What a weekend. The highlight of July for many track fans — the Monaco Diamond League meeting — is almost here. It takes place on Friday (2-4 p.m. ET) and then on Saturday and Sunday, the London Diamond League (9-11 a.m. ET both days) takes place.
Given the fact that there is no Worlds this year and these are the last two Diamond League meetings for nearly a month as there will be a break for the European and African champs (the next DL meet isn’t until August 18), the athletes should be in supreme form and ready to get after it.
We’re most excited about Monaco. Londoners support track amazingly well but there is no need for the London DL meet to be two days long simply so they can get in a slew of Paralympic races, kids’ 4x100s, and heats of the 100 hurdles and 100. Of course, maybe we’re just bitter as we don’t want to have work any days this weekend.
Anyway, below LetsRun.com’s Robert Johnson and Jonathan Gault have come up with the 7 things they are most excited about from this week’s Diamond League meets – 4 from Monaco and 3 from London. We present them to you in the order they will take place.
Two events we didn’t mention were the men’s and women’s steeplechases in Monaco. Those races look so fantastic on paper that they get their own article here: LRC History in Monaco? Will an American hurdle the 8:00 or 9:00 barrier in the steeplechase in Monaco?
1) Who wins the 400 battle between undefeated studs Salwa Eid Naser and Shaunae Miller-Uibo?
RJ: The Olympic champ Miller-Uibo is undefeated on the year at everything — 150, 200 and 400, a perfect 10-for-10. She’s only run the 400 twice but run 49.52 and 49.53 in her two attempts. As for Bahrain’s Naser, the 20-year-old is a perfect 5-for-5 on the year — including the two fastest runs of her life in her last two outings, a 49.55 in Paris and 49.78 in Lausanne.
The race also includes US champ Shakima Wimbley, who is tied with Miller-Uibo for the world lead at 49.52. However, considering she’s lost three straight races in Europe, not running faster than 50.58, I think it’s easy to say she’s not going to win.
Prediction: This one is easy for me. Miller-Uibo. The only question I have is will she become just the 10th women in history to break 49. That hasn’t happened since September 4, 2009, when Sanya Richards-Ross did it in Brussels.
2) How fast does the men’s 1500 in Monaco go, and who wins the battle between the Ingebrigtsen brothers?
RJ: With it’s mid-July date, Monaco is known for producing really fast 1500 times. The world leader has been run on the men’s side in Monaco in the 1500 in five of the last six years, and the winning time has been under 3:29 in all five of those years as well (the lone year in the last six when the world leader wasn’t run in Monaco was in 2016, when Monaco was won in 3:30.49).
I’m a little worried that Monaco won’t be as fast in 2018 as it’s been in recent years. Asbel Kiprop isn’t here as he was caught doping, the world #2 Samuel Tefera is out after failing to medal at World Juniors last week. A sub-3:30 clocking for the winner — whom I’m assuming will be Timothy Cheruiyot — seems like a given as he ran 3:29.71 in Paris but I’m wondering how many other people, if any, get under as well.
The other thing that excites me about this race is an intra-family civil war as Jakob Ingebrigtsen, 17, battles Filip Ingebrigtsen, 25, for family bragging rights. Well at least 2/3rds of it. It’s a shame that the third Ingebrigtsen, Henrik, 27, isn’t in this one.
It’s amazing to think about how good this family is at running. Which brother would you consider to be the worst? We guess in an absolute sense, it has to be Jakob, who may be the most talented and end up accomplishing the most. Last week, at 17, he won two medals at World Juniors and this year has already run 3:52.28 in the mile and 13:20.78 for the 5000. But Filip won a bronze at the senior worlds last year in the 1500 and is 6-0 against his kid brother according to tilastopaja.org. And Henrik has the best pb in the family (3:31.46) and was 5th at the 2012 Olympics.
If only World Junior champ George Manangoi was in the race taking on his big brother Elijah, who won the senior world title last year.
Prediction: Cheruiyot wins in 3:28 and two people break 3:30. As for the Ingebrigtsens,, I know everyone is going ga-ga over Jakob, but Filip was 2nd in Rabat last week so I’ll pick him for the family win.
3) Might Caster Semenya break Jarmila Kratochvílová’s 1:53.28 world record?
RJ: Next Thursday, Kratochvílová’s world record will celebrate its 35th anniversary. I’d love to see it go down. While I think it’s absurd that people with XY chromosomes, internal testicles, and no ovaries are allowed to compete in the women’s category, I do respect Semenya a great deal. Her defiance is inspiring and she’s been in such good form this year it seems as if she’s trying to say to those who want to limit her with the new hyperandrogenism rules, “You want to get rid of me. Ok, if you do, I’ll tell you one thing: you’ll remember me as I’ll have the world record.”
Prediction: I have never been one who thought Semenya was purposely sand-bagging and could easily run much faster than she has but understand why some people think that and have wondered if it might be true a few times this year. However, 1:53.28 is nearly a full second faster than her PB (1:54.25) and Semenya has already PR’d by almost a second this year (she ran 1:55.16 last year). If Semenya would pay someone like Ajee Wilson to rabbit for like 650, maybe she could do it, but it’s not happening in Monaco.
Update: And even if she had perfect rabbiting I’m not sure she’d run 1:53. I emailed LetsRun.com coaching/stat guru John Kellogg and asked him, “What do most guys who have PBs of 50 for 400 and 3:59 for 1500 run for the 800 (Semenay’s PRs – Please understand I’m not saying Semenya is a guy it’s just that not many women run those times)?” He replied, “A 50 / 3:59 guy would probably run in the high 1:54s or right around 1:55 flat.” So Semenya is already running in line with her other PBs.
4) The Noah Lyles show rolls on
JG: Lyles has been one of the breakout stars of 2018, and has looked untouchable in his specialty event, the 200 meters, earning DL wins in Doha, Eugene, and Lausanne. After coming .01 shy of winning his first DL 100 last week in Rabat, he’s back in the 200 in Monaco.
The field is loaded as it features six men who have broken 20.00 this year, but I don’t watch Lyles to see whether or not he’ll win (he will) but for everything that comes with it. What will he do this time in the starting blocks? How long will he let the field think they have a chance before destroying them over the final 100? How will he celebrate when he crosses the line?
Prediction: It will be hard for Lyles, who turned 21 on Wednesday, to improve upon his 19.69 pb — particularly because, unlike Lausanne, there’s no Michael Norman to push him in this race. But Lyles wants to get into the 19.4s by the end of the season, and there are only two chances left for him to do it on the DL circuit: here, and the Diamond League final in Zurich. Justin Gatlin holds the meet record at 19.68; I predict that mark falls, but 19.4 will have to wait for another day.
5) Kirani James runs his first Diamond League meet in two years as Abderrahman Samba enters the flat 400
JG: Do you remember how good Kirani James was? Let me remind you. This is a guy who won Worlds in the 400 as an 18-year-old, ran 43.94 to win the Olympics as a 19-year-old, and ran 43.76 in his second Olympic final as a 23-year-old (the fastest non-winning time ever). That 43.76 defeat in Rio was the only race James lost in 2016, his last full season of competition.
James has been largely out of the spotlight since then, however. Part of that was due to the emergence of Wayde van Niekerk (even though James, still only 25, is actually two months younger than WVN). But the bigger reason is that James was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, causing him to end his 2017 season in April and keeping him him away from racing until June 2018. The disease, which affects the thyroid and can lead to symptoms such as weight loss, muscle weakness, and shortness of breath, has been a thorn in James’ side, yet when James returned to competition last month, he looked like his old self, running down Fred Kerley to win the 400 at the Racers Grand Prix in 44.35 — his second-fastest season opener ever.
“We had to alter training tremendously, and I tell people all the time that this is by far my best job,” James’ coach Harvey Glance told the Jamaica Observer. “This time we had to alter an entire training regime to get him to this point.”
Now the Grenadan is running his first Diamond League 400 since June 5, 2016 — and he may well win the thing. His top competition figures to be Qatar’s Abdalelah Haroun (44.35 sb, 2nd in Rabat last week), but he’ll also face NCAA third placer Nathon Allen (44.13 sb), and an intriguing foe in Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba, who has dominated the 400 hurdles this year, including a #2 all-time mark of 46.98. Samba owns a flat pb of 45.47 but could dip into the 44s here.
Prediction: James winning would be another step in a fantastic comeback, and that’s the outcome I’m forecasting. It would also continue a fantastic Diamond League career. James has raced 20 DL 400s. He was DQ’d in one; in the other 19, he has 14 wins and 5 runner-up finishes. That is simply astonishing.
6) Can Clayton Murphy hang with Emmanuel Korir in the 800 in London and how fast will Korir run?
JG: Mid-distance fans may be asking themselves: where has Emmanuel Korir gone? The Kenyan stud, who won in Doha and Eugene earlier this year, hasn’t disappeared; he’s just moved down to the 400, where he blasted a 44.21 to win the Kenyan champs on June 23 before storming to a 44.52 victory in Lignano, Italy, last week.
Korir is so good at the 400 that he wouldn’t be out of place running that event in a Diamond League (44.21 puts him #5 on the 2018 world list), but the 800 is his best event and I can’t wait to see how he does in London. Remember, in his last 800 in Eugene, he was bumped with 200 to go and lost a ton of momentum but still somehow won the race. The downside was that we didn’t get to see what Korir was fully capable of as his winning time was just 1:45.16.
Assuming no slip-ups, he could be capable of something very special in London on the same track where David Rudisha broke the world record six years ago.
We’ll also get a chance to see U.S. champ Clayton Murphy in action once again. Korir smoked Murphy by over two seconds in Doha back on May 4, but since then Murphy has been getting better with every meet, most recently defeating World Indoor champ Adam Kszczot at the Athletics World Cup last weekend. Can Murphy (1:44.69 sb) dip into the 1:43s and/or challenge Korir?
Prediction: With those fast 400s under his belt, Korir has a ton of speed right now — some of the best speed for an 800 guy, ever, in fact — and I think we could see the world’s first 1:42 since 2016. Remember, Korir ran 1:43.10 on the same weekend in Monaco last year, and I think he’s better in 2018 than he was in 2017. I think Murphy gets dragged to a fast time — 1:43 or 1:44 low — but can’t hang with Korir.
RJ Addition: I’m such a big fan of Korir. Him becoming the 6th person to run 1:41 wouldn’t totally shock me. We’ve never had a guy this good at 400 run the 800.
7) Who wins the last event of the weekend — the Millicent Fawcett Mile — Sifan Hassan or Laura Muir? And how will Jenny Simpson look?
RJ: To be honest, I’m not as excited about this race as I could be. If this race included the world #1 and #2 for 1500 this year, Genzebe Dibaba and Shelby Houlihan, then I might be more excited for this than the men’s 1500 in Monaco. But alas, neither is here. Houlihan has an excused absence in my book as she’s going for a fast 5000 in Heusden this weekend with Shalane Flanagan pacing. Why Dibaba skips so many DL meets is beyond my comprehension.
Before I get to this race, let me recommend that you pick up a Millicent faucet for your kitchen. They are unreal. Just kidding. But when I saw Millicent Fawcett, I thought it was a sponsor of the event and it was a faucet company with a slightly different British spelling (like favor and favour). When I googled it, I found out Millicent Fawcett was a female suffragist in Britain (and Britain is celebrating 100 years of women’s suffrage this year).
Then I was going to go off on a rant on keeping sports and politics separate as in general I think most people enjoy sports because they are a refuge from the rest of life including politics, but I found Fawcett’s life story and family to be so fascinating (her sister was the first female doctor, her daughter was the first woman to beat all the men in a math test at Cambridge), that I’m not going to go off. Instead, I’m going to encourage you to read her Wikipedia bio here.
Anyways, as for the race, I am fascinated to see if Sifan Hassan improves on her fantastic start to the season. On June 30, she ran 1:59.35 for 800, then on July 5 in Lausanne she ran 3:58.39 for 1500 and then on July 13 in Rabat she ran a European record 14:22.34 for 5000. She’s cleary in incredible shape.
Victory isn’t guaranteed however as in Lausanne she was beaten by Muir by .21 (Houlihan won, Muir was 2nd, Hassan 3rd) and Muir has gotten faster every time she’s run the 1500 this year outdoors — 3:59.30, 3:58.53, 3:58.18.
As for Simpson, maybe I shouldn’t be totally discounting her for the win as she finished within .73 of Houlihan at USAs, which is closer than Hassan (.84) and Muir (1.05) were in Lausanne, but I don’t think she’ll win this.
Prediction: Muir has finished second in the last four 1500/miles she’s run dating to World Indoros. Make that five. I’m VERY bullish on Hassan.
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