Paris Diamond League preview
Stone cold lock: today's Meeting Areva in Paris will be the best Diamond League meet of the year so far.
Here are six events to keep an eye on.
1. Men's 5000m (2:50 eastern/8:50 local time)
Galen Rupp and the secretly world-class Ben True undoubtedly have big ambitions for this race; Rupp can smell the American record while True is 2.74-seconds away from joining the sub-13:00 club. The pack of Americans breaking and threatening 13:00 in the last five years is evidence that distance running contains a massive psychological component: dipping under 13:00 was unthinkable for American-born athletes in the decade after Bob Kennedy's reign. Then Ritz dropped his 12:56 stunner in August 2009. Less than a week later, Matt Tegenkamp did it. Less than a year later, Tegenkamp's fellow Badger Chris Solinsky did it. Then Galen Rupp did it, and now True, Chris Derrick, Evan Jager, and Hassan Mead are threatening. Sixty years later, Roger Bannister's "apres moi, le deluge" remains the most prescient commentary one can make on the nature of distance running.
True is not nearly as experienced with high-level races, with one major exception: his outstanding 6th place at 2013 World Cross , which might be the most competitive race in the world. As a feature coming to Flotrack later this summer with True and that jerk Alex Lohr will further explicate, True isn't exactly a shrinking violet when it comes to big-time races.
Oslo was billed as an American record attempt for Rupp, only to be derailed by a combination of poor rabbiting and much of the field not being interested in running fast. That shouldn't be an issue tomorrow-- Lawi Lalang told us on camera that he plans to be in a pack of athletes coming through 3k in 7:40**-7:45, and another source with the Kenyan camps said that all of the talk is about really pushing for fast times.
*pun not intended
THE PICK: Rupp will get his first Diamond League win outside of his home state, but not break the American record. True will pull a Sammy Bair / Ford Palmer and run 13:00.00.
EVERYBODY ELSE: Lawi making his pro debut. LetsRun calls Yenew Alamirew and Caleb Ndiku "the two best in the world right now" and it's hard to disagree.
2/3. Women's 1500 (3:40 Eastern/9:40 local time) and steeple (2:28 Eastern/8:28 local time)
No NCAA program in the last twenty years has seen their women go on to as much post-collegiate success as Mark Wetmore's Colorado Buffaloes.* Kara Goucher's world championship bronze medal in the 10k; Jenny Simpson's world championship gold and silver medals in the 1500; and now Emma Coburn with a Diamond League win in Shanghai and three US titles is knocking on the door of joining the world-class ranks.
The Simpson / Coburn cohort will hold at least one American record after Friday night's action in Paris no matter what happens--Simpson already has the AR in the steeple.
THE PICK: Pointless and frequently detrimental rabbiting has been a consistent feature in women's Diamond League distance races; I'd be remiss to not predict that internet hero Phoebe Wright** will do an outstanding job pacing Friday's race.
That stellar pacing will pull Hellen Obiri to a 3:56 world leader and Simpson to a new American Record in second. If Simpson runs between Mary Decker's 3:57.12 and Suzy Favor-Hamilton's 3:57.40, she'll have to settle for the clean AR.
Coburn caught Sofia Assefa and Hiwot Ayalew napping in Shanghai; they didn't make the same mistake in Oregon. Assega and Ayalew are the favorites. Coburn will PR but not get the AR; like Molly Beckwith-Ludlow and Matt Centrowitz told us in Switzerland, the first race in Europe usually suffers from a little jet lag. Suddenly, Simpson will have the AR in the steeple and 1500 and we'll realize that she's the greatest American track distance runner ever.
EVERYBODY ELSE: While I just blew 300 words on two athletes, the 1500 has everything an American distance fan would want, minus Mary Cain. Simpson and Abebe Aregawi have won the last two world championships, and Obiri is probably better than both of them right now. And the other two Americans in the field, Morgan Uceny and Shannon Rowbury represent a curious mix of what Kanye West*** would call dessert and disaster. Dessert: The duo are the sixth and eight fastest Americans of all-time, and have a #1 world ranking (Uceny) and a WC bronze (Rowbury). Distaster Uceny's literal pratfalls are well-documented, while Rowbury has the brutal PRs of 2:00, 4:00, and 15:00.
Stephanie Garcia, who was third last week at USAs, is the other American in the field. Garcia and Coburn are both New Balance athletes; between Coburn, Simpson, Kim Conley, and Brenda Martinez, does New Balance quietly have the best stable of American female distance runners?
*Email me if you can think of a women's program that's had more successful alums.
**Read this bio of Wright's college coach, JJ Clark. People love to rip college coaches, but Clark might be the Most Interesting Man in the (Track) World.
***While quoting Kanye in a Diamond League preview is probably a stretch, we are in France.
4. Men's 800
Your correspondent is a sucker for watching people really known for one event take a chance in another event, and that's exactly what we'll get with Asbel Kiprop in Saturday's 800. Other than Mo Aman, David Rudisha, Nick Symmonds, and Duane Solomon (the world champ, world record holder, and two best Americans) all of the major players on the 800 scene will be here.
Those players are: DJ Nigel Amos*, Abubaker Kaki, Adam Kszczot, Marcin Lewandowski (will they get Pole position [Editor's Note: Ugh]), and new kid on the block Robert Biwott.
Amos is the clear favorite after beating Rudisha, Aman, Kaki, Kszczot, and Lewandowski for the win at Pre; he also is the fourth fastest performer of all time. Kaki has the longest résumé in the field, but has done very little since running 1:43.22 for 7th in the 2012 Olympic final. Kszczot and Lewandowski went 2-3** on their home turf at World Indoors, but haven't shown quite the same form outdoors. And hopefully Biwott can replicate the hilarity of when he piped Taofik Makhloufi at the line in Shanghai.
*That link is the Botswanan equivalent of a SCORCHING HOT SPORTS TAKE.
**Yes, Lewandowski was DQed. He was still the third guy to cross the line in a world championship final.
THE PICK: Amos. Come back soon, Nick Symmonds :((((((
5. Women's 400
Sanya Richards-Ross vs. Amantle Montsho.
6. Men's pole vault
AirLavillenie in front of an enormous home crowd in Saint-Denis*? Yes please.
*When I was like six years old, I learned and then became obsessed with the legend that St. Denis (the patron saint of Paris and my quasi-namesake) was decapitated and then walked with his head in his hands and talked for five miles. At one point I obtained a plastic ghost head with a handle-- basically a creepy bucket. I took this bucket to school and told everyone about St. Denis. They were not nearly as amused as I was.
On that highly relevant note, see you tonight.