Thursday’s Track Meet in Zurich Looks Incredible – 2023 Weltklasse PreviewBy Jonathan Gault
2023 Weltklasse Zurich: Sha’Carri, Shericka, Kerr, Lyles, Plus Grant Fisher Returns & Girma Debuts At 5000
ZURICH — Yes, it’s already time for another Diamond League meet.
Just four days after Femke Bol wrapped up the 2023 World Athletics Championships by delivering the 4×400 relay title to the Dutch — here’s the last 10 seconds of the race again, you know you want to click on it — the pro track circuit has moved on to Zurich for the fame, annual Weltklasse meet. That means we’ll be dealing with some tired athletes, but it also offers another chance to witness some of the stars that shined so brightly in Budapest like Sha’Carri Richardson, Josh Kerr, and Noah Lyles. Plus a guy by the name of Grant Fisher is running his first race in eight weeks.
The stakes are not as high as usual in Zurich — outside of the COVID year of 2020, this is the first time in the Diamond League’s 14-year history that Zurich is not hosting the Diamond League final. But there is some good news to come from that: we no longer have to deal with the Mickey Mouse temporary track that they used for the 5,000s the last two years.
Zurich is always one of the best meets of the year, and I’ll be there providing boots-on-the-ground coverage this week. Here’s what I’m looking forward to most.
What: 2023 Weltklasse Zurich
When: Thursday, August 31. Broadcast window 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. ET on Peacock.
Where: Letzigrund Stadium, Zurich, Switzerland
*TV/streaming information *Schedule, entries, & results
Women’s 100 (2:15 p.m. ET) and 200 (3:04 p.m. ET): Richardson & Jackson in action (but not against each other)
Sha’Carri Richardson is now a bona fide track star and it’s exciting when she competes. And Shericka Jackson is, quite simply, one of the greatest 200-meter runners of all time. They won’t race each other in Zurich, but it’s not as if they’re dodging each other — Richardson is better at the 100, Jackson is better at the 200, and they’ve already raced each other five times this year, including three times in Budapest.
Richardson is the only World Championship finalist in the 100 in Zurich, but she will get to face Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica, who will run her first individual race since finishing 5th at the Jamaican trials on July 7.
The 200 is more competitive, with silver medalist Gabby Thomas of the US in the field, but there was a sizeable gap between Jackson and Thomas at Worlds and Jackson is the clear favorite here. Keep an eye on the clock. Remember Jackson was only .07 away from FloJo’s 21.34 WR in Budapest, but if you plug the two times into Jonas Mureika‘s wind/altitude/lane converter, Jackson’s was worth 21.43 in still conditions while FloJo’s was worth 21.44 (FloJo had a +1.2 wind while Shericka had +0.1).
Men’s 1500 (2:41 p.m. ET): World Championship rematch (but no Jakob)
The men’s 1500 is super deep right now and the race in Zurich will feature 10 of the 12 finalists from Budapest — only silver medalist Jakob Ingebrigtsen and last-placer Isaac Nader of Portugal are missing. Obviously, a rematch between Ingebrigtsen and Kerr is what the world wants to see, but that will have to wait, perhaps for the Diamond League final in Eugene on September 16.
For that to happen, Kerr has to qualify first. Only the top 10 in the season standings make it and Kerr, who has only run one DL race this year, is currently tied for 13th with 6 points. But he’s only one point out of 10th, and one of the men ahead of him, Ollie Hoare, has shut down his season due to injury. Any finish in the top 4 should be enough for Kerr to make the final, and it may not even take that.
(By the way, how about a new rule to fix this: the world champion is guaranteed a spot in the DL final. Any objections?)
The other question is whether Kerr can win. So far in his career, the 25-year-old has more podium appearances in global finals (two in four appearances) than in Diamond Leagues (one in six). Kerr is in the best shape of his life, but there are 10 other guys in this race who have run 3:30 or faster in 2023. American Yared Nuguse has the best DL record this season, finishing 2nd in Rabat, 3rd in Oslo, and 1st in London, while Worlds bronze medalist Narve Gilje Nordas has a big kick and is not afraid to use it. 3:28 man Mo Katir is also here but may be tired from pushing Ingebrigtsen to the limit in the 5,000 on Sunday. American Cole Hocker will attempt to improve upon his best DL finish of 5th from last year’s DL final. Hocker has no DL points this year and would need a huge race in Zurich — 1st or 2nd — to qualify for the final on his home track in Eugene.
Plus what does 18-year-old wunderkid Niels Laros have left in the tank? Like Hocker, he has zero DL points so needs a monster race to qualify for Eugene.
Men’s 5,000 (3:10 p.m. ET): The return of Grant Fisher as Lamecha Girma makes 5,000 debut
This time last year, Grant Fisher was midway through his European American record tour. Fisher’s 2023 has not been as glorious: he has not raced since the USA 10,000 on July 6 due to a stress injury in his femur. But rather than call it a season, Fisher went to Bowerman Track Club’s altitude camp in Park City following USAs and, after taking a few days off, began cross-training like a demon, per Runner’s World.
None of the top three from Worlds are in this race, but between 4th and 5th placers Luis Grijalva and Yomif Kejelcha, 10,000 bronze medalist Selemon Barega, and steeple silver medalist Lamecha Girma, there is still plenty of competition. US 10,000 champ Woody Kincaid is entered too.
The spotlight will be on Fisher from an American perspective, but globally the most intriguing storyline is the debut of Girma. Though he has set world records in the indoor 3,000 (7:23.81) and steeplechase (7:52.11), he has never run a 5,000-meter race in his life — or at least not one that shows up in any results databases.
Given his form this year, Girma should be the favorite. Remember, he won the Diamond League opener in the flat 3,000 in Doha in 7:26.18, taking down Barega and Berihu Aregawi. And he will have had six days since his race at Worlds as opposed to just four for the guys who ran the 5,000 final.
Men’s 200 (3:41 p.m. ET): How fast does Noah Lyles go?
After he ran 19.31 in last year’s World Championship final, the fourth-fastest 200-meter time ever recorded, everyone wondered if he could go faster in Monaco three weeks later. Lyles did not, but in retrospect, his 19.46 deserves far more credit than he deserved at the time.
The history of the 200 meters has shown that it is very hard to run super fast twice in one season. Of the 11 sub-19.50 200s ever run, only one man has done it twice in one year — that would be Lyles last year. Crazy stat: Usain Bolt‘s six fastest 200m times of his career came in six separate years. Five of the six came in global finals (his 19.56 in Kingston in 2010 — the #6 time on the list — came in a non-championship year).
Lyles has already run one sub-19.50 this year, his 19.47 in London on July 23. He ran 19.52 in Budapest. It’s hard to see him going much faster than that in Zurich. Though he will have had five days to recover, Lyles had a heavy workload at Worlds, running three rounds of the 100, three rounds of the 200, and the final of the 4×100. And meet-time temperatures in Zurich on Thursday will be in the low-60s — not great for sprinting. Lyles should beat this field, which includes 200 silver medalist Erriyon Knighton and 100 bronze medalist Zharnel Hughes, but don’t expect a fast time.
Talk about the meet on our world-famous fan forum: Are you recovered Worlds? We hope so as Thursday’s Weltklasse (2-4 pm ET) looks incredible.