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The Diamond League moves to Monaco on Friday with its usual array of deep fields on display once again. The middle distance races should be fast as always and the sprints and hurdles have storylines aplenty. Here are the top events to watch:
There’s what happens in the race, and the aftermath. Both are equally fascinating.
Let’s start with the actual running. Noah Lyles is fresh off the best 200m of his life, a 19.50 in Lausanne that put him fourth all-time. Now, he shifts down to the 100m, an event where he’s had plenty of success. Most recently, he ran a lifetime best of 9.86 to win in a photo finish over Christian Coleman in Shanghai. This race should also be close. Justin Gatlin has reeled off 9.87 and 9.92 in consecutive weeks. Like Coleman, he’s a sensational starter and is reliably in a good position after 30 meters. Expect Divine Oduduru to apply pressure to both Lyles and Gatlin. This is his first race since completing the 9.86/19.73 double at the NCAA Championships.
Once he crosses the finish line, all eyes will stay on Lyles (assuming he wins) to see what choreography is planned. Then, he has a decision to make.
He said after his 19.50 that he will see how he performs in Monaco to determine if he will take on the 100m/200m double at USAs. That decision has ripple effects throughout the world of sprinting. Right now, it’s hard to see three American men (besides Gatlin who has a bye) beating him in the 100m. Christian Coleman is probably most people’s favorite in the 100m, both at USAs and Worlds--he’s been too consistent to not have in the top spot. But Lyles would have a chance to knock him off. He’s already done it once. Much can and will change (notwithstanding all the other hypotheticals), but we will at least get a bit more clarity after Monaco.
Women’s 400m Hurdles
Sydney McLaughlin quietly ran the third fastest 400m hurdle race of her life on July 2nd in Marseille. The 53.72 is almost a second back of her personal best, but these are still early stages of the season. In her Diamond League debut, McLaughlin hit the first hurdle in Oslo but was able to recover and fly past Dalilah Muhammad in the homestretch.
The time, 54.16, wasn’t important on that day. McLaughlin went against the best woman of 2019 and got the victory. This field in Monaco doesn’t include Muhammad and the best candidates to push McLaughlin are Zuzana Hejnova and Ashley Spencer. Both women have season bests of 54.11
Assuming she doesn’t have a hiccup in the early stages of the race, McLaughlin shouldn’t have to play chase this week. Muhammad’s world lead of 53.61 is a gettable target and this race will serve as a good tune-up when McLaughlin faces a deeper field at the USATF Championships.
Brave Like Gabe Mile
Genzebe Dibaba and Sifan Hassan will line-up again, this time with the women’s mile world record in play. In their last outing at the Prefontaine Classic, Hassan ran away with a victory in the 3000m, while Dibaba faded to fourth. Earlier in the season in Rabat, Dibaba edged Hassan in a 1500m where both women ran 3:55.
That mark is almost equivalent to the world record in the mile, 4:12.56 from Svetlana Masterkova in 1996. Dibaba, of course, has the 1500m world record of 3:50 though she doesn’t appear to be in that type of form currently. Hassan ran 4:14.71 in London last year and always brings it. She will be around in the final lap, regardless of how quickly Dibaba is going. A bigger variable is the pacing in the first two laps. If that is on target, then the world record is in play.
Shaunae Miller-Uibo’s long-awaited Diamond League debut is here. The 200m/400m star has been on a tear this season, but has yet to run in a premier meet this season. On Tuesday, she ran a very comfortable 22.18 in Hungary. The performance meshes with what we’ve come to expect from Miller-Uibo after she ran a 49.05 in the 400m in late April. But she will have her hands full on Friday. Elaine Thompson has the world lead of 22.00 flat and, save for her second place finish at the Prefontaine Classic, has looked phenomenal the past six weeks. In all likelihood she will be ahead of Miller-Uibo off the curve, but will she have enough to stave off the inevitable late charge?
Blessing Okagbare was the surprise winner at the Prefontaine Classic, upsetting Thompson and running the second fastest 200m of her life.
This race doesn’t have Diamond League status, but the history of the Monaco 1500m means it will be fast. Timothy Cheruiyot is the man to beat. He hasn’t finished outside of the top two in a 1500m or mile in the past two years and is coming off a dominant win in Lausanne where he just missed his PR, running 3:28.77.
In that race, he took the lead when the pacer stepped off with a lap to go and was never challenged. I’d expect a similar playbook in Monaco. The rest of the field is stout (the top seven from Lausanne are entered in this race), led by Jakob Ingebrigtsen who ran a lifetime best of 3:30.16 to finish second to Cheruiyot. Ingebrigtsen has relied on a fast close this year, working his way up through the pack and not getting caught up with the leaders. Now that he’s asserted himself, I wonder if he will take more risks and keep the gap closer between himself and Cheruiyot. That strategy can unravel quickly, but maybe he will take a shot in what likely will be the fastest 1500m of the year.
Women’s 100m Hurdles
Keni Harrison is the world record holder, but Janeek Brown has the fastest time in the world this year, a 12.40 from the NCAA Championships. This will be Brown’s first Diamond League race as a pro and will look to keep the momentum going. Harrison is 6-6 on the season and has run 12.47. This will be her most serious test of the season. Also entered is Sharika Nelvis and Christina Clemons of the United States and Jamaica’s Danielle Williams. Williams, the 2015 world champ, was not named to the World Championships team after being disqualified in the Trials for a false start and then refusing to leave the track.
Ajee Wilson won the other Caster Semenya-less Diamond League 800m of the year and, without Semenya again, is the favorite in Monaco. Wilson ran 2:00.87 in Stockholm, which was enough to get the victory. When Semenya was added back into the field at the Prefontaine Classic, Wilson ran 1:58.36 to finish runner-up to Semenya.
The fast Monaco track and the number of women who have run under two minutes this year (6 in this field) suggest that breaking two is required for victory. But without Semenya, that isn’t a guarantee. Raevyn Rogers finished just behind Wilson at the Prefontaine Classic to run a season best of 1:58.36. Habitam Alemu and Natoya Goule took fifth and sixth, respectively. Both women have run 1:56. The wild card is Laura Muir. She’s primarily a 1500m runner, but has a lifetime best of 1:58.69. If she uses the same aggressive style that she employs in the 1500m, it could be exactly what the field needs on the second lap to keep the pace going.