Zürich DL Final Preview: Evan Jager, Paul Chelimo & The Americans Chase Sub-13:00, Laura Muir & Faith Kipyegon Battle One Last Time and Semenya & Jebet Aim to Close Out Historic Seasons
August 31, 2016
We’ve got some bad news for you. The 2016 track season is almost over. We know, it’s depressing. But what a year it’s been. So far this year,counting indoors, world records have been set in 10 different events (m400, m1k indoors, m marathon indoors, w100h, wsteeple, w10,000, whammer, wpv indoors, w mile indoors, marathon indoors).
But before the action wraps up this summer, there are two outstanding Diamond League meets on the schedule. Though a few of the sport’s brightest stars (Usain Bolt, Wayde van Niekerk, Mo Farah) are skipping out, there are big-time matchups across almost every event given the $40,000 bonus that comes with winning the season-long Diamond Race.
The first of two Diamond League finals will take place on Thursday at the Weltklasse Zürich meet as DL champions will be crowned in 16 events. In the men’s 5,000, Americans Ryan Hill (fresh off a 7:30 3k in Paris), Evan Jager, Hassan Mead, Bernard Lagat and Olympic silver medallist Paul Chelimo will try to break 13:00 against a stacked field featuring top Ethiopians Yomif Kejelcha, Hagos Gebrhiwet and Muktar Edris and Olympic 10k silver medallist Paul Tanui of Kenya. Laura Muir, Faith Kipyegon, Hellen Obiri, Shannon Rowbury and Jenny Simpson square off in a loaded 1500, Olympic Caster Semenya looks to complete a perfect season at 800 meters and world record holder Ruth Jebet will try to add the Diamond League title to her Olympic crown against Hyvin Kiyeng and Emma Coburn.
There are several other great events lined up, including a terrific women’s 200 featuring three women who have accounted for the last four Olympic titles — Elaine Thompson, Allyson Felix and Veronica Campbell-Brown — plus world champ Dafne Schippers. There’s also Thiago Braz vs. Renaud Lavillenie vs. Sam Kendricks in a rematch of Olympic pole vault medallists, Tom Walsh vs. Joe Kovacs vs. Ryan Crouser in the shot put, LaShawn Merritt in the 400, Christian Taylor in the triple jump and Keni Harrison in the 100 hurdles.
We preview the meet below.
What: 2016 Weltlkasse Zürich
Where: Letzigrund, Zürich, Switzerland
When: Thursday, September 1. The TV broadcast begins at 2:00 p.m. ET.
How to watch: In the U.S., we assume it’s live on beIN Sports from 2:00 p.m. ET to 4:00 p.m. ET. beIN Sports has the U.S. broadcast rights and has shown every DL meet outside of the Pre Classic live this year, but their website is atrocious and currently lists soccer to be shown at that time so we can’t confirm it 100% (the meet may be on one of their online-only channels). If the meet isn’t on beIN, check the live thread on LetsRun.com — someone will have a link to a stream.
Don’t have beIN Sports? Here is some info on how to sign up for beIN Sports.
Talk about the meet on our fan forum: MB: Official 2016 Zürich DL Live Discussion Thread
Diamond Race Scoring — How it Works
There are 14 Diamond League meets per year. Each event is contested as a scored event seven times: six times at regular-season meets and once at one of the two DL finals (Zürich or Brussels next week). For the regular season meets, the top six places are scored as follows: 10-6-4-3-2-1. For the DL final, the points are doubled, so in Zürich the scoring will be 20-12-8-6-4-2. There are a few rules. First, to be eligible for the $40,000 grand prize, an athlete must participate in the Diamond League final. Also, in the case of a tie, the first tiebreaker is the number of 2016 Diamond League victories in that event; the second tiebreaker is head-to-head finish at the Diamond League final. Second place in the DL standings gets nothing, so if an athlete has a chance to win the jackpot on Thursday, they’ll be going after it very hard. Got it? Good.
Men’s 5,000 (2:13 p.m. ET): Yomif Kejelcha Seeks to Make Amends for Olympic Snub; Can An American Break 13:00 for the First Time in Three Years?
Diamond Race standings
1. Muktar Edris, Ethiopia 30 points
2. Yomif Kejelcha, Ethiopia 22 points
3. Hagos Gebrhiwet, Ethiopia 15 points
4. Ibrahim Jeilan, Ethiopia 10 points
Scenarios: Edris & Kejelcha clinch the title with a win. Gebrhiwet wins DL title if he wins and Edris finishes lower than fourth. Jeilan needs a win and a lot of help.
Was the best Ethiopian 5,000 runner even in Rio? It’s looking like that may have not been the case after World Indoor 3k champ Yomif Kejelcha crushed a 7:28.19 3k — the fastest time in the world in over five years — in Paris on Saturday. Ethiopia stupidly picks its Olympic team based on season’s bests, so it selected its three fastest men in 2016: Muktar Edris (12:59.43), Dejen Gebremeskel (12:59.89) and Hagos Gebrhiwet (13:00.20). It didn’t matter that Gebremeskel and Gebrhiwet ran those times in a glorified time trial in Somerville, Massachusetts, on June 17 (there was only one other guy in the field); they knew the selection was time-based and they did what they needed to do to get on the team.
The Ethiopians didn’t do awful in Rio. Gebremeskel and Gebrhiwet certainly deserve credit for having the courage to try to run a fast pace early on in an attempt to draw the kick out of Mo Farah. In the end, Gebrhiwet took the bronze, Edris crossed the line in fourth but was later disqualified and Gebremeskel finished 12th. Could Kejelcha have done better? If he ran like he did in Paris, obviously. And we certainly think he’s one of the sports brightest young stars as he’s still a teenager. But he wasn’t a slam-dunk selection if you look at his outdoor results:
Shanghai 5k (May 14)
5th in 13:03.29. Finished behind Edris and Abadi Embaye, ahead of Gebrhiwet. (We think no one should care what someone does in May).
Oslo 5k (June 9)
3rd in 13:08.34. Finished behind Gebrhiwet and Edris, ahead of Gebremeskel and Embaye.
Stockholm 5k (June 16)
2nd in 13:03.66. Finished behind Ibrahim Jeilan, ahead of Edris.
Barcelona 5k (July 9)
1st in 13:11.07. Finished ahead of Jeilan.
It’s hard to argue that Edris, who owns the fastest time by an Ethiopian this year and was 2-1 against Kejelcha at 5k this year, shouldn’t have been picked ahead of Kejelcha. Whether Kejelcha deserved to go over Gebrhiwet and Gebremeskel is hard to say. Gebrhiwet medalled at Worlds in 2013 and 2015 and proved his worth again by medalling in Rio. Gebremeskel was the reigning Olympic silver medallist. Kejelcha was the World Indoor champ. Kejelcha was 1-1 vs Gebrhiwet outdoors and 1-0 vs. Gebremeskel. No matter what happened, somebody very good was going to be left out.
Why Ethiopia doesn’t hold a Trials to sort this out is beyond us. Under the current system, the best Ethiopians have to race multiple all-out 5k’s in the run-up to the Olympics because that gives them the best chance to make the team. But racing a lot of hard 5,000s can also fry you before the Olympics and force you to start peaking early. If Ethiopia held a U.S.-style Trials race in July, it would produce a fairer outcome (all athletes judged against the same conditions on the same day and tactics which play a key role in championship races would also be at play) and a team that is reflective of current fitness (rather than judging off a 5k time that could be several months old) while allowing Ethiopian runners to peak for a specific window rather than killing themselves on the circuit in an attempt to be selected. It’s an idea Gebremeskel agreed with when we spoke to him in June and it should be obvious to anyone that it’s the fairest way to pick the team. It doesn’t guarantee the strongest squad, but if a guy like Kejelcha gets left off, at least there’s a good reason. Because right now “running 13:03 in Shanghai in May when Gebrhiwet ran 13:00 in Somerville in June” is not a good reason.
Since many of these guys raced in Paris, Kejelcha is the logical pick to win, but given that race was only 3k, not 5k, and he’s had just four days of rest, it’s not a sure thing. Gebrhiwet and Edris have been consistently good on the circuit and went 3-4 at the Olympics (before Edris’ DQ), though Edris was only seventh in Paris (Gebrhiwet was third). Those three men have combined for four Diamond League wins this year and chances are one of them wins in Zürich. But after Farah, the 5,000 is a pretty even event globally. Half the guys in this race will like their chances to win.
Ibrahim Jeilan, who won in Stockholm, and Mo Ahmed, fourth at the Olympics in Canada, should also be in the thick of things.
There are five Americans entered: Paul Chelimo, Ryan Hill, Evan Jager, Bernard Lagat and Hassan Mead. Lagat is the American record holder at 12:53.60. The other four have all run between 13:02 and 13:06 but have never cracked the elusive 13:00 barrier. That could change on Thursday, and there couldn’t be a better place to do it. No track has seen more American sub-13:00’s than Letzigrund in Zürich.
American Sub-13:00’s in Zürich
|8/14/96||Bob Kennedy||12:58.21||American record that stood for 13 years|
|8/28/09||Dathan Ritzenhein||12:56.29||Broke Kennedy’s AR; 3rd American under 13|
|8/19/10||Chris Solinsky||12:56.45||Solinsky’s third sub-13 in 11 weeks|
Breaking 13:00 is hard. Only six Americans have ever done it, none since Lagat in 2013. But if recent history is any guide, sub-13:00 should be there for the taking. In five previous Diamond League finals, four have been won in under 13:00, with Kejelcha taking last year’s edition in Brussels in a world-leading 12:53. With the top Ethiopians all in contention for the Diamond League title, it’s possible this race goes slow, but the Americans are here for no other reason than to run fast. And with great weather for distance running in the forecast (60’s, no wind), it would be a shame if they did not take advantage. Our rough rankings of the Americans, from least to most likely to break 13:00.
5. Hassan Mead
Mead has had a fine season, running 13:04 in May and 13:09 to finish 11th at the Olympics, but 13:00 is a tough barrier to crack.
4. Bernard Lagat
Lagat ran 13:06 to take fifth at the Olympics, and he won’t have to recover from Paris like Hill and Chelimo. But coaxing a sub-13:00 at age 41 will be tough.
3. Ryan Hill
Hill’s 7:30 in Paris is worth right around 13:00, but those extra two kilometers has proven difficult for him in the past. Hill can always close well in a 3k, but has not yet shown the strength to be able to do it consistently in fast 5,000s. He ran his pb of 13:05 in Zürich last year and is clearly very fit, he’s running angry after missing out on Rio, but does he have the strength to recover quickly from Paris and hang on to a hot pace up front? We don’t think so as it’s hard to run two great back to back races on such short notice. On second thought, he maybe should be ranked #4 and Lagat #3.
2. Paul Chelimo
Hill beat Chelimo badly in Paris (7:30 to 7:37), but in case you forgot, Chelimo is the Olympic silver medallist at 5,000 meters. Chelimo’s 13:03 in the Olympic final was a 16-second pb, and the pace lagged during the middle of that race. We still haven’t seen Chelimo’s ceiling in an all-out 5,000 from the gun; the only question is whether the grind of the Olympics and short recovery from Paris will have worn him down.
1. Evan Jager
Supremely fit and well-rested (he hasn’t raced since the Olympic steeple final on August 17), Jager has a great shot to dip under 13:00. He ran 13:02 in the Diamond League final three years ago and he’s significantly fitter than he was back then.
LRC Prediction: Kejelcha smoked the field in Paris and is motivated to keep kicking ass after being left off the Olympic team. He wins here as at least one American breaks 13:00.
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Women’s 1500 (2:41 p.m. ET): Laura Muir and Faith Kipyegon Square Off One More Time
|Sifan Hassan||The Netherlands||3:56.05||3:57.13|
|Jenny Meadows||Great Britain||4:19.36|
|Laura Muir||Great Britain||3:55.22||3:55.22|
|Laura Weightman||Great Britain||4:00.17||4:02.66|
Diamond Race standings
1. Faith Kipyegon, Kenya 36 points
2. Laura Muir, Great Britain 28 points
Scenarios: If Muir wins in Zürich, she’s the DL champ. Alternately, she could win the title by finishing second and having Kipyegon finish sixth or lower. In all other scenarios, Kipyegon wins the $40,000 prize.
Until Saturday, this looked like a relatively easy race to pick. Faith Kipyegon had ripped through the season undefeated, taking down world record holder Genzebe Dibaba in Rio to win the Olympic title with a stunning 1:57.3 final 800. And then Laura Muir shattered Kipyegon’s undefeated season — and her own British record — with her phenomenal 3:55 in Paris last weekend. It’s interesting that Muir was able to win so convincingly in Paris as she made her move with 700 to go there as opposed to 800 to go in Rio, where she wound up just seventh. The difference was, Muir accelerated much more quickly in Rio (she split 57.3 from 800 to 1200) in response to Dibaba’s move whereas she was able to close more evenly over the final 700 in Paris (61 for 700 to 1100, then 44.8 for the final 300).
Anyone who’s watched Muir before shouldn’t be surprised she was able to sustain such a long surge; she’s comfortable running aggressively from the front, and she used that exact strategy to upset Kipyegon last year in Oslo. What was surprising — aside from the time — was that Kipyegon was not able to match the move. Based on her dominant run in Rio, we thought Kipyegon was capable of faster than the 3:56.41 she ran earlier this year, but she allowed Muir to gap her on the penultimate lap in Paris and had to settle for another 3:56. Kipyegon closed well over that final 200, however, and if she’s more responsive if and when Muir moves in Zürich, she has a great chance to turn the tables and get revenge for Paris. Both women will be supremely motivated, as Muir needs to win the race to beat Kipyegon out for the Diamond League title.
It’s also legitimate to wonder whether coming back from such a fast effort on short rest (four days) will hurt either of the women. Muir’s best bet to win is to push the pace from a long way out, but that’s already hard enough to do as it is; add in a 3:55 in your legs and it becomes that much more difficult. It’s certainly unlikely we see another 3:55 — remember, apart from Dibaba last year, Muir’s time was the fastest in the world in 19 years. But the good news for Muir and Kipyegon is that the majority of their rivals will be tired too — the top eight finishers from Paris are doubling back.
The wild card is Kenya’s Hellen Obiri. The Olympic silver medallist at 5,000, Obiri has run 3:57.05 for 1500 and was second in the Lausanne 3k last week to Dibaba. She could be dangerous here as she has two more days of rest than the other contenders.
Could The American Record Fall?
Americans Jenny Simpson and Shannon Rowbury are both racing here. Rowbury has said she thinks she’s in AR shape (she set the AR of 3:56.29 last year in Paris), but they were well off of that pace last weekend in Paris as they “only” ran 3:58.00 (Rowbury) and 3:58.19 (Simpson). Both those times are obviously outstanding — and big season bests — but getting the AR is going to be a tall order. That being said, we know Muir will want an honest pace as she’s got little shot if its tactical and we know they’ll be motivated to beat each other in their final showdown of 2016 (Simpson now owns a 3-1 record vs. Rowbury this year after Rowbury beat her in Paris).
LRC Prediction: Muir is an outstanding runner, but Kipyegon has been outstanding all year and she has the better closing speed. She’s got 50,000 reasons ($40,000 bonus + $10,000 for the win) to be motivated her and not let Muir gap her here. Kipyegon gets the win and the Diamond League title to go with her Olympic crown. No American record but we’ll pick Simpson over Rowbury.
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Women’s 800 (3:02 p.m. ET): Caster Semenya Looks to Complete a Perfect Season Over 800 Meters
|Caster Semenya||South Africa||1:55.28||1:55.28|
|Lynsey Sharp||Great Britain||1:57.69||1:57.69|
Diamond Race standings
1. Caster Semenya, South Africa 40 points
2. Francine Niyonsaba, Burundi 38 points
Scenarios: For Semenya to win the title, she merely needs to finish above Niyonsaba. For Niyonsaba to win, she needs to finish above Semenya, but if Niyonsaba is third or lower, she needs to beat Semenya by at least two places.
No one’s been able to touch Caster Semenya over 800 meters this season — she’s a perfect 14 for 14, including heats — and there’s no reason to expect a different outcome on Thursday. Semenya has toyed with the competition in many of her races and when she shifts into top gear with 100 meters to go, even fellow Olympic medallists Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui are powerless to respond. Though Niyonsaba is only two points behind her in the standings, that’s only the case because Niyonsaba was able to pick up wins in Birmingham and Lausanne — two meets that Semenya did not enter.
There’s always a bit of curiosity about the world record when Semenya races, but so far she’s shown no desire to chase 1:53.28, content to leave a little extra in reserve and run whatever it takes to win the race. At least that’s what it looks like; only Semenya herself knows how much effort she is expanding during a race (some of the LetsRun.com staff isn’t as optimistic that Semenya can run a whole lot faster but it’s hard to say as we’ve never seen her go out in 55). This time may be different, however. Rabbit Ilona Usovich has been tasked with taking the field through 400 in 55.0 to 55.5. Semenya managed to run her PR of 1:55.28 after going out in 57.7 at the Olympics; she should be capable of a good deal faster in Zürich if she really attacks the race. As for second and third…well, Niyonsaba has only lost to Semenya this year. And Wambui has only lost to Semenya and Niyonsaba. Logically, those are your 1-2-3 finishers right there.
Wambui did manage to hold off Melissa Bishop for the bronze in Rio, but Bishop has been magnificent all year and though she was only fourth in her last race in Lausanne, she was also the victim of a bad pacer who got in the way as Bishop was trying to move up on the second lap. Bishop, 2013 world champ Eunice Sum (who was sick in Rio but was second in Lausanne and has run 1:57.47 this year) and Lynsey Sharp (6th Olympics, 3rd Lausanne) are all in great form. Semenya and Niyonsaba have looked totally untouchable this year, but Wambui could be vulnerable if one of the others has a great race.
Olympic finalist Kate Grace is the sole American in the field and will look to wrap up her 800 season with another PR (she PR’d in the semis in Rio) before heading back to the U.S. and racing the Fifth Avenue Mile just two days later.
LRC Prediction: Semenya FTW. Obviously. No world record. Going for the world record could be prove to be very costly for Semenya. If she goes out in 55 and blows up, she could easily be beaten by Niyonsaba and cost herself the $40,000 DL bonus. A world record would obviously get her a huge shoe contract bonus but it seems very risk for her to go for it here.
Women’s 3000 Steeplechase (3:36 p.m. ET): How Does Ruth Jebet Follow Up Her World Record?
|Etenesh Diro Neda||Ethiopia||9:14.07||9:16.87|
Diamond Race standings
1. Ruth Jebet, Bahrain 36 points
2. Hyvin Kiyeng, Kenya 32 points
3. Sofia Assefa, Ethiopia 17 points
Scenarios: Apart from a few unlikely scenarios, Jebet essentially has to finish above Kiyeng to win. Kiyeng needs to finish first or second and beat Jebet to claim the title. Assefa is still alive mathematically but her odds of winning the DL title are close to zero.
With an Olympic gold medal and a massive 8:52.78 world record, Ruth Jebet has already put together the greatest season ever by a female steeplechaser, regardless of how Thursday’s race plays out. But even though she secured herself a nice world record bonus in Paris, she’ll still want to bag the $50,000 that would come with another victory in Zürich ($10,000 for the race win and $40,000 for the DL title). That shouldn’t be a problem given how thoroughly she’s dominated the competition in recent weeks.
That being said, Jebet said after Paris that she was tired (although she didn’t look like it) and didn’t want to race again. We knew she’d show up here though due to the DL bonus. We think though that given her comments that another WR will not happen even though the temperature will be ideal.
Hoping for another world record is incredibly optimistic. World records are, by their nature, freak performances; it’s a lot to ask for Jebet to come back from a seven-second PB and run another one on short notice, particularly given her post-race comments.
If we were Jebet, we’d just make sure we got the win. In Rio, she took off with two kilometers to go. Here if she’s feeling a bit tired, it wouldn’t surprise us if she waited a bit longer to make her move. Assuming the 19-year-old Jebet stays healthy, she should have a lot of room to improve on her world record in upcoming years; remember, the women’s steeple is the newest running event, and the very best women are still searching for the ceiling.
As in the women’s 800, the women’s steeple has settled on a defined pecking order, with Jebet first, Kiyeng second and Coburn third (that’s been the result in each of their last three meetings, at Pre, the Olympics and Paris). Coburn was close to Kiyeng in Rio but Kiyeng defeated her by a large margin at Pre and Paris. If Coburn can narrow that gap, it’s possible she could lower the American record she set at the Olympics as she’s clearly in phenomenal shape (her last two races were her two fastest ever).
Jebet’s front-running in the Olympics and Paris dragged the entire field along to fast times in those races, with seven PBs in Rio and five in Paris. While we don’t expect the pace up front to be super ridiculous, it still should be fast enough to see a few more prs by most of the women in the field. In particular, watch for Kiyeng (9:00.01 pb) and American Colleen Quigley (9:20.00 pb), two women on the precipice of major barriers.
LRC Prediction: Jebet takes it but with her major goals for the season already fulfilled, she doesn’t come close to 8:52 again.
For the other 12 Diamond Race events, we’ve outlined the scenarios for the Diamond League title, listing current standings where appropriate.
Men’s pole vault
Renaud Lavillenie has 52 points and will clinch the title simply by competing in Zürich.
Women’s long jump
With 56 points, Ivana Spanovic has clinched the title as long as she competes in Zürich.
Women’s discus throw
Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic (60 points) will clinch her fifth straight DL crown by competing in Zürich.
Women’s high jump
1. Ruth Beitia, Spain 41 points
2. Levern Spencer, Saint Lucia 25 points
Scenarios: The only scenario Beitia does not win the DL title is if Spencer wins and Beitia finishes sixth or lower.
Men’s shot put
1. Tom Walsh, New Zealand 38 points
2. Joe Kovacs, USA 34 points
Scenarios: Walsh, who threw 22 meters to beat Kovacs last week in Paris, clinches the title as long as he finishes above Kovacs. Kovacs needs to finish first or second and beat Walsh or finish third, fourth or fifth and hope Walsh totally bombs.
Dafne Schippers, with 36 points, has the DL title locked up as long as she competes in Zurich.
Men’s triple jump
1. Christian Taylor, USA 40 points
2. Alexis Copello, Cuba 26 points
Scenarios: For Taylor not to win the title, he’d need to finish outside the top three and have Copello win.
1. LaShawn Merritt, USA 30 points
2. Wayde van Niekerk, South Africa 20 points not running in Zürich
3. Isaac Makwala, Botswana 18 points
4. Bralon Taplin, Grenada 12 points
Scenarios: The only way Merritt loses is if he finishes outside the top three and Makwala wins or if Merritt finishes outside the top six and Taplin wins.
1. Thomas Rohler, Germany 34 points
2. Jakub Vadlejch, Czech Republic 30 points
Scenarios: Rohler merely needs to finish higher than Vadlejch. Vadlejch is guaranteed the title by finishing first or second and beating Rohler.
Women’s 100 hurdles
World record holder Keni Harrison has an unbeatable 50 points and is guaranteed the title as long as she runs in Zürich.
1. Ben Youssef Meite, Ivory Coast 22 points
3. Asafa Powell, Jamaica 16 points
4. Mike Rodgers, USA 13 points
6. Churandy Martina, The Netherlands 11 points
13. Akani Simbine, South Africa 6 points
Scenarios: Since Diamond League leader Ben Youssef Meite of the Ivory Coast has 22 points and the win in Zürich is worth 20 points on its own, all five of the men list above could win the title (the others who are mathematically alive are not competing in Zürich). Meite and Powell are the only ones who can clinch with a victory; the others will all need some help.
Men’s 400 hurdles
1. Kerron Clement, USA 31 points
2. Javier Culson, Puerto Rico 25 points
3. Michael Tinsley, USA 24 points not running in Zürich
4. Yasmani Copello, Turkey 22 points not running in Zürich
5. Nicholas Bett, Kenya 14 points
Scenarios: 2015 world champ Bett is still alive mathematically but would need to win and have Clement bomb (finish 6th or lower) to have a chance. Clement just needs to beat Culson, but Culson can clinch with a win.
Talk about the meet on our fan forum: MB: Official 2016 Zürich DL Live Discussion Thread