2021 Bislett Games Preview: Obiri Looks to Rebound, Battle of the Aussies in the Dream Mile, and Warholm Debuts in 400 Hurdles
By Jonathan Gault
June 30, 2021
Still craving elite track & field after the US Olympic Trials?
I have good news. The first 13 days of July will feature four Diamond League meets, and that begins on Thursday with the Bislett Games in Oslo. Many Americans won’t be there as they’re still recovering from the Trials, and unfortunately Norwegian superstar Jakob Ingebrigtsen was forced to pull out of the Dream Mile due to a sore throat. But the other big Norwegian draw, Karsten Warholm, is still in the meet and scheduled to run his first 400 hurdles race of the year in the final event of the night. Could we see our second 400m hurdles world record in five days? Here’s a quick look at the six events we’ll be following the closest in Oslo.
What: 2021 Bislett Games
When: Thursday, July 1 (TV window from 2-4 p.m. ET)
Where: Bislett Stadium, Oslo, Norway
DL Meets Before the Olympics
Thursday, July 1st Olso
Sunday, July 4th Stockholm
Friday July 9th Monaco,
Tuesday, July 13th London/Gateshead
Men’s 3000 (2:13 p.m. ET)
2019 World Championship 10,000m silver medalist Yomif Kejelcha, who finished second in that event in the Ethiopian Olympic trials on June 8 in 26:49, has the fastest pb in the field at 7:28.00. He’ll face off against some of Kenya’s best in Nicholas Kimeli, Jacob Krop, and Michael Kibet, who went 1-4-5 at the Kenyan Olympic trials in the 5,000.
Women’s 5000 (2:41 p.m. ET)
Most expected two-time defending 5k world champion Hellen Obiri to notch yet another Diamond League victory when she held the lead on the back straight of the 3k at the Doha Diamond League on May 28. Instead, it was a new star, 21-year-old Kenyan Beatrice Chebet, who emerged to take the win in an impressive 8:27, Obiri fading to fourth in 8:33. Then, at the Kenyan Olympic trials on June 17, Obiri was upset again, finishing second in the 5k behind Lilian Rengeruk (Chebet was 5th and left off the team). Is this a sign that the 31-year-old Obiri’s time at the top of the sport is fading? Or can she turn it around and take gold in Tokyo, the only major title that has eluded her?
We’ll get a better idea after Thursday’s race as she gets a rematch with Chebet and 2019 Worlds silver medalist Margaret Kipkemboi. Top Ethiopians Letesenbet Gidey and Gudaf Tsegay are absent, but Tsehay Gemechu (3rd in Ethiopian trials 10k in 30:19) and Fantu Worku (4th in Ethiopian trials 5k in 14:29) should provide formidable competition.
Men’s 200 (3:08 p.m. ET)
The four fastest men in the 200 this year are all Americans, including the three 2021 Olympians in Noah Lyles, Kenny Bednarek, and Erriyon Knighton. The Americans have swept the Olympic medals in the men’s 200 six times, most recently in 2004, and a seventh is possible in 2021. But Andre De Grasse is the reigning World/Olympic silver medallist and has been in solid form himself, running 19.89 to finish just .01 behind Bednarek in Doha on May 28. De Grasse has never broken 19.8. Can he put down a marker and send a message to the Americans in Oslo?
Women’s 800 (3:19 p.m. ET)
Halimah Nakaayi of Uganda is the world champion and entered here, but she has yet to break 2:00 in either of her 800’s this year. She will likely have to do that to win on Thursday as she’ll face a pair of women who ran pbs in Chorzow on June 20 in Australia’s Catriona Bisset (1:58.09 natoinal record) and Germany’s Katharina Trost (1:58.68). American Kate Grace, who was 7th in the Olympic Trials final on Sunday in 1:59.17, is making a quick turnaround and will also race in Oslo.
Men’s Dream Mile (3:35 p.m. ET)
The absence of Jakob Ingebrigtsen is a bummer, but in a way this race is more interesting now as there is less certainty about the winner. Australian record holder Stewart McSweyn will get a chance for revenge against Jye Edwards, who upset him at the Australian Olympic trials in April. McSweyn ran 3:31 in Doha on May 28, but he still better bring it on Thursday as Edwards has looked great in winning his first two European races in Nice and Decines-Charpieu, both in 3:34. Charles Simotwo, slayer of Timothy Cheruiyot at the Kenyan trials, is also entered, as is World Championship bronze medalist Marcin Lewandowski, who is always dangerous on the last lap. 3:30 Brit Charlie Grice will look to rebound after taking 5th at the British trials.
Men’s 400 hurdles (3:51 p.m. ET)
Karsten Warholm is slated to take on Rai Benjamin next week in Monaco, but if you think Warholm will be holding back in this race, you don’t know Warholm. This is a guy who pounds his chest while screaming before every race, who loves to attack from the gun, and who ran four of the 13 fastest times in history last season, all within a five-week span. Expect him to be motivated by Benjamin’s 46.83 at the Olympic Trials — which bumped Warholm down from #2 to #3 on the world all-time list.
Also expect Warholm to run fast. Last year, when he wound up running 46.87, he opened his season with a 300 hurdles world best of 33.78. This year, Warholm ran half a second faster, 33.26, in his season opener on June 4. Kevin Young‘s world record is 46.78. Don’t be surprised to see Warholm challenge it.