Sha’Carri Beaten Again + The Next Ethiopian Distance Star? – Seven Takeaways from 2024 Suzhou Diamond League

Sha'Carri Richardson struggles, Emma Coburn DNFs, Selemon Barega wins & more

The 2024 Diamond League season wrapped up the Chinese leg of its world tour with the Yangtze River Delta Athletics Diamond Gala in Suzhou on Saturday. Featuring most of the same events as last week’s season opener in Xiamen, the highlights included South Africa’s Akani Simbine (10.01, -0.1 wind) defeating Christian Coleman (10.04) and Fred Kerley (10.11) in the 100, Olympic 10k champ Selemon Barega (12:55.68) winning a close 5,000 over 17-year-old phenom Biniam Mehary (12:56.37), and Brit Daryll Neita dominating the 200 meters in 22.62 as Sha’Carri Richardson could only manage 23.11 for 3rd.

Below, you will find our seven takeaways from Saturday’s action. Alternatively, you can watch our video recap show below. To get it as a podcast, join our Supporters Club today.

You can find full results here. The WA written recap of the meet is here.

1) Sha’Carri Richardson did not look good in the 200

In last week’s women’s 200 in Xiamen, we saw the slowest winning time in Diamond League history (22.96) and American star Sha’Carri Richardson didn’t even win. But afterwards, Sha’Carri, who ran 22.99 for 2nd, said she was happy and doing well. If you were looking for a silver lining, you could say she may not have seen the young Australian winner Torrie Lewis on the outside in lane 9. And while Richardson didn’t win in Xiamen, she did beat 2024 world #3 Tamara Clark, who has run 22.21 this year.

It’s hard to make justifications for Richardson today, however. Not only did Richardson not win, this time she was beaten convincingly by Great Britain’s Daryll Neita, who got the win in 22.62. And Richardson ran slower than last week as she clocked just 23.11 to finish just 3rd.

Sprint times at the two Chinese meets have been slow overall (Clark, who ran 22.21 at the Texas Relays on March 30, ran just 23.01 in Xiamen and 23.13 today), and Richardson is a better 100 runner than 200 runner. And while Neita is a good 200 runner – she was 5th at Worlds last year – for Richardson to get trounced in this race and run slower than last week is not a good sign.

2) A second straight disastrous opener for Emma Coburn

Emma Coburn opened her 2023 season with a disappointing 9:29.41 steeple in Doha on May 5. Today’s outcome was even worse as she tweaked her ankle on the water jump with 1k to go and wound up dropping out. It’s frustrating more than anything for Coburn, who flew all the way to China for this and was making her return to racing after tearing her hamstring last summer. She told LetsRun she is still feeling confident about her fitness.

“Felt really strong before [I tweaked my ankle],” Coburn wrote to LetsRun in a text message. “Unfortunate situation for sure but I’m confident in my fitness right now.”

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We’ll have to wait until Coburn’s next race to see where she is at in 2024.

There was some good news for Team Boss, however, as Coburn’s training partner Gabi Jennings, making her Diamond League debut, ran a six-second pb of 9:19.59 and finished 5th overall.

World record holder Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya dominated the event, winning by more than eight seconds even though her time of 9:07.36 was 12 seconds slower than what she ran to win in Xiamen last week.

MB: Coburn Diamond League DNF 

3) Barega looks good and the sport may have a future star in Biniam Mehary

Luke Howard for Diamond League AG

The fact that the Olympic 10,000 champ Selemon Barega won the 5,000 in 12:55 isn’t shocking though it’s a good sign that Barega is going to be in the hunt in 2024. But the winning time doesn’t tell the whole story of this race. The race lights were set for 12:45 and the leaders went for it for more than 2k. Then the pace really backed off.

With four laps to go, they ran a 65.00 and then a 64.94. These guys ran the 1600 meters between 2600 and 4200 in 4:16.38 — that’s 13:21 pace – and yet the winning time was still 12:55. That’s far from the easiest way to run 12:55.

Barega won by covering the last 400 in 55.3, taking the least with 250 to go from 17-year-old Biniam Mehary, who ended up second in a pb of 12:56.37 in his first track 5,000 on the circuit (road pb of 13:04, track pb of 14:05 at altitude).

Afterward, we were wondering if Mehary is going to be the next Ethiopian star. It’s certainly a possibility. Indoors, he ran 3:34 and 7:33. While he was only 9th in the 1500 final at World Indoors, the fact that he’s running the 1500 shows he’s got good speed and today he didn’t just give up when Barega took the lead with 250 to go. Barega only put this one away in the final 40 meters or so.

If Mehery’s birthday of December 20, 2006 is legit, it means he’s the equivalent of an 11th grader in the US and he’s already run 3:34 and 12:56. With his silky smooth stride, he certainly looks like a star in the making.

4) Letesenbet Gidey got beat as 22-year-old Brit Megan Keith runs 14:43

Given her prodigious talent, some were wondering if Letesenbet Gidey would be going for the WR in the women’s 5,000 which wasn’t a DL event today. Far from it. In the end, she was only third in her 2024 season opener, running 14:37.13 in a race won by the unheralded Mekedes Alemeshete, who ran a 14:36.70 pb (previous pb of 14:45.13). Gidey chose to focus on the track this year rather than run World XC or a spring marathon, so it’s certainly concerning that the former world record holder is getting beaten by women with personal bests 30+ seconds slower than her own 14:06.62.

Alemeshete is listed as being 18 years old by World Athletics, but results database says she’s 24. It seems unlikely she is 18 as she hasn’t been running any of the world U20 competitions in recent years.

Another performance worth noting from this race was that of Brit Megan Keith, who finished 8th in 14:43.24. That performance was a 13-second pb and moves her to #5 on the all-time British list. Keith, who turned 22 this week, has often been compared to Parker Valby (who turns 22 in September) as both are running faster at a younger age than any woman in the history of their countries. Right now, Keith has the faster pbs (14:43/30:36), though it should be noted that those times came in races where Keith had far better competition than when Valby ran her bests of 14:52 and 30:50.

5) No one broke 10.00 in the 100 for the second straight week

Simbine after his win (Luke Howard for Diamond League AG)

At Friday’s pre-race press conference, Christian Coleman said he felt there were a number of active 100-meter runners who were not far off Usain Bolt’s 9.58 world record if they could get in a race with great conditions at the right time of the season. That comment drew derision from the track internet considering it has been 12 years since anyone had even run faster than 9.74 for 100 meters.

Granted, Suzhou was not perfect conditions for sprinting (times were slow in all sprint events and there was no tailwind), and it is still April, well before most sprinters are in peak shape. But no one was remotely close to 9.58 in Suzhou. Akani Simbine of South Africa ran down Coleman at the end of today’s race to win it in 10.01.

Concerningly for Coleman, he did not get a great start for the second week in a row (though it was slightly better than last week’s). And while he recovered well in the second phase to win last week in Xiamen, he did not create enough of a gap today in Suzhou to hold off Simbine, who closed well to get the win in the final meters.

The good news for Coleman is that he ran faster today than in Xiamen (10.04 vs 10.13), but his strength is his start, and if he is to challenge for Olympic gold this summer, his start needs to be better than it was in these two Chinese meets.

6) Mondo almost got a second straight WR

We forgot to mention this in our video recap show as we take the greatness of Mondo Duplantis a little bit for granted. But he came very close to getting a second straight WR as this is what he did on his third attempt at 6.25.

7) Our sport is fractured

It’s not like this wasn’t already known, but this weekend is a perfect example of one of the biggest problems facing the sport of track & field: there are too many different parties involved, each with their own financial interests.

When all of the world’s track & field athletes get together and compete against each other, the sport can be quite popular. However, that hardly ever happens.

Not all of the world’s best were in Suzhou today and it wasn’t simply because it’s hard to get to China. Many On athletes are at the Penn Relays (which On sponsors), while adidas’ best distance runners are at adidas headquarters in Germany for the adidas Road to Records. There’s also the Drake Relays, which has a 100+ year history. Olympic champs Marcell Jacobs and Trayvon Bromell and their Tumbleweed Track Club teammate Trayvon Bromell are presumably running for free at the East Coast at their training base in Jacksonville. And tomorrow NBC is broadcasting a meet from Bermuda with terrible fields (plus Noah Lyles), presumably because Bermuda is paying for that. Oh, and did we mention Payton Jordan?

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