8 Takeaways from Opening Day: Gudaf Tsegay 3:50.30, a 19-Year-Old Stuns Sha’Carri, & More

The 2024 Wanda Diamond League season kicked off in Xiamen as the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold resumed in Nairobi

With the Diamond League season beginning in Xiamen and a Continental Tour Gold meet in Nairobi, Saturday served as the unofficial Opening Day of the 2024 professional track & field season, and it did not disappoint.

Sweden’s Mondo Duplantis was the star of the day in Xiamen as he cleared 6.24 meters in the pole vault to set the eighth world record of his career (separate article here). Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay ran 3:50.30 to move to #3 on the world all-time list, while 19-year-old Australian Torrie Lewis stunned Sha’Carri Richardson in the 200 and Christian Coleman defeated Fred Kerley in the 100.

The men’s 200 was the highlight at the Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi as American Courtney Lindsey clocked a 19.71 pb into a 1.5 m/s headwind to edge Worlds bronze medalist Letsile Tebogo of Botswana.

Below, eight takeaways from Opening Day. Our video recap show is also embbed below.

*Full Xiamen results *Full Nairobi results

1) Faith Kipyegon needs to bring it in 2024 because Gudaf Tsegay is only getting better

Faith Kipyegon withdrew from the women’s 1500 in Xiamen earlier this week and it’s a shame that she did because Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay would have given her a great battle today. Tsegay, who set a 5,000m world record of 14:00.21 at the 2023 Diamond League final, went out aggressively on Saturday (2:02.5 through 800) and held on well to run a nearly three-second pb of 3:50.30 (60.9 last lap). Tsegay is now #3 on the all-time list, with only Kipyegon (3:49.11 in 2023) and Genzebe Dibaba (3:50.07 in 2015) ever going faster.

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Kipyegon has won the last three global titles and is coming off one of the greatest seasons in the history of distance running in 2023, which included World Championship gold in the 1500 and 5,000

Gudaf TSEGAY (ETH) wins the the women’s 1500m with 3:50.30 at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Xiamen on April 20.

and world records in both events. She remains the favorite for an unprecedented third straight Olympic 1500 gold in Paris, but Tsegay, who won the 5,000 at the 2022 Worlds and the 10,000 at the 2023 Worlds, showed today that she is better than ever. Kipyegon will have to be close to her best to stay ahead of Tsegay in 2024.

2) Courtney Lindsey makes a statement in Nairobi with 19.71 victory over Letsile Tebogo

20-year-old Botswanan star Letsile Tebogo has enjoyed an incredible start to his 2024 season. He set a 300m world record of 30.69 on February 17 in Pretoria, then ran a 400m pb of 44.29 on March 18 and ran 19.94 into a 1.2 m/s headwind in his 200m opener on March 27.

That made Tebogo, who earned 100m silver and 200m bronze at Worlds, the favorite coming into the 200 at Kip Keino. And while Tebogo ran well, clocking 19.71 into a 1.5 m/s headwind – his second-fastest time ever – it was not enough to win as American Courtney Lindsey edged him by thousandths.

Lindsey won the NCAA 100m title for Texas Tech last year and made the World Championship team in the 200 after running a pb of 19.85 to finish 3rd at USAs. But he looks to be on a new level in 2024. Last week, he ran 19.88 in Gainesville to convincingly beat Worlds 200m finalist Joe Fahnbulleh. And today he made a statement by running a significant personal best and taking down Tebogo in the process.

Lindsey’s emergence means the 200m at the Olympic Trials will be must-see TV this year. Between Lindsey, Noah Lyles, Erriyon Knighton, and Kenny Bednarek, the US has four studs in the event (not to mention 100m men Christian Coleman and Fred Kerley) and only three can make it to the Olympics.

3) 19-year-old Aussie Torrie Lewis stunned Sha’Carri Richardson in the 200

Richardson, drawn in lane 5, did not run a great bend, though she made up ground on the home straight. But she did not seem to notice the 19-year-old Lewis on the outside, who had never broken 23 seconds until the prelims of last week’s Australian championships in Adelaide.

Torrie LEWIS (AUS) beats Sha’Carri RICHARDSON (USA) with a time of 22.96 in the women’s 200M at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Xiamen on April 20

Lewis’ victory was the first ever in a flat sprint event by an Australian athlete in a Diamond League. Richardson’s time, meanwhile, was more than a second slower than her 21.92 pb, though it was not a fast night for sprinting overall. Richardson’s time was her slowest 200 since July 2020 and .45 slower than her 2023 opener of 22.54, which she ran in Botswana on April 29.

Richardson, who is entered in the 200 at the Suzhou Diamond League next weekend, said she felt some nerves coming in but felt at home once she stepped on the track.

“I felt really good with this first performance,” Richardson told media after the race. “I know what I need to work on, me and my coach. I’m pretty sure by the time I get back to the warmup area he’s already formulating on how to get better for the next race.”

4) The sprint times were far from impressive in Xiamen, but…

We imagine no one on planet Earth would have thought the women’s 200 in Xiamen would have been won in 22.96.

Last year, only two of the women’s Diamond League 200s were won in a time over 22 seconds with the slowest being a 22.50. Shericka Jackson won five of them last year and her slowest winning time was 21.94.

In fact, 22.96 is the slowest winning time for a women’s 200 in the 15-year history of the Diamond League.

And we know it’s not a matter of the track being slow as the sprint times at Xiamen last year when the meet was in September were fast.

In the men’s 100, world indoor champ Christain Coleman took down Fred Kerley 10.13 to 10.17 (-0.6). 

Christian COLEMAN (USA) wins the men’s 100m with 10.13 at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Xiamen on April 20.

But please remember it’s still April (today was the earliest start date ever for the Diamond League). And remember that conditions and wind make a big difference in sprints

The times seem slow (and the women’s 200 was slow) but the men’s 100 converts to a 10.10 with no wind – which is exactly what Noah Lyles’ season opener from last week in Florida (10.01, +1.7) converts to using Jonas Mureika’s calculator.

In addition to being slower than expected, the men’s 100 was odd as Kerley, not Coleman, had the lead 10 meters into the race. And Coleman won even though the man with the fastest final 50 according to the race’s timing system was Kerley. So Coleman’s first 10 meters weren’t great but he was ahead by .07 at 50 before winning by .04.

(Upate: Kenny Bednarek ran 9.91 in Kenya)

5) Mondo is Mondo

Mondo ended the last Diamond League season with a world record and he began this one with another world record. What a stud. Today’s WR shows it doesn’t necessarily take a crazy good atmosphere or big occasion for him to shine.

6) Girma BOSSED the 5,000 in Xiamen but it’s unlikely he does the steeple/5000 double at the Olympics

Steeplechase world record holder Lamecha Girma, who had never finished a 5,000 before today, took off with 300 meters left and instantly the race was over. By 200 meters to go, his lead was almost 10 meters and it probably got as big as 15. On a warm and very humid night, he won in 12:58.96 as 2022 Diamond League champ Nicholas Kipkorir got second after coming back on Girma a little in the final 50 in 12:59.78.

Might Girma double in Paris?

We doubt it as the schedule isn’t great. The prelims of the 5,000 are on the morning (11:00 a.m.) of the steeple final (9:45 p.m.).

We won’t 100% rule it out, but will point out that Getnet Wale tried the same double three years ago for Ethiopia. After finishing 4th in the steeple, Wale was awful in the 5000 (eliminated in heats) so the selectors could be scared off a bit. That being said, Girma is a different class of athlete from Wale.

7) The 800 is starting fast

The men’s 800 endured some down years at the start of the 2020s. But the 2023 season ended strongly with Emmanuel Wanyonyi and Marco Arop both running 1:42 at the Prefontaine Classic, and the 2024 season could be even better as Wanyonyi and Arop both started fast today. 

The Canadian Arop got things started in Xiamen by running a world-leading 1:43.61, holding off Kenya’s Wyclife Kinyamal (1:43.66) in a back-and-forth battle down the home straight with Botswana’s Tshepiso Masalela (6th at Worlds last year) breaking 1:44 for the first time in 3rd (1:43.88).

But Arop’s world leader only lasted an hour as Wanyonyi ran 1:43.57 to take the win in Nairobi ahead of African Games champion Aaron Cheminingwa (1:44.10). 

If that is how fast these guys are running in April, it could be a fun season in the 800 meters.

8) Aussies Georgia Griffith and Sarah Billings ran the races of their lives to break 4:00

One story that might get lost in the shuffle of the many fantastic performances put up at the Wanda Diamond League opener in Xiamen today was the fact that two different Australian women ran pbs to break 4:00 in the women’s 1500, with one of them being a super wild story.

27-year-old Georgia Griffith, a World Championship finalist who was 2nd at last week’s Australian champs, lowered her pb from 4:00.16 to 3:59.59 to place sixth and take top non-Ethiopian honors in the race. But behind her, Sarah Billings did something wild.

The 26-year-old, who was only 4th at the Australian champs — some seven seconds back of the winner – lowered her pb from 4:06.77 to 3:59.59. Not bad for someone who started their career as a 400 runner (54.39 pb in 2015). Up until 2022, she’d never even broken 2:06 in the 800 or 4:10 in the 1500. Her seasonal best before tonight was the 4:08.15 she ran at the Aussie champs in a 4:01 race.

Talk about the meet on our messageboard.

Video Recap Show

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