6 Thoughts on 2023 Zurich DL: Nuguse’s Incredible Diamond League Season, Fisher Is Back, & More

ZURICH — Thursday was a good night for American track stars as the Diamond League season resumed its march to next month’s final in Eugene with the Weltklasse Zurich meet. With just three days off between the final day of the World Championships in Budapest and tonight’s action in Switzerland, there were a few post-champs hangovers, notably in the men’s 400-meter hurdles, where world champion Karsten Warholm suffered his first Diamond League defeat in more than five years.

Two of America’s biggest track stars in Budapest, double world champion Sha’Carri Richardson and triple world champion Noah Lyles, kept rolling as Richardson won the 100 in 10.88 and Lyles the 200 in 19.80. There was also good news for US fans in the distance events as Yared Nuguse used a late inside pass to edge world champion Josh Kerr and win his second straight Diamond League in 3:30.49 to Kerr’s 3:30.51. Half an hour later, American Grant Fisher followed up Nuguse’s heroics with some of his own, fighting back after getting dropped to finish 3rd in the 5,000 in 12:54.49 in his first race back from a stress injury in his femur that caused him to withdraw from the USA 5,000m final on July 9.

Below, six takeaways from Zurich on what is always one of the most enjoyable nights on the track calendar. *Full results

For a full recap of the meet, check out the World Athletics recap.

The Goose is loose!

Let’s make this clear, because it’s important: Yared Nuguse just ran down the 1500 world champion in the home straight to win his second straight Diamond League 1500. That is not a sentence we get to write very often about American distance runners.

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Nuguse now has twice as many Diamond League 1500 wins (two) than every other American man in history, combined (though the DL has only been around since 2010). Other Americans may have had better seasons — but no male American miler has ever had a better Diamond League campaign than Nuguse, who has finished 2nd, 3rd, 1st, and 1st in his four DL appearances in 2023 (also the only four DL races of his life).

Nuguse said his strategy was the same as every Diamond League he’s run this year — run up front near the leaders, stay relaxed, and let it rip over the final lap. Nuguse was only 5th at 800 and though he moved up smartly and closed well (54.4 last lap), he still needed some help — as well as a great lean — to get the win.

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“Coming into that last 200, I thought I could go wide, but I don’t know if that’s really gonna be the best move here because I know Kipsang will,” Nuguse said. “So I just took a gambit on just going on the inside and just seeing what would happen.”

Nuguse is no stranger to close finishes in big races — he won his first two NCAA titles in 2019 in tight kicks, leading Notre Dame to the DMR (over Fisher and Stanford) by .15 before edging Justine Kiprotich by .003 to win the 1500 title outdoors.

The gambit was successful tonight because Kerr, who hugged the rail on the final turn, drifted toward the middle of lane 1 on the home straight rather than closing the door on Nuguse. Kerr, who said after the race he ran at the front because he was targeting Mo Farah‘s 3:28.81 British record, got a taste of what it was like to be Jakob Ingebrigtsen as the rabbits dropped out by 800 leaving Kerr with a lot of leading to do. Kerr may be the world champion, but his wait for a first career Diamond League win goes on.

The good news for Kerr is that his runner-up finish earned him enough points to qualify for the Diamond League final in Eugene in two weeks…and a potential rematch with Ingebrigtsen.

Grant Fisher is back, baby

The big winner in the men’s 5,000 tonight was Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha, who rebounded from a 5th-place finish at Worlds to dominate the field, making a big push over the final two kilometers (2:31.74, 2:32.00) to rip apart the field and win by more than seven seconds in 12:46.91. But American Grant Fisher has a special night behind him.

Fisher had been dropped even before then, but he knew his limits and his conservative approach paid off as he was able to work his way back to the second group and wound up finishing 3rd in 12:54.49 after racing it in with Selemon Barega (who beat Fisher) and Luis Grijalva (whom Fisher beat).

“I was on it for a bit and then the guys kind of accelerated,” Fisher said. “And when you’re in a 5k, you know where that line is. After you run a bunch of them, you know what you can hold to the finish and what you can’t. And I couldn’t go with those guys.”

This was a great run for Fisher — he finished between the 10k bronze medalist and the 5k 4th-placer from Worlds — and said that considering his buildup, tonight’s result was basically the best-case scenario.

“I’m really happy,” Fisher said. “It’s been a rough past two months.”

Fisher said that his upper left leg began bothering him two weeks before USAs and an MRI the day after his 4th-place finish in the 10,000 revealed a stress reaction, after which he took a week off. But Fisher returned to cross-training fairly quickly, around 2-3 hours a day — mostly on the exercise bike, but some aqua-jogging and elliptical work too. No swimming, though.

“I don’t really know how to swim,” Fisher said.

Once he could run again, Fisher headed to Bowerman TC’s altitude camp in St. Moritz. He was able to get in about three weeks of workouts before Zurich, but his primary reason for returning this season was not to run Zurich. It was to run Worlds.

“You should never pass up an opportunity to go to Worlds and rep your country if you’re healthy and able,” Fisher said.

Problem was, Fisher was 4th at USAs, so the only way he could run in Budapest is if one of the top three scratched. That didn’t happen, but Fisher said he was ready to go if needed. He also said he didn’t lobby teammate Sean McGorty, who qualified in the 10k and 5k, to give up his spot, noting McGorty earned the right to run both races.

“That’s not how it should be,” Fisher said.

Fisher was planning on ending his season with a couple of 3ks, but tonight’s result may have changed his plans. The top 10 in the Diamond League standings make the final on September 17 in Eugene and Fisher is now 12th. But steepler Lamecha Girma and injured Ugandans Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo are all ahead of him. If they scratch, Fisher is in, and he likes the direction he is headed.

“I feel healthy, I feel good,” Fisher said. “I feel like I’m on the rise still whereas a lot of people that raced Worlds maybe are a little tired now.”

Noah Lyles is not sure if he’ll run the Diamond League final

Lyles had to work for his win in the 200 tonight — his winning time was only 19.80, just .07 ahead of Erriyon Knighton — but he added another victory to his remarkable Diamond League record. He has now won 11 straight DL 200s dating back to June 2019 and 18/19 in his career.

Courtesy Diamond League AG

Will Lyles make it 19/20 at the DL final in Eugene? He would not commit to running it. Lyles said he’s received a lot of media requests since his triple gold in Budapest and is mulling appearances at The Today Show and New York Fashion Week. He believes those appearances can start getting people excited for the Olympics next year.

“What’s another race?” Lyles said. “I’ve already run in the US almost the whole year. It will always be there next year.”

When LetsRun pointed out that this is the only time the US has hosted the Diamond League final, Lyles thought back to his most recent appearance in Eugene in July.

“The US championships being on CNBC did not leave the greatest taste in our mouths, let’s just say that,” Lyles said. “Now I’m wondering if it’s even going to get the coverage that is needed for it to be an impact when I could go and do my single media and get a way bigger audience that’s not just track & field.”

For the record, NBC did announce in May that it plans on airing two hours of live coverage of Pre each day on NBC. And why can’t Lyles appear on The Today Show / attend fashion week (Sept 7-13) while prepping for the Diamond League final (Sept 17) at the same time. It’s not like doing a 20 minute studio interview is physically taxing.

Warholm still feeling the effects of Worlds but says of his defeat: “For the event, I think it’s a good thing”

Warholm runs with a lot of fire, but even he admitted that it was hard to summon his usual energy eight days after winning the world title.

‘It’s harder to wake that fighter after being the world champion and achieving my biggest goal and drinking some champagne,” Warholm said.

Courtesy Diamond League AG

That said, he still thought he could beat Worlds silver medalist Kyron McMaster coming off the final hurdle, but in the end McMaster had just a little bit more, holding on to win in 47.27 to Warholm’s 47.30. Warholm said he was not feeling his best today but had committed to run Zurich and gave the best performance he could.

“It shows that I can’t have bad days if I want to win the 400 hurdles,” Warholm said. “For the event, I think it’s a good thing. For me, of course, I would like to win every race.”

Warholm has never competed at the Prefontaine Classic, though he has competed in Eugene twice — last year for Worlds, as well as in 2014 for the World Juniors, where he finished 10th in the decathlon. He said he is not a huge fan of the travel involved in getting to Eugene but that he will probably be there for the Diamond League final.

“I don’t really want to take that journey, but at the same time, it’s the Diamond League final and I appreciate running the competitions and running with the best,” Warholm said. “So, most likely [I’ll be there].”

A dominant 800 win for Laura Muir

Muir dropped down to the 800 tonight and though she got a poor start, running in 10th of 11 at 200 meters, in the end, it looked like one of her 1500s as she made a big move with 200 to go to open a huge gap that she would mostly maintain to the finish line, winning in 1:57.71, more than a second clear of runner-up Catriona Bisset of Australia.

“I just knew when I hit the front, I wanted to stay at the front,” Muir said.

After medalling in the 1500 in 2021 and 2022, Muir was only 6th in the 1500 in Budapest. But when asked if she made a mistake by not running the 800, she shut it down, noting that the top three from Worlds were not in this race and a three-round championship is different from a one-off race.

“I can run like that [once], but the rounds are a different story in the 800 meters,” Muir said. “Even just making the final is very difficult.”

Sha’Carri Richardson and Shericka Jackson keep rolling

Many of the world champs understandably did not run as fast tonight as in their victories in Budapest, but both Richardson (10.88 in the 100) and Jackson (21.82 in the 200) earned dominant victories in their specialty events tonight. Neither field was particularly strong (Gabby Thomas wound up scratching the 200), but Richardson did notably beat double Olympic champ Elaine Thompson-Herah, who was second in 11.00 after missing the Jamaican team in the individual 100 this year.

Jackson has said she is only running 200s the rest of the year and Richardson’s best event is clearly the 100 so it’s possible we may not see another Richardson-Jackson matchup until 2024.

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