A Fan’s Guide To The Florence Diamond League: Kipyegon Chases WR; Fisher, Cheptegei, Barega Headline Loaded 5K

The professional track season is getting fun. We’re far enough into 2023 that results are meaningful, but not so deep that underperforming athletes can’t turn things around. Friday’s Golden Gala Pietro Mennea in Florence is one of four Diamond Leagues in a 19-day span, and once that stretch concludes (June 9 in Paris and June 15 in Oslo are the last two), we’ll have a pretty good idea of where things stand in most track & field events.

Right now though, on the last day of May, plenty of questions remain. Some huge ones will be answered on Friday.  Can Faith Kipyegon achieve the only thing missing from her resume and break the 1500m world record? Can Grant Fisher take a step forward from his breakout 2022 season? Can anyone stop Fred Kerley in the 100 meters?

We’ll find out in Florence on Friday. Below, a look at the biggest questions heading into the meet — and how they might be answered. We present them in the order they occur.

Once the meet is over and after all Diamond Leagues are over, come to LetsRun.com for our live Instant Reaction Video Show – 4:10 pm ET.

Meet details
What: 2023 Golden Gala Pietro Mennea
When: Friday, June 2. Broadcast window 2-4 p.m. ET.
LetsRun.com Reaction Show at 4:10 pm ET
Where: Stadio Luigi Ridolfi, Florence, Italy
*TV/streaming information *Schedule, entries, & results

Article continues below player.

Women’s 400 hurdles (2:04 p.m. ET): Can Femke Bol up the ante? Is Anna Hall a superhero?

The women’s 400 hurdles was already one of the most-talked about events in track & field, but after an indoor season that saw Dutch star Femke Bol run a world record of 49.26 in the 400 and Arkansas’ Britton Wilson clock an American record of 49.48, a question that seemed ludicrous 10 months ago suddenly doesn’t sound quite so crazy: could one of them challenge world record holder Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone at Worlds?

Bol opened up her 2023 outdoor campaign with a world-leading 53.12 win in Oordegem on Saturday. That is easily the fastest season opener of her life, and there’s reason to believe she could go significantly faster in Florence. Just look at her progression from race #1 to race #2 over the last four years:

Year Race #1 Race #2
2019 58.12 (May 25) 56.88 (June 10)
2020 54.47 (July 4) 53.79 (July 18)
2021 54.33 (June 6) 53.44 (June 10)
2022 53.94 (June 6) 53.02 (June 9)
2023 53.12 (May 27) ??? (June 2)

That’s an average improvement of .93 of a second from race #1 to race #2, so if Bol keeps that up, we could see something around 52.19 on Friday (her personal best is 52.03 from the 2021 Olympic final).

Bol is the heavy favorite in this race, but it should be fun to see what American Anna Hall can do in her Diamond League debut. Hall just scored 6988 points in the heptathlon last weekend in Gotzis (#5 all-time) and PR’d in all three running events, including 12.75 in the 100 hurdles and a 2:02.97 in the 800. The 400 hurdles isn’t even in the decathlon, but it might be Hall’s best individual event (she was NCAA runner-up behind Wilson in 2022) and it will be fun to see how fast she goes in what should be a quick race.

Men’s 200 (2:15 p.m. ET): What does Erriyon Knighton do for an opener?

Please name the 2023 world leader in the 200 meters.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Embed from Getty Images

If you said Western Texas College’s James Dadzie (19.79 in Lubbock on April 29), congratulations. You’re a bigger track nerd than I am.

Even at altitude, 19.79 is pretty darn fast, but the fact that at Division II guy no one has heard of is the world leader heading into June is another way of saying that the two big dogs in this event, Noah Lyles and Erriyon Knighton, have yet to really get going. Lyles has run one 200 this year — a 20.16 in Gainesville on April 14 that came into a 1.2 headwind. Knighton has not run any. Prediction: by the end of June, one of those two guys will be your world leader.

It will be interesting to see how fast Knighton can go in Florence. Last year, he opened up in 19.49 on April 30, which put him #4 in world history at the time. But Knighton lost steam throughout the year: he ran 19.69 in the US final on June 26, 19.80 in the world final on July 21, and failed to break 20.00 in his final three meets of the season (though his 20.07 in Brussels came into a 2.9 headwind).

Will Knighton ease into things this year, or does he open up quickly again and this time hold it throughout the season?

Women’s 3000 steeple (2:25 p.m. ET): Can Americans Emma Coburn & Courtney Wayment take a step forward?

The Diamond League has, uh, not been kind to American steeplers this year. In the season opener in Doha, Emma Coburn was sideswiped on the second lap, and even though she picked herself up and finished the race, her time of 9:29 was her slowest in a steeple final since 2015. Val Constien had it even worse as she landed awkwardly on a water jump midway through, dropping out with what was later revealed as a season-ending ACL tear. And in Rabat on Sunday, Hillary Bor was on pace for a personal best until taking a drink in the final water jump. On Tuesday, he revealed he broke his foot in the fall and will likely miss USAs as a result. Surely things cannot go any worse in Florence?

Coburn and Courtney Wayment comprise the US contingent in Friday’s race. Coburn is coming off her best race of 2023 — a 4:05 1500 at the LA Grand Prix last weekend. She’s definitely fitter than 9:29, but it takes sub-9:10 to contend in Diamond Leagues, a mark Coburn surpassed only once last year. Wayment, meanwhile, was surprisingly beaten by Krissy Gear in her steeple opener on May 6 at Mt. SAC, where Wayment ran 9:24.

So there are two things to watch. 1) Can Wayment, 0-4 against Coburn, beat her for the first time ever? And 2) Can either of them finish close to the leaders? Bahrain’s Winfred Yavi (9:04) and 17-year-old Ethiopian Sembo Almayew (9:05) went 1-2 in Doha and are the two fastest women in the world this year. Both are entered in Florence.

Men’s 5,000 (3:06 p.m. ET): How do Americans Grant Fisher, Woody Kincaid, & Joe Klecker stack up against the world’s best?

Two years ago in Florence, we saw one of the deepest 5,000m races ever: for just the third time in history, six men broke 12:55 in the same race, led by Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who overcame a two-second deficit at 3k to win in 12:48.45, a time that still stands as the European record.

On Friday, the stage is set for a similarly fast race. Ingebrigtsen, who will attempt to break the 2-mile world record in Paris next week, is not running, but almost every other top 5k man will be. Of the 14 fastest men in history, half of them will be on the start line in Florence. Plus three of the four fastest Americans ever: #1 Grant Fisher (12:46.96), #2 Woody Kincaid (12:51.61), and #4 Joe Klecker (12:54.99).

Name Country PB Accolades
Mohammed Ahmed Canada 12:47.20 2019 World bronze, 2021 Olympic silver
Andreas Almgren Sweden 13:01.70 4th 2022 Euros
Berihu Aregawi Ethiopia 12:50.05 2021 DL champ, 2023 World XC silver
Selemon Barega Ethiopia 12:43.02 #5 all-time; Olympic 10k gold, World Indoor 3k gold
Telahun Bekele Ethiopia 12:52.98 2 DL wins
Joshua Cheptegei Uganda 12:35.36 WR holder, Olympic champ
Grant Fisher USA 12:46.96 AR holder, top 3 in 3 DLs in ’22
Luis Grijalva Guatemala 13:02.94 4th at ’22 Worlds
Mohamed Katir Spain 12:50.79 World bronze at 1500
Yomif Kejelcha Ethiopia 12:46.79 2-time World Indoor 3k champ
Woody Kincaid USA 12:51.61 Set AR indoors
Nicholas Kipkorir Kenya 12:46.33 2022 DL champ
Joe Klecker USA 12:54.99 US 10k champ
Jacob Krop Kenya 12:45.71 Worlds silver
Stewart McSweyn Australia 12:56.50 #2 Aussie ever
Thierry Ndikumwenayo Spain 12:59.39 Won Monaco DL 3k in 7:25 last year
Jack Rayner Australia 13:06.00 Aussie 10k record holder
Paul Robinson Ireland 13:54.34 Pacer
Samuel Tefera Ethiopia 13:04.35 2-time World Indoor 1500 champ

With Berihu Aregawi (World XC silver, 7:27 3k in Doha) fit and in the field, there should be someone to push the pace during the fourth kilometer, which is when these loaded races can crumble. (Plus the Ethiopian usually picks its 5k team by season’s best, so there is incentive for them to run fast). But for those seeking fast times, the bigger concern is the weather: while the mid-60s temperature at race time is nice, humidity in the high 70s will not be ideal.

Fast times can be fun, but look at that list of PBs again. Almost everyone in this field has run well under 13:00. The most exciting storyline here is who is going to win. There will be 19 guys on the start line in Florence (Kincaid hasn’t been added to the official start list as of Wednesday afternoon but confirmed to LetsRun he will be running) and half of them will have a legitimate shot to cross the finish line first.

Embed from Getty Images

Just look at how 2022 played out. Last year, there were eight Diamond League 3k/5k races and seven different winners — and none of those seven were the guys who won the World (Ingebrigtsen) or Commonwealth (Jacob Kiplimo) titles. The pecking order varied from meet to meet depending on who was fresher or whose kick happened to be working that day.

Given the chaos of last year and how early we are in the 2023 season, there is no clear favorite in this race. But if you have to go with one guy, it’s hard to get past Joshua Cheptegei‘s track record. Unlike many of the top Kenyans and Ethiopians, who run a lot of DLs to rack up prize money, Cheptegei is more selective with his races (in part because he likes to stay based in rural Kapchorwa, and traveling from there to anywhere is a multi-day journey). He usually makes those trips count: Cheptegei has won five of his last seven Diamond League races, and in one of those defeats (2021 Florence), he was dealing with a tendon injury.

Joshua Cheptegei’s last 7 Diamond League races

Date Race Distance Time Place
6/30/19 Pre Classic 2 miles 8:07.54 1st
7/5/19 Lausanne DL 5000m 13:03.59 4th
8/29/19 Zurich DL 5000m 12:57.41 1st
8/14/20 Monaco DL 5000m 12:35.36 1st
6/10/21 Florence DL 5000m 12:54.69 6th
8/21/21 Pre Classic 2 miles 8:09.55 1st
5/27/22 Pre Classic 5000m* 12:57.99 1st

*This one only sort of counts: Cheptegei was in his own “world record” section on Friday night and did not race most of the best guys at Pre.

Plus Cheptegei has more global outdoor golds (3) than the rest of this field put together (1). At his best, he has been better than anyone else in this field over the last four years, which makes sense given he’s both the world record holder and Olympic champion.

But if it’s Cheptegei vs the field, definitely take the field. Barega and Aregawi just ran 7:27 in Doha. Jacob Krop (2nd Rome, 2nd Worlds, 3rd Commonwealths, 1st Brussels) stacked together a bunch of podium finishes last year. Nicholas Kipkorir won the DL final. Thierry Ndikumwenayo, who changed allegiance from Burundi to Spain last month, ran 7:25 in Monaco last year, the fastest outdoor time since 2007. There is so much talent in this race.

Who wins the men's 5000 in Florence?

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The Americans

No, you’re not seeing things. Three Americans are heading out to Europe to race in a stacked Diamond League before USAs. For a variety of reasons, many top Americans in recent years have stayed stateside during the early part of the outdoor season, holing up at altitude, racing sparingly and coming down only to hit a qualifier or get the legs going in an underdistance race. On Friday, however, Joe Klecker, Grant Fisher, and Woody Kincaid will all be in Zurich. What’s different this year? A few things…

The timing is right. USAs is later than usual (July 6-9) so they have more time to recover/log one more training block before the meet.

The top Americans are good enough to get into Diamond Leagues. Would Kincaid have been accepted to this meet if it took place this time last year?

The athletes and/or their coaches recognize the value of racing top competition. The On Athletics Club’s Dathan Ritzenhein has been outspoken about wanting his athletes to race against the best to prepare themselves for the crucible of Worlds, so this isn’t much of a departure for him (Klecker ran Oslo in June 2022).

But Fisher has been in the medal hunt three times over the last two years at Worlds/Olympics only to be run out of it on the last lap. It’s hard to replicate the last lap of a championship final in any race, but Florence will come closer than any American race could. In the past, Bowerman TC coach Jerry Schumacher has focused his early-season efforts into getting his athletes on the team rather than throwing them into Diamond Leagues. And from a pragmatic standpoint, that makes sense — you can’t do anything at Worlds if you’re not on the team. But Fisher is probably going to be on the team regardless, hence Schumacher allowing him to go race in Europe this winter and again on Friday.


So what to expect from the Americans? Fisher was consistently competitive in Diamond Leagues last year and his 12:46 sb ranked him #3 in the world. Assuming he has not suffered a major dropoff in fitness, he should be in the mix for the win, but this field is so strong that he could have a good race and still finish 5th.

Klecker and Kincaid will be looking to prove they are strong enough to contend with the best in the world. Last year, they were not: Klecker was 4th in Oslo in 13:04, but when he faced a deeper field and faster race in Brussels, he was buried, finishing 30 seconds off the win in 13:15. Kincaid finished well off the pace in Monaco (8th, 13 seconds back) and Brussels (13th, 28 seconds back).

Has anything changed after both men ran big pbs (12:54 for Klecker, 12:51 for Kincaid) this winter? Kincaid has a much better chance of contending. He’s beaten Klecker in both of their matchups this year, and while Klecker was hanging on for dear life when he ran 12:54 at BU, Kincaid was closing like a demon (26.27 last lap). We know Kincaid can kick off of any pace, but the key for him will be to hold on to the leaders in a 12:40s/12:50s race. He was able to come back after getting dropped by Klecker, but those gaps don’t close as easily in the Diamond League. Can he still be there at the bell when the kicking starts?

Kincaid and Fisher at 2021 Olympic Track Trials (Kevin Morris photo)

One more storyline to watch here: this is the first time Fisher and Kincaid have raced each other since Kincaid left Bowerman after last season. From what Kincaid told us earlier this year, he still gets along fine with his former BTC mates. But with Fisher and Olympic silver medalist Moh Ahmed (also running Florence) on the team, Kincaid was not the star of the show.

“I definitely always felt like I was part of the team, but when it came to racing and when it came to I guess publicity and just chances, you know, Grant Fisher is getting more chances to race in the Diamond League and Moh is getting more chance to race in the Diamond League,” Kincaid said in February. “And I’ve always felt like I can be there if I just get that chance. And so I felt like I need to put myself in a situation where I can prove that.”

Now, under coach Mike Smith in Flagstaff, Kincaid has put himself in that situation. His chance to prove it comes on Friday.

Addition by Robert Johnson: Yes, Kincaid has a better shot at contending for a top finish but that’s assuming he’s not dropped mid-race. One thing Jonathan failed to mention is that when Kincaid beat Klecker twice earlier this year, in both races, Klecker was tiring himself out, pushing the pace (I certainly wouldn’t have used the term “hanging on for dear life.”). Here, Klecker can sit in the pack and get pulled to a time and it’s also possible he gets pulled to a position where he’s so far ahead of Kincaid that Kincaid’s kick becomes irrelevant.

Where will Grant Fisher finish in the Florence 5000?

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MB Florence DL 5000 Ridiculously Stacked Again: Cheptegei, Krop, Fisher, Aregawi, Katir, Kipkorir Kimeli, Kejelcha, Ahmed

Men’s 100 (3:39 p.m. ET): Is anyone close to Fred Kerley?

Once again, there will be no Marcell JacobsFred Kerley showdown in Florence (Jacobs’ back is still bothering him), and the field here is largely the same one Kerley defeated convincingly in Rabat on Sunday. There’s one key addition, however: last year’s Worlds silver medalist Marvin Bracy, who, after a slow start to 2023, just ran 9.93 to win in Montreuil on Wednesday (.01 faster than Kerley ran in Rabat). Akani Simbine (2nd in Rabat in 9.99), Ferdinand Omanyala (3rd in Rabat in 10.05), and Trayvon Bromell (5th in Rabat in 10.10) are all lined up for another shot as well, but until proven otherwise, Kerley is the man to beat in the 100.

Women’s 1500 (3:49 p.m. ET): Will Faith Kipyegon break the world record?

LetsRun.com’s official policy for elite track meets is that the final event should be the biggest race of the day. Given the fields in Florence, then, why is the women’s 1500 — which everyone knows Faith Kipyegon will win — last on the schedule? The only way that makes sense is if this is a world record att–

Apologies. We’re being told that this is a world record attempt, with the OAC’s Sage Hurta-Klecker announcing herself as a pacer on Wednesday.

Embed from Getty Images

Kipyegon has already done everything else in the women’s 1500 — two world titles, two Olympic titles, undisputed GOAT — and has said for a while that she wants the world record this year. The only curious thing about this attempt is the timing. While Kipyegon has had no problem running fast early in the season — she ran 3:53 in her season opener in 2021 and 3:52 last year — she has run her fastest times later in the summer. Her two fastest times ever have both come in Monaco — 3:51.07 in 2021, 3:50.37 in 2022 — and there is a women’s 1500 in Monaco this year (July 21) so it’s odd she would go for it here and not in July. But Kipyegon has been in the sport long enough to know her body. The fact that she is even attempting the WR here says that Kipyegon believes she is ready to go, now.

Last year, Kipyegon had a perfect opportunity to get the record in Monaco: a fast track, good pacing (she was 2:02.6 at 800; WR pace is 2:02.7) and the Wavelight to chase. She needed a 60.9 last lap to get the record but ran 61.3. That’s all that stood between Kipyegon and the 3:50.07 world record.

So how does Kipyegon go faster in Florence? It’s pretty simple. She needs to hope everything aligns like Monaco, only this time, she’s a little fitter. She’ll have the Wavelight again in Florence, and Hurta-Klecker, with a 1:57 800 pb, should be a strong pacer, though ideally she would have run a little faster in Rabat on Sunday (she ran 2:00.62; that’s not a ton of wiggle room when you’re trying to run 2:02 controlled from the front).

No one else in this field has run remotely close to 3:50, so Kipyegon is not going to have any company. But it will be interesting to see what Laura Muir — in her first race since splitting with longtime coach Andy Young — and American Josette Norris (who ran 4:00 last week in LA) can do in their first Diamond League of the year.

Will Faith Kipyegon break the 1500 WR in Florence?

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MB Faith Kipyegon to Attempt 1500m WR in Florence

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