2022 Brussels DL Preview: Shelly-Ann vs. Sha’Carri & Another AR Attempt for Grant Fisher?

By Jonathan Gault
August 31, 2022

The final regular-season Diamond League meet of the year is upon us. Only Friday’s Memorial Van Damme in Brussels remains before the stars gather one last time in 2022 at the Diamond League final in Zurich next week.

Hold on a minute. If Zurich is next week and that meet has every event and the fields are going to be better than Brussels, why should we care about the Memorial Van Damme on Friday?

Glad you asked, Jonathan. That’s because there are some matchups on tap in Brussels that we’re not going to be able to see in Zurich. Gotta savor ’em while you can. Here are the five races I’m most excited for in Brussels — most of which you won’t see at the DL final next week.

*Schedule/entries/results *TV/streaming *All LRC coverage of 2022 Memorial Van Damme

1) A fast men’s 5,000 (and one more American record for Grant Fisher?)

Gold medalist Jakob Ingebrigtsen isn’t here — the dude races plenty, so we’ll cut him some slack — but six of the next seven finishers from last month’s World Championship final in Eugene are entered in this one, led by silver and bronze medalists Oscar Chelimo of Uganda and Jacob Krop of Kenya. (Apropos of nothing: Olympic champs Joshua Cheptegei and Selemon Barega aren’t running here and one month later I still can’t quite believe neither finished in the top 8 in the 5k at Worlds).

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But that’s not all. This field also includes the last two men to win on the Diamond League circuit — South Sudan’s Domnic Lokinyomo Lobalu (7:29 3k in Stockholm) and Burundi’s Thierry Ndikumwenayo, who is coming off a Diamond League record of 7:25 in the 3k in Monaco.

Plus there are a trio of Americans: Joe Klecker (13:04 pb), Woody Kincaid (12:58 pb), and Grant Fisher (12:53 pb).

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With all that talent, chances are a few fellows in this race will be hoping to run fast — especially those who missed out on the PR parade in Rome earlier this year. And if the race does go fast, you have to wonder if Bernard Lagat‘s 11-year-old American record of 12:53.60 goes with it. Fisher ran just .13 slower than Lagat’s mark indoors back in February, but he did so with a huge close — he was on 13:09 pace through 3k but closed his last 1600 in 3:57 to run 12:53. This time around, Fisher knows he can run 12:53 and won’t be afraid to go with the leaders if that is the pace they’re running.

Should he claim the AR on Friday, it would be Fisher’s fourth of 2022 — he already claimed the indoor 5,000 (12:53.73) to go with the 3,000 (7:28.48) and 10,000 (26:33.84) outdoors. Fisher should also be in contention for the overall win. He was third in his last DL in Monaco, and while there was a 2.55-second gap from winner Ndikumwenayo to Fisher, the gap from Fisher to Nicholas Kipkorir in 4th was even bigger (2.71 seconds; runner-up Berihu Aregawi isn’t entered in Brussels). No American man has won a DL 5,000 since Paul Chelimo in 2018.

Why get excited about this race if there’s another 5,000 in Zurich next week? Because the DL 5k final is being run on that weird, oversize egg-shaped “track” outside the stadium in the Sechselautenplatz where the times don’t count for anything. For anyone looking to run a fast 5,000, Brussels may be the last chance this year.

Will Grant Fisher break Bernard Lagat's 12:53.60 AR in Brussels?

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2) Shelly-Ann & Sha’Carri in the 100

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce hasn’t lost a 100 all year. And, assuming her hamstring is good to go on Friday — she had to scratch from Lausanne last week because of it — she will be the heavy favorite to win again in Brussels. SAFP is in the midst of the greatest 100-meter season in history, with a record six sub-10.7’s this year, and the question remains whether now, at 35, the women’s 100m GOAT has one more PR in her to get into the exclusive sub-10.6 club (current membership: two).

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Worlds silver medalist Shericka Jackson is entered as well and should have a fire in her belly after American Aleia Hobbs upset her in Lausanne last week (Hobbs is also running here). But there’s another intriguing name on the start list: Sha’Carri Richardson.

That’s right. After flaming out at USAs and failing to make the final in either the 100 or 200, Richardson returned to racing on Tuesday in Lucerne and took down Olympic champ Elaine Thompson-Herah for the win. The time was slow (11.29) because conditions were poor for running fast (60s F, 2.0 m/s headwind). Assuming she gets better conditions in Brussels, Richardson could challenge her SB of 10.85. And a head-to-head matchup with Fraser-Pryce will remind her of how much farther she still has to go.

We could see this matchup next week. But that’s assuming Richardson qualifies for the final — she’s only two points behind the 8th and final qualifier, so there’s a good shot of that — and that SAFP runs it (less likely — she’s only run the DL final once since 2015).

How fast will Sha'Carri run in Brussels?

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3) Is it too much to ask for a fast 800?

As of this writing, the fastest time anyone has run for 800 meters in 2022 is Max Burgin‘s 1:43.52 in Turku in June. If that holds up, it would be the slowest world leader since the late Mbulaeni Mulaudzi‘s 1:43.74 in 2007 (#2 on the world list that year? Some guy named Alan Webb). Three of the five Diamond Leagues this year have featured a winning time of 1:45 or slower. Hardly a banner year.

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But Friday’s race in Brussels has the ingredients to change that. All three World Champs medalists are running — Emmanuel KorirDjamel Sedjati, and Marco Arop. So is World Indoor champ Mariano Garcia of Spain who, after a slow start his outdoor season, won the European title in his last race in a pb of 1:44.85. He had to work hard to win that race in Munich, holding off Great Britain’s world 1500 champ Jake Wightman — who, wouldn’t you know it, is running Brussels as well.

Then factor in that there will be 12 men on the start line in this race. Honestly, that’s too many for a Diamond League — it’s typically a better racing product when they cut 800m fields at 8 or 9. But if the goal is to spur fast times…well, a couple extra bodies on the start line is all the more incentive to start fast and avoid getting caught up in the muck early. And in the 800, a faster start usually leads to a faster finish. Maybe this is the recipe that leads to the first 1:42 of the year. Or maybe the men’s 800 is just in a lull right now.

The DL final next week will be smaller and potentially missing some of the bold names above. Garcia hasn’t broken 1:48 in a DL all year and realistically would need to win this race to have a shot at making the final. Korir is in a better spot — as long as he’s in the top 5 on Friday, he should qualify for the final.

4) Can Coburn take another step forward in the women’s steeple?

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After she ran 9:16 to finish 8th at Worlds — her second straight poor performance in a global final — Emma Coburn had to be questioning herself. Had the changes she made this year under coach Joe Bosshard all been for naught? She was determined to head to Europe post-Worlds to find out, and her first run offered encouragement: she led the steeple in Monaco until 200m to go and wound up 4th in 9:07.93, her fastest time since the 2019 World Championship final.

Coburn will get a chance to go even faster in Brussels, and while world champ Norah Jeruto is notably absent (she hasn’t raced since Worlds), this field does feature the rest of the top four from worlds, who happen to occupy spots four through six on the world all-time list: Werkuha Getachew (8:54 pb), Mekides Abebe (8:56 pb), and Winfred Yavi (8:56 pb). Getachew won last time out in Monaco and will be favored again on Friday.

It’s mostly been a year to forget for Olympic silver medalist Courtney Frerichs, but she’s on the start list too and will be hoping to rebound following a disastrous 9:32 in Monaco.

5) Muir leads a deep women’s 1500…can MacLean keep rolling?

Faith Kipyegon won the last Diamond League 1500 in Monaco on August 10th. Not exactly a surprise. But Heather MacLean, the 5th placer at USAs, going from 11th to 2nd on the final lap to run a three-second pb of 3:58? Definitely a surprise.

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MacLean, like Kate Grace last year, hasn’t allowed her failure to make Team USA (which owed in part to missing time with COVID earlier this year) to stop her from going on a late-season tear. She started with a 4:01 pb in Silesia on August 6, followed it up with that 3:58 in Monaco on August 10, and then won the NACAC 1500 on August 21 thanks to a sub-60 final lap.

MacLean is usually at her best when coming from behind, but now that she’s a 3:58 woman, will she rely on the same tactics? Or will she try to position herself near the front early and try to contend for the win? Considering she’s virtually assured of a spot in the DL final, she doesn’t have anything to lose.

Great Britain’s Laura Muir, who ran 3:55 at Worlds and went on to gold at the Commonwealth Games and Euros, has been in terrific form and will start as the favorite, but she’ll get a serious challenge from budding 20-year-old star Diribe Welteji of Ethiopia, who was 4th at Worlds in the 800 and ran a pb of 3:56 in Silesia on August 6 to defeat Worlds silver medalist Gudaf Tsegay. Should be a great race.

Sinclaire Johnson, coming off an 800 pb last week in Lausanne (1:59.90), is also entered, as is Cory McGee, who will be looking to finally join MacLean and Johnson in the sub-4:00 club at the age of 30 (she has run 4:00 three times, including twice this year).

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