Previewing the 7 Best Races at the Fantastic 2023 Monaco Diamond League

The Monaco Diamond League — known simply as Herculis — occupies a unique place on the track & field calendar. There are no medals awarded, and on paper the prize money/points on offer are the same as the other 12 regular-season Diamond League meets.

But Herculis is different. Between Monaco’s glitz, glamor, and picturesque backdrop on the French Riviera and the record-breaking history of the meet itself, Herculis is one of track & field’s red-letter days. It’s our sport’s equivalent of another event hosted in the principality, Formula 1’s Monaco Grand Prix. This is as big as regular-season track gets.

You can count on the stars to show up in Monaco, and 2023 is no exception. The TV window kicks off with Olympic champion Karsten Warholm taking on world champion Alison dos Santos in the 400 hurdles (US champ Rai Benjamin withdrew), which will be immediately followed by Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone in the flat 400. Faith Kipyegon is in the mile, where Sifan Hassan‘s 4:12.33 world record set on this track in 2019 will be in jeopardy, there’s a showdown between Gabby Thomas and Shericka Jackson in the women’s 200, and the men’s 5,000 is stacked with 10 sub-13:00 guys.

Here are the seven events we’re most excited about, listed in chronological order.

Meet details
What: 2023 Herculis
When: Friday, July 21. Broadcast window 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. ET. Live Post-Meet Reaction Show at 4:10 p.m. ET. Watch the meet, take a bathroom break, grab a soft drink/beer and listen to our analysis. Supporters Club members can get it on-demand as a podcast.
Where: Stade Louis II, Monaco
*TV/streaming information *Schedule, entries, & results

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Men’s 400 hurdles (2:04 p.m. ET): Warholm vs. dos Santos

If you’re a track fan, I shouldn’t have to sell this event to you. It’s right there in the headline: Karsten Warholm vs. Alison dos Santos. Six years ago, Warholm showed up, started winning world titles and smashing world records and looked set to go down as the greatest hurdler of his generation — and perhaps of all time. Then Warholm got hurt last year and in stepped dos Santos, who ran 46.29 to win the world title at the age of 22 — more than a second faster than Warholm’s pb at the same age (47.64).

(Learn more about Warholm and his training in our latest LRC feature: An Inside Look at Karsten Warholm’s Revolutionary Training)

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The last time these two met, in last year’s World Championship final, dos Santos notched his first victory over Warholm in six attempts — but that was a crippled Warholm, not yet recovered from the hamstring injury he suffered a month earlier in Rabat. Warholm is back to his best now, as shown by his 46.52 in Oslo last month. The bigger question: is dos Santos?

In February, dos Santos underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. As a result, dos Santos did not debut in 2023 until last weekend, where he ran 44.73 for the flat 400 in Silesia. That’s a solid effort, and not far off the 44.54 pb he set last year at Mt. SAC. But Friday in Monaco presents a completely different challenge in the form of a red-hot Warholm.

Everyone wants to see the Big Three of the 400 hurdles at their best in Budapest, and between Warholm and Rai Benjamin (initially entered in Monaco but since scratched), who ran 46.62 at USAs, at least two of them look good to go. Friday’s race will give us an idea if dos Santos is ready to rejoin the party.

Who wins the men's 400 hurdles in Monaco?

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Women’s 400 (2:15 p.m. ET): Can anyone touch Sydney?

Update: Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone has scratched from Monaco with an injury precaution.

Last year, Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone was in Monaco — she just wasn’t competing. Fresh off her unforgettable world record in Eugene, the newlywed McLaughlin-Levrone chose to call it a season and watch the meet from the stands with her husband. This year, with the Worlds still to come, SML will be headlining the women’s 400. It’s her second Diamond League appearance of 2023 — two more than her combined total from 2020-2022. That’s a good thing!

Year Sub-50s
2014 2
2015 5
2016 7
2017 5
2018 6
2019 5
2020 0
2021 12
2022 9
2023 10

McLaughlin-Levrone’s 48.74 pb at USAs was the fastest time since 2019 outside of Shaunae Miller-Uibo — who won’t be at Worlds this year — and it makes her the favorite for Budapest next month. She’ll line up as the woman to beat in Monaco as well, but as we saw in her first DL of the year in Paris, SML can’t afford any mistakes if she wants to win.

Marileidy Paulino, who beat SML in Paris, isn’t in this race, but the women’s 400 is deep this year. Already in 2023, 10 women have broken 50 seconds, which is the second-most for any year in the last two decades. Four of those women will be in Friday’s race: McLaughlin-Levrone (48.64), NCAA champion Rhasidat Adeleke of Ireland (49.20), Poland’s Natalia Kaczmarek (49.48), and the Netherlands’ Lieke Klaver (49.81).

If everyone in the field has their best day, this is Sydney’s race. But under coach Bobby Kersee, the clear focus has been on the major championships, with every other meet secondary to that plan. If SML is back in heavy training or if Kersee has her go out crazy fast like she did in Paris, she could be vulnerable. If he tells her to just rip it, it’s hard to see anyone stopping her.

Men’s 800 (2:25 p.m. ET): A Worlds preview

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The Monaco 800 is one of the strongest fields assembled this season, and while anything can happen in the brutal qualifying rounds of a global championship, this race figures to feature a number of athletes that will be in the World Championship final on August 26.

Chief among them is Emmanuel Wanyonyi, the budding Kenyan star who has been the best in the world in 2023. Wanyonyi, who turns 19 on August 1, won the world U20 title in 2021, was 4th at Worlds last year, and has gone undefeated so far this year, running two of the three fastest times in the world (1:43.27 in Paris, 1:43.32 in Nairobi). Most recently, he won the Kenyan trials on July 8 to seal his spot on the Budapest team.

But there are plenty of guys lined up to challenge him. All three medalists from last year’s Worlds — Emmanuel KorirDjamel Sedjati, and Marco Arop — are entered, as is Aussie record holder Joseph Deng, British champ Daniel Rowden, and Americans Bryce Hoppel and Clayton Murphy. If Wanyonyi can defeat that field, he’ll stamp himself as the clear favorite for Worlds. If not, things could get crazy in Budapest.

Women’s mile (2:35 p.m. ET): Another world record for Faith Kipyegon?

Is it unfair to expect a world record from Faith Kipyegon every time she races? Yes. Is it unfair to expect her to run a world record in this specific race? Not really. Given the way her 2023 season has unfolded, frankly it would be a surprise if Kipyegon doesn’t break Sifan Hassan‘s 4:12.33 WR.

The mile world record is much softer than either of the two WRs Kipyegon has taken down already in 2023 — her 3:49.11 1500 in Florence and her 14:05.20 5,000 in Paris a week later. World Athletics’ scoring tables equate a 3:49.11 1500 to a 4:06.59 mile, while the LetsRun rule of thumb (1500 time x 1.08) pegs it as a 4:07.44. Either way, Kipyegon clearly has some wiggle room, and given her fitness, the Wavelight, and the fast track/atmosphere in Monaco, she has a great shot to take down Hassan’s WR.

2023 has been a year of world records for Kipyegon (Marta Gorczynska for Diamond League AG)

Remember, when Hassan set that WR in 2019, her 1500 sb was 3:51.95 (granted, that was in the World Championship final without pacers after winning the 10,000); Kipyegon has run almost three seconds faster this year. Hassan also left some meat on the bone — when she set the record on this same Monaco track in 2019, she ran her first 800 in 2:08.5 before crushing the final 809 in 2:03.8. With smarter pacing, Kipyegon could take this thing under 4:10.

That will be the story up front. Farther back, we’ll get a matchup between US 1500 champ Nikki Hiltz and US 5k/10k champ Elise Cranny. Could Mary Decker Slaney‘s 4:16.71 American record, set way back in 1985, finally fall? Hiltz ran 4:18.38 in Oslo last month, while Cranny ran 3:59.06 in Monaco last summer, which WA equates to 4:17.25 for the mile. Cranny is likely in similar shape — she loves the 1500/mile, and her first request to coaches Jerry Schumacher and Shalane Flanagan after sweeping the 5k/10k at USAs was to run this race in Monaco — and in a time trial-type race like this one, she might be favored over Hiltz. It will be fun to see what the Americans do against a field that also features Laura MuirFreweyni HailuJessica Hull, and Ciara Mageean.

Does Faith Kipyegon break the mile WR of 4:12.33?

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Men’s 5,000 (3:00 p.m. ET): Could we see a sub-12:40?

The men’s 5,000 may have been the single most exciting event during the first half of the 2023 Diamond League season. All three races so far have been incredible. A refresher:

Florence (June 2): Mohamed Katir wins a “tactical” race in 12:52, leading 13 men under 13:00 — the most ever in one race.

Oslo (June 16): A photo finish gives the win to Yomif Kejelcha over Jacob Kiplimo as both men run 12:41.73.

Lausanne (June 30): Berihu Aregawi runs 12:40.45 (#5 all-time) to defeat world record holder Joshua Cheptegei (2nd in 12:41.61).

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Katir, Kiplimo, and Aregawi are all entered in Monaco, and they’ll be joined by Kenyans Jacob Krop and Nicholas Kipkorir, who won the 10k and 5k, respectively, at the Kenyan trials. The two Kenyans were a fair ways back in Florence (Krop was 8th in 12:55, Kipkorir 15th in 13:10) but Krop was 2nd at Worlds last year while Kipkorir won the DL final and both have run sub-12:50 in the past.

Sub-12:50 may not be enough in Monaco, however. Once the pacers stepped off in Lausanne, Aregawi covered his final 3000 in 7:30.7 — which is 12:31 5k pace. The world record, set in Monaco three years ago, is 12:35.36. The pacing schedule isn’t out for Monaco yet, but it’s not crazy to think that Aregawi, who loves to run from the front, could challenge the WR if he’s aggressive from the start.

Even if he doesn’t attack 12:35, this race will serve as something of a Worlds preview. If one of the distance specialists like Aregawi or Kiplimo is to win Worlds, they’ll have to drop Jakob Ingebrigtsen, because neither of them are outkicking him in his current form. Ingebrigtsen isn’t in this race, but there’s a proxy in the form of Katir (3:28/12:50 pbs), who offers a similar skillset. If they can’t drop Katir here, there’s little chance of doing the same to Ingebrigtsen in Budapest next month.

Women’s 200 (3:20 p.m. ET): Jackson vs Thomas

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Props to the stars of women’s sprinting for showing up and racing each other so close to Worlds. Just five days after facing Sha’Carri Richardson in the 100 in Silesia, Shericka Jackson will square off against Gabby Thomas in the 200 in Monaco. World champ Jackson (21.45) and Olympic bronze medalist Thomas (21.60) sit #2 and #4 on the all-time 200m list, and in the span of two hours on July 9, they traded off the world lead three times at their respective national championships. Thomas began by running 21.86 in the semis at USAs, Jackson responded with a 21.71 in the final at the Jamaican champs, only for Thomas to get the last laugh with a 21.60 pb in the final at USAs.

After that virtual competition two weeks ago, the two will meet for the first time since last year’s Diamond League final (won by Jackson) on Friday. The winner here will head to Worlds as the favorite for gold.

Who wins the women's 200 in Monaco?

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Men’s steeple (3:30 p.m. ET): Kenyan champ Simon Koech makes DL debut

The men’s steeplechase in Monaco has produced some memorable moments through the years, from Brimin Kipruto missing the world record by .01 in 2011 to Evan Jager becoming the first non-African man to win a DL in 2017 to officials ringing the bell a lap early in 2021, leading to shock/horror on the face of Benjamin Kigen, who had kicked early.

This race doesn’t feature either of the big dogs of the steeple — world record holder Lamecha Girma or world champ Soufiane El Bakkali — but it does offer a look at a promising new talent in the form of 20-year-old Simon Koech. Koech, the bronze medalist at the World U20 champs in 2021, has never run a track race outside of Kenya — heck, his Tilastopaja profile lists no track races outside of Nairobi — but he’s undefeated this year and convincingly won the Kenyan trials in 8:22 at altitude, four seconds up on 8:05 man Abraham Kibiwot. Expect a sizable pb (his best is 8:18) — and perhaps a first DL victory — for the young Koech in his first race at sea level.

Americans Benard Keter (who is going to Worlds) and Mason Ferlic (who is not) are both in the field, too.

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