Monaco Diamond League Winners And Losers

You’ve watched the races, seen the interviews. Let’s put some context around the performances from Monaco with some winners and losers from the meet. 

Winner: Nike Oregon Project

After Sifan Hassan ran 4:12.33, the Nike Oregon Project now has world records in the women’s mile and the indoor men’s mile. Hassan’s negative split race got her just under the old mark of 4:12.56 and leveled her up with Yomif Kejelcha, who got his world record in March. 

The time reaffirmed how good Hassan is at any distance she attempts. Entering 2019, this wasn’t even her primary event, opting for the longer distance 5,000m and 10,000m double at the World Championships. That’s another thing she shares with Kejelcha--a 5000m runner by trade, but a mile world record holder. 

Now, Hassan has decisions to make--good decisions. 

The 1500m/5000m double isn’t feasible with the time schedule so perhaps she sticks with the original plan. The 1500m is filled with big, experienced names. The 5,000m appears more navigable than the 1500m at the moment, though the presence of Hellen Obiri and, presumably, Genzebe Dibaba won’t make it a walkover. 

Surprisingly, the easiest path to gold might be the event she’s only raced once. Nobody has asserted themselves in the 10,000m and Hassan looked comfortable in her debut at the distance in May. This introduces an interesting idea, first floated by my colleague Lincoln Shryack. The 1500m/5000m double might be impossible, but the 1500m/10,000m isn’t. What better way to celebrate the rangiest runner in the world than having her run an unorthodox double that, I assume, has never been attempted. 

Loser: Everyone In The Men’s 400m

By now you’ve seen the debacle in the men’s 400m. There was a false start. Three men kept running. Two men ran all the way to 300 meters without stopping and one of those men, Jonathan Jones, ran all 400 meters. I’m not sure how this happens. With all the technology, and bodies, on the infield, there wasn’t a way to get these guys to stop? A buzzer went off after the false start, but there was no repeated firing of the gun or someone standing on the track screaming to stop running. 

I’ve seen this happen in swimming before (their heads are underwater so it’s a bit more understandable), but nothing like this at the professional level of track and field. Everyone feels terribly for Jones, who was running a phenomenal race--hand times had him at 44.6, right at his personal best. To make it right, the IAAF should award him one free false start, redeemable at any meet, during his track and field career. This is non-transferable and terms and conditions do apply. 

Loser: Timothy Cheruiyot’s Tactics

He won the 1500m, and pushed his record to 14-3 over the past two years, so it’s hard to quibble with his decision making. But, allow me for a moment to ask one question:

Why, oh, why do you pass rabbit extraordinaire Bram Som 500 meters into the race? This is the same Bram Som who clicks off even splits on command. GPS watches sync themselves to Bram Som. If awoken in the middle of the night, Bram Som can instantly tell you the exact time and temperature in the Galapagos Islands.  

He doesn’t make mistakes and is always aware of his surroundings. He can get you where you need to go, but you have to relinquish control and trust him to guide you through those early laps. 

On Friday, he went through 400m in 55 seconds, if anything, a bit on the fast side. Then, Cheruiyot proceeded to past both rabbits. A bold move and one that disrupted the natural order of things. 

Som stepped off 700 meters into the race, the pace slowed and Cheruiyot won in a fast, but not crazy fast by Monaco standards, time of 3:29.97. 

I get it, we are in the age of questioning experts. People think the earth is flat. Some Game of Thrones fans thought they could write a better ending than the show's producers. But there’s no reason to ever believe that you can pace a mid-distance race better than Bram Som.  

Winner: US Women’s 400m Hurdles

Yes, Sydney McLaughlin got the win in the second fastest time of her life. As expected, she’s the gold medal favorite in her first year as a professional. But the US women as a whole remain preposterously better than the rest of the world in this event. Ashley Spencer took second in Monaco, beating Zuzana Hejnova by a tenth. 

Currently, Americans have nine of the top 10 marks in the event in 2019. Only Hejnova has been able to break up the US dominance. This also is setting up as the “US is too good for its own good” event of the US Championships. Kori Carter has a bye, by virtue of her 2017 title. That leaves McLaughlin (#1 on the world list), Dalilah Muhammad (#2), Shamier Little (#3) and Ashley Spencer (tied for #4) for three spots.  Potential medalists are always left off the American team, but this one will be particularly brutal. 

Loser: Hillary Bor’s Bib

I cheered loudest during the men’s steeplechase for Bor to rip this thing off and liberate himself from the flapping sheet of 8.5x11 that was probably giving his quads paper cuts. Tear it off Hillary, we all know your name! They can’t DQ you if we’re united!

Loser: Proponents Of The Lyles Double

I count myself among this group so I’m a bit sad I won’t get to see Lyles run both races at USAs and the World Championships. He finished a close second in Monaco to Justin Gatlin and has now opted to just run his favored event, the 200m, at USAs. The decision makes sense for Lyles. This will be his first World Championships and why not make sure you get one gold, before you pile on other races and expectations. 

My disappointment only comes from wanting to see entertaining and incredibly fast people compete as often as possible. But there will be plenty of Lyles 100s in the future. He liked his start on Friday and as that part of his race progresses he will be scaring the 9.7s.

Winner: Ajee Wilson

She’s 2-2 now in races that don’t include Caster Semenya and Francine Niyonsaba and there’s a good chance that both won’t be in the 800m in Doha. Legal challenges aside, Wilson is the favorite in the event. The 1:57.73 she ran in Monaco is the fastest non-Semenya time of the year and she looks to be running these races as if she understands she’s the one to beat. 

She let the rabbit go, setting up a race that mimicked something you’d see in a championship. Wilson stuck herself at the front and when Natoya Goule pulled alongside her shoulder, Wilson was able to hold her off. The time was quick, but ultimately inconsequential. This race was a blueprint for gold in two months. 

Winner: Nijel Amos

This one was about the time. Nobody, and I mean that almost literally, thought Amos would be able to get back in the 1:41s. His only other time in that range came in the fastest 800m in history and was seven years ago. Amos was still certainly a gold medal contender, but his days of running times in David Rudisha-ville looked over.

That turned out to be wrong. 

Amos ran 1:41.89 on Friday, .16 off that magnificent run in the London Olympics. Amos’ record in major championships is too spotty (his only medal comes from that race) to feel confident that he will run away with the gold. But the speed is still there and maybe a chance to give Rudisha’s world record a run is also a possibility. 

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