2024 Suzhou DL Preview: Gidey, Barega, & Coburn Open Up, Coleman Tries to Keep Winning

Plus Sha'Carri Richardson will try to improve on her 22.99 200m from last week in Xiamen

After an entertaining season opener in Xiamen last weekend, the Diamond League is back on Saturday with its second meet of the 2024 season in Suzhou.

Meet #2 looks a lot like meet #1. To convince a bunch of the world’s best athletes to fly to China in April, the Diamond League gave Xiamen and Suzhou near-identical schedules so that athletes could knock out two competitions with one trip. That means many of the stars that competed in Xiamen — Sha’Carri RichardsonMondo DuplantisChristian Coleman — are all back in Suzhou.

There are a few additions we did not see last week. Former world record holder Letesenbet Gidey will be running the women’s 5,000 (albeit before the broadcast window begins), Olympic 10,000 champ Selemon Barega is in the men’s 5,000, and Emma Coburn will be racing for the first time since Worlds, where her 2023 season ended with a torn hamstring.

Here’s a look at the top events ahead of Saturday’s meet, in chronological order.

What: 2024 Yangtze River Delta Athletics Diamond Gala
Where: Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre, Suzhou, China
When: Saturday, April 27. DL track events (and the Peacock broadcast) begin at 7:00 a.m. ET.

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How to watch: This meet will be streamed live in the United States on Peacock from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. ET on Saturday. For full TV/streaming details, see below.

Full Suzhou schedule/entries/results * TV/streaming information

Reaction show: As you watch the meet, share your thoughts on it on the Letsrun.com messageboard and then catch our live instant reaction show at 9:05 a.m. ET on Saturday.

Women’s 5,000 (6:29 a.m. ET): How fast does Gidey go?

Fair warning to American fans setting their alarms on Saturday morning: you might not have a way of watching this race. The race is at 6:29 a.m. ET but the international broadcast begins at 7:00 a.m. ET, which is also when Peacock’s coverage begins. There may be some sort of Chinese stream floating around on the internet, but don’t hold your breath.

Still, the distance diehards are getting excited about it because it features the 2024 debut of Ethiopian star Letesenbet Gidey, last seen getting outkicked by Hellen Obiri at the New York City Marathon in November. Enterprising messageboard poster John Wesley Harding has even wondered whether Gidey could be going after the 14:00.21 world record and in the process attempt to become the first woman ever to break 14:00 for 5,000 meters.

There is some logic to his thinking. The event is before the TV window and no one else in the field has run within 30 seconds of Gidey’s 14:06 pb on the track. Gidey also likes to run fast — she ran 14:07 and 14:08 in her two track 5,000s last year. Plus Gidey did not run World XC this year, a meet she had always run in the past. Why would Gidey give that meet up to run a non-Diamond League 5,000 in China?

Gidey set the the 5,000 WR in 2020. It has been broken twice since then. (Credit NN Running Team)

There are two realistic explanations:

1) She wants to attempt the world record in Suzhou.
2) Gidey’s agency (Global Sports Communication) organizes the Suzhou meet and convinced her to run (perhaps with a nice appearance fee).

Or it could be both. World record attempts are easier to organize when your agency is in charge and they can supply pacemakers — like Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo, a Global athlete who is entered in Suzhou and has run 3:59 for 1500 but has little history in the 5,000. Plus there will be a Wavelight system in Suzhou, though the paces have not been announced yet.

LetsRun.com reached out to Gidey’s agent Valentijn Trouw, who said that Saturday’s race “is much more a first race to get the season going, not focusing for time.” So we may want to pump the brakes on any world record talk.

That said, don’t ignore the clock. Gudaf Tsegay (14:00.21), Faith Kipyegon (14:05.20), Beatrice Chebet (14:05.92), and Letesenbet Gidey (14:06.62) are the four fastest women in history and all are still in their primes. Throw in Sifan Hassan, and there is going to be a race this year to see who can be the first woman to break 14:00.

MB: I think Letesenbet Gidey might be trying to break 14 this Saturday

How fast will Letesenbet Gidey run on Saturday?

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Men’s 100 (7:18 a.m. ET): Coleman-Kerley, round two

It was not a surprise to see Christian Coleman and Fred Kerley go 1-2 in last week’s DL 100-meter opener in Xiamen. Coleman and Kerley are both former world champions and among the favorites for gold in Paris this summer. What was a surprise: the winning time of 10.13 (you’d have to go back to 2016 to find a slower winning time in a Diamond League) and the way Coleman won. The first isn’t much of a story — it’s still April, after all. But the second could be a big deal.

Coleman is arguably the greatest starter in history, not only because of his ability to get out of the blocks quickly and build an early lead, but because of his consistency. He can replicate his start, time after time — just try to think of a race where Coleman didn’t have a gap on the field by 30 meters. That did not happen in Xiamen, where Coleman’s start was pedestrian by his standards. But he ran a terrific middle phase, which gave him enough of a cushion to hold on for the win when Kerley made his late charge.

The fact that Coleman was able to beat Kerley without his trademark start is a great sign for Coleman and a worry for Kerley. What will happen in Suzhou if Coleman gets out of the blocks well this time?

Women’s steeple (7:28 a.m. ET): Emma Coburn returns to China 10 years on from her surprise Diamond League victory

The last time Emma Coburn competed at a Diamond League in China in 2014, she gapped the field after two laps and held on for an upset victory in Shanghai in 9:19.80.

It is hard to understate how much of a surprise this was at the time. Entering 2014, the women’s steeple was one of America’s weakest events; no American had even made the final at the previous year’s World Championships in Moscow. Coburn’s win showed that US women could be competitive with the world’s best, something she and Courtney Frerichs proved time after time in the coming years. Ten years on, it remains the only Diamond League victory by a US women’s steepler.

Coburn, now 33, returns to China after a frustrating last few years. She has broken 9:10 just once since the 2021 Olympics and felt she did not race to her fitness at the 2021 Olympics or 2022 Worlds. Last year, battling a hamstring injury, Coburn had her slowest season’s best (9:13) since 2015 and was beaten at USAs for the first time ever; she exited in the prelims at the Worlds in Budapest and found out later the hamstring was torn. She has spent the last eight months rehabbing furiously. How will a rebuilt Coburn look in her first race back? We’ll find out on Saturday against a field led by world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, who crushed everyone with an 8:55 win at the DL opener last week.

How fast will Emma Coburn run in Suzhou?

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Men’s 800 (8:00 a.m. ET): Who steps up with no Arop?

Last week’s 800 in Xiamen was a fine way to kick off the 2024 campaign with world champion Marco Arop edging Wyclife Kinyamal in a back-and-forth home straight duel. Arop isn’t running in Suzhou, which makes Kinyamal the favorite here. But Botswana’s Tshepiso Masalela, who was only .22 behind Kinyamal in Xiamen, should be a threat, as should Algerians Slimane Moula and Djamel Sedjati, who combined to win three times on the DL circuit last season (neither man raced in Suzhou).

Women’s 200 (8:14 a.m. ET): Sha’Carri tries to improve after underwhelming opener

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Any way you slice it, Sha’Carri Richardson‘s 2024 season opener was disappointing. Richardson’s time of 22.99 last week was more than a second off her personal best and her slowest in any competition since July 2020. And she was beaten at the line by 19-year-old Australian Torrie Lewis, who might have snuck past Richardson’s attention given Lewis was all the way out in lane 9. In her best seasons (2021 and 2023), Richardson has started fast, and while Richardson said she felt good about the performance, she also admitted she has some work to do.

Richardson is only one race into her 2024 season and is more than three months away from the biggest races of her year, so there is no need to panic. But a win in Suzhou — against virtually the same field as last week, minus Lewis — and a faster time than 22.99 would show that Richardson is moving in the right direction.

How fast will Sha'Carri Richardson run in Suzhou?

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Men’s 5,000 (8:27 a.m. ET): Olympic champ Selemon Barega opens up

None of the top three from Xiamen (Lamecha GirmaNicholas KipkorirBirhanu Balew) are running here, though 23-year-old Samwel Masai, who ran a 13:00 pb in tough conditions to finish 4th in his DL debut, is entered. As far as Diamond League fields go, this one is very weak.

There are two main additions from last week’s race, however, and they are the most intriguing guys in the field. The first is reigning Olympic 10,000 champ Selemon Barega, who will make his outdoor opener after finishing 3rd in the 3,000 at World Indoors behind Josh Kerr and Yared Nuguse. He’s the favorite. The other notable newcomer is Barega’s Ethiopian countryman Biniam Mehary. Only 17 years old officially, Mehary ran 3:34 and 7:33 indoors. This will be just the second 5,000 of his life after he ran 14:05 at the Ethiopian championships at altitude last year.

As you watch the meet, share your thoughts on it on the Letsrun.com messageboard and then catch our live instant reaction show at 9:05 am ET.

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