2020 Monaco DL Preview: The 2020 Olympics Is Happening on Friday in Monaco

This is the best track meet of 2020 — and it’s not particularly close

By Jonathan Gault
August 13, 2020

Far too often during this hellish year, we’ve had to take what we can get when it comes to live track & field competition, and a hanging “except” has attached itself to almost every competition that has been held.

We saw Jakob Ingebrigtsen race Timothy Cheruiyot! Except Ingebrigtsen was in Oslo and Cheruiyot in Nairobi.

We saw Noah Lyles run a fast 200! Except he only ran 185 meters.

We saw Michael Norman run 9.86! Except “saw” really means “watched a shaky Instagram video a few hours after the fact.”

Throughout it all, the prevailing attitude, generally, has been this: be grateful you have any track & field to watch at all. Just look how long it took baseball to get going. Look at college football. Yeah, it would be nice if the Bowerman Track Club and Pete Julian‘s Zombie NOP were racing each other instead of heading to two separate tracks at the same time for two separate meets in Oregon. But hey — at least they were racing.

That attitude is not necessary this weekend. There is a real track meet in Monaco on Friday — with fans and everything — and the fields are so packed with stars that we’d be freaking out about it even in a normal year. The women’s 5,000, featuring Sifan HassanHellen Obiri, Beatrice Chepkoech, and Letesenbet Gidey, is about twice as competitive as last year’s World Championship final. The overlapping talent in the women’s 1000 — Faith KipyegonHalimah NakaayiRaevyn RogersLaura MuirJemma Reekie — is mouthwatering. Joshua Cheptegei is going for a world record in the men’s 5,000 (we gave that race its own feature: LRC Joshua Cheptegei Is Going For The 5,000 WR In Monaco – Can He Break It?).

A seemingly endless parade of big names populate the start lists. Donavan BrazierMondo Duplantis. Grant HollowayNoah Lyles. Ingebrigtsen vs. Cheruiyot — for real — in the 1500.

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Read over those last two paragraphs again. All of those athletes will be competing in the same stadium in Monaco on Friday. Oh yeah, and if that’s not enough, there will be thousands of fans in the stands and this baby will be broadcast live across the globe. This is as close as we’re going to get to the Olympics in 2020.

The only people who might be a little bummed right now are throws fans — there’s no shot put, and there’s no javelin or discus either since the infield was needed for a socially-distanced call room. But for track fans, it’s Christmas in August. Let’s count down and preview the 10 best events at Friday’s meet, in descending order.

What: 2020 Herculis

Where: Stade Louis II, Monaco

When: Friday, August 14

Schedule/entries/results * TV/streaming information *2019 LRC coverage

10) Men’s steeplechase (3:47 p.m. ET)

Name Country PB
Daniel Arce Spain 8:20.16
Djilali Bedrani France 8:05.23
Leonard Bett Kenya 8:08.61
Fernando Carro Spain 8:05.69
Soufiane El Bakkali Morocco 7:58.15
Ibrahim Ezzaydouni Spain 8:14.49
Lamecha Girma Ethiopia 8:01.36
Ole Hesselbjerg Denmark 8:27.86
Matthew Hughes Canada 8:11.64
Topi Raitanen Finland 8:21.47
Zak Seddon Great Britain 8:21.28
Getnet Wale Ethiopia 8:05.21

This event would have ranked higher if world/Olympic champ Conseslus Kipruto, who was planning on attacking the world record, was lining up. Sadly, Kipruto announced he tested positive for COVID-19 last week, thwarting those plans. Still, this is a strong field, with the next four finishers at last year’s World Championships all entered, led by Ethiopian record holder Lamecha Girma.

9) Men’s pole vault (1:40 p.m. ET)

Name Country PB SB
Thiago Braz Brazil 6.03m 5.50m
Ben Broeders Belgium 5.76m 5.71m
Thibaut Collet France 5.61m 5.60m
Mondo Duplantis Sweden 6.05m 5.94m
Sam Kendricks USA 6.06m 5.81m
Valentin Lavillenie France 5.82m 5.51m
Ernest John Obiena Philippines 5.81m 5.45m
Claudio Michel Stechhi Italy 5.75m 5.40m

You’ve got the Olympic champ in Thiago Braz, the two-time defending world champ in Sam Kendricks, and, most importantly, the world record holder in Mondo Duplantis. Duplantis, who holds the outdoor world lead thanks to his 5.94m clearance in Gothenburg on July 4, will be favored, but the crafty Kendricks can never be counted out.

Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF

8) Men’s 400 hurdles (2:42 p.m. ET)

Name Country PB SB
Yasmani Copello Turkey 47.81
Rasmus Magi Estonia 48.40 50.01
Constantin Preis Germany 49.23 49.49
Ludvy Vaillant France 48.30 50.37
Karsten Warholm Norway 46.92

Karsten Warholm already proved at the Impossible Games that he can make a race exciting even if he’s the only one in it. So while this field — absent his two biggest rivals and fellow Doha medalists Rai Benjamin and Abderrahman Samba — leaves something to be desired, Warholm alone will be worth tuning in for.

7) Men’s 110 hurdles (2:03 p.m. ET)

Name Country PB SB
Antonio Alkana South Africa 13.11 13.58
Wilhelm Belocian France 13.25 13.38
Paolo Dal Molin Italy 13.40 13.65
Grant Holloway USA 12.98 13.35
Jason Joseph Switzerland 13.34 13.34
Orlando Ortega Spain 12.94
Andrew Pozzi Great Britain 13.14 13.17
Vladimir Vukicevic Norway 13.54 13.65

Like Warholm, world champ Grant Holloway always makes things entertaining. Unlike Warholm, he’s got a big-time stud to worry about in Orlando Ortega, the Olympic silver and World Championship bronze medalist. World Indoor champ Andrew Pozzi has also been in terrific form lately, winning all four of his races so far in 2020, including a world-leading 13.17 in Turku on Tuesday.

6) Men’s 200 (3:32 p.m. ET)

Name Country PB SB
Deniz Almas Germany 20.88 20.88
Mario Burke Barbados 20.08
Mohamadou Fall France 20.34 21.81
Adam Gemili Great Britain 19.97
Ramil Guliyev Turkey 19.76
Elijah Hall-Thompson USA 20.11
Josephus Lyles USA 20.24 20.24
Noah Lyles USA 19.50 19.94
Embed from Getty Images

Slotting a Noah Lyles race in at #6 feels criminal, but that’s how good the distance events are at this meet. Still, we could see some fireworks in the 200. Lyles ran 19.94 in his only 200 of the year back on July 25, but he told media on Wednesday he was training through that meet (he had also run two fast 100’s the day before). Monaco, meanwhile, will serve as Lyles’ personal Olympics in 2020, so expect to see a quick time on the newly resurfaced track.

“We’re definitely peaking for this meet,” Lyles said. “After the Inspiration Games, I told Coach I wanted to run fast at this meet. Like, really fast.”

How fast?

“I’ve learned if I start telling y’all stuff, y’all start running away with it, so I’m not going to tell you,” Lyles said with a smile, politely sidestepping the question. But considering Lyles can fall out of bed and run sub-20, he should be well under that.

LRC World Champions Donavan Brazier & Noah Lyles Speak Ahead of Monaco Diamond League

5) Men’s 5,000 (3:13 p.m. ET)

Name Country PB
Joshua Cheptegei Uganda 12:57.41
Yemaneberhan Crippa Italy 13:07.84
Mike Foppen Netherlands 13:25.89
Jimmy Gressier France 13:23.04
Suldan Hassan Sweden
Hugo Hay France 13:38.25
Roy Hoornweg Netherlands 13:31.41
Henrik Ingebrigtsen Norway 13:15.38
Nicholas Kimeli Kenya 12:57.90
Stephen Kissa Uganda 13:10.93
Jacob Krop Kenya 13:03.08
Stewart McSweyn Australia 13:05.23
Ouassim Oumaiz Spain 13:31.45
Matthew Ramsden Australia 13:27.53
Per Svela Norway 13:35.09
Julien Wanders Switzerland 13:13.84

This race is all about Joshua Cheptegei, the reigning 10k/World XC champion who will be attempting to break Kenenisa Bekele‘s 16-year-old world record of 12:37.35. We’ve got a full breakdown of Cheptegei’s chances here, including details on his preparation in Uganda, so be sure to read that article if you’re interested in this race.

This race is essentially Cheptegei vs. the clock, with most of his top rivals sitting this one out, but Aussie Stewart McSweyn and Kenyans Jacob Krop and Nicholas Kimeli have all run 13:05 or faster. Will any of them dare to go with Cheptegei, or will they be content to battle it out for second and/or hope to catch Cheptegei if he blows up?

A blowup would be far from a shock as it will be close to 80 degrees with a dew point of 69-70 when this race is run. When the last two men’s 5,000m world records were set, the fans were wearing jackets in the stands.

LRC Joshua Cheptegei Is Going For The 5000 WR In Monaco – Can He Break It?

4) Men’s 1500 (2:57 p.m. ET)

Name Country PB
Kalle Berglund Sweden 3:33.70
Timothy Cheruiyot Kenya 3:28.41
Charlie Da’Vall Grice Great Britain 3:30.62
Craig Engels USA 3:34.04
Jesus Gomez Spain 3:36.40
Ryan Gregson Australia 3:31.06
Filip Ingebrigtsen Norway 3:30.01
Jakob Ingebrigtsen Norway 3:30.16
Pierrik Jocteur-Monrozier France 3:37.60
Yomif Kejelcha Ethiopia 3:32.59
Vincent Keter Kenya 3:36.27
Marcin Lewandowski Poland 3:31.46
Timothy Sein Kenya
Jake Wightman Great Britain 3:31.87
Cheruiyot winning at Pre last year (Phil Bond photo)

The Monaco 1500 is always a race to be savored, and this year’s edition, with Timothy CheruiyotYomif KejelchaCraig Engels, and two Ingebrigtsens is no exception. If anything, this is more interesting than your typical Diamond League 1500 — in recent years, Cheruiyot has been so dominant that the outcome has essentially been predetermined. This time around, however, no one knows what to expect as racing options have been very limited and Cheruiyot’s training partner Elijah Manangoi has been provisionally suspended for missing three drug tests.

Jakob looked terrific in running a European 2000m record of 4:50 at the Impossible Games (with Filip running an impressive 2:16 1k in the same meet), but that was over two months ago. The Ingebrigtsens seem to be in shape 12 months a year though — Jakob, in particular, rarely has a bad race — so expect them to bring it in Monaco.

Cheruiyot, meanwhile, ran 5:03 for 2k as part of the Impossible Games, but that came in miserable conditions at almost 6,000 feet of elevation in Nairobi. Given his track record and utter domination of the 1500 in recent years, he still has to go off as the favorite here.

Other guys worth watching:

-US champ Craig Engels has been in action at the Big Friendly series but hasn’t been in top form. In his most recent effort on July 31, he was beaten handily by Josh Kerr and also lost to Canada’s Will Paulson, winding up third in 3:36.01. And this field is significantly stronger.
Marcin Lewandowski was the bronze medalist at Worlds last year but has yet to race outdoors in 2020.
Jake Wightman — who, in case you forgot, ran 3:31 to finish 5th at Worlds last year — should be ready to go as he ran an impressive 1:45 800 in Sollentuna on Monday.
Yomif Kejelcha is the wild card. A two-time world indoor champ over 3k, Kejelcha is the world indoor mile record holder at 3:47, and if this race is run in typical Monaco fashion — basically, a time trial — he could be a factor.

3) Men’s 800 (2:12 p.m. ET)

Name Country PB SB
Mame-Ibra Anne France
Marco Arop Canada 1:44.25 1:47.70
Peter Bol Australia 1:44.56 1:45.38
Donavan Brazier USA 1:42.34 1:43.84
Joseph Deng Australia 1:44.21 1:45.40
Bryce Hoppel USA 1:44.25
Kyle Langford Great Britain 1:44.97
Marc Reuther Germany 1:45.22 1:46.97
Benjamin Robert France 1:46.52 1:46.93
Ferguson Rotich Kenya 1:42.54
Amel Tuka Bosnia & Herzegovina 1:42.51
(Getty Images for IAAF) Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF

The top four men from last year’s World Championship final are all here, including 22-year-old American Bryce Hoppel (fourth last year)– making his 2020 outdoor debut — and reigning world champ Donavan Brazier. Brazier, obviously, is the headliner, and his presence pushes this race over the 1500 as the best men’s event of the meet, at least for American fans given the possibility of him breaking the US record. We know he’s in great shape — his coach Pete Julian said earlier this summer he’s fitter than he was in 2019 — and he’s looked incredible when he’s raced out in 2020.

His most recent effort, a world-leading 1:43.84 on July 31, is something everyone would have been excited about a year ago. But after Brazier’s 1:42.34 American record in Doha, a 1:43 in 2020 mostly elicits a collective shrug. Win a world title, and expectations are raised. Even Brazier knows that with good pacemaking, a fast track, and top competition in Monaco, he is capable of much faster.

“The 1:43 that I ran two weeks ago at the meet out in Oregon, it was a little — I don’t want to say disappointing — but it was just, I kind of forgot how to run an 800,” Brazier said Wednesday. “I almost forgot how painful it was. I think it was a good tuneup.”

With 2019 world leader Nijel Amos sitting this one out and 1:42.05 man Emmanuel Korir not having raced in 2020, Brazier is the clear favorite, but there’s plenty of talent here. Amel Tuka and Ferguson Rotich both medalled at Worlds last year, Hoppel was terrific this year indoors, and Peter Bol and Joseph Deng looked good during the winter season in Australia. Chances are, at least one of those guys is fit right now, so Brazier may not be the only guy running fast on Friday.

LRC World Champions Donavan Brazier & Noah Lyles Speak Ahead of Monaco Diamond League

2) Women’s 1000 (3:39 p.m. ET)

Name Country PB
Sofia Ennaoui Poland 2:35.15
Faith Kipyegon Kenya
Ciara Mageean Ireland
Laura Muir Great Britain 2:33.92
Halimah Nakaayi Uganda 2:34.88
Winnie Nanyondo Uganda 2:36.13
Shelayna Oskan-Clarke Great Britain
Jemma Reekie Great Britain 2:36.79
Raevyn Rogers USA
Nakaayi shocked the world by winning the 800 in Doha last year (Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF)

Usually, I see a 1000 on the schedule and roll my eyes. Either someone is trying to break some contrived record, or it’s a way to paper over a weak field. Everyone knows what a slow 800 time is; it’s not as easy to figure out for the 1000.

But this 1000? I am 1000% in.

Just look at the names on the start list. You’ve got the Olympic 1500 champ (Faith Kipyegon). The world 800 champ (Halimah Nakaayi). The world 800 silver medalist, making her debut for new coach Pete Julian (Raevyn Rogers). You’ve got the new British star (Jemma Reekie). And you’ve got the old British star — well 27 isn’t old, so let’s just call her the other British star (Laura Muir).

Even in a normal year, it would be tough to get all of these women in a field. But in a season in which athletes are desperate for competition opportunities, they’ll take anything they can get. And with talents as diverse as Kipyegon and Rogers, 1000 is the perfect distance.

No one cares about the time in this one. It’s all about who wins, and you can make a genuine case for any of the five women named above.

1) Women’s 5000 (2:19 p.m. ET)

Name Country PB
Winny Chebet Kenya
Beatrice Chepkoech Kenya 14:39.33
Letesenbet Gidey Ethiopia 14:23.14
Genevieve Gregson Australia 15:06.67
Esther Guerrero Spain
Sifan Hassan Netherlands 14:22.12
Jessica Hull Australia 15:00.32
Eilish McColgan Great Britain 14:46.17
Hellen Obiri Kenya 14:18.37
Shannon Rowbury USA 14:38.92
Laura Weightman Great Britain 14:44.57
Liv Westphal France 15:28.71
Alessa Zarbo France

Joshua Cheptegei may have been the one who announced a world record attempt, but the 5k women may have a better chance of breaking the world record by accident than Cheptegei does on purpose. Obviously the temperature will be far from ideal and there is uncertainty surrounding the fitness of several of these athletes following a COVID-induced break from racing, but on paper, this race is significantly stronger than last year’s World Championship final.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF

Sifan Hassan — who, in case you forgot, ran 3:51 and 30:17 (3:59 last 1500) to win the 1500/10k double at Worlds last year — is the headliner. She’s joined by two-time defending 5k world champ Hellen Obiri, steeplechase world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, and Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey, who last fall broke the 15k world record by running 44:20 in one of the greatest performances in the history of women’s distance running (she closed in 29:13 — not a typo — for her final 10k). 44:20 equates to 2:11 in the marathon.

Tirunesh Dibaba‘s 14:11.15 world record has been begging to be broken for the last few years. It may not go down in Monaco, but there’s a good chance one of the women in Friday’s field could one day hold the record.

As for what to expect in the race, I checked in with Tim Rowberry — the former Nike Oregon Project assistant who assumed coaching duties for Hassan and Kejelcha after Alberto Salazar was banned from the sport. He said that Hassan, after running a world record of 14:44 on the roads for 5k in February, took some down time from April to June, which she spent with her family in Ethiopia. Even when she resumed training, it was difficult given the current social unrest and ethnic violence in Ethiopia, but she departed for Europe in mid-July, where she spent time training in the Netherlands and St. Moritz.

“As for this Friday,” Rowberry wrote, “I do think some of the athletes in the field could be ready to set new PB’s. However, I’m not confident anyone will be willing to take the lead. As for Sifan, we expect her first race of the year to be more tactical than anything as everyone tests out their fitness. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of those races where the pace drops off the second the pacer steps off the track as everyone guesses each other’s fitness. We would love to start going after times but I think we’re a few weeks away from anything like that.”

That sounds about right. Even with the talent assembled, you need someone to drive the pace during the third and fourth kilometers to even approach the world record; is anyone brave enough to do that in their first race of the season?

One other woman to keep an eye on in this field is 35-year-old American Shannon Rowbury. Rowbury ran 15:05 last summer and, finally recovered after being limited by injuries and childbirth, has looked strong in 2020, running 4:03 and 8:40 out in Oregon. American 5,000m running has never been more competitive, but if she can get into the 14:40s in Monaco, it will send a strong message that Rowbury is ready to contend for a fourth Olympic team in 2021.

For more Monaco DL info, listen to this week’s podcast: Monaco Diamond League Preview  + Guest Ok State Coach Dave Smith on NCAA XC 2020 .

LRC World Champions Donavan Brazier & Noah Lyles Speak Ahead of Monaco Diamond League Find out which double Brazier wants to attempt (hint: it’s not the 800/1500), why he’d like to stay in Europe for a while, and what Lyles has been doing to get closer to Usain Bolt‘s 200m WR.

Talk about this article and the 2020 Monaco DL Meet on our fan forum / messageboard. MB: Official 2020 Monaco DL Discussion Thread

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