Xiamen Diamond League Opening Day Preview: Sha’Carri Opens Up, Kerley v Coleman in 100

The 2024 Diamond League season begins on Saturday in China

Diamond League Opening Day is a red-letter day on the track & field calendar. The stakes at Saturday’s Xiamen Diamond League may not be anywhere near as high as this summer’s Olympics. But when it comes to unpredictability, DL Opening Day has the Olympics beat. When the action begins in Paris on August 2, we’ll already know who is in shape and who is not. On Opening Day, anything is possible. Hope is in the air.

Saturday will be the first major outdoor meet of 2024 for some of the sport’s biggest stars: Sha’Carri RichardsonFred KerleyMondo Duplantis, and Marco Arop, to name a few. Will they take care of business? Will a new challenger emerge? Will an old name explode into relevance again (we see you on the start list, Muktar Edris Ronald Kwemoi)? We’ll soon find out.

Opening Day is a little different this year. Rather than its traditional start in Doha on the first Friday in May, the 2024 DL campaign kicks off with a two-meeet swing through China and its earliest start date ever, April 20. China was meant to host two Diamond League per year starting in 2020 as a result of Wanda taking over title sponsorship of the series, but all of those events were cancelled due to China’s tight COVID restrictions until last year, when Xiamen hosted a meet in brand-new Egret Stadium (which is pretty cool, we must admit). Xiamen will also host Saturday’s meet before the series moves on to Suzhou next week.

The beautiful new Egret Stadium will host the meet

What will track & field’s Opening Day bring in 2024? We preview the eight biggest races from Saturday’s slate (listed in the order that they occur) by looking at the biggest question we have about each event.

What: 2024 Xiamen Diamond League
Where: Egret Stadium, Xiamen, China
When: Saturday, April 20. 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 Xiamen schedule/entries/results * TV/streaming information

Want to play fantasy track & field? Friend of LetsRun Harry Prevor is bringing back his new and improved fantasy game for 2024. It’s very easy to play — just pick three athletes per event. And if you need a hint, Harry’s TrackBot AI — which finished 3rd in the overall standings last year — will help you out. The Xiamen winner gets a free LRC Supporters Club membership for a year and an LRC t-shirt, while 2nd and 3rd place win LRC t-shirts. And it’s completely free to play. Enter here.

We’ll also hand out prizes to the winners at the end of the year.

When the meet is over at 9:00 am, be sure to come to LetsRun.com as we’ll break it down for you live with our Instant Reaction Show.

Women’s 400 (7:04 a.m. ET) *Entries

The big question: Does Britton Wilson survive her Diamond League baptism by fire?

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By this time last year, Britton Wilson had already won two NCAA titles, set an American record in the indoor 400, set a collegiate record in the outdoor 400 and run 53.23 in the 400 hurdles, a time that would hold up for #5 in the world in 2023. But after racing through shin injuries all year, Wilson’s season ended in tragedy as she was eliminated in the first round of the 400 at the World Championships in Budapest, exiting the track in a wheelchair. She later revealed she had stress fractures in both shins.

The 23-year-old is taking a more gradual approach to her rookie season as a pro. She opened up with a windy 51.07 win at the Miramar Invitational on April 6, then ran 50.74 to win her heat last weekend at the Tom Jones Memorial in Gainesville.

The difficulty meter will be ratcheted up a few levels for Wilson’s Diamond League debut on Saturday as all three medalists from the 2023 Worlds are on the start list: the Dominican Republic’s Marileidy Paulino, Poland’s Natalia Kaczmarek, and Barbados’ Sada Williams.

Wilson has the talent to win a global 400 title — her pb of 49.13 is faster than those of both Kaczmarek (49.48) and Williams (49.58). But is she at their level right now? Xiamen will be a big test of the progress of Wilson’s comeback.

Women’s 100 hurdles (7:17 a.m. ET) *Entries

The big question: Is Devynne Charlton now the woman to beat after a historic indoor campaign?

The Bahamas’ Devynne Charlton has made the last three global 100m hurdles finals but failed to medal in any of them. Then, at age 28, the Purdue alum exploded during an indoor season for the ages. Entering the season with a 7.81 pb in the 60m hurdles, Charlton ran 7.67 at Millrose to break the 16-year-old world record, then broke her own world record by running 7.65 for the gold at World Indoors in Glasgow.

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These sort of hot streaks happen from time to time in the hurdles: a good athlete finds their rhythm, and suddenly they’re unbeatable. Aries Merritt‘s 2012 season is the greatest example. Merritt, then 26, started that year with as a strong international hurdler but zero medals to his name. He ended it as world record holder, World Indoor champion, and Olympic champion. Charlton already has two of those under her belt. Time to go after the third one.

Hurdlers need to race and there are no other events for them to hide out in, so the Diamond League fields are usually strong. Xiamen definitely is. Charlton will face world record holder Tobi Amusan (who is competing while the AIU’s waits for its appeal of Amusan’s overturned whereabouts suspension to be heard), world champion Danielle Williams, and Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn on Saturday.

Men’s 5,000 (7:25 a.m. ET) *Entries

The big question: What does Lamecha Girma do for an encore?

Girma ran a bunch of super fast times in 2023, from his 7:23.81 world record in the indoor 3000 to his 3:29.51 Ethiopian record in the 1500 to his 7:52.11 world record in the steeple. The one thing he could not do is earn a gold medal: his steeple silver in Budapest was the fifth of his career, following runner-up efforts in the steeple in 2019, 2021, and 2022 and a silver in the world indoor 3000 in 2022.

Credit: KMSP / FFA

Girma has proven almost as dangerous in flat races as he is over barriers, opening up last year’s Diamond League season with a win over a stacked 3000 field in Doha. This time he’s in the 5000, an event that he’s never finished (he was a DNF in Zurich last year) and doesn’t even have a PB.

He’ll take on 2022 Worlds bronze medalist Oscar Chelimo of Uganda and 2022 Diamond League champ Nicholas Kipkorir of Kenya (who was 4th at World XC last month). His biggest competition could be World XC bronze medalist Benson Kiplangat (13:02.74 pb), who was the 2021 World U20 champ at 5,000 and will be making his DL debut.

A secondary storyline: “old” guys Muktar Edris and Ronald Kwemoi. Officially, Edris (30) and Kwemoi (28) aren’t that old, but considering Edris broke 13:00 for the first time in 2014 — the same year Kwemoi set a world U20 1500 record of 3:28.81 — they’ve certainly been around a while. (Kwemoi is the guy coach Renato Canova said would win the 2020 Olympic 5000m). Edris, a two-time world champ, ran just 13:29 in his only track race last year but was a Worlds finalist as recently as 2022. Kwemoi hasn’t made a global team since 2019 but ran a 5,000 pb last year (13:14) and was winning cross country races last fall.

It’s nostalgic to see both Edris and Kwemoi on a Diamond League start list in the year 2024. Are they there to contend or just to make up the numbers?

It should be noted that we aren’t expecting super fast times in this race as it’s going to be oppressively hot — 78 degrees with a 72-degree dew point (83% humidity).

How fast will the winner run in the 5000 in Xiamen?

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Who wins the 5000?

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Women’s 200 (7:47 a.m. ET) *Entries

The big question: How will Sha’Carri Richardson respond with the spotlight on her again?

Sha’Carri Richardson thrust herself into the global spotlight as a 21-year-old with her victory at the 2021 US Olympic Trials. But after Richardson missed the Olympics after testing positive for marijuana, it took her a while to bounce back. She finished last in her first race back at the Prefontaine Classic, then failed to even make it out of the first round at the US championships in 2022. While her talent was never in doubt, this time last year there were questions about whether Richardson would be able to translate that talent to results on the sport’s biggest stages.

Kevin Morris photo

In 2023, Richardson showed she could do just that. A refocused Richardson tuned out the distractions and delivered on the track, time after time, culminating in a world title in Budapest in a championship record of 10.65 seconds (after only making the final on time)

The win also ensured that the spotlight will shine brightly on Richardson in 2024. She has a national ad campaign with Google and NBC is already promoting her as one of its faces of the summer Olympics. There will be more of everything this year: more money, more attention, more pressure. Whatever formula Richardson found in 2023, it worked. Can she keep it going as she prepares for the biggest stage our sport has to offer?

We’ll get our first look in China, where Richardson is scheduled to race the 200 in Xiamen and again one week later in Suzhou (where Richardson was supposed to race fellow world champ Shericka Jackson until Jackson withdrew this week). Richardson, who earned bronze in the 200 at Worlds last year, will be favored on Saturday, with the Bahamas’ Anthonique Strachan (6th at 2023 Worlds) and Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji (2019 Worlds bronze) her top competition.

How fast will Sha'Carri debut?

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Men’s 800 (7:55 a.m. ET) *Entries

The big question: Is Marco Arop still a cut above everyone not named Emmanuel Wanyonyi?

By the end of the 2023 season, it was Marco Arop and Emmanuel Wanyonyi in the men’s 800, and then everyone else. The Canadian Arop beat out the Kenyan Wanyonyi for gold in Budapest before Wanyonyi edged his rival in a pair of memorable Diamond League duels in Xiamen and Eugene, the latter producing the first race with multiple sub-1:43s in more than four years.

Neither Arop nor Wanyonyi ran World Indoors, but the fact that Arop destroyed eventual World Indoor champ Bryce Hoppel by more than two seconds by running a 2:14 1k in Boston on February 4 suggests the gap from last year may have carried over to this year. Arop will get his first chance to prove it in his outdoor 800 opener in Xiamen where he’ll face World Indoor silver medalist Andreas Kramer of Sweden, Olympic 4th placer Peter Bol (coming off a 1:45.06 defeat at the Australian championships), Kenyan veteran Wyclife Kinyamal, and American Clayton Murphy, who will make his 2024 debut as he begins pursuit of a third straight Olympic team.

How fast will Marco Arop run?

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Women’s steeple (8:05 a.m. ET) *Entries

The big question: Can the old guard hold off the young guns?

Three of the five fastest women’s steeplers of 2023 were teenagers: Jackline Chepkoech (8:57 at 19), Faith Cherotich (8:59 at 19), and Sembo Almayew (9:00 at 18). But the women who ran the fastest — and went 1-2 at Worlds — were veterans Winfred Yavi of Bahrain (only 23, but she has been making world finals since 2017) and Beatrice Chepkoech (32).

Will Yavi, Beatrice Chepkoech, and 28-year-old Norah Jeruto (the 2022 world champ who is competing again while the AIU appeals her overturned whereabouts suspension) continue to rule the event, or will one of the young stars rise to the very top in 2024? Yavi and Chepkoech are not running Xiamen (Yavi was a late pullout), so it will be up to Beatrice Chepkoech to defend the honor of the old guard against Jackline Chepkoech, Almayew, and Cherotich.

Women’s 1500 (8:37 a.m. ET) *Entries

The big question: Can anyone challenge Faith Kipyegon?

Unfortunately, we will have to wait a bit longer for an answer to that question considering Kipyegon withdrew from the meet this week. But many of the women who will be looking to take her down will be in Xiamen, including 2022 Worlds silver medalist Gudaf Tsegay, 2023 Worlds silver medalist Diribe Welteji, world indoor champ Freweyni Hailu, and Birke Haylom, who ran 3:54 at age 17 last year.

20-year-old American Addy Wiley will also be making the trip across the Pacific for this one. Wiley impressed in her Diamond League debut last year, becoming the youngeset American woman ever under 4:00 when she ran 3:59 in Brussels. This will be her first race since she was eliminated in the first round of the 800 at World Indoors on March 1.

How fast will Addy Wiley run?

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Men’s 100 (8:53 a.m. ET) *Entries

The big question: Who wins, Christian Coleman or Fred Kerley (or Ackeem Blake)?

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If Coleman is to win the 2024 Olympic title, you can trace his rise back to last year’s race in Xiamen. While Coleman was 6th and 5th at the last two World Championships after returning from his 18-month ban for whereabouts failures in 2020-21, he did not look like quite the same guy that earned silver and gold at Worlds in 2017 and 2019. But when Coleman ran a world-leading 9.83 in Xiamen last September — his fastest time since his suspension — we saw a flash of the old Coleman. Then he backed it up by winning the Diamond League final in Eugene in 9.83, defeating world champ Noah Lyles in the process. Suddenly things were a lot more interesting heading into 2024.

After dramatically improving the weakest part of his race (the start) this winter, Lyles is still the Olympic favorite right now despite losing to Coleman at World Indoors. But there are a half-dozen guys who could realistically win gold in Paris, and three of them are in Xiamen: Coleman, Fred Kerley, and Ackeem Blake of Jamaica.

Kerley, the 2021 Olympic silver medalist and 2022 world champ, dumped his coach Alleyne Francique after failing to make the final at Worlds last year and is now based in LA under Quincy Watts. This will be his first significant 100m test in 2024 after winning a pair of low-key races in Miami this spring (10.03, +1.9 and 10.11, +1.6)

Blake, meanwhile, ran 9.89 at age 21 last year and earned bronze at World Indoors in the 60. He has more room for improvement than Coleman and Kerley, each of whom are 28. And speaking of young Jamaicans, we should also mention Rohan Watson, who ran 9.91 last year, also at 21. That performance — which Watson ran to win the Jamaican championships — was something of an outlier as Watson only broke 10.00 one other time in 2023 (9.98 in the prelims at the Jamaican champs). But Watson, whose pb was just 10.41 entering last year, is another guy with room to grow.

Who wins the men's 100?

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