2023 Rabat Preview: Breaking Down Jakob Ingebrigtsen vs Yared Nuguse from Every Angle

We’re getting into the meat of the 2023 track & field season now. Starting on Sunday in Rabat, we enter into a stretch of four Diamond Leagues in 19 days, with the NCAA championships in Austin sandwiched in the middle. It’s a great time of year to be a track fan.

Sunday’s Rabat Diamond League is part two of a weekend double feature of elite pro track & field, following on from the USATF LA Grand Prix on Friday and Saturday (full preview here). And while both meets boast impressive star power, the race of the weekend — heck, maybe the race of the outdoor season so far for distance fans — is in Rabat. That would be the men’s 1500 meters, where American indoor mile record holder Yared Nuguse, making his Diamond League debut, faces Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway.

The other big showdown in Rabat is off — Marcell Jacobs withdrew from his 100m matchup with Fred Kerley on Thursday, citing a back issue — but Kerley still has to face Ferdinand Omanyala and Trayvon Bromell. Plus home favorite Soufiane El Bakkali in the steeple, Gudaf Tsegay in the 1500, Grant Holloway against Devon Allen and Hansle Parchment in the 110 hurdles, and much more.

In lieu of previewing every single event, here’s a closer look at the seven best races of the meet in Rabat, starting with the most exciting.

Meet details
What: 2023 Meeting International Mohammed VI d’Athlétisme de Rabat
When: Sunday, May 28. Broadcast window 2-4 p.m. ET.
Where: Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium, Rabat, Morocco
*TV/streaming information *Schedule, entries, & results

Article continues below player.

1) Yared Nuguse gets his biggest test yet in Jakob Ingebrigtsen

Kevin Morris photo

Sunday will be the first Diamond League race of Yared Nuguse’s life, and it comes against a field led by the Olympic champion. Is this the most-anticipated Diamond League debut in history by an American distance runner?

The Diamond League has been around since 2010, and I’m struggling to think of a bigger one. Most Americans making their Diamond League debut aren’t ready to contend for the win straight away. Cole Hocker and Cooper Teare were hugely popular when they debuted at Pre last year, but no one seriously expected them to beat Ingebrigtsen. Athing Mu was a big deal when she made her DL debut in Eugene in 2021, but her debut suffered from the opposite problem. She had just won the Olympics, so there wasn’t much suspense — we knew exactly how good Mu was.

Nuguse, meanwhile, has the perfect combination of ability and uncertainty. Since turning professional last summer, he has been on an absolute tear. And due to a combination of elevation/elite training partners/no homework (he was a biochemistry major at Notre Dame), Nuguse has made a huge leap in fitness since relocating to Boulder last fall to join the On Athletics Club. He enters Sunday’s meet on an eight-race win streak, highlighted by American indoor records in the 3,000 and mile.

Yared Nuguse’s 8-race win streak

Date Location Distance Time Place
July 29, 2022 Memphis 1500 3:34.95 1st
August 5, 2022 Raleigh mile 3:53.34 1st
August 30, 2022 Lucerne 1500 3:36.34 1st
September 4, 2022 Padua 1500 3:33.26 1st
January 27, 2023 Boston 3000 7:28.23 1st
February 11, 2023 New York mile 3:47.38 1st
February 22, 2023 Madrid 1500 3:33.69 1st
May 6, 2023 Walnut 800 1:46.30 1st

If it seems as if I’m overhyping Nuguse, it’s worth remembering exactly what he did this past indoor season. When he ran his 3:47.38 AR at Millrose, Nuguse closed in 25.94 for the 200m segment from 1400 to 1600m. Close in 25 in a 3:47 race and you can beat pretty much anyone in the world.

During his win streak, Nuguse has beaten some impressive foes: his OAC teammates Ollie Hoare (Commonwealth champion) and Mario Garcia Romo (4th at Worlds), plus Worlds bronze medalist Mohamed Katir. But he has yet to race the one man who serves as the measuring stick for every elite miler: Jakob Ingebrigtsen.

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Ingebrigtsen is so hard to beat in the 1500, particularly in rabbited onees, because he turns each race into one that only one or two men can win (usually, it’s him). There are athletes with better kicks, that sudden burst of acceleration that we’re used to seeing in championship finals. Ingebrigtsen makes sure those guys are not around at the end by continuing to force the pace once the rabbit drops off. The benefits of having the strength of a 5,000-meter world champion.

But Nuguse has just the skillset to challenge Ingebrigtsen: a big kick, plus the strength (7:28 3k pb) to hang onto a fast pace and still use it. His strategy on Sunday should be fairly straightforward — it’s the same one Ingebrigtsen used on Cheruiyot in the 2021 Olympic final. Just hang on to whatever pace Ingebrigtsen sets up front, then kick by him with 100 to go. Simple, right?

Well, yeah. Running is a lot simpler if you’re fitter than everyone else. But there are a few complicating factors here. One is that Nuguse is probably not the only runner in the field who has considered this strategy. Hoare, who finished in the top three in four Diamond Leagues last year, will be hoping to do the same thing. (It feels like Hoare is being overlooked since he was smoked by Nuguse at Millrose and hasn’t raced since February, but the dude was damn good last year). Abel Kipsang (two DL wins last year) is also a proven performer on the circuit. Securing prime position behind Ingebrigtsen could be tough.

It’s also possible that Ingebrigtsen isn’t done improving. Indoors this year, he “only” ran 3:32 in Lievin, but it was still a world leader and it came after his training was interrupted by illness. Ingebrigtsen has been training like a pro for close to a decade now, but it’s worth remembering that he’s still just 22 — which is 15 months younger than Nuguse.

The biggest obstacle for Nuguse, however, is Ingebrigtsen’s consistency. The dude is always in shape. He lost exactly two races above 800m last season — the World Indoor and World Outdoor 1500 finals. So on his worst day, Ingebrigtsen is still the second-best runner in the world.

Go back even farther and it starts getting ridiculous. Since the start of 2020 (when he was 19 years old), Ingebrigtsen has run 35 finals longer than 800 meters. Guess how many times he has finished outside of the top two?


That was at the 2021 Monaco Diamond League, where Ingebrigtsen finished 3rd in 3:29.25. All it took to beat him was two guys running 3:28 and Ingebrigtsen missing two weeks of training due to illness.

The point: when Nuguse ran 3:47 in February, he was in the sort of shape to challenge Ingebrigtsen. But can he stay in that sort of shape all season long and produce the performances in races to back it up? We’ll start finding out on Sunday.

And there have been rumors that Ingebrigtsen wants to set the 1500m WR in front of the hometown fans in Oslo in a few weeks so it’s safe to believe he’s in great shape.

MB: Ingebrigtsen vs Nuguse in 1500 at Rabat Diamond League on Sunday!
MB: Long article in Norwegian Newspaper on Jakob, Nuguse and Romo (even a Gault reference)

Who wins in Rabat?

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2) This men’s 100 is still great; payback for Kerley?

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Yes, it’s obviously a bummer to lose the Jacobs-Kerley showdown that the entire world wanted to see. But Kerley is still here, and unlike his 100m opener last week in Yokomaha, he’s racing a legit field: World bronze medalist Trayvon Bromell (in his outdoor opener), World U20 champ Letsile Tebogo of Botswana, and 2023 world leader Ferdinand Omanyala of Kenya, who ran 9.84 (at altitude) in Nairobi on May 13.

Last year, only two men beat Kerley in the 100 before he went on a tear that ended with a world title. Those two men? Omanyala and Bromell. Fred Kerley doesn’t seem like the type to forget something like that. This should be fun.

3) Kenyan showdown in the 800 meters

The men’s 800 has been in a bit of a lull the last two years. But did you see the 800 at the Kip Keino Classic two weeks ago? It was freakin’ awesome.

That was 18-year-old Emmanuel Wanyonyi taking down fellow Kenyan Wyclife Kinyamal for the win as Wanyonyi clocked a pb and world leader of 1:43.23, Kinyamal just behind in 1:43.66. Both guys are entered in Rabat, and they’re joined by the man who has won all of the biggest 800 races the last two years, Olympic/World/double Diamond League champ Emmanuel Korir, who will be making his 2023 debut. If it’s anything like what we saw in Nairobi, this should be a great one.

And by saying the 800 has been in a lull, maybe we aren’t giving enough credit to Korir. He has run 1:43.04 and 1:43.26 in the last two years, won the Olympics and Worlds, and sports a 1:42.05 pb — a time only surpassed by five men, all either Olympic champions (Rudisha, Coe, Cruz) or world record holders (Coe, Rudisha, Kipketer) save for the busted Nijel Amos.

4) El Bakkali headlines men’s steeple

One of the best moments of the 2022 Diamond League season came in the men’s steeplechase in Rabat, where Soufiane El Bakkali outdueled Lamecha Girma, 7:58.28 to 7:59.24. It was the first time two men had broken 8:00 in the same race for more than 10 years, and the energy was dialed up to 11 because it came in El Bakkali’s first race in Morocco since winning Olympic gold.

As Morocco’s only current World/Olympic champion, El Bakkali remains a big deal in his home nation, which is why this is the last event on the schedule on Sunday. The atmosphere should be terrific. The only downside is that Girma, who looks even fitter than he was in 2022 after running a world record of 7:23 for 3000 indoors and winning the flat 3000 at the DL opener in Doha, is not running here. Instead, El Bakkali will face a Kenyan contingent led by Olympic bronze medalist Benjamin Kigen and 2019 world champ Conseslus Kipruto (US champ Hillary Bor is also entered).

El Bakkali just ran 7:33 for the flat 3000 in Doha, so we know he’s fit. Pair that with his deadly kick, and his unbeaten streak in the steeple — which stretches back to September 2021 — looks set to continue in Rabat. Perhaps the only man in this field who can challenge him is Kipruto, but that would require winding the clock back five years to when Kipruto was an even better kicker than El Bakkali.

5) US-Jamaica rivalry resumes in the 110 hurdles

USA vs Jamaica is supposed to be the big sprint rivalry. But in the last few years, it hasn’t been much of a rivalry in the 100 meters. The American men have been way better than the Jamaican men, and the Jamaican women have been way better than the American women.

The event where this rivalry is really sizzling right now is the 110 hurdles. Last year, the eight fastest men in the world were all either Jamaican or American, with Jamaicans winning two Diamond Leagues and Americans the other four. The US has the reigning world champ in Grant Holloway and greater depth behind him (Devon AllenTrey CunninghamFreddie CrittendenDaniel Roberts), but Jamaica has the Olympic champ in Hansle Parchment plus Olympic bronze medalist Ronald Levy and rising star Rasheed Broadbell, who ran 12.99 at age 22 last year.

Rabat is the first DL 110 hurdles of the year, and the Jamaica vs USA vibes are strong with Broadbell and Parchment up against Holloway, Allen, and Cunningham. Who will claim first blood?

6) Sage Hurta-Klecker opens up in the 800

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Sage Hurta-Klecker has done a lot of racing in 2023, but none of it at the distance at which she excelled last year, the 800 meters. In case you forgot, after missing out on the Worlds team (she was only 7th at USAs), Hurta-Klecker pulled a Kate Grace, heading to Europe and reeling off a string of impressive performances that included runner-up finishes in Chorzow and Monaco and 3rd place in the Diamond League final. After racing a 600, 1000, 1500, and mile in 2023, it’s finally time for Hurta-Klecker to run her best distance on Sunday.

There was a clear top three in this event last year, and while the two biggest guns, Athing Mu and Keely Hodgkinson, are sitting this one out, Worlds bronze medalist Mary Moraa of Kenya is here and will start as the favorite.

7) Tsegay returns in women’s 1500

Any women’s 1500 without Faith Kipyegon feels a little empty. But Gudaf Tsegay was the clear #2 in the world last year in this event and is coming off an impressive winter in which she ran the second-fastest indoor mile (4:16.16) and 3000 (8:16.69) in history. She’ll be the favorite in a race that includes fellow Ethiopian Freweyni Hailu (4th at the 2021 Olympics and 2022 Worlds) and American Cory McGee.

More: 2023 LA Grand Prix Preview: Sha’Carri Richardson Headlines Big-Time Track’s Return to Los Angeles A bunch of big names have scratched but Richardson, Mondo Duplantis, Ryan Crouser, Timothy Cheruiyot, & more are all competing this weekend.

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