By Jonathan Gault
July 10, 2019
There’s nothing quite like the Herculis meet. The glitz and glamor of Monaco, the picturesque Stade Louis II on the French Riviera, and, of course, the incredible marks put up on the track, year after year. Two of the last three distance world records on the track have fallen in Monaco — Genzebe Dibaba‘s 3:50 1500 in 2015, and Beatrice Chepkoech‘s 8:44 steeple last year — and 13 of the 14 fastest men’s 1500 of this decade have been run there. It’s where Shannon Rowbury (1500), Bernard Lagat (5000), and Courtney Frerichs (steeple) all ran their American records. When the world’s best athletes compete in Monaco, special things happen.
The 2019 edition, which will be held on Friday, promises more of the same. There’s a loaded men’s 1500 (as usual), Shaunae Miller-Uibo making her 2019 Diamond League debut against Elaine Thompson in the women’s 200, Sydney McLaughlin headlining the women’s 400 hurdles, and a fantastic men’s 100 featuring Justin Gatlin, Noah Lyles, and Divine Oduduru.
Here’s a look at the distance events, plus the best of the sprint action — which should be just as good, if not better than the distance action.
Women’s 400 hurdles (2:03 p.m. ET): How fast does Sydney McLaughlin run?
|Zuzana Hejnova||Czech Republic||52.83||54.11|
Considering Sydney McLaughlin is the only woman in this field to have broken 54 seconds this year, considering she beat most of these women convincingly in Oslo last month despite hitting the first hurdle, and considering she hasn’t lost a 400 hurdles race in over two years, the question isn’t Will Sydney McLaughlin win? but How fast can Sydney McLaughlin run?
McLaughlin opened her 2019 season with 54.14 at a low-key meet in Los Angeles on May 11, went 54.16 in her DL debut Oslo on June 13, and 53.72 in Marseille on July 2. One would think that, 13 days out from USAs, McLaughlin would be able to drop something fast. A time in the low 53s would be enough to eclipse Dalilah Muhammad‘s world leader of 53.61.
Sub-53 isn’t out of the question either. The world only saw one of those last year, and it came courtesy of McLaughlin, who ran 52.75 at the SEC championships.
LRC prediction: McLaughlin has looked fantastic so far in 2019, and Monaco has a reputation for producing fast times. I’m predicting sub-53 for the 19-year-old.
That being said, don’t hand her WC gold quite yet. Heck, she’s not 100% on the US team this year. American Dalilah Muhammad has run .11 faster than McLaughlin this year at 53.61 and Shamier Little is just .01 behind McLaughlin at 53.73. A fourth American, Ashley Spencer, has run 54.11. Only three of those four women will make Worlds (Kori Carter will get in as reigning world champ).
Women’s 800 (2:15 p.m. ET): With no Semenya, can Ajee’ Wilson keep rolling?
|Laura Muir||Great Britain||1:58.69||2:00.63|
|Lynsey Sharp||Great Britain||1:57.69||2:00.57|
Much has been written about the dominance of Caster Semenya in the women’s 800. But what you may not have realized is that if you remove XY DSD athletes like Semenya from the event — which the IAAF has been trying its best to do — Ajee’ Wilson has been nearly as dominant.
Starting with the American Track League (remember that?) meet in Houston on July 23, 2016, Wilson has run 36 800-meter races (including heats). Wilson has been the top non-XY DSD finisher in 35 of those races.
This is not a Diamond League points event, so Semenya isn’t here, meaning Wilson will go off as the commanding favorite (her 1:58.36 is also the fastest non-XY DSD time of 2019). But she’s not invincible. Kenya’s Nelly Jepkosgei lost to Wilson in Doha and Stockholm but has since ripped off three straight wins in Rabat, Marseille, and Lausanne. Raevyn Rogers was just .29 behind Wilson at Prefontaine. And Brit Laura Muir, who ran 1:58 in 2017, has been in fine form this year (3:56 1500 sb) and should be in the mix for the win.
LRC prediction: Did you read the stat above? Wilson almost never loses to women that don’t have XY chromosomes and this field is entirely full of XX women. Wilson FTW.
Men’s 1500 (2:35 p.m. ET): How fast will they go?
|Charlie Da’Vall Grice||Great Britain||3:33.60||3:34.35|
Here are the 15 fastest 1500-meter times this decade, courtesy of All-Athletics.com:
1 3:26.69 Asbel Kiprop KEN 30.06.89 1 Monaco 17.07.2015 2 3:27.64 Silas Kiplagat KEN 20.08.89 1 Monaco 18.07.2014 3 3:27.72 Asbel Kiprop KEN 30.06.89 1 Monaco 19.07.2013 4 3:28.41 Timothy Cheruiyot KEN 20.11.95 1 Monaco 20.07.2018 5 3:28.45 Asbel Kiprop KEN 30.06.89 2 Monaco 18.07.2014 6 3:28.75 Taoufik Makhloufi ALG 29.04.88 2 Monaco 17.07.2015 7 3:28.77 Timothy Cheruiyot KEN 20.11.95 1 Lausanne 05.07.2019 8 3:28.79 Abdelati Iguider MAR 25.03.87 3 Monaco 17.07.2015 9 3:28.80 Elijah Manangoi KEN 05.01.93 1 Monaco 21.07.2017 10 3:28.81 Mohamed Farah GBR 23.03.83 2 Monaco 19.07.2013 10 3:28.81 Ronald Kwemoi KEN 18.09.95 3 Monaco 18.07.2014 12 3:28.88 Asbel Kiprop KEN 30.06.89 1 Monaco 20.07.2012 13 3:28.93 Mohamed Farah GBR 23.03.83 4 Monaco 17.07.2015 14 3:29.10 Timothy Cheruiyot KEN 20.11.95 2 Monaco 21.07.2017 15 3:29.18 Asbel Kiprop KEN 30.06.89 1 Doha 09.05.2014
Notice any similarities?
13 of the 15 fastest times run this decade have been run in Monaco.
Except for 2016, Monaco has produced the fastest men’s 1500 time of the year every year from 2012-2018 (In 2016 Kiprop ran the fastest time of the year (3:29.33) in Birmingham). That’s not an accident. The weather in Monaco is usually perfect, the track is fast, and it always attracts a stellar field. But one overlooked aspect of Monaco is the timing. It’s always held in mid-July, which is usually ideal timing for one final blowout before going all-in on World/Olympic prep.
Because of the shifted schedule this year, Monaco is actually (relatively) much earlier than in years past (it’s also being held on July 12 in 2019 compared to July 20 in 2018). In addition, it’s coming just one week after a super fast 1500 in Lausanne, with six guys running 3:31 or faster, led by Timothy Cheruiyot‘s 3:28.77 (the fastest non-Monaco time since 2004). So the timing isn’t perfect.
All six of those guys — Cheruiyot, Jakob and Filip Ingebrigtsen, Ayanleh Souleiman, Ronald Musagala, and Samuel Tefera — are entered in Monaco. While it’s obviously great that they’re in fine form and racing again — if anyone is going to run fast, it’s them — it’s possible that Monaco may not be as fast as usual simply because it’s very hard to consistently crank out fast times.
Cheruiyot’s 3:28 in Lausanne was his fourth career sub-3:30, putting him in rare company — only five men in history have more, and one of them (Asbel Kiprop) has been convicted of doping. If, as usual, Monaco is set up to go fast (paces won’t be finalized until Thursday evening), Cheruiyot will be looking to break 3:30 for the second time in eight days. That’s something that only one man in history has accomplished: Hicham El Guerrouj (who did it in the height of the EPO era).
In fact, El Guerrouj broke 3:30 three times during an eight-day span during the summer of 1998, running 3:29.12 in Oslo on July 9, a world record of 3:26.00 in Rome on July 14, and splitting 3:29.7 en route to a 3:44.60 mile in Nice on July 16. He also broke 3:30 twice in an eight-day span six other times in his career.
So history is working against Cheruiyot. Working in his favor: he’s already banked one sub-3:30. Part of the reason why sub-3:30s are so rare is that they require a combination of supremely fit athlete, good weather, and good pacing. I imagine many of the guys who have run 3:28 for 1500 would probably be able to run sub-3:30 again a week later, provided they entered a 1500 race with ideal weather and pacing. The former is likely to occur in Monaco. As for the latter, it raises the question…
Does Cheruiyot take a crack at the WR on Friday? It’s become tradition in recent years for the top 1500 man in the world to basically use Monaco as a time trial and see how fast he can go. Cheruiyot ran a PR of 3:29.10 there in 2017, another PR of 3:28.41 last year, and has shown no signs of slowing down.
Cheruiyot’s agent Malcolm Anderson has told me they’re not talking about the WR. But a couple things worth pointing out:
- Cheruiyot’s pb (3:28.41) is faster than El Guerrouj was (3:28.91) when he broke the WR
- Cheruiyot wasn’t originally entered in Monaco, and it’s not a DL points race — so he must be feeling pretty good about his chances of recovering from Lausanne
Before you get excited, however, appreciate just how fast 3:26.00 is. It’s 54.9 seconds per lap. To run that, Cheruiyot would have to go out on the same pace he did in Lausanne (1:49.8) and hold it for another 700 meters (in Lausanne, Cheruiyot held on pretty well but ran his last two laps in 56.1 and 56.7). It’s just incredibly tough to do.
LRC prediction: The race is going to go out fast, and since Cheruiyot has been untouchable on the DL circuit, it would be silly to pick against him. I’m interested in what paces the rabbits are assigned, though. If it’s for 3:28/29 pace, does one of the Ingebrigtsens try to go with it? Or do they hang back, as they did when Cheruiyot went out fast in Lausanne? Both Filip (3:30.01) and Jakob (3:30.16) have come agonizingly close to the sub-3:30 club and could join it in Monaco — assuming they recover okay from Lausanne.
My gut instinct says that Monaco goes fast, as usual — why would Cheruiyot run it if he wasn’t trying to run fast? — so I’ll say Cheruiyot wins in 3:27. But there’s definitely some letdown potential here as all the top guys ran very fast a week ago. Lausanne might have been the Monaco of 2019.
Men’s 800 (3:00 p.m. ET): World champ Pierre-Ambroise Bosse returns, as does Michael Saruni
|Amel Tuka||Bosnia & Herzegovina||1:42.51||1:44.87|
|Wesley Vazquez||Puerto Rico||1:44.64||1:44.68|
|Jake Wightman||Great Britain||1:44.61||1:45.55|
With wins in Doha and Rabat and a runner-up finish behind Donavan Brazier (who isn’t entered here) in Rome, Nijel Amos is the man to beat, but he’s not the most intriguing guy in the field. That would be 2017 world champ Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, who will be making his season debut.
Bosse has a bye to Worlds and has not raced at all since ending his 2018 season with a disappointing 1:48 in Chorzow, Poland, on August 22. Earlier this year, he was fined €1000 for his role in an August 2017 fight that left him bruised and caused him to end his season. Now it’s time for him to focus on running again, and Monaco has generally been kind to Bosse as he ran his PR (1:42.53) there in 2014 and clocked his SB of 1:44.20 there last year.
Actually, you could make the case that there’s another guy even more intriguing than Bosse: 2018 NCAA indoor champion Michael Saruni. The last time we saw Saruni, he was splayed on the floor of the Armory after becoming just the second man ever to break 1:44 indoors.
What it looks like after you run 1:43 INDOORS pic.twitter.com/B0NcodfgeU
— Jonathan Gault (@jgault13) February 9, 2019
Despite the blazing start to 2019, that would prove to be Saruni’s last race for almost five months, until he returned with a 1:47 in Sweden last week. Saruni’s coach Paul Ereng told LetsRun that his absence was not injury-related: after Millrose, he lost his passport.
“Kenya is going through a system where they’re trying everyone to have what they call ePassport,” Ereng said. “They couldn’t get his passport processed while he was here [in the US]. He was told to get back home and get it done.”
Saruni went back to Kenya immediately after Millrose. He did not return to the United States until three weeks ago. Old Kenyan passports won’t be valid as of September 1, leading to a massive demand for the new ePassports — and a lengthy wait for Saruni.
“When he went back home, everyone was rushing to get their passport in and it took forever,” Ereng said.
As for Friday’s race, Ereng said that he expects Saruni to run well but didn’t predict anything crazy.
“The focus is more on August/September,” Ereng said. “Right now, it’s too early. It’s very difficult to run fast from now all the way to the end of the season. I know people want fast times, but the important thing is we have the World Championship coming.”
After Monaco, Saruni will return to El Paso to (finally) train with Emmanuel Korir — last year’s World #1 who had travel problems of his own in 2018 when he couldn’t get a visa to run at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham.
LRC prediction: Amos is the class of the field based on 2019 form and I like him to win here. I’ll be very interested to see how Bosse and Saruni run.
Women’s 200 (3:10 p.m. ET): How many women break 22 seconds?
|Shaunae Miller-Uibo||The Bahamas||21.88||22.18|
|Marie-Josee Ta Lou||Ivory Coast||22.08|
After sitting out the first eight Diamond League meets of 2019, Shaunae Miller-Uibo is finally running one in Monaco, and it promises to deliver fireworks.
This field is stacked — it features Blessing Okagbare, who picked up surprising DL wins in Rabat (11.05) and Stanford (22.05), as well as Olympic champ and 2019 world leader Elaine Thompson, who ran 22.00 to win the Jamaican champs. But Miller-Uibo is the star attraction, as she’s been tearing up the track this year — her accomplishments include a 49.05 400 in April, a 34.41 300 in June (a world best by almost a second), and, most recently, a 22.18 200 on Tuesday in a race where she basically stopped running with 20 meters to go.
— Costas Goulas (@lsabre_Avenger) July 9, 2019
LRC prediction: Given how unpredictable the women’s sprints have been this year, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Miller-Uibo lose, but she’s clearly the favorite here. I expect her to break 22 and perhaps even her 21.88 pb from 2017.
Women’s Brave Like Gabe mile (3:20 p.m. ET): After withdrawals, Hassan is favored
|Melissa Courtney||Great Britain|
|Laura Weightman||Great Britain||4:20.49|
Initially, this looked like one of the races of the day, with world record holders Genzebe Dibaba and Beatrice Chepkoech entered alongside Sifan Hassan, fresh off her historic 8:18 3k victory at the Pre Classic. But both Dibaba and Chepkoech withdrew earlier this week, robbing the event of some star power.
With Dibaba in the field, Hassan would have had an outside shot to challenge Svetlana Masterkova‘s 23-year-old world record of 4:12.56 (Dibaba, at 4:13.31, and Hassan, at 4:14.71, are #2 and #3 on the all-time list), but without her I think that challenge is too great.
LRC prediction: Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia, who has run 3:57 this year, should be able to hang with Hassan early, but Hassan is too strong and should win out in the end. The Worlds standard is 4:25.20, which is something American Rachel Schneider (4:25.62 pb) will have her eye on.
Men’s 100 (3:35 p.m. ET): Lyles vs. Gatlin vs. Oduduru in the race of the day
|Akani Simbine||South Africa||9.89||9.95|
It’s rare to find a Diamond League race with stakes — like actual, change-the-face-of-an-event consequences. This is one of them.
Divine Oduduru vs. Noah Lyles vs. Justin Gatlin is, to begin with, a great freaking race. They occupy the three spots directly below Christian Coleman on the 2019 world list, at 9.86, 9.86, and 9.87, respectively, and each holds a title of great renown: Oduduru is the NCAA champ, Lyles the US champ, Gatlin the world champ. If you say you know who’s going to win, you’re lying.
The results of this race could also have a major impact on the 100 meters at this year’s World Championships. As of now, Lyles’ plan is to run only the 200 at Worlds, where he is heavily favored for gold. But he hasn’t entirely shut the window on the 100. Last month, he told me he might consider adding the 100 if he ran something truly exceptional in the 100 before USAs — “9.75 or something like that,” Lyles said, would force him to seriously contemplate the double.
9.75 is seriously fast, a time only five men in history have managed. It would be a surprise to see Lyles run that quickly in Monaco, but it’s not out of the question since he just ran 19.50 for 200. Two of the three other men to accomplish that feat, Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake, sit #1 and #2 on the all-time list at 100 meters. Lyles’ PR of 9.86 came back in May in Shanghai; he’s clearly fitter than he was then, and the man he beat in that race, Coleman, has since run 9.81.
Beyond Lyles, it will also be important to get a look at Oduduru. He hasn’t raced since completing his NCAA sprint double on June 7. If he looks worn-down in Monaco, that’s not a great sign with Worlds still over two months away.
LRC prediction: Gatlin, who won in Lausanne last week, can’t be overlooked, but Lyles has to be the man to beat. I’ll say he wins in a slight PR of 9.84.
Men’s steeplechase (3:45 p.m. ET): Can a Kenyan finally win a DL steeple in 2019?
|Soufiane El Bakkali||Morocco||7:58.15||8:07.22|
Few countries so thoroughly dominate a single event like the Kenyans have historically done in the men’s steeple: through the first nine years of the Diamond League, they claimed 53 of 59 victories (90%). But it’s now July 10, and no Kenyan man has earned a DL win in 2019, Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali claiming the DL opener in Doha and Ethiopia’s Getnet Wale winning in Rabat on June 16 (Kenya’s Benjamin Kigen won the non-DL steeple in Rome). That may not sound alarming, but considering Kenyans combined to lose just two steeples during the first five years of the Diamond League, it’s significant.
It doesn’t help that Kenya’s top steepler, Olympic/world champ Conseslus Kipruto, has been sidelined with a foot injury this season. As a result, Kigen is the only Kenyan among the world’s top five this year. Will a Kenyan — perhaps Kigen or world junior silver medalist Leonard Bett — step up and stop the skid? Or will El Bakkali, Wale, or perhaps even Kenyan-born American Hillary Bor — a close second in Doha — continue the non-Kenyan win streak?
LRC prediction: El Bakkali is the most-credentialed guy in the field, but he looked awful in Rabat, running 8:27 for 11th. Wale has been in great form this year, breaking the Ethiopian record in Rabat, but I’ll take Kigen and his killer kick FTW. Watch out for Bor. With Evan Jager still working his way back into shape after a foot injury, a strong run here could put him in position to end Jager’s seven-year win streak at USAs later this month.
Talk about the meet on our messageboard: MB: Official 2019 Herculis Monaco Diamond League Discussion Thread.