet. Because if history is any indication, we can expect some ridiculous times on the Stade Louis II track on Friday. Below, the highlights from the last two editions.
- Genzebe Dibaba breaks the world record for 1500 meters by running 3:50.07. Shannon Rowbury sets the American record (3:56.29) in the same race.
- Three guys break 1:43 in the men’s 800, led by Amel Tuka‘s 1:42.51. No one else broke 1:43 in any meet the rest of the year.
- Joe Kovacs throws 22.56 in the men’s shot put, the longest heave in 12 years and a mark fellow shot putter Ryan Whiting believes is the clean world record.
- Asbel Kiprop runs 3:26.69 (#3 all-time) to win the deepest 1500 in history. All-time marks for place are set for 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th and 10th place.
- Prior to this meet, four men had never broken 3:30 in the same race. Seven guys do it in Monaco, led by Silas Kiplagat‘s 3:27.64.
- Ajee Wilson runs 1:57.67 in the women’s 800 (U.S. #6 all-time), which will stand up as the world’s best time.
- Molly Huddle sets the American record in the women’s 5,000 (14:42.64) but that’s only good enough for sixth in a loaded 5,000. Shannon Rowbury runs 14:48.68 to move to #4 on the U.S. all-time list.
- Caterine Ibarguen leaps 15.31 meters in the women’s triple jump, the best mark in the world in six years.
- For just the second time in history, five men break 1:43 in the same 800-meter race, with Nijel Amos running 1:42.45. Just as in 2015, no one else would break 1:43 the rest of the year.
Looking back further, you’ve got Evan Jager‘s American record in the steeple from 2012 (since broken), Mo Farah (12:53.11) beating Bernard Lagat (12:53.60) in the 5,000 in 2011 as both set national records and Brimin Kipruto missing the world record in the steeplechase by one-hundredth (7:53.64), also in 2011.
If that doesn’t make you excited for Friday’s meet, we don’t know what will.
Men’s 800 (2:15 p.m. ET): Meet the New Crop of Kenyan Studs
|Michael Rimmer||Great Britain||1:43.89||1:44.93|
|Bram Som||The Netherlands||1:43.45||1:51.64|
Here are the top three guys on the 2016 world list at 800 meters:
1. Nicholas Kipkoech, Kenya 1:43.37
2. David Rudisha, Kenya 1:43.4h
3. Jonathan Kitilit, Kenya 1:43.48
You may have heard of the guy in the middle. But unless you’re plugged into the Kenyan scene, you’d likely never heard of Nicholas Kipkoech or Jonathan Kitilit before this year. Kipkoech, 23, took bronze at World Youths in 2009 and ran 1:45 as an 18-year-old in 2011. He spent the next few years pacing races and didn’t improve much — he was last in his prelim at the 2015 World Championship Trials. That changed this spring, with his breakthough 1:43.37 win (skipping the 1:44’s entirely) at the Kenyan Defense Forces Championships in April, followed by a 1:43.91 victory at the Kenyan Champs the following month. Kitilit, 22, earned African junior silver in 2013 and was 6th at the Kenyan World Champs Trials last year but reached a new level this year, clocking 1:44.7h in March before running 1:43.48 to finish behind Kipkoech at the Defense Forces Championships. He was also the runner-up to Kipkoech at the Kenyan Champs in May.
Neither Kipkoech nor Kitilit will be at the Olympics — Kipkoech was 4th at the Kenyan Trials, Kitilit 6th — but their talent is real. Times run in Kenya aren’t always reliable, but Kipkoech and Kitlit both clocked 1:43’s in Montreuil-sous-Bois, France, on June 7, defeating 1:42 man Pierre Ambroise-Bosse in the process. Monaco will be the first real DL 800 for the both of them (Kipkoech ran in Doha on May 6; while that, like this, was not a Diamond Race event, this field is much stronger) so it should be exciting to see how fast they can go. Can the frustration of coming up short at the Olympic Trials drive them to the first 1:42 of 2016?
Kipkoech and Kitilit aren’t the best Kenyans in the field, however. The Kenyan Trials champ is 19-year-old Alfred Kipketer, a World Championship finalist last year who took down David Rudisha and Ferguson Rotich to win the Kenyan Trials in Eldoret on July 1. Kipketer’s 1:43.73 in that race was a pb; he’ll be looking for his first career DL win after taking 3rd in Shanghai earlier this year.
The other non-Kenyan entrants are interesting as well. Nijel Amos has finished either first or second on the world list in three of the past four years and won the African Champs on June 24 in Durban. His DL opener in Rabat (1:47 for 6th) was shaky but he looks to be in better form now. Poles Adam Kszczot and Marcin Lewandowski went 1-2 at last week’s Euro Champs in Amsterdam and should be in the mix, while NCAA runner-up Brandon McBride will make his Diamond League debut after winning the Canadian champs on Sunday. Finally, there’s Michael Rimmer. The 30-year-old Brit will be heading to his third Olympics next month and is coming off a 1:44.93 win in Barcelona — his fastest time in four years.
Of those men, this race is clearly most important for Amos. Four years ago, as an 18-year-old, he earned silver in London in 1:41.73, but he missed Worlds in 2013 due to injury and didn’t make the final in Beijing last year. Clearly, he’s got the talent, and his 1:45.11 at the African Champs was a good sign. But if he wants to earn another Olympic medal, he has to show that he can do it against the best in the world. While not quite Olympic-caliber, the competition here is much better than what he faced in Durban. His result on Friday will let us know if he’ll be a contender in Rio.
LRC Prediction: Kipketer has a ton of upside, and if this goes super-fast — as races in Monaco have a tendency to do — he may wind up running away with it in a world-leading time. If the pace is slower, look for the experienced Kszczot to be a real factor. Amos can contend in either style of race, but what kind of shape is he in?
Men’s 1500 (2:35 p.m. ET): How Fast Can Kiprop Go?
|Mo Farah||Great Britain||3:28.81|
|Charlie Grice||Great Britain||3:35.29||3:43.41|
|Jakub Holusa||Czech Republic||3:34.26||3:35.15|
|List of World’s Sub-3:30’s Since 2010
1. Asbel Kiprop, 3:26.69 (2015 Monaco)
2. Silas Kiplagat, 3:27.64 (2014 Monaco)
3. Asbel Kiprop, 3:27.72 (2013 Monaco)
4. Asbel Kiprop, 3:28.45 (2014 Monaco)
5. Taoufik Makhloufi, 3:28.75 (2015 Monaco)
6. Abdelaati Iguider, 3:28.79 (2015 Monaco)
7. Mo Farah, 3:28.81 (2013 Monaco)
7. Ronald Kwemoi, 3:28.81 (2014 Monaco)
9. Asbel Kiprop, 3:28.88 (2012 Monaco)
10. Mo Farah, 3:28.93 (2015 Monaco)
11. Asbel Kiprop, 3:29.18 (2014 Doha)
12. Silas Kiplagat, 3:29.27 (2010 Monaco)
13. Asbel Kiprop, 3:29.33 (2016 Birmingham)
14. Caleb Ndiku, 3:29.50 (2013 Monaco)
15. Amine Laalou, 3:29.53 (2010 Monaco)
16. Ayanleh Souleiman, 3:29.58 (2014 Monaco)
17. Silas Kiplagat, 3:29.63 (2012 Doha)
18. Nick Willis, 3:29.66 (2015 Monaco)
19. Elijah Manangoi, 3:29.67 (2015 Monaco)
20. Silas Kiplagat, 3:29.70 (2014 Doha)
21. Nixon Chepseba, 3:29.77 (2012 Monaco)
22. Asbel Kiprop, 3:29.78 (2012 Doha)
23. Abdelaati Iguider, 3:29.83 (2014 Monaco)
24. Nixon Chepseba, 3:29.90 (2012 Hengelo)
25. Aman Wote, 3:29.91 (2014 Monaco)
26. Nick Willis, 3:29.91 (2014 Monaco)
If you were allowed to watch just one Diamond League race per year, the 1500 in Monaco wouldn’t be a bad choice. The meet has produced the world’s fastest time four years in a row; the last three editions have produced the three fastest times of the year. Only 31 men in history have broken 3:30, but in Monaco, it’s become routine: 13 different men have done it at Stade Louis II so far this decade.
There are many factors that explain why Monaco annually produces the fastest times in the world: the perfect weather, the fast track, the stacked fields and the timing of the meet — athletes are nearing peak fitness in mid-July, making it a good time for one last blowout on the track before preparing for Worlds or the Olympics. But the biggest reason by far is Asbel Kiprop, who has boldly followed the rabbits’ torrid pace, dragging the rest of the field to a slew of PRs. Usually it works out for Kiprop — he’s PR’d here in three of the past four years. Sometimes it doesn’t, as in 2014 when he did all the work only for Silas Kiplagat to run him down and earn the win in a blazing 3:27.64.
Kiprop has sent mixed messages about whether he’ll attempt to break the world record in Monaco this year, but on Wednesday he posted this on Facebook:
That may be the case, but we could still see a very fast time on Friday. His recent results in Monaco have been trending faster and faster, and after running 3:26 last year, he can’t get much better without breaking Hicham El Guerrouj‘s 3:26.00 world record, which turns 18 years old on Thursday. Like LetsRun’s Robert Johnson likes to say — “If you keep PRing, eventually you’ll break the world record.”
Asbel Kiprop’s 1500’s in Monaco
Additionally, Kiprop’s last two DL races have followed a similar pattern. In both Birmingham and Oslo, Kiprop got out to early leads and crushed the field. If he employs a similar strategy in Monaco, he may wind up running really fast as it will take a quick time to hold off the field assembled against him. Five of the six men who broke 3:30 in last year’s race plus Ronald Kwemoi, who ran 3:28 on this track two years ago and was just named to the Kenyan Olympic team after placing 3rd in their trials on July 1. He and countryman Elijah Manangoi, who has been a consistent #2 to Kiprop this year, both enter Monaco in great shape. World Champs/Olympic bronze medallist Abdelaati Iguider (2nd at Pre and Birmingham) and Olympic champ Taoufik Makhloufi (3rd Oslo, 1:43 800 on July 5) have also been running well recently and should challenge 3:30 again in 2016. Even the guys with slower PRs are in terrific form — Charles Philibert-Thiboutot won the Canadian Champs on Saturday; three-time defending British champ Charlie Grice has PR’d in the mile and 800 this year; brothers Filip and Henrik Ingebrigtsen went 1-3 in the European Champs last week; Ryan Gregson has put together a career year in terms of consistency as he’s four times run 3:35 or faster.
And of course, there’s a guy by the name of Mo Farah. After taking bronze at the World Half Marathon Champs in March, Farah has looked like his normal brilliant self on the track this year, running 26:53 to win the Pre Classic 10,000 on May 27 before clocking a world-leading British record of 7:32 in the 3,000 in Birmingham on June 5. Farah has run 3:28 in each of his last two trips to Monaco (2013 and 2015). Farah is already the oldest man ever to break 3:30 (he was 32 when he did it last year, one month older than Nick Willis, who did it in the same race) and it’s fair to wonder how much longer he can keep this up. But since his appearance in Monaco last year, Farah has done nothing to suggest that he’s lost a step; if the pace is fast up front, there’s every reason to believe that Farah can chase 3:28 again.
LRC Prediction: Kiprop keeps his winning streak alive (he’s unbeaten in 1500’s since the start of 2015) but no world record. Tell us your prediction below by voting in the poll. Talk about the great race on our world famous fan forum / messageboard: MB: Monaco 1500m Men.
Women’s 3000 (2:55 p.m. ET): Kenyan Olympians Hellen Obiri and Mercy Cherono Square Off; NCAA Star Dominique Scott Makes Pro Debut
|Rosie Clarke||Great Britain||9:18.85|
|Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal||Norway||8:52.83|
|Dominique Scott||South Africa||10:18.53|
|Stephanie Twell||Great Britain||8:50.89|
This field isn’t as stacked as some of the others in the meet, but between Mercy Cherono and Hellen Obiri, it contains two-thirds of Kenya’s Olympic 5,000-meter team (only Vivian Cheruiyot is absent). Janet Kisa (14:38 in Rabat) and 19-year-old Ethiopian Dera Dida (14:42 in Rome) also add quality to the field. For American fans, Katie Mackey (6th in 5,000 at Olympic Trials) and Gabriele Grunewald (12th in 1500) won’t be going to Rio, but there are worse consolation prizes than a trip to Monaco. Of the two, Mackey is in better shape (plus she won a Diamond League 3,000 last year in Stockholm) but neither will be factors for the win in this African-dominated race. Another face familiar to Americans is that of Arkansas grad Dominique Scott. The NCAA 5k/10k champ will be making her professional debut after signing with adidas and should crush her outdoor pb of 10:18 (she’s run 8:52 indoors).
3,000 meters is the perfect distance for Obiri, who has the fastest non-Chinese (read: non- suspicious) time ever at the distance outdoors thanks to her 8:20 in Doha two years ago. Cherono is a tremendous 3,000 runner as well (8:21 pb) but she’s slower at every distance than Obiri (3:57/14:32 for Obiri vs. 4:01/14:33 for Cherono) and Obiri crushed her by 12 seconds in the 5k at the Kenyan Trials.
LRC Prediction: Given Obiri’s pbs and 2016 results, she’s the obvious pick for the win. The only question is how fast she runs.
Women’s 800 (3:20 p.m. ET): The Rio Medallists Are All Here
|Caster Semenya||South Africa||1:55.45||1:56.64|
|Lynsey Sharp||Great Britain||1:57.71||1:59.03|
Only three women have broken 1:58 this year, and they’ll all be on the starting line in Monaco on Friday: South Africa’s Caster Semenya, Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui. Semenya’s hyperandrogenism is well-known and the questions surrounding whether that also applies to Niyonsaba and Wambui have only intensified after their fast times this year. Unless the courts intervene — and with less than a month until the Olympics, that’s looking very unlikely — those three will likely comprise your podium in Rio.
This is the first time all three have met in a race this year, and it will be worth watching the clock. Semenya has only run fast enough to win on the Diamond League circuit this year, with Niyonsaba pushing her to her fastest clockings (two 1:56’s) in Rabat and Rome. But since Niyonsaba and Semenya last met, Niyonsaba has run 1:56.92 in Birmingham (her fastest time in three years) and Wambui has clocked a two-second PR of 1:57 in France. If you watch the video of that race below, Wambui uses the same burst of speed over the final 200 that Semenya has this season in her Diamond League victories.
Outdoors this year, Semenya and Wambui are undefeated, while Niyonsaba’s only losses are to Semenya. Even if Semenya doesn’t want to go all-out in Monaco, she may have no other option than to run a crazy fast time with Niyonsaba and Wambui chasing her. Something in the 1:54-55 range is not inconceivable.
That’s beyond the limits of the rest of this field, and if anyone other than Semenya, Niyonsaba or Wambui cracks the top three, it would qualify as a surprise. The race for fourth, however, is wide open. American Molly Ludlow will look to rebound after another heartbreaking 4th at the Olympic Trials; she ran her PR of 1:58.68 in her first race after taking 4th at USAs last year. Poland’s Angelicka Cichoka took down World Indoor champ Sifan Hassan to win the 1500 at the European Champs last week. Ethiopia’s Habitam Alemu has broken 2:00 in all three of her 800’s this year. World Champs bronze medallist Eunice Sum was second at the Kenyan Trials (behind Wambui) while 1:57 woman Lynsey Sharp was second at the British Champs. Any of those woman could take the next spot after the top three.
LRC Prediction: Semenya wins and is pushed to a world leader, taking down her 1:55.45 pb in the process.
Men’s 3000 Steeple (3:45 p.m. ET): Andy Bayer Looks to Rebound From Fourth at Olympic Trials Against Conseslus Kipruto
|Soufiane El Bakkali||Morocco||8:17.19||8:17.19|
Conseslus Kipruto has dominated the Diamond League in 2016, sweeping all four steeples so far and setting a world leader in each. Expect that to continue in Monaco as no one else in the field has come close to him this year — Abraham Kibiwott is #3 in the world at 8:09, but Kipruto has already run 8:00, 8:01, 8:02 and 8:05. The only question here is whether Kipruto can join the sub-8:00 club. Only 11 men have ever done it, and the 21-year-old Kipruto seems destined to become the 12th, whether it’s here or in one of the post-Olympic steeples in Lausanne or Brussels.
Expect Kipruto to go for it on Friday. He’s much better than the rest of this field, and he’s not afraid to push the pace — he was under 8:00 pace in both Rabat and Birmingham, but slowed over the last kilometer both times (he didn’t help himself by starting his celebration before he even hit the home stretch in Rabat).
American Andy Bayer came up just short of an Olympic spot at the Trials, finishing fourth overall, but his result in Eugene showed that he was in good shape. If Bayer can break 8:20 here or finish in the top six, that would count as a good day.
LRC Prediction: Kipruto wins it and finally gets the coveted sub-8:00.