2019 Bislett Games Preview: Sydney McLaughlin Runs 400 Hurdles, Emma Coburn Makes Steeple Debut, & Can Jakob Ingebrigtsen Win the Dream Mile?
By Jonathan Gault
June 11, 2019
With every day that passes, we get a little closer to the 2019 World Championships. I know that a meet that begins on September 27 — Week 4 of the NFL season! — still seems a million years away, but USAs are “only” six weeks away and athletes have to start running their specialty events eventually.
Which brings us to Oslo, where we’ll see Sydney McLaughlin test herself against a Diamond League 400 hurdles field for the first time in her career at the Bislett Games on Thursday. After her 54.14 opener in the hurdles and 50.78 in the flat 400 in Shanghai, McLaughlin looks set for a fast time, but she’ll have to face red-hot Olympic champ Dalilah Muhammad, who has already broken 54 three times this year.
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Another American famous for running and jumping over things, steeplechase world champion Emma Coburn, will run her first steeple of 2019 in Oslo, and she faces an even stiffer task than McLaughlin in the form of world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech. Can Coburn, whose pb is 18 seconds slower than Chepkoech’s, close the gap at all in Oslo?
Another debut: pole vault phenom Mondo Duplantis will compete for the first time as a professional after inking a sponsorship deal with PUMA this week. Duplantis enters the pro ranks slightly more accomplished than most, having won a Diamond League in Stockholm last year as well as the European title in Berlin, where he jumped a monstrous 6.05 meters (the #2 outdoor mark in history).
In the 100, Christian Coleman returns for his first race since he was upset by Noah Lyles in Shanghai on May 18; he’ll be gunning for the 9.86 world lead that he, Lyles, and NCAA champ Divine Oduduru all currently share.
The meet ends with the famed Dream Mile, where 18-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen will attempt to become the first Norwegian winner in the event’s history. Americans Johnny Gregorek and Clayton Murphy are also in that field.
We preview the top events of the meet below in the order that they take place.
What: 2019 Bislett Games
Where: Bislett Stadium, Oslo, Norway
When: Thursday, June 13. DL track events (and the NBC Sports Network 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. You can also stream the meet live online via NBC Sports Gold. For full TV/streaming details, see below.
Women’s 400 Hurdles (2:03 p.m. ET): Sydney McLaughlin makes much-anticipated DL debut in 400 hurdles
|Sara Slott Petersen||Denmark||53.55|
When Sydney McLaughlin turned professional a year ago, the hope was that she could bring excitement to an event that is often overlooked on the Diamond League circuit. And with McLaughlin running her specialty for the first time in a Diamond League race, the women’s 400 is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated events on the schedule in Oslo.
But it’s more than just the chance to finally see McLaughlin in a Diamond League. It’s the chance to see her face Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad, who has been red hot to start the 2019 season. Muhammad, who at 29 is 10 years older than McLaughlin, is the only woman under 54 seconds this year, and she’s done it in all three of her races, clocking a world-leading 53.61 in her DL opener in Doha on May 3 and following that up with a 53.88 in Osaka and a 53.67 in Rome last week. She has been incredible.
And yet, McLaughlin could be even better. McLaughlin ran 54.14 in her only hurdles race of 2019 so far, good for #2 on the world list, and that came in the low-key Oxy Invitational on May 11, in a race she won by four seconds. A week later, she ran the flat 400 in the Shanghai Diamond League and ran 50.78 — almost a second faster than Muhammad’s PR (51.62) — and good for second in the race, behind only Bahraini star Salwa Eid Naser.
Plus remember that McLaughlin was the 2018 world leader at 52.75, the only woman to break 53 seconds on the year. Muhammad has run faster than that only once in her life — her 52.64 to win USAs in 2017. She will need to be at the top of her game to beat McLaughlin on Thursday.
LRC prediction: It’s really hard to pick against the Olympic champion when she’s in great form, but McLaughlin has the highest ceiling of any 400 hurdler ever. We think she’s capable of something special in Oslo, and she’s our pick FTW.
Men’s 800 (2:11 p.m. ET)
|Andres Arroyo||Puerto Rico||1:44.96||1:44.96|
|Thomas Arne Roth||Norway||1:45.75||1:48.00|
|Ryan Sanchez||Puerto Rico||1:44.82||1:44.82|
With many of the world’s top 800-meter men running in Rome last week and again in Rabat on Sunday, this non-DL event doesn’t feature any big names, but it should be competitive, with three men who have broken 1:45 in 2019. Two of them are Puerto Ricans: Ryan Sanchez, the young star who almost won in Stockholm two weeks ago before he was gunned down in the home straight, and Andres Arroyo, the Florida alum who is coming off a PR in last month’s Georgia Meet of Champions. Andreas Kramer, the European silver medalist, is also entered, though he lost to Sanchez in Stockholm and was only 9th in the Rome DL last week.
LRC prediction: Sanchez and Arroyo are in good form, but the hottest man in this field is Kenya’s Cornelius Tuwei, who ran 1:44 in Nanjing on May 21 and won the 800 in Hengelo on Sunday. He’s the only African in the field, and we’re taking him FTW.
Women’s 800 (2:16 p.m. ET)
|Shelayna Oskan-Clarke||Great Britain||1:58.86||2:05.22|
|Lynsey Sharp||Great Britain||1:57.69||2:01.51|
Another non-DL event, this race features several of Europe’s top half-milers who will be looking to return to form. Great Britain’s Shelayna Oskan-Clark won Euro Indoor gold in March but clocked just 2:05 in her outdoor opener on May 29. The woman who preceded her as Euro Indoor champ, Selina Buchel of Switzerland, ran 1:57 in 2015, but her season’s best has gotten progressively slower since then, from 1:58 in 2016 to 1:59 in 2017 to 2:00 in 2018 to 2:01 so far in 2019. Still only 27 years old, can she turn things around? Brit Lynsey Sharp is another woman who has run 1:57 in the past but has yet to break 2:01 in 2019.
Uganda’s Halimah Nakaayi is the fastest woman by SB, but she lost to Belgium’s Renee Eykens her last time out in Oordegem on May 26.
LRC prediction: We’ll go with Sharp FTW.
Men’s 3000 (2:25 p.m. ET): Selemon Barega looks to rebound after two runner-up DL finishes
|Andrew Butchart||Great Britain||7:37.56|
This one ought to be good. The favorite is Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega, the World Indoor silver medalist who finished second in the 5k in both Shanghai and Rome. The men who beat him in those races — Yomif Kejelcha in Shanghai, Telahun Bekele in Rome — are skipping this race, which sets the stage for a Barega victory.
But that’s not a given. Hagos Gebrhiwet (3rd, 12:54) and Birhanu Balew (4th, 12:56) both showed they are fit by running fast in Rome. Reigning 5k world champ Muktar Edris is running his first DL event of the year. And don’t overlook Stewart McSweyn. The 24-year-old Aussie is coming off a fine 2018 campaign in which he ran personal bests of 3:34, 7:34, and 13:05; that 7:34 makes him the fourth-fastest man in this field. He opened his European season by running 3:36 in Finland last week, and the 3k is his best distance. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him contend for the win here, though the Ethiopians will be favored.
We also can’t wait to see what Drew Hunter does. Though Hunter has run a few 1500/miles on the DL circuit, this is his first official DL points race. He is the US indoor champion at 2 miles thanks to his win out of the slow section in February, and he ran a personal best of 13:21 for 5k at Payton Jordan on May 2nd. This, however, represents a major step up in competition, and his European opener last week wasn’t all that great (3:39 in Finland, where he was soundly beaten by McSweyn and Matthew Ramsden).
Our gut feeling is that Hunter is out of his depth here, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of considering the quality of the guys up front. Can he beat Ben True and finish as the top American? True is a DL vet and ran 13:09 last week in Rome; if Hunter can take him down in Oslo, that will be an impressive result in and of itself.
LRC prediction: Barega has been close in the first two DLs; this time, he gets his victory. True beats out Hunter for top American honors.
Women’s 3000 steeplechase (3:10 p.m. ET): Emma Coburn makes her 2019 steeple debut
|Rosie Clarke||Great Britain||9:32.08||9:39.08|
|Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal||Norway||9:13.35|
|Gesa Felicitas Krause||Germany||9:11.85|
|Anna Emilie Moller||Denmark||9:31.66||9:47.92|
With Worlds starting later than usual, reigning world champ Emma Coburn of the US chose to skip the first DL steeple of 2019 in Shanghai, but she’ll be on the start line for this one. Coburn enters in good form — on June 1 in Nashville, she opened her outdoor season by running 4:05.24, the second-fastest 1500 of her career, beating 1500 specialists Helen Schlachtenhaufen and Cory McGee in the process.
Coburn usually starts fast, so expect a strong opening to her steeple campaign as she begins defense of the world title she won two years ago in London.
Emma Coburn steeple season openers since turning pro
|5/18/14||Shanghai DL||1st, 9:19.80||PB, first + only DL win|
First final of ’15 (ran prelim 2 days earlier)
|5/28/16||Pre Classic||3rd, 9:10.76||American record|
|5/5/17||Doha DL||5th, 9:14.53|
|5/31/18||Rome DL||4th, 9:08.13|
Thursday’s race will also give us a chance to see where Coburn stacks up against world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, who won handily at the DL steeple opener in Shanghai.
Coburn is 6-6 against Chepkoech in her career, though Chepkoech has had the better of things in recent years after Coburn won their first four matchups. Below is their career record (table courtesy Tilastopaja).
|Beatrice Chepkoech KEN||Emma Coburn USA|
|Pre Eugene OR||28.05.2016||9:17.41 (4)||9:10.76 (3)|
|OG Rio de Janeiro||15.08.2016||9:16.05 (4)||9:07.63 (3)|
|Meet Paris Saint-Denis||27.08.2016||9:10.86 (4)||9:10.19 (3)|
|WK Zürich||01.09.2016||9:19.37 (4)||9:17.42 (3)|
|Diamond Doha||05.05.2017||9:01.57 (2)||9:14.53 (5)|
|Pre Eugene OR||26.05.2017||9:00.70 (2)||9:07.96 (4)|
|Meet Paris Paris||01.07.2017||9:01.69 (1)||9:11.08 (5)|
|WC London||11.08.2017||9:10.45 (4)||9:02.58 (1)|
|WK Zürich||24.08.2017||8:59.84 (2)||9:14.81 (4)|
|GGala Roma||31.05.2018||9:15.85 (5)||9:08.13 (4)|
|Herc Monaco||20.07.2018||8:44.32 (1)||9:05.06 (4)|
|VD Bruxelles||31.08.2018||8:55.10 (1)||9:06.51 (4)|
Chepkoech has won six of their last eight matchups, and one of her losses came in a race where she forgot to hurdle the first water jump and wiped out on another hurdle. In those six victories, she beat Coburn by an average of over 12 seconds.
The Coburn-Chepkoech matchup is even more interesting given the comments Coburn made at the end of the 2018 season. Speaking with LetsRun at the Fifth Avenue Mile, Coburn said the following when asked about Chepkoech’s 8:44 world record.
“I think it’s important to look at history and look at what happened with Ruth [Jebet] and I do think a woman can run 8:45, but I don’t think a woman can run 8:45 when for a whole season she runs 9 minutes and then runs 8:45. I don’t think that’s really possible. I think 9 minutes is still the holy grail of women’s steeplechase and I think that’s a time — that right under 9 minutes athletes can run clean, so hopefully there’s enough of us to get near that.”
When asked if she thought Chepkoech’s record was legitimate, Coburn said, “I shouldn’t comment because there is no proof to prove otherwise, but I think it’s important to look at trends and history of performances and where there’s big outliers we might need to pause.”
Clearly, it was difficult for Coburn to hide her frustration. Remember, Ruth Jebet won Olympic gold in 2016 when Coburn took the bronze, then broke the world record later that season, only to be busted for doping in 2018. Yet within a few months of Jebet getting busted, Chepkoech — who has never been linked to doping herself — had blown her record out of the water.
Since breaking the WR, Chepkoech has been untouchable. Can Coburn narrow the gap? We’ll start to find out in Oslo. Let’s hope they set the barriers to the correct height this year.
LRC prediction: Chepkoech FTW.
Men’s Dream Mile (3:51 p.m. ET): Jakob Ingebrigtsen seeks first DL win in front of home fans
We know how this looks.
Jakob Ingebrigtsen is chasing his first Diamond League win in the Dream Mile on home soil in Oslo, and the two best 1500-meter runners in the world, Timothy Cheruiyot and Elijah Manangoi, just happen to not be running? Surely the fix is in?
Not so fast. Were this a non-DL event, where meet director Steinar Hoen has more control over the field, we might be suspicious. But this is a DL points event, and a DL meet director is not going to turn away the two guys who have already won on the DL circuit this year if they want to run.
At least in the case of Cheruiyot, his absence is due to the schedule, with an eye on staying fresh and not over-racing, per his agent Malcolm Anderson. Cheruiyot already lined up in Doha and Stockholm this season and with DLs coming up at Pre (June 30) and Lausanne (July 5), Cheruiyot opted to stay in Kenya and put in a block of training before returning to Europe later this summer.
Even without the big two, this field is hardly devoid of talent. Bethwell Birgen and Vincent Kibet went 3-4 behind Manangoi and Cheruiyot in Doha, and Ayanleh Souleiman beat Ingebrigtsen to finish second in Stockholm.
That said, Jakob Ingebrigtsen has to go off as the favorite. He didn’t look close to 100% in Stockholm yet still gutted out a third-place finish and almost caught Souleiman for second. With another two weeks of training under his belt, he should be in even better shape and has a great chance to win on Thursday.
Should he pull it off, Ingebrigtsen would join a select club. In the Diamond League’s 10-year history, only two non-African men have ever won a DL 1500/mile: American Leo Manzano in London in 2011, and Brit Jake Wightman on this same Oslo track in 2017. Ingebrigtsen, still only 18, figures to win at least one in his career; it would be extra special if it came in front of the home fans in Norway.
This race is also interesting from an American perspective, with Johnny Gregorek and Clayton Murphy both entered. Gregorek shocked everyone by running 3:49 indoors, and he posted a solid opening to his European season last week, running 3:36 in Finland. Murphy ran 1:44 for 5th in the 800 in Rome last week and will have the chance to lower his 3:51.99 pb in Oslo. Would he consider switching his focus to the 1500 if his races in Oslo and Pre (where he’s running the Bowerman Mile) go well?
LRC prediction: Jakob Ingebrigtsen winning here seems almost too perfect, but he’s a total stud, and aside from Cheruiyot, Manangoi, and World Indoor champ Samuel Tefera — none of whom will be in Oslo — he may just be the best 1500 runner in the world. We think he maybe the favorite but will take the field in predicting a winner. Someone else wins.
Talk about the race on our fan forum / messageboard. MB: Official 2019 Oslo DL Discussion Thread: Coburn races a woman she basically accused of being dirty, Jakob I in Dream Mile
Editor’s note: This article was initially published with us picking Jakob Ingebrigtsen as the winner of the Dream Mile but we changed our mind.