Sunday is Opening Day! 2021 Diamond League Begins in Gateshead with Olympic 100m Preview & the Return of Jakob Ingebrigtsen

By Jonathan Gault
May 20, 2021

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Traditionally, here at LetsRun.com, we consider the first Diamond League meet of the season to be the sport’s Opening Day.

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In 2021, it doesn’t quite feel that way. The Diamond League is starting a few weeks later than usual, and as a result, many of the top American stars have already competed in big-time domestic meets like the USATF Grand Prix in Eugene and the USATF Golden Games at Mt. SAC. Meanwhile Wednesday’s Golden Spike meet in Ostrava served as the unofficial opener for the European season, with big names such as Joshua CheptegeiJacob Kiplimo, and Sha’Carri Richardson all earning dominant victories.

Still, there are plenty of reasons to be excited for the 2021 Diamond League curtain raiser on Sunday in Gateshead (sadly the weather is not among them, as you may imagine in May in northeast England: the forecast calls for a high of 55 degrees with 15 mph winds and a 90% chance of rain). Richardson will follow up her Ostrava 200m triumph in an Olympic 100m preview, where she’ll face reigning world champions Dina Asher-Smith and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. In the men’s 1500, Jakob Ingebrigtsen will make his 2021 outdoor debut against the in-form Ollie Hoare, with Laura Muir headlining the women’s 1500 in front of the home crowd (yes, there will be fans — up to 2,000 of them). There’s also a terrific showdown in the women’s high jump, as three-time world champion Mariya Lasitskene will compete outside of Russia for the first time since 2019 and faces 19-year-old Ukrainian star Yaroslava Mahuchikh.

Below, a look at the top events to watch on Sunday (in chronological order) when the Diamond League returns to Gateshead for the first time in 11 years.

What: 2021 Müller Grand Prix Gateshead
Where: Gateshead International Stadium, Gateshead, England
When: Sunday, May 23. DL track events (and the Peacock broadcast) begin at 2:00 p.m. ET.

How to watch: This meet will be streamed live in the United States on Peacock from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday. For full TV/streaming details, see below.

Full Gateshead schedule/entries/results * TV/streaming information

Women’s high jump (12:55 p.m. ET)

Name Country PB SB
Emily Borthwick Great Britain 1.88 1.88
Morgan Lake Great Britain 1.97 1.91
Mariya Lasitskene Authorized Neutral Athlete 2.06
Yuliya Levchenko Ukraine 2.02 1.83
Kamila Licwinko Poland 1.99 1.94
Yaroslava Mahuchikh Ukraine 2.04
Nikki Manson Great Britain 1.87 1.81
Bethan Partridge Great Britain 1.87
Ana Simic Croatia 1.99 1.81
Levern Spencer St. Lucia 1.98
Alessia Trost Italy 1.98 1.88

The last time the world saw Mariya Lasitskene, she was winning her third straight world title in Doha, leaping 2.04 meters (just 2 cm shy of her pb) to fend off young Ukrainians Yaroslava Mahuchikh and Yuliya Levchenko. Then came 2020 — not a year to remember for the Russian. COVID upended the competition calendar, and even when meets returned in the late summer, Lasitskene could not travel to compete outside of Russia after World Athletics suspended the Authorized Neutral Athlete program following the Danil Lysenko scandal.

Now Lasitskene is back and will be hungry to claim the one title that has eluded her: Olympic champion (she could not compete at Rio 2016 due to the Russian ban). In Lasitskene’s absence last year, Mahuchikh and Levchenko traded victories on the circuit. Can either of them surpass Lasitskene, the event’s dominant force who has won 31 of her last 32 competitions? We’ll find out in Gateshead, where all three women are entered.

Women’s 100 (prelims 1:42 p.m. ET, final 3:24 p.m. ET)

Name Country PB SB
Dina Asher-Smith Great Britain 10.83
Ajla Del Ponte Switzerland 11.08
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce Jamaica 10.70
Desiree Henry Great Britain 11.06
Amy Hunt Great Britain 11.31
Imani Lansiquot Great Britain 11.09
Natasha Morrison Jamaica 10.87 10.87
Blessing Okagbare Nigeria 10.79 10.97
Javianne Oliver USA 10.97 10.97
Tatjana Pinto Germany 11.00
Sha’Carri Richardson USA 10.72 10.72
Jamile Samuel Netherlands 11.10
Marie-Josee Ta Lou Ivory Coast 10.85
Natalliah Whyte Jamaica 11.04 11.07
Bianca Williams Great Britain 11.17 11.68

This is race of the meet, no doubt about it. 21-year-old American Sha’Carri Richardson has been tearing up the track this year, ripping a 10.72 pb on April 10, followed by a 10.74/10.77 double at Mt. SAC on May 9, the latter time into a significant 1.2 m/s headwind. As incredible as Richardson has been, however, she has yet to face any of the event’s big guns in 2021.

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That will change on Sunday, as Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who ran 10.71 to claim the 2019 world title in Doha, and Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, who took 100m silver behind Fraser-Pryce in Doha before adding gold in the 200m, will face Richardson in Gateshead. Only the absence of reigning Olympic champ Elaine Thompson-Herah, whose 10.78 is #2 in the world this year, prevents a true Olympic preview. The way Richardson is running, she has to be regarded as favorite, and a win here over Fraser-Pryce and Asher-Smith would strengthen her position heading into the Olympics…though it’s worth remembering we are still over two months out from the Games.

One thing that could derail the showdown: the weather. Low-50s and rainy is terrible for sprinting, and while the Brit Asher-Smith may be used to that weather, Fraser-Pryce and the Florida-based Richardson won’t be. Richardson did not seem to be fond of the conditions in Ostrava earlier this week but it didn’t stop her from winning by nearly a quarter of second. If everyone does make it to the start line, don’t expect the times to be that fast but the order of finish is still significant.

Men’s 3,000 steeplechase (2:15 p.m. ET)

Name Country PB SB
Daniel Arce Spain 8:19.40 8:21.53
Yaser Salem Bagharab Qatar 8:25.79
Djilali Bedrani France 8:05.23
Leonard Bett Kenya 8:08.61
Hillary Bor USA 8:08.41 8:22.55
Soufiane El Bakkali Morocco 7:58.15
Ole Hesselbjerg Denmark 8:24.87
Matthew Hughes Canada 8:11.64
Stanley Kebenei USA 8:08.30 8:30.57
Abraham Kibiwott Kenya 8:05.72 8:40.52
James Nipperess Australia 8:30.13 8:30.13
Phil Norman Great Britain 8:20.12 8:20.12
Mark Pearce Great Britain 8:33.61
Topi Raitanen Finland 8:16.57
Zak Seddon Great Britain 8:21.28 8:29.37
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Soufiane El Bakkali, the Moroccan World Championship bronze medalist, is the favorite here, though he has not raced at all so far in 2021. El Bakkali has been one of the world’s very best for a number of years now and won the only major steeple of 2020, clocking 8:08 in Monaco.

If he’s not on his game, this race is wide open. France’s Djilali Bedrani was 5th at Worlds in 2019. Abraham Kibiwott was 7th. Leonard Bett was the world U20 silver medalist in 2018.

And then there are the Americans. Hillary Bor shocked everyone by almost upsetting El Bakkali at the Diamond League opener in 2019, and though he didn’t look brilliant in his steeple opener, taking 3rd at the USATF Grand Prix on April 24, his 8:22 result was not disastrous. The same can’t be said of Stanley Kebenei, whose 8:30 in that race was 20+ seconds off his 8:08 pb (granted, that was the first time Kebenei finished a race at any distance since December 2019). With the US Olympic Trials just four weeks away, both men will be looking for a tangible sign of progress in Gateshead.

Men’s 1500 (2:49 p.m. ET)

Name Country PB SB
Kalle Berglund Sweden 3:33.70
Piers Copeland Great Britain 3:35.32
Archie Davis Great Britain 3:40.30
Ignacio Fontes Spain 3:33.72 3:36.48
Ryan Gregson Australia 3:31.06 3:36.72
Oliver Hoare Australia 3:33.19 3:33.19
Jakob Ingebrigtsen Norway 3:28.68
Brimin Kiprotich Kenya 3:35.32
Andreas Lindgreen Denmark 3:41.17
Stewart McSweyn Australia 3:30.51 3:34.55
George Mills Great Britain 3:36.72 3:40.11
Adam Ali Musab Qatar 3:32.41 3:32.41
Ronald Musagala Uganda 3:30.58 3:36.63
Saul Ordonez Spain 3:34.98
Matthew Ramsden Australia 3:34.83 3:34.97
Erik Sowinski USA 3:44.82

Jakob Ingebrigtsen first competed at a Diamond League meet as a 14-year-old, running 3:53.80 to finish dead last in the B heat of the 1500 meters at the 2015 Bislett Games (reminder: 3:53 is still really, really good for a 14-year-old). He has come a long way since then:

Jakob Ingebrigtsen 1500m progression

Year Age Personal best
2015 14 3:48.37
2016 15 3:42.44
2017 16 3:39.92
2018 17 3:31.18
2019 18 3:30.16
2020 19 3:28.68
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By the time of his 20th birthday in September 2020, Ingebrigtsen had broken Mo Farah‘s European record and ascended to #8 on the world all-time list at 1500. Yet the relentless Ingebrigtsen is not satisfied. He has his eyes fixed on victory at the Tokyo Olympics this summer, yet to do that he must overcome a man he has never beaten: Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot, who has owned the 1500 for the past three years.

Ingebrigtsen will not get a chance to improve his record against Cheruiyot on Sunday, but he will open his 2021 outdoor campaign after an indoor season that saw him scare the 1500 world record with his 3:31.80 in Lievin and win a pair of European titles in Torun. Ingebrigtsen is always in shape, so anything other than a comfortable win here will come as a surprise.

The Norwegian phenom will also serve as a measuring stick for the rest of the field, particularly the Australians Stewart McSweyn and Ollie Hoare. McSweyn is coming off a terrific 2020 season, while Hoare has racked up some dominant victories in the United States, but Cheruiyot and Ingebrigtsen have been the class of the 1500 in recent years and the standard by which the event must be judged.

Hoare’s coach Dathan Ritzenhein knows this but he has spoken very highly of Hoare’s potential after big wins at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, USATF Grand Prix, and USATF Golden Games. How will the 24-year-old fare in his Diamond League debut?

Adam Ali Musab of Qatar, the world leader at 3:32.41, is another man to watch in this race.

Men’s 5,000 (3:02 p.m. ET)

Name Country PB SB
Andrew Butchart Great Britain 13:06.21 13:20.39
Adam Clarke Great Britain 13:39.21 13:48.97
Jonathan Davies Great Britain 13:23.94 13:53.06
Mike Foppen Netherlands 13:13.06 13:20.05
Jimmy Gressier France 13:15.77 13:18.00
Robin Hendrix Belgium 13:19.50
Henrik Ingebrigtsen Norway 13:15.38
Mohamed Katir Spain 13:50.19
Michael Kibet Kenya 13:11.08 13:36.6h
Nicholas Kimeli Kenya 12:51.78
Jacob Krop Kenya 13:03.08
Morgan McDonald Australia 13:15.83 13:21.39
David McNeill Australia 13:12.82 13:12.82
Adel Mechaal Spain 13:15.40
Ouassim Oumaiz Spain 13:13.14
Jonas Raess Switzerland 13:20.08
Jack Rowe Great Britain 13:37.85
Jake Smith Great Britain 13:47.91
Sean Tobin Ireland 13:53.65

With no Ethiopians, Ugandans, or Americans, this field is somewhat lacking, though it is not entirely devoid of quality thanks to the presence of Nicholas Kimeli. The 22-year-old Kenyan was overshadowed in 2020 because some of his best performances happened to come in the same races in which Joshua Cheptegei was smashing world records, but Kimeli is a force to be reckoned with. He ran 12:51 in Monaco in August, which was the fastest time by a Kenyan since 2013. That’s a big deal: remember, Kenya didn’t put a single man in the Olympic 5,000 final in 2016, and since that race, only two Kenyans have broken 13:00 (Kimeli and Richard Yator, who ran 12:59 in 2018).

A month after his 12:51, Kimeli ran a pb of 26:58 for 10,000 in the Netherlands, and followed that by pacing the first half of Cheptegei’s 10k world record in 13:07 — and staying in the race to finish in 27:12. With Kimeli and Mark Lomuket, who ran 13:01 in Bergamo last week to upset reigning Worlds silver medalist Selemon Barega, Kenya has a couple of rising stars in the 5,000. If Kimeli is to make some noise in Tokyo this summer, this is a field he needs to be beating.

Women’s 1500 (3:51 p.m. ET)

Name Country PB SB
Rababe Arafi Morocco 3:58.84
Claudia Bobocea Romania 4:01.31
Alli Cash USA 4:05.90 4:05.90
Axumawit Embaye Ethiopia 3:59.02
Esther Guerrero Spain 4:03.13 4:08.24
Ciara Mageaan Ireland 4:00.15
Eilish McColgan Great Britain 4:00.97 4:03.89
Laura Muir Great Britain 3:55.22 4:01.54
Winnie Nanyondo Uganda 3:59.56 4:08.44
Marta Perez Spain 4:04.88
Nadia Power Ireland 4:13.93
Katie Snowden Great Britain 4:02.98 4:02.98
Adelle Tracey Great Britain 4:07.47 4:11.29
Elise Vanderelst Belgium 4:05.75
Erin Wallace Great Britain 4:12.57 4:13.02
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Laura Muir has been red hot recently, picking up a 1500 win at the USATF Grand Prix in Eugene and running a pair of 1:58’s for 800 out in California. Now she’s returning home, and will be favored to pick up her sixth career Diamond League victory. Morocco’s Rababe Arafi (9th at ’19 Worlds) and Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo (4th in 800 at ’19 Worlds) should be her biggest rivals here, but don’t sleep on fellow Brit Katie Snowden, who used a terrific final 100 to run down a decent field at the Track Meet in California last week and earn a big pb of 4:02.98.

Oregon alum Alli Cash, 26, is the sole American in the field, and she will look to keep rolling in what has been a fine 2021 campaign. Cash entered the year with a pb of just 4:14.18 dating back to her junior year at the University of Oregon in 2016. But she’s been crushing it this season, running pbs at every distance from 800 to 5000, including 1500, where she got down to 4:05.90 at Mt. SAC on May 9. Not bad for a woman who says she was “drinking beers with my now fiancé and doing back flips off the dock at my family’s lake house in Lake of the Ozarks” this time last year. Not bad for a woman who during her last year at Oregon in 2017-18 finished just 166th at NCAA XC.

Cash’s next target is the Olympic standard of 4:04.20, which will be tough if the weather forecast stays as it is. Even so, with Muir in the field, the race will likely go fast enough.

Want a podcast/video preview of this weekend’s action? Join our Supporters Club and get access to the Friday 15 Preview.

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