The Four Races That Still Need to Happen in 2021

By Jonathan Gault
August 13, 2021

The Tokyo Olympics may be over, but the track & field season most definitely is not. We’ve still got five Diamond Leagues to go, including the final in Zurich on September 8-9. And while Tokyo produced a number of amazing races, there were a few that we didn’t get to see. Here are the four races that still need to happen in 2021. Diamond League meet directors, pay attention (and have your checkbook handy…these races won’t be cheap to organize).

Women’s 100 meters: Elaine Thompson-Herah vs. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce vs. Sha’Carri Richardson

Of the six fastest women in history, three of them have run their personal bests this year: Thompson-Herah (10.61 in Tokyo), Fraser-Pryce (10.63 in Kingston), and Richardson (10.72 in Miramar). But we didn’t get to see the three of them in the same race at the Olympics because of Richardson’s positive test for marijuana at the US Olympic Trials.

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There may be a bit of a rivalry brewing as well. Remember, after Fraser-Pryce ran 10.63 back in June, Richardson essentially took credit for pushing Fraser-Pryce to a pb (even though Richardson was not even in the race).

Then as the Olympics began, Richardson tweeted this:

And when the Jamaicans were asked about Richardson following the Olympic final, they did not want to talk about her (though to be fair…they had just won Olympic gold and silver). But any mention of even the word marijuana quickly resulted in realizing they didn’t want to talk about Sha’Carri at all.

Chances that it happens: It’s already happening! The Pre Classic has announced its women’s 100m field and all three are entered.

Men’s 400: Karsten Warholm vs. Rai Benjamin vs. Steven Gardiner

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Karsten Warholm’s mesmerizing 45.94 world record in the 400 hurdles generated a number of questions. One of the natural ones: how fast could he run without the hurdles? Warholm’s personal best in the flat 400 is 44.87, but that dates back to 2017, when his hurdles pb was 48.22. He’s over two seconds faster now in the hurdles, so it’s not unreasonable to think he’s in 43-second shape right now. Benjamin’s pb is 44.31 from 2019.

So let’s throw Warholm and Benjamin in against the Bahamas’ Steven Gardiner, who just ran 43.85 to win the flat 400 in Tokyo, and see how they really stack up.

Chances that it happens: 25%. Warholm has already committed to run the flat 400 in Lausanne on August 26. That’s a great start, but getting Benjamin and Gardiner as well could prove tricky.

Women’s 400: The “Dream Team” vs. Shaunae Miller-Uibo

It was a running joke for most of the 2021 season: America’s best 400-meter runners don’t even run the 400. I mean, just look at the “Dream Team” the US trotted out for its dominant victory in the 4×400 relay: Sydney McLaughlinAllyson FelixDalilah MuhammadAthing Mu. Only one of those women ran the open 400 in Tokyo.

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As incredible as Felix was at the Olympics, taking bronze in the 400 in 49.46, she only had the third-fastest split on that relay (49.38), with Muhammad going 48.94 and Mu a ridiculous 48.32. What could be better than seeing all four Dream Teamers race each other head to head?

Well, how about throwing the two-time Olympic 400 champ into the mix in Shaunae Miller-Uibo? Assuming that field doesn’t collapse from the weight of its collective gold medals (all five of the women have won individual Olympic gold; their combined total is 15 career Olympic golds including relays), the race would be more stacked than the Olympic final we just witnessed.

Chances that it happens: 10%. This one seems like a pipe dream. With the Americans as the major draw, the Pre Classic would be the natural venue for this, but there are two problems. First, there is no women’s 400 at Pre this year (though it’s not too late to add one!). And second, the five athletes above are represented by four different shoe brands. It’s not as if Nike could just magically compel them all to run Pre.

Men’s 5,000: Jakob Ingebrigtsen vs. Joshua Cheptegei vs. Selemon Barega

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We already saw Ingebrigtsen vs. Cheptegei in Florence in June, and it was no contest, with Ingebrigtsen pulling away to a world-leading 12:48 as Cheptegei faded late. But Cheptegei revealed in Tokyo that he has been battling a heel injury this year, and while he’s not completely over it, it’s definitely more manageable now (as evidenced by his gold and silver in Tokyo) than it was two months ago in Florence.

Then there’s Barega, who used a sick close (2:24 last 1k, 53 last lap) to win 10k gold but did not run the 5k in Tokyo. Let’s settle the title of best distance runner in the world and pit the Olympic 1500, 5k, and 10k champs together in a 5k on the circuit.

Chances that it happens: 30%. I could see Cheptegei and Barega racing each other in a 5,000 at the Diamond League final (or even the 2-mile at Pre). Getting Ingebrigtsen to join them could be more difficult, however. He’s running the Bowerman Mile at Pre and may opt for the 1500 at the DL final.

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