2017 Bislett Games Preview: Jakob Ingebrigtsen Tries to Lower Age-16 Mile World Record; Elijah Manangoi, Caster Semenya & Margaret Wambui Lead Fields

By LetsRun.com
June 13, 2017

The Diamond League’s European leg continues on Thursday with the annual Bislett Games in Oslo. While most U.S. stars are staying stateside to rest up for next week’s USATF Outdoor Championships, there are still some big names in action including Andre De Grasse in the 100, .

We give you the meet details and preview the four mid-d/distance events below.

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What: 2017 Bislett Games

Where: Bislett Stadium, Oslo, Norway

When: Thursday, June 15. DL track events (and the international tv broadcast) begin at 2:00 p.m. ET.

How to watch: This meet will air live in the United States on NBC Sports Network from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET on Thursday. In Europe, it’s on Eurosport. For full TV/streaming details, see below.

Schedule/entries/results * TV/streaming information *2016 LRC coverage

Televised Events – ALL TIMES U.S. EASTERN
2:03 p.m. ET 400m Men Entries
2:12 High Jump Men Entries
2:17 100m Hurdles Women Entries
2:20 Long Jump Women Entries
2:30 U20 Dream Mile Men Entries
2:45 3000m Steeplechase Woman Entries
3:03 100m Men Entries
3:10 800m Women Entries
3:25 400m Hurdles Men Entries
3:40 200m Women Entries
3:50 1500m Men Entries

Women’s 3,000 steeplechase (2:45 p.m. ET): With the top Kenyans absent, can Sofia Assefa win her first DL race in three years?

Name Country PB SB
Sofia Assefa Ethiopia 9:07.06 9:07.06
Peruth Chemutai Uganda 9:27.72 9:27.72
Joan Chepkemoi Kenya 9:33.34
Luiza Gega Albania 9:28.52 9:44.79
Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal Norway 9:33.19
Daisy Jepkemoi Kenya 9:22.72 9:22.72
Norah Jeruto Kenya 9:15.35 9:15.35
Purity Kirui Kenya 9:17.74 9:20.07
Gesa Felicitas Krause Germany 9:15.70 9:15.70
Tigest Mekonen Ethiopia 9:20.65 9:26.00
Anna Emilie Møller Denmark 9:32.68 9:37.58
Fabienne Schlumpf Switzerland 9:26.86 9:26.86
Winfred Yavi Bahrain 9:22.82 9:22.82

Both the Kenyan and U.S. World Championship trials are next week, and as a result, the top athletes from the world’s two preeminent steeplechasing powers will be sitting this one out. Olympic champ Ruth Jebet of Bahrain isn’t here either, which means that even though six women have broken 9:10 in 2017 — already the most ever in a single year — only one of them, Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa, will be in Oslo. Assefa, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, was one of the top women in the event before the recent explosion of Kenyan-born talent. Assefa was only sixth in the Diamond League opener in Doha but she made a statement last week at the Ethiopian trials in Hengelo, running a PR of 9:07 (her first in five years) to stamp herself as a medal contender in London. It will likely take more than a 9:07 effort to medal at Worlds, but the fact that Assefa ran that fast in a race she won by 21 seconds is a great sign. She starts as the clear favorite in Oslo, though we should point out that Germany’s Gesa Krause, the 2015 World Champs bronze medallist, was only .04 behind Assefa in Doha.

Kenya’s Norah Jeruto has also been in good form as the 21-year-old dropped 10 seconds off her PR to run 9:15 in Shanghai on May 13. But Oslo will be her fourth race in 11 days — and her second in three, as she ran 9:33 at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Finland on Tuesday.

The home favorite is Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal, who put together a great Olympics (7th in the 5k, 9th in the 10k). It’s curious that she would run the steeple here, however, as she hasn’t run one since 2011.

LRC prediction: Assefa FTW. She’s clearly in great shape, but given that she just ran 9:07 on Sunday, we don’t expect another fast time four days later.

Women’s 800 (3:10 p.m. ET): We know the top two, but can the order change?

Name Country PB SB
Rose Mary Almanza Cuba 1:57.70 1:59.98
Melissa Bishop Canada 1:57.02 1:59.52
Renee Eykens Belgium 2:00.00 2:02.36
Anita Hinriksdottir Iceland 2:00.14 2:00.33
Hedda Hynne Norway 2:00.94 2:02.52
Lovisa Lindh Sweden 1:59.41
Francine Niyonsaba Burundi 1:56.24 1:59.10
Caster Semenya South Africa 1:55.28 1:56.61
Lynsey Sharp Great Britain 1:57.69 2:01.13
Eunice Sum Kenya 1:56.99 1:58.76
Margaret Wambui Kenya 1:56.89 1:57.03

Caster Semenya and Margaret Wambui have dominated the first two Diamond League 800s in 2017, and we see no reason for that to change in Oslo. In Doha, they went 1-2 with the next-closest finisher 1.73 seconds behind. It was the same result in Eugene, with the next-closest finisher 1.22 seconds behind. Semenya hasn’t lost since the start of 2016, while Wambui has only lost an 800 to two people in the last year: Semenya and Francine Niyonsaba. The latter, the Olympic silver medalist and World Indoor champ, is clearly capable of more than her 1:59.10 season opener at the Pre Classic, but until she shows it, we’re riding with Semenya and Wambui in the top two spots.

There are only two interesting things about this race:

1) Can Wambui beat Semenya?

2) Can anyone else beat Niyonsaba?

Semenya has been unbeatable ever since the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled she no longer had to be forced to lower her testosterone levels, and in the majority of her races since then, she has never even looked vulnerable. That was not the case at Pre; though Semenya still won, Wambui challenged her in the homestretch and finished just a tenth of a second behind the Olympic champ. How will Semenya respond in Oslo? After the CAS ruling, most of the drama in this event was sapped, but it could become more interesting if Wambui emerges as a legitimate rival to Semenya.

As for the second question, just as Semenya almost lost to Wambui at Pre, another streak almost came to an end in the same race: Niyonsaba almost became the first one of the “Big Three” to lose to someone outside of that group. Since the start of the 2016 outdoor season, Semenya, Wambui and Niyonsaba are undefeated against women not named Semenya, Wambui and Niyonsaba. But Niyonsaba finished just .09 ahead of Ethiopia’s Habitam Alemu in Eugene. Was Niyonsaba just rusty in her season opener, or is she actually vulnerable this year? Again, Oslo could provide the answer.

Alemu isn’t in Oslo, but 2013 world champ Eunice Sum is, and Sum ran 1:58.76 in Doha (third behind Semenya and Wambui). If anyone is going to beat Niyonsaba, she’s the most likely candidate, though Olympic 4th-placer Melissa Bishop of Canada is a solid choice as well.

LRC prediction: It would be good for the sport if things change in Oslo, and we are going to go out on a limb and say they do change in Oslo. Wambui is an up-and-coming athlete – she’s still just 21 years old. Nearly all 21-year-olds improve. Wambui for the win. Semenya (who is 26) 2nd and Niyonsaba third as she’ll run better in her second race of the year.

Men’s U20 Dream Mile: 16-year-old sub-4:00 miler Jakob Ingebrigtsen looks to go even faster

U20 Dream Mile Men
BEN ZAHRA, Abdelkarim
NOR INGEBRIGTSEN, Jakob 3:58.07 3:58.07
AUS RAYNER, Jack 3:58.7h 3:58.7h
IRL ROBINSON, Paul 3:54.77
BEL SISK, Pieter

Normally the Dream Mile in Oslo is one of the marquee events just like the Bowerman Mile headlines in Eugene. However, this year Oslo is going to have a Diamond League 1500 (see below) and the Dream Mile is set up for a single athlete.

Norway is not a traditional power in track and field, but they have one of the Western Wold’s most tantalizing young talents in 16-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who became history’s youngest sub-4:00 miler when he ran 3:58.07 at Pre. Since then, Ingebrigtsen ran a 4:00 road mile in Italy on June 4 and now he’s back on the track, where he’s looking to go even faster. This article says that the meet director is targeting 3:54 to 3:56 as a winning time in this race. Apparently the plan was to make it a race for only U20 athletes, but the meet director couldn’t find any good enough to challenge Ingebrigtsen. Thus there are some older athletes in the field, such as 3:54 miler Paul Robinson of Ireland and 3:58 miler Jack Rayner of Australia. The article says that the older runners will only serve as pacers. We’ll see about that.

Ingebrigtsen had good competition at Pre when he ran his 3:58, so it won’t be easy to run significantly faster, but perhaps running on home soil will provide him with an extra bump.

Manangoi in a domestic race last year wearing Leo Manzano's USA singlet

Manangoi in a domestic race last year wearing Leo Manzano’s USA singlet

Men’s 1500 (3:50 p.m. ET): Elijah Manangoi looks to get back on winning track after losing to Ronald Kwemoi at Pre

Name Country PB SB
Fouad El Kaam Morocco 3:33.71 3:34.86
Ryan Gregson Australia 3:31.06 3:34.56
Charlie Grice Great Britain 3:33.60 3:35.72
Jakub Holusa Czech Republic 3:33.36 3:34.96
Abdelaati Iguider Morocco 3:28.79 3:35.19
Filip Ingebrigtsen Norway 3:32.43
Silas Kiplagat Kenya 3:27.64 3:32.23
Elijah Kiptoo Kenya 3:33.81
Marcin Lewandowski Poland 3:37.69
Elijah Manangoi Kenya 3:29.67 3:31.90
Hillary Ngetich Kenya 3:32.97 3:36.91
Andrew Rotich Kenya 3:43.43
Ayanleh Souleiman Djibouti 3:29.58 3:40.81
David Torrence Peru 3:33.23 3:38.20
Jake Wightman Great Britain 3:35.49 3:35.93
Jordy Williamsz Australia 3:36.74 3:36.87

As stated above, traditionally, the highlight of the Bislett Games is the Dream Mile, but this year the U20 mile has appended the “Dream” moniker with the Diamond League event reverting to a 1500. That’s a little disappointing, if only because the Dream Mile has quite a tradition, from world records in 1980 (Steve Ovett) and 1985 (Steve Cram) to Asbel Kiprop‘s wins in 2015 and 2016. Of course, one of the most famous races in the history of this meet was a 1500. If you’ve never seen that one, do yourself a favor and watch it below (race starts at 1:38):

MB: Tom Byers -The Rabbit That Got Away(Oslo,1981)

UPDATE: We reached out to Bislett Games press chief Solveig Høyland for an explanation about why the senior race is a 1500 this year. This was his reply:

“This year Oslo Bislett Games has a new sponsors / the previous naming rights sponsor ‘ExxonMobil’ was with the event for 29 years but a severe turn in oil prices & a shift of emphasis resulted in finish of that relationship. The name ExxonMobil had become synonymous with the Dream Mile & Bislett really needed to step away from that circumstance. However we do recognize the tradition that has been established with the name ‘Dream Mile’ , as it extends well before any previous sponsorship ……hence we wanted to maintain the notion of the ‘Dream Mile’ with Bislett, but this year with a slightly different formula. We therefore applied the event name to a development race > the ‘U20 Dream Mile’

“The Dream Mile may reemerge at Bislett in the near future as a senior event but this year we maintain the tradition in a slightly different guise.”

As for this year’s field, Elijah Manangoi has been in the best form in 2017 and he’s the obvious favorite here. He won the Diamond League opener in Doha before heading to Eugene, where it took a huge late surge from Ronald Kwemoi to deny Manangoi a win in the Bowerman Mile (Manangoi still managed to run 3:49.08 for second). Most recently, Manangoi dropped down to the 800 in Rome last week and more than held his own, clocking 1:46.22 to take fourth in a field of 800 specialists. Now he’s back to his primary distance, and with most of his top Kenyan competition sitting this one out, he should have an easier go of things than in Doha or Eugene as this is a field with depth but no one else up front in stellar form.

Silas Kiplagat, second in Doha, is usually in the hunt in Diamond League races, and though Manangoi whipped him at Pre by eight seconds, he can’t be ignored. Abdelaati Iguider was a World Championship medalist less than two years ago, while Filip Ingebrigtsen ran 3:53 at Pre. Ayanleh Souleiman was only 11th in Doha and fell at the Pre Classic, but he was fourth in the Olympics last year. He too, should challenge Manangoi. Olympic finalists Ryan Gregson and Charlie Grice are also entered.

Former American David Torrence will also chase a PR after impressively winning the Adrian Martinez mile in 3:53.21 back on June 1.

LRC prediction: Manangoi wins, but Kenya’s total dominance of the 2017 Diamond League season comes to an end. Kenya went 1-2-3-4-5-6 in Doha and 1-2-3-4 in Eugene. That’s not happening in Oslo, though that’s not much of a prediction, considering two of the five Kenyans entered are rabbits (Kiptoo and Rotich).

Talk about the meet in our fan forum / mesageboard.

MB: Official 2017 Bislett Games – Oslo Diamond League Discussion Thread

For a preview of the other events, read the IAAF preview.