By Jonathan Gault
July 18, 2019
This weekend’s Müller Anniversary Games in London represents the final meet before the 2019 Diamond League season goes on a month-long hiatus before resuming on August 18 in Birmingham. And while the meet itself is a super-sized affair, featuring two days of competition on Saturday and Sunday and six pro distance races, it will be hard-pressed to live up to the fireworks produced in Monaco last week (it doesn’t help that most of the Americans are skipping this meet in order to rest up for next week’s USATF Outdoor Championships in Des Moines).
Still, there will be plenty of quality on display at London Stadium — especially if you’re a fan of British athletics — as most of the home nation’s brightest stars will be on display. The women’s 100 features the strongest field of the meet, with Dina Asher-Smith, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Blessing Okagbare, Dafne Schippers, and Marie-Josee Ta Lou. Salwa Eid Naser and Amina Seyni, both of whom broke 49.20 in their last meeting in Lausanne, will renew their 400m rivalry here.
In the distance events, young Kenyan star Rhonex Kipruto will make his 5,000m debut against a strong field that includes Jakob Ingebrigtsen and a host of top Aussies (NCAA champ Morgan McDonald in his professional debut, Stewart McSweyn, Patrick Tiernan). Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet is also entered; we’ll see if he actually races just three days after running 26:48 for 10,000 in Hengelo. Nijel Amos, who ran 1:41 last week, headlines the 800 meters against Emmanuel Korir, who ran 1:42 here last year, Laura Muir battles
Faith Kipyegon (she’s pulled out with an abductor injury) and Konstanze Klosterhalfen in the 1500, and new mile world record holder Sifan Hassan runs the 5,000 meters against world cross country champion Hellen Obiri. Could another world record be under threat?
In the field, the big storyline is the return of Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim, who will contest his first Diamond League high jump since June 2018 after suffering an ankle injury last summer.
Full breakdown of the distance action below. For other events, see the IAAF preview.
What: 2019 Müller Anniversary Games
Where: London Stadium, London, England
When: Saturday, July 20-Sunday, July 21
Men’s 5,000 (9:13 a.m. ET Saturday): Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Rhonex Kipruto, & Aussies galore
|Sam Atkin||Great Britain||13:39.38|
|Andrew Butchart||Great Britain||13:08.61||13:09.33|
|Ben Connor||Great Britain||13:25.31|
|Nick Goolab||Great Britain||13:33.48|
|Marc Scott||Great Britain||13:22.37|
|Alexander Yee||Great Britain||13:34.12|
Of the 21 men on the start list, 12:45 man Hagos Gebrhiwet is clearly the best, but I doubt he actually starts this race considering: a) he just ran 26:48 for 10,000 in Hengelo on Wednesday and; b) this isn’t a Diamond League points event. If he runs (and is recovered), he’s the favorite.
Regardless of whether Gebrhiwet runs, the guy I’m most interested to see here is Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto. Mostly known for his road exploits — he just won $58,000 at Peachtree for running 27:01 for 10k on July 4 — Kipruto has done some pretty special things when he steps on the track, winning the World U20 title last year and crushing everyone (including Gebrhiwet) to run 26:50 in crappy conditions in Stockholm on May 30. Kipruto has never run a 5k on the track or roads, but should be capable of around 13:00 and won’t be afraid to push the pace.
Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen is also in line for a pb as he’s never raced a big 5k outside of championships (he ran 13:20 to take bronze at the World U20s last year and 13:17 to win the European title). Considering he has run 3:30 for 1500 in his last two races, he should be in 13:0x shape as well.
Finally, this will be a big race for the Australians. There are six of them entered, including all the major contenders for this year’s World Championship team. How exactly Athletics Australia will pick this team remains up in the air.
AA’s posted selection criteria say that it will automatically select the first finisher at the Aussie trials, with the next two spots being “discretionary selections.” Jordan Gusman won the Aussie 5k champs back in February, but has since said he wants to represent Malta at the World Championships. Gusman also happens to be the only Aussie with the World Championships standard.
Since the top guys are all here, it would seem that this race would serve as a de facto trials race, but agents I’ve spoken to say it may not be that simple. Still, finishing highly — and, most importantly, getting the IAAF standard of 13:22.50 — will be crucial as there are no more 5,000s on the DL calendar until the final on August 29 (which only Stewart McSweyn has qualified for).
As for who will finish as the top Aussie, McSweyn, who ran 3:31 in Monaco last week, has been in superb form. Morgan McDonald has been untouchable at the NCAA level this year but hasn’t raced for six weeks. How will he look in his pro debut?
JG prediction: Assuming Gebrhiwet doesn’t run, I’ll take Ingebrigtsen for the win. But Nicholas Kimeli (12:57 in Hengelo) and McSweyn are also serious candidates, as is Kipruto.
Men’s 800 (Saturday, 9:55 a.m. ET): Amos battles Korir & Kinyamal
|Elliot Giles||Great Britain||1:44.99||1:45.80|
|Kyle Langford||Great Britain||1:45.16||1:45.87|
|Wesley Vazquez||Puerto Rico||1:44.40||1:44.40|
|Jamie Webb||Great Britain||1:45.73||1:46.21|
First of all, London needs to be more selective with this field. Thirteen men in an 800 is too many.
Stepping off of my soapbox, this should be a good race. Nijel Amos, who has won four of his five 800’s this year, most recently a world-leading 1:41 in Monaco last week, is the favorite. Considering the world went almost seven years between 1:41’s, I don’t expect him to produce another one on Saturday. But he’ll still need to be quick to take down Kenyans Wycliffe Kinyamal (the winner in Lausanne) and Emmanuel Korir, who has finished in the top three in all three of his DL races in 2019.
Last year at this meet, Korir ran 1:42.05 — the fastest time since the 2012 Olympics (until Amos surpassed it last week). Korir hasn’t been able to reach that level yet in 2019, as Amos has been stronger over the final 100 meters, but that could change soon. After Lausanne, Korir told race organizers, “I still have problems with my leg. It will be fine at the end of next week.” That was two weeks ago, so if he’s fully fit in London, he could take the win Saturday.
JG prediction: I’m not going to pick against a guy who just ran 1:41. Amos FTW.
Women’s 1500 (Saturday, 10:39 a.m. ET): Kipyegon returns to site of 2017 world title to face Muir
|Sarah McDonald||Great Britain||4:01.50||4:01.50|
|Laura Muir||Great Britain||3:55.22||3:56.73|
|Jemma Reekie||Great Britain||4:05.82||4:05.82|
|Hannah Segrave||Great Britain||4:21.73||4:21.73|
This is another super-sized field — 19 starters! — but with a rabbit to follow and front-runner Gudaf Tsegay in the field, I expect it will string out fairly quickly. The big showdown here is world champ
Faith Kipyegon (Update: she’s pulled out with an abductor injury) against Brit Laura Muir.
In their last matchup, at Prefontaine three weeks ago, Muir took the lead with 650 to go but could not shake off Kipyegon, whose last lap of 61.23 (in a 3:59 race) propelled her past Muir (61.75) over the final 100. Does Muir, who has run 3:56 this year and owns a faster PR than Kipyegon, try to go even earlier and go for a time in the mid-3:50s? Or does she wait until later and try to outkick Kipyegon over the final 100 — something that no one has been able to do in recent years? This is a Diamond League event, and the $10,000 first-place prize is nice, but it may be more important for Muir to try out a new tactic in order to determine how best to defeat Kipyegon in Doha.
Watch too for Konstanze Klosterhalfen, running her first Diamond League 1500 since June 2017. Klosterhalfen has miler bona fides — she won the Wanamaker Mile in February and owns a 3:58 1500 pb — but Muir and Kipyegon are two of the very best in the world. Can Klosterhalfen hang with them after her stunning 8:20 3k at Prefontaine?
Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, who trains with Muir, ran 4:17 in the mile last week and has a good shot to break Lynn Williams‘ Canadian record of 4:00.27, which has stood since 1985.
JG prediction: Kipyegon won at Prefontaine, her first race in almost two years, and I expect her to only improve from there. Put her down for a win in her first race on the London Stadium track since her 2017 world title.
Women’s 800 (Sunday, 9:35 a.m. ET): Goule headlines non-DL field
|Alexandra Bell||Great Britain||1:59.93||2:01.36|
|Shelayna Oskan-Clarke||Great Britain||1:58.86||2:01.47|
|Hannah Segrave||Great Britain||2:02.29||2:02.29|
|Lynsey Sharp||Great Britain||1:57.69||1:58.76|
|Adelle Tracey||Great Britain||1:59.86||2:01.58|
Only three of the 10 women in this non-DL field have broken 2:00 this year, and those three — Jamaica’s Natoya Goule, Great Britain’s Lynsey Sharp, and Australia’s Catriona Bisset — will likely end up battling it out for the win. Goule was incredible last year — she ran 1:56.15 to finish 2018 as the world’s fastest non-XY DSD woman — but has been hit or miss in 2019. She was just 8th in the first two DL meets in Doha and Stockholm, and only 6th at Pre, but she ran 1:57.90 her last time out in Monaco and will go off as the favorite here.
Sharp’s 1:58.76 in that race was her fastest time since August 2017 and she looks to be rounding into form after failing to break 2:00 in her first six races this year.
Then there’s Bisset. 25 years old, she had never raced outside of Australia until two weeks ago, but she has made rapid progress in 2019, dropping her PR from 2:03 to 1:59 and winning the Universiade title in Naples. This represents a major step up in competition, but considering Bisset has won her last 11 races (including heats) she seems ready for the opportunity.
JG prediction: Goule just ran 1:57 and is the woman to beat here, but keep an eye on Bisset.
Emsley Carr Mile (Sunday, 9:45 a.m. ET): A preview of the British trials
|Piers Copeland||Great Britain||4:14.41|
|Neil Gourley||Great Britain||3:57.11|
|Jake Heyward||Great Britain|
|Josh Kerr||Great Britain||3:59.67|
|Chris O’Hare||Great Britain||3:53.34|
|Matthew Ramsden||Great Britain||3:58.79||4:07.51|
|Zak Seddon||Great Britain|
|James West||Great Britain||3:58.69||4:04.21|
|Jake Wightman||Great Britain||3:54.20|
|Nick Willis||New Zealand||3:49.83||3:59.55|
The British Championship are still over a month away — August 24-25 in Birmingham (it’s a shame USATF’s meet isn’t then as well) — but this race will give us a pretty good idea of how things stack up in the men’s 1500. Charlie Da’Vall Grice is Britain’s fastest man — his 3:30 in Monaco was the fastest by a Brit since 2015 — and he will not be in this race. But all the other big names are here: three-time NCAA champ Josh Kerr, 2017 World Championship finalist Chris O’Hare, and Jake Wightman, who just ran 3:34 in Lausanne. Only three of those four can make it on the plane to Doha (though one of them could opt for the 800 instead, where Wightman and Kerr rank 1-2 on the 2019 UK list), which should make for a terrific trials in Birmingham and an enticing dry run in London.
Kerr, who trains with the Brooks Beasts, will be making his Diamond League debut (though this isn’t an official DL points race) and has been on fire this year, dropping his PRs from 1:48.05/3:35.01 to 1:45.35/3:33.60. Wightman’s SBs of 1:45.08/3:34.40 are nearly identical. Those two would appear to be the favorites in the race for top Brit here, but the savvy O’Hare can never be counted out.
JG prediction: As for the overall win, Filip Ingebrigtsen was 3rd in the Bowerman Mile and has run 3:30 and 3:31 the last two weeks. If he’s not too tired from racing four weeks in a row, he’s the man to beat, though World Indoor champ Samuel Tefera also bears watching.
Women’s 5,000 (Sunday, 9:56 a.m. ET): Could another world record fall to Sifan Hassan?
|Rosie Clarke||Great Britain|
|Melissa Courtney||Great Britain||14:53.82||14:53.82|
|Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal||Norway||14:57.53||15:09.51|
|Jessica Judd||Great Britain||15:31.64||15:31.64|
|Eilish McColgan||Great Britain||14:47.94||14:47.94|
|Amy-Eloise Neale||Great Britain||15:11.11||15:11.11|
|Dominique Scott||South Africa||15:04.14||16:13.71|
|Laura Weightman||Great Britain||15:08.24|
London has saved the best for last as the 5,000 features the hottest distance runner on the planet right now in Sifan Hassan.
Ahead of Monaco, LRC’s Robert Johnson scoffed at my belief that the world record was under threat, but Hassan took it down. Now I’m going to throw it out there that Tirunesh Dibaba‘s 11-year-old world record of 14:11.15 in the 5,000 could be in jeopardy as well. Here’s what’s working for and against Hassan:
In her favor
1) She’s incredibly fit. Hassan just ran 4:12 for the mile and 8:18 for 3,000 meters. Breaking the WR in the mile and the (non-Chinese) WR in the 5,000 is a pretty good indicator that she can rip a fast 5,000 right now.
2) Hassan has the range to do it. It’s easy to forget considering she just broke the mile WR, but the plan all along in 2019 has been for Hassan to run the 5k and 10k at Worlds. Back in May, when she ran 4:01 to finish fifth in Shanghai, it would have been crazy to suggest she’d break the mile WR less than two months later.
“In my entire career, I have honestly never lacked as much speed,” Hassan said after the race. “My aim was not to finish last (laughs). I have been in heavy endurance training, so I’m really lacking speed.”
This is a woman who holds the European record in the half marathon (65:15), and she ran 65:45 less than four months ago. If she can marry that endurance with the speed she showed in Monaco, the 5,000 WR could fall.
Working against her
1) Will anyone go with her? Hassan isn’t going to be able to break the 5,000 world record by relying on a big last two laps as she did in Monaco. She needs to get on it right away, which requires good rabbitting and, ideally, someone else to race. Unless Hassan is specifically targeting the WR, it’s not going to happen in London. And even if she does, she may have to go it alone. Letesenbet Gidey just ran 30:37 to win the Ethiopian 10,000 trials, but will she race hard again just four days later? Hellen Obiri has run 14:18 but hasn’t looked great in her last two Diamond Leagues, falling in Stockholm and taking just 6th at the Pre Classic.
2) The 5,000 WR is harder than the mile WR. If you go by the IAAF scoring tables, a 14:11 5,000 is worth 4:11 in the mile and 8:15 for 3,000. In reality, it could be harder than that. Any male NCAA runner who can run 14:11 can also run a 4:12 mile, but not all 4:12 milers can run 14:11.
JG prediction: The fact is, even if you have the fitness to run a fast 5,000, you need a bunch of things to go right to bring it out (just look at last year’s men’s 5,000 in Brussels, which saw three guys break 12:50 after no one had broken 13:00 the entire year until that point). Almaz Ayana was probably in shape to run 14:10 in 2015 and 2016 but things never quite came together. I don’t think they will for Hassan either, but I think she wins this race and could still make a nice improvement on her 14:22 pb (currently ranked 7th all-time).
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