2021 Athletissima Lausanne Preview: Karsten Warholm in the 400, Jakob Ingebrigtsen vs. Selemon Barega, & Elaine Thompson Herah vs. the Clock
By Jonathan Gault
August 24, 2021
Another day, another Diamond League. Just five days after the Prefontaine Classic, track & field’s traveling circus heads 5,500 miles east to Lausanne, Switzerland, for the Athletissima meet. And just two days after that, it’s another, shorter trip across the border to France and the Meeting de Paris on Saturday.
Athletissima can’t quite match Prefontaine and the Nike contract mandates that annually draw one of the Diamond League’s most competitive set of fields. But there are still a number of top events here, and a few Olympic champions who didn’t star in Eugene making their post-Olympic debuts.
The field events are led by a trio of world record holders in Ryan Crouser in the men’s shot put, Mondo Duplantis in the men’s pole vault, and Yulimar Rojas in the women’s triple jumps. The sprints boast considerable star power too with Karsten Warholm lining up for his first flat 400 of the season, Steven Gardiner running against Fred Kerley and Kenny Bednarek in the 200 and the Jamaican sprint queens — Elaine Thompson Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson going for another sweep in the 100.
Distance-wise, there are two big races to watch: the men’s 800, which is essentially an Olympic re-run, and the men’s 3000, which features Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Selemon Barega, Paul Chelimo, Muktar Edris, and more.
Preview of the events to watch below, in chronological order.
Men’s 400 (1:54 p.m. ET): Can someone change the schedule ASAP?
Congrats, Lausanne! You nabbed Karsten Warholm, the most exciting men’s athlete in all of track & field right now, for his first post-Olympic race. And he’s running a flat 400! That’s great too, because as awesome as it is to see Warholm run the hurdles, anything he does the rest of the year in that event will pale in comparison to his ridiculous 45.94 world record at the Olympics. Instead, we get to see what a 45.94 400m hurdler can do when the barriers are removed.
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Except most of us won’t actually get to see it. Warholm’s race is scheduled for 1:54 p.m. ET — before the global TV window begins. Can we use some common sense here? A superstar like Warholm should not be on the undercard, even if the 400 isn’t an official Diamond League event in Lausanne. This race needs to be televised. There’s a 17-minute gap between the women’s 400 hurdles and the men’s 200 and another 17-minute gap between the men’s 200 and the women’s 4×100. You’re telling me you couldn’t squeeze a 45-second race in there too?
My other quibble? The Olympic 400 champ, Steven Gardiner, is in Lausanne as well, but he’s not racing Warholm. This one could be up to the athletes/agents rather than the meet director, and Gardiner will still face some serious talent in Fred Kerley and Kenny Bednarek. But Warholm vs. Gardiner would have been the race of the meet if it had happened. Instead, most of the world won’t even get to see Warholm race on Thursday.
As for what Warholm could run, his pb of 44.87 dates to 2017, a year when he ran 48.22 in the 400 hurdles. 48.22 – 45.94 = 2.28. 44.87 – 2.28 = 42.59. New world record, right? Okay, the transitive property doesn’t quite work that way. How about we take a look at the top 10 400 hurdlers in history and see how their hurdles pb compares to their flat pb?
|Athlete||400 hurdles pb||400 pb||Difference|
|Alison dos Santos||46.72||45.78||0.94|
45.94 – 1.67 is 44.27. But given that we know Warholm is in the shape of his life right now, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him go even faster, assuming he is recovered from Tokyo. We think if Warholm was in the Olympic 400 final instead of the 400 hurdles, he would have run sub-44. Doing that in a Diamond League against lesser competition is obviously tougher. But that’s the kind of shape he is in.
Men’s 800 (2:15 p.m. ET): Tokyo re-run plus Marco Arop
There has been no dominant athlete in the men’s 800 this year. You get the feeling that, had you run that Olympic final 10 times, you would have gotten four or five different winners. Saturday’s 800 at the Pre Classic did nothing to dispel that theory as the winner, in dominant fashion, was Canada’s Marco Arop — a man who did not even make the final in Tokyo.
The snowglobe gets another shake in Lausanne as eight of the nine Olympic finalists — everyone save eighth-placer Nijel Amos — are entered. Will Arop, a traditional front-runner who changed up his tactics big-time to come from behind at Pre, make it two in a row? Will the Olympic 1-2, Emmanuel Korir and Ferguson Rotich of Kenya, time their kicks better than they did at Pre, where they finished third and second, respectively? Can Clayton Murphy earn a first Diamond League win? We shall see.
Women’s 1500 (2:30 p.m. ET): With no Olympic medalists, who steps up?
The three Tokyo medalists — Faith Kipyegon, Laura Muir, and Sifan Hassan — are all absent here, so this race is there for the taking. Freweyni Gebreezibeher, the Olympic fourth-placer, is the favorite on paper as her 3:56.28 sb is almost two seconds better than anyone else in the field. She also didn’t race at Pre, which puts her at an advantage over the likes of Linden Hall (2nd Pre, 6th Olympics) and American Josette Norris (3rd Pre). Watch out for Jemma Reekie, who was 4th in the 800 in Tokyo (though only 8th in the 800 at Pre).
Men’s 3000 (2:50 p.m. ET): Ingebrigtsen vs. Barega and a whole lot more
Thankfully this race isn’t just a total rerun of the 2 mile at Pre. Lausanne has added in Olympic 1500 champ Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Olympic 5k silver medalist Moh Ahmed, and two-time defending world 5k champ Muktar Edris to a field that also features Olympic 10k champ Selemon Barega (2nd at Pre) and Olympic 5k bronze medalist Paul Chelimo (3rd at Pre). And none of those guys have the fastest sb: that would be Australia’s Stewart McSweyn, fresh off a 3:48 runner-up finish in the Bowerman Mile behind Ingebrigtsen. Sadly the winner at Pre, Joshua Cheptegei, is absent, but this is still a loaded race (I didn’t even mention Jacob Kiplimo or Getnet Wale).
Women’s 100 (3:07 p.m. ET): Can anyone stop the Jamaican train?
The last three times Elaine Thompson Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Shericka Jackson have lined up for a 100m race together, they have gone 1-2-3. That includes the Olympic final in Tokyo and last week’s Pre Classic, and that streak should be extended on Thursday in Lausanne — though 4-5-6 from the Olympics are all entered as well, including home nation favorites Ajla Del Ponte (coming off a 10.90 national record on August 14) and Mujinga Kambundji (coming off a 200m win at Pre) of Switzerland.
It’s a lot to ask of Thompson Herah to go faster than what we saw in Eugene — a combination of good weather & wind, a fast track, and a very fit athlete saw her run 10.54, #2 all-time. But if you go that close to the world record (just .05 off), everyone is going to be watching the clock next time out. You can’t miss this race.
Women’s 400 hurdles (3:18 p.m. ET): Muhammad vs. Bol
There’s no Sydney McLaughlin here, but a matchup between Dalilah Muhammad and Femke Bol — aka the second- and third-fastest women in history — is not a bad consolation prize.
Men’s 200 (3:35 p.m. ET): Gardiner vs. Kerley vs. Bednarek
As mentioned earlier, I would have loved to see Steven Gardiner stay in the 400 and race Karsten Warholm in a battle of Olympic champions. But this should be a fun 200 with Olympic medalists from three disciplines squaring off: Fred Kerley (100 silver), Kenny Bednarek (200 silver), and Gardiner (400 gold).
*Reminder meet is on 2-4pm eastern on NBC Sports Network