June 28, 2018
After a brief interlude for some national championships, the Diamond League is back this weekend with the Meeting de Paris. The meet takes place on Saturday — coincidentally, the same day France faces Argentina in a World Cup round of 16 match. But for those worried about the athletes competing in front of an empty stadium, we have some good news: it should be possible to watch both events as the soccer match kicks off at 4 p.m. local time and the track meet doesn’t really get going until 7 p.m. (with DL events beginning at 8 p.m.).
And there are some events definitely worth watching. After scratching from the final at USAs, Michael Norman will make his Diamond League debut in the 200 against fellow USC Trojan Rai Benjamin. World champ Maria Lasitskene, riding a 44-meet win streak, could receive a challenge in the high jump from heptathlon world champ Nafissatou Thiam, who sits just two centimeters behind her on the 2018 world list at 2.01m. Mondo Duplantis battles Sam Kendricks in the pole vault, US champ Jenna Prandini faces world indoor 60m champ Marie Josee Ta Lou in the 200, and France’s decathlon world champ Kevin Mayer headlines a “triathlon” consisting of the long jump, shot put, and 110m hurdles. Plus Abderrahman Samba and Karsten Warholm are set to do battle again in the 400 hurdles.
In the distance events, Timothy Cheruiyot will look to make it five straight DL wins in the 1500, while in the 800, French world champ Pierre-Ambroise Bosse returns to DL action for the first time since winning the world title last summer. NCAA champ/USA runner-up Isaiah Harris is also in that race, as are Aussies Joseph Deng and Peter Bol, who will be trying to break an almost-50-year-old national record. There’s also a loaded women’s steeple (though Americans Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs are absent) and Ajee Wilson gets another crack at Caster Semenya in the women’s 800.
What: 2018 Meeting de Paris
Where: Stade Charlety, Paris, France
When: Saturday, June 30
How to watch: This meet will air live in the United States on the Olympic Channel from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday. In Canada, it’s on CBC, while in Europe, it’s on Eurosport.
Women’s steeplechase (2:12 p.m. ET): The world’s best are all here (apart from the Americans)
|Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal||Norway||9:13.35||9:29.94|
U.S. fans may have a hard time getting excited for this one as last year’s World Champs gold and silver medalists, Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs, are sitting this race out after competing at USAs last week (you’ll have to wait until Monaco on July 20). But that doesn’t mean this is a bad field. The four fastest women of 2018 are all here, led by world leader Hyvin Kiyeng (9:04.96), and so far every Diamond League women’s steeple this year has been exciting. In the season opener in Shanghai (a non-DL event), Beatrice Chepkoech and Norah Jeruto were together over the final barrier, only for Jeruto to slip on the wet track and wipe out. Three weeks later in Rome, Coburn fell on the final water jump as Kiyeng barely edged out Celliphine Chespol by .18. Most recently in Oslo, one of the barriers was set at the men’s height, and chaos ensued.
All that is to say that we don’t know what to expect in Paris on Saturday (a city that has played host to some memorable steeples of its own, including the women’s world record). Kiyeng, with wins in Rome and Oslo, is the favorite here, but those two wins came by a combined .25 of a second. With sub-9:00 women Chepkoech and Chespol in the field, in addition to Jeruto (9:07 in Rome), there are several women capable of winning this race.
Men’s 200 (2:30 p.m. ET): Michael Norman makes his Diamond League debut
|Luxolo Adams||South Africa||20.01||20.01|
|Rai Benjamin||Antigua & Barbuda||20.64|
For those of you disappointed not to get a chance to see Michael Norman run an all-out 200 at USAs (count us among them), you won’t have to wait long as he’s entered in Paris on Saturday. Based on how smooth he looked in the rounds at USAs (he won his prelim in 20.46 and his semi in 20.35 into a headwind), Norman appeared capable of running well under 20 seconds and we expect him to do so in Paris barring a colossal headwind (Norman’s pb of 20.06 from April came into a 1.4 headwind; he ran 19.84 with a 2.8 tailwind at Pac-12s).
Norman is not the only former USC star entered here however, as his recent teammate Rai Benjamin, the 400 hurdles specialist, will be making his professional debut. Benjamin hasn’t run an outdoor 200 all year, but he did clock 20.34 to finish third at NCAA indoors in March. That’s a very strong time — it would have been good enough to win seven of the last 10 NCAA indoor titles — and Benjamin should be able to go even faster in this race, though his potential is not as great as Norman’s.
Also, can we ask why Benjamin is in this race when there’s a 400 hurdles at this meet? Benjamin vs. Abderrahman Samba vs. Karsten Warholm would be one of the greatest matchups of the 2018 track & field season. Why is Benjamin running the 200, which is not even an official Diamond League event, at this meet?
Men’s 1500 (2:39 p.m. ET): Timothy Cheruiyot looks to preserve perfect Diamond League season
|Jakub Holusa||Czech Republic||3:33.36||3:36.98|
|Mahiedine Mekhissi Benabbad||France||3:33.12||3:43.29|
|Nick Willis||New Zealand||3:29.66|
The 22-year-old Cheruiyot, last year’s World Championship silver medalist, has reached a new level in 2018. Though he had to settle for silver again behind training partner Elijah Manangoi at the Commonwealth Games in April, he’s been incredible since the calendar turned to May. He’s won all three Diamond League races he’s entered (Shanghai, Eugene, Rome), and since returning to Kenya, he’s been equally good. On June 16, he clocked a pb of 1:44.74 to win the 800 at the Kenyan Prisons champs, and on Saturday he ran 3:34.82 at altitude in Nairobi to win the 1500 at the Kenyan champs by almost two seconds. He will take some beating in Paris.
The guy with the best chance to do it is World Indoor champ Samuel Tefera of Ethiopia, but the bad news for Tefera is that the gap between he and Cheruiyot has been getting wider. Check it out.
|May 12||Shanghai||1st, 3:31.48||2nd, 3:31.63||0.15|
|May 26||Eugene||1st, 3:49.87||2nd, 3:51.26||1.39|
|May 31||Rome||1st, 3:31.22||3rd, 3:34.84||3.62|
Considering no one has finished within a second of Cheruiyot in any of his last four races, he’s a strong favorite here. And there’s no ideal strategy to beat him. Cheruiyot likes to run fast, and that also happens to be his best way to win races — if he can follow the rabbit and keep his foot on the gas once the rabbit drops out, no one else has been able to hang with him on the final lap. To beat Cheruiyot, you have to be as fit as he is, and no one in this field has shown that capability yet in 2018.
This race will also be Nick Willis‘s first Diamond League race in almost a year (his last one came in Monaco on July 21, 2017). Willis had an injury setback earlier this year that kept him out of the Commonwealth Games, and his recent results haven’t been too impressive (he ran 4:00 for 6th in the mile at the adidas Boost Boston Games, and has run 1:51 and 1:50 in a pair of recent 800s). Willis is not one to rush into things, and given how he went from his first race to the World Championship final in the span of a month last summer, we expect he’ll be running fast by the end of the summer. But it is too soon for him to contend in this one.
Men’s 800 (3:10 p.m. ET): World champ Bosse returns, Harris heads to Europe, & could the almost-50-year-old Aussie record go down?
|Thiago Do Rosario Andre||Brazil||1:44.81||1:45.10|
This isn’t an official Diamond League event, and the two guys who have won DL points races so far in 2018 — Emmanuel Korir and Wycliffe Kinyamal — are sitting this one out. Even so, this is one of the most intriguing events of the meet. First, you’ve got the reigning world champion in his first DL meet of the year, which just so happens to come on home soil. It has been a rough year for Pierre-Ambroise Bosse since he won gold in London. In August 2017, Bosse claimed to have suffered multiple facial fractures after he was violently assaulted, but the suspect claimed Bosse initiated the incident by throwing a beer bottle at him and in March, Bosse was charged with “intentional violence with the use, or threat of a weapon.” Bosse has only raced twice this year outdoors. The first was a 1:49.22 win at a small meet in France on May 19. The second came in Huelva, Spain on June 8, and it did not go well. Bosse was in second with 200 to go, but two men passed him on the final turn, leaving him horribly boxed in for the final 100 meters. Bosse tried to free himself but wound up taking a few steps on the infield, at which point he decided to take a bunch more and simply jog it in (he was DQ’d). See for yourself.
Had Bosse found room to run, he would probably have finished close to the second placer, who ran 1:44.99 in that race. So he’s in okay shape, but after a lengthy layoff, his tactics look a little rusty.
This race also features the 2-3 finishers from USAs in Isaiah Harris and Erik Sowinski. Harris, the NCAA champ for Penn State who just turned pro, has faced top competition before (he made the semis at Worlds last year) but has never run a Diamond League race. In fact, because he’s been in college the last three years, he’s rarely been in a race where he’s tried to chase a time — his only two sub-1:45 clockings came in last year’s US final and this year’s NCAA final. With a 1:44.53 pb, it’s not a stretch to imagine Harris dipping into the 1:43s in a fast DL race, but who knows if this race will go out fast enough?
Finally, pay attention to the two Aussies in this race, Peter Bol and Joseph Deng. Both are young (Bol is 24, Deng is 19), both train together in Melbourne, and both are very fast (Bol ran his pb of 1:44.56 to win in Stockholm on June 10; Deng was second in that race in a pb of 1:44.61). They also have similar backstories. Bol was born in Sudan but he fled along with his family to Egypt at age 4 to escape the country’s civil war. At age 8, he moved to Australia, where he has been ever since. Deng was born in a Sudanese refugee camp in Kenya before moving to Australia at age 6 with his mother and sister.
Both men also share the same target: the Australian 800-meter record of 1:44.40. Ralph Doubell set it in 1968 to win Olympic gold in Mexico City (it was a world record at the time), and though Alex Rowe tied it in 2014, no one has surpassed it in almost 50 years.
“It doesn’t matter who runs it first – we just want the record gone,” Bol said after he and Deng ran in the 1:44s in Stockholm.
Chances are Doubell’s record won’t live to see its 50th birthday, but remember: Rowe was only 22 when he tied the record in 2014 and has yet to run faster. Will it go down in Paris?
Women’s 800 (3:42 p.m. ET): Has anything changed since the Pre Classic? Plus, Sifan Hassan debuts
|Caster Semenya||South Africa||1:55.16||1:55.92|
While the South African federation battles to ensure Caster Semenya can compete in the women’s category without hormone treatment in 2019 and beyond, she has not let her uncertain fate distract her on the track as she’s won all 16 of her races this year, including DL wins in Doha (1500), Eugene, and Oslo. The story with Semenya is the same as it’s been since she returned to her dominant form in 2016: she is essentially invincible (now 23 for 23 in 800 finals since 1/1/2016) and will run as fast as she needs to in order to win, often dragging the rest of the field to SBs and PBs as a result (Ajee Wilson‘s 1:56.68 at the Pre Classic doesn’t happen without Semenya’s 1:55.92 up front).
Wilson looked terrific in repeating as U.S. champ last week in 1:58.18, but she ran 1:57.78 at USAs last year and still couldn’t touch Semenya on the circuit. Semenya remains her white whale, but Wilson does have the chance to assert herself as the #2 woman in the world; after taking silver behind Francine Niyonsaba at the last two World Indoors, Wilson beat her at Pre, something only Semenya and Margaret Wambui had done in an 800 since the start of ’16. Habitam Alemu also came just .01 shy from adding her name to that list in Oslo. Is Niyonsaba slipping, or have Wilson and Alemu just improved? Either way, Niyonsaba is no longer a lock for second behind Semenya as she was in 2016 and 2017.
This also marks the first race for the Nike Oregon Project’s Sifan Hassan since she earned 3000 silver and 1500 bronze at World Indoors in March. 32-year-old Kenyan Emily Tuei is also one to watch as she is coming in fresh off a 1:58.04 pb run in Nancy on Wednesday.
Talk about the meet on our messageboard: Official 2018 Paris DL Discussion Thread