August 28, 2018
The 2018 Diamond League finals are upon us, with the world’s top track & field athletes heading to Thursday’s Weltklasse Zurich (2-4 pm ET) and Friday’s Memorial Van Damme in Brussels (2-4 pm ET) where 32 Diamond League champions will be crowned.
We’ve already run through the distance events, ranking them here, from least to most watchable, but there are more than just distance races to be excited about. How about Noah Lyles trying to close out a perfect season in the 200 meters against world champ Ramil Guliyev? Christian Coleman and Ronnie Baker battling it out one more time for the DL 100-meter title? Mondo Duplantis returning to action after his epic 6.05-meter vault in Berlin? Keni Harrison vs. Brianna McNeal in the 100 hurdles? The list goes on.
Below, we give a quick primer on six non-distance events you need to keep an eye on.
Men’s 100: USA vs. Great Britain in sprinting’s Revolutionary War (Friday, 2:54 p.m. ET)
Christian Coleman has battled hamstring issues this season, and while that’s prevented him from challenging his 9.82 pb from last year, he’s still been tough to beat as he earned wins in Rabat and Birmingham in his last two races. But both of those races were extremely tight: in Rabat, he beat Ronnie Baker by .01 and Noah Lyles by .02; in Birmingham, it was even closer as it came down to the thousandths between Coleman and Reece Prescod.
Baker has been terrific all year, as he has clocked four pbs in 2018, most recently a 9.87 world leader in Poland last week. With wins at Pre, Rome, Paris, & London, he’s raced and beat the best in the world several times this year.
And then there’s Prescod, the 22-year-old British champ. Like Lyles, he’s a strong finisher, and had the race lasted a meter or two longer in Birmingham, he would have prevailed against Coleman (though he still managed to clock a pb of 9.94). The contrast in styles between the tall, fast-closing Prescod and the short, fast-starting Coleman makes for a neat clash of styles in Brussels.
With the U.S. (Coleman, Baker, Lyles) and Great Britain (Prescod, 2017 DL champ CJ Ujah, 2018 Euro champ Zharnel Hughes) both boasting strong 100-meter men and an absence of top Jamaicans following Usain Bolt‘s retirement, we could be in for the Revolutionary War of sprinting. Could Zurich serve as “The Shot Heard Round the World”?
LRC Prediction: Coleman wins.
Men’s pole vault: What will Mondo do for an encore? (Friday, 1:28 p.m. ET)
On August 12, 18-year-old Mondo Duplantis defied all expectations by clearing 6.05 meters to win the European title — a height surpassed by just one man ever outdoors. Given the rarity of 6.05-meter clearances — Duplantis’ was just the second outdoors in the last 17 years — it is hardly fair to expect him to repeat such a performance in Brussels. But he will need something special to win, because as good as Duplantis has been in 2018, he has been defeated in his last three DL competitions. Instead, it’s Sam Kendricks, the reigning world/Diamond League champ, who enters on a hot streak with wins in Paris, Rabat, and London. Russia’s 21-year-old Timur Morgunov also cleared six meters in Berlin and will be dangerous.
But both Morgunov and Kendricks will be doubling back from the vault in Zurich on Wednesday, which could give the fresher Duplantis the advantage. And if Duplantis wins, will he really turn down the $50,000 prize just so he can retain his eligibility and beat up on collegians at LSU next year?
LRC Prediction: Kendricks wins.
Women’s 100: Fast times loom as Asher-Smith battles Ta Lou (Thursday, 2:40 p.m. ET)
Between Dina Asher-Smith, Marie-Josee Ta Lou, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, and Salwa Eid Naser, we were guaranteed at least one sprint showdown in the DL finals (side note: apparently you need at least three names to be a great female sprinter in 2018). It comes in the women’s 100 in Zurich, where Ta Lou, who is a perfect eight-for-eight in the 100 this year, battles Asher-Smith, who tied Ta Lou’s world leader of 10.85 at the Euro champs in Berlin. After her heavy workload at Euros, Asher-Smith looked a little worn-down in the 200 in Birmingham (she ran 22.31 as she lost to Miller-Uibo), but she’ll have had 12 more days to recover before Zurich.
With both women in supreme form, a time in the mid-10.80s will likely be required to win on the night.
Men’s 200: How low can Noah Lyles go? (Thursday, 3:11 p.m. ET)
Noah Lyles is probably going to win on Thursday. Though world champ Ramil Guliyev impressed with his 19.76 victory at Euros, that would only rank as Lyles’ fourth-fastest time this year as the 21-year-old has blasted 19.69, 19.69, and 19.65 in his last three races. And he will be aiming to go even faster in Zurich — Lyles’ goal this year is to dip under 19.5, something only three men have ever done: Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, and Michael Johnson.
Getting under 19.5 would require something truly special, but Lyles merely needs to be his typical spectacular self to earn the win. He remains undefeated for his life in Diamond League 200s — a perfect six-for-six — and on paper, only Guliyev has a chance to challenge him. Remember, last year Lyles won the DL final even though it was his first race in over two months due to injury. In 2018, he’s been healthy and rolling all year, so expect another big win.
Even if Lyles doesn’t PR, you can expect him to put on a show. We can’t wait to see what he’s got in mind for his pre-race introduction and post-race celebration.
LRC Perdiction: Lyles FTW.
Women’s 100 hurdles: Harrison vs. McNeal for the title (Friday, 3:15 p.m. ET)
There has been little to separate world record holder Keni Harrison and Olympic champ Brianna McNeal in 2018. Harrison has two Diamond League wins and the U.S. title; McNeal has three DL wins but didn’t compete at USAs. Harrison owns the head-to-head advantage this year, with three wins to McNeal’s one, the most recent coming in London on July 22, where Harrison ran 12.36 to take down McNeal’s world leader.
Harrison will go off on the slight favorite, but it only takes one mistake to change a hurdles race. This race will also serve as a farewell for Dawn Harper-Nelson, the 34-year-old 2008 Olympic champ and 2012 Olympic silver medalist, who is retiring at season’s end to start a family.
LRC Prediction: Harrison wins.
Men’s javelin: Which of the Germans will prevail? (Thursday, 2:55 p.m. ET)
German men have ruled the javelin in recent years, with Thomas Rohler earning Olympic gold in 2016 and Johannes Vetter taking the world title last year. Vetter, Rohler, and countryman Andreas Hofmann sit #2, #3, and #8 on the all-time list (Vetter is the 2018 world leader with his 92.70 back in March), with Rohler and Hofmann going 1-2 at the European Championships on home soil (Vetter was 5th).
The one title Germany does not currently hold is the Diamond League crown, as the Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch won last year’s final in Zurich. With Hofmann and Rohler both on the start list in Zurich this year, it looks a good bet that the title is headed Germany’s way, but Vadlejch (who was only 8th at Euros) is also entered. And keep an eye on 20-year-old Neeraj Chopra of India, who just threw a national record of 88.06 at the Asian Games on Monday. No Indian has ever won a DL title, and while the travel (Indonesia to Switzerland) is not ideal, he is on the start list in Zurich.
LRC Prediction: Rohler FTW.