In a season devoid of a major global outdoor championship, the Americans have been focused on fast times, Diamond League finals, and preparing for the next Olympic cycle.
In Europe, it’s been a little different.
The European Championships have provided an anchor to the season—a chance to win medals and run rounds at a point in the season when peaking is customary. The Diamond League has been put on pause for the six-day meet in Berlin, giving an opportunity for the top athletes to show up and not miss out on any of the marquee meets on the circuit.
The result? Many of the big names that we’ve gotten used to seeing in 2018 will be competing in their nation’s jersey beginning next Monday.
Here are five of the big questions that will get answered on the track in Berlin.
1. Will The British Men Deliver In The 100m?
Outside of the United States, the Brits might have the deepest men's sprint squad in the 100m. That depth will be put to the test in a championship setting in Berlin. All three of their entrants in the 100m—Zharnel Hughes, Reece Prescod, and CJ Ujah—have the ability to medal. Hughes set his lifetime best of 9.91 this season and is coming off a 9.93 runner-up finish at the London Anniversary Games.
Prescod has proven he can perform under pressure, upsetting the form charts to take seventh at last year’s World Championships. This year, he hasn’t beaten his personal best of 10.03 yet, but he has won a Diamond League (Shanghai) and finished top five in two others (Eugene, Rabat).
Ujah’s lifetime best of 9.96 puts him in select company in this event. This year, he’s only gotten down to 10.08; however, he was a key player on Great Britain’s 4x100m at the London Diamond League that ran the country’s second-fastest time in history.
An awful lot would have to go right for a British sweep. France’s Jimmy Vicaut, Turkey’s Jak Ali Harvey, and Italy’s Filippo Tortu are all sub-10-second runners. However, two men on the podium isn’t out of the question.
2. Can Dafne Schippers Double Up?
The Dutch sprinter is entered in the 100m and 200m and no doubt will enjoy the fact that she won’t have anyone from North American or Africa to contend with. But in Berlin, she will have all she can handle from Dina Asher-Smith, who has season bests that are faster than Schippers' in both events.
Schippers has more experience and better PRs, but the 22-year-old from Great Britain beat Schippers in their only matchup this year in the 200m and was only 0.05 seconds behind her in their only 100m meeting. Asher-Smith won the 2016 European Championships and is continuing her upward trajectory. This year she won the British Championships, set a lifetime best in the 100m of 10.92 and won the Stockholm Diamond League in 10.93.
It hasn’t been as smooth for Schippers. The two-time world champion in the 200m struggled to a seventh-place finish in the London Diamond League and has yet to get a win in a Diamond 100m or 200m this year. In fact, a win in the 100m would be her first 100m victory of any kind this season.
Outside of Asher-Smith and Schippers, Mujinga Kambundji of Switzerland is a favorite for a medal in both distances. She took the bronze in the 100m at the last running of this event and placed third in the 60m at the World Indoor Championships this March, announcing herself as a contender to medal in races outside of Europe.
3. How Many Medals Can The Ingebrigtsens rack up?
All three brothers are entered in both the 1500m and 5000m, giving them plenty of opportunities to extend the Summer of Ingebrigtsen. In the 1500m, they will go against a stacked field that features Marcin Lewandowski of Poland, Homiyu Tesfaye of Germany, Ilham Tanui Ozbilen of Turkey and a trio of Brits in Charlie Grice, Chris O’Hare, and Jake Wightman.
But the brothers from Norway are formidable, especially Filip and 17-year-old Jakob. In Monaco, they finished third and fourth with Filip setting a Norwegian record of 3:30.01 and Jakob running 3:31.18. Jakob has also performed well in championship races, taking two medals at the U20 World Championships this summer against top-level fields.
Henrik, the oldest of the three, has a 1500m personal best just a tick slower than Jakob but is probably a bigger threat in the 5000m. There, he has the fastest season best of anyone on the start list. Turkey’s Kaan Kigen Özbilen has a lifetime best of 12:58 and is one of the few men in this field that is prevented the brothers from winning multiple medals.
4. Can Anyone Challenge Sifan Hassan and Laura Muir?
Probably not. They are each other’s best competition, but they aren’t in the same event in Berlin. Muir is in the 1500m, while Hassan has chosen the 5000m.
Both women should roll.
Muir is one of two women who has broken four minutes and is far and away the top seed. Hassan’s personal best of 14:22 is 14 seconds better than the next-fastest woman. These two have been a part of several incredible races together, but, unfortunately, we won’t see them against one another in this meet.
Hassan’s best competition should come from Yasmin Can of Turkey. She hasn’t raced much in 2018, but she has a personal best of 14:36 and is the reigning European champion in the 5000m and 10,000m.
It’s hard to predict who will give Muir the best race. It could be Konstanze Klosterhalfen, the only other woman in the field who has broken four minutes in the distance. Or it might be Muir’s countrywoman, Laura Weightman, who has run 4:01 this year and has a lifetime best of 4:00. If it’s not them, then the pair from Poland, Angelika Cichocka and Sofia Ennaoui, is also capable of running in the low four-minute range.
Really, though, the 1500m is about Muir. With her Olympic, Diamond League, and World Championship experience, this 1500m is a significant step down in competition. She should win, but those races provide their own unique challenges.
5. How Fast Can Sergey Shubenkov Go?
In his last 11 races, Shubenkov has 10 wins and one disqualification. Aside from that false start in Paris, the Russian has been untouchable. This year he’s set a lifetime best of 12.92 and has broken 13 seconds on two other occasions. Since Russia is still banned by the IAAF, he will compete in this meet as an Authorized Neutral Athlete.
Though nobody has been able to match him since the Prefontaine Classic in May, he does get to race a few of the world’s best in this meet. France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, Spain’s Orlando Ortega, and Andrew Pozzi of Great Britain haven’t been able to keep up with Shubenkov of late, but they are some of the best the world can offer to challenge him.
Ortega is one of only two men to beat Shubenkov this year, when he finished one place of him at the Shanghai Diamond League—Shubenkov’s season opener.
Of late, it’s entirely been Shubenkov against the clock. If he goes any quicker, it will be Shubenkov vs. history. The European record sits at 12.91 and only four men in history have broken 12.90.