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The Zurich Diamond League meet happening Wednesday and Thursday is the finale of the 13-meet series and a re-match of sorts for many Olympics medallists. Apparently, all Tokyo Olympic gold medallists will be competing.
The women’s 5000m event features the cream of the crop. All starters have run sub-15-minutes this year. Ethiopia’s Ejgayehu Taye (14:14.09) tops the seeds with her personal best. The 21-year-old finished fifth in the Tokyo Olympic final. However, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi is having a career season and may just toy with the field for 11 to 12 laps and then turn the screws for a low-14s victory.
The 28-year-old re-configured herself from an 800m runner to a distance athlete. She earned a silver medal in Rio in 2016, then finished fifth in Tokyo in the 10,000m event running a strong 30:41.93 finish time. During the 2021 Diamond League she has dominated in the 3000m and 5000m events. Niyonsaba clocked an easy 14:24.34 on Sept. 3 in Brussels as well as a 3000m victory in the time of 8:19.08 in Paris on Aug. 28. Ethiopian Fantu Worku (14:26.80) will help turn this event into a race Wednesday night. However, Niyonsaba appears invinsible.
Watch more#BrusselsDL 🇧🇪content on https://t.co/UG3jqYSSPK#DiamondLeague #RoadToTheFinal pic.twitter.com/1kh4p1nSGd— Francine Niyonsaba (@FrancineNiyons4) September 5, 2021
The men’s line-up is not quite as tight as the women’s with the range of bests being 12:48.45 by Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen to 13:50.85 from Bethwell Birgen of Kenya. Ingebrigtsen won the 1500m gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in the time of 3:28.32. In a fast race like Zurich, Ingebrigtsen will likely run close to 12:40 for the win — pretty rich for a 20-year-old.
Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia has not recorded a time this season in the event, however, the 24-year-old owns a best of 12:46.79. He may challenge the 20-year-old Norweigan. Missing from the line-up is the current world record holder Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda with his 12:35.36. He is the Tokyo Olympic gold medallist.
Is Shericka Jackson tired of running to third place in the 100m? She has had a terrific season with Tokyo Olympic bronze and three third-place finishes during the Diamond League this season. Perhaps it is time for her to move up to first, but she will be up against Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, the two have run as fast as 21.82 and 21.88, respectively.
Asher-Smith took the silver medal in the 200m in Tokyo.
Missing is the drama of American Sha’Carri Richardson who has had an up and down season. She was left off the Olympic team due to a one-month suspension for testing positive for THC. She came back and finished dead last in the Diamond League in Eugene, Oregon on Aug 21 running the 100m in 11.14, but that didn’t deter her from calling the Jamaicans, “barefoot coconut eaters.” over Twitter.
The sixth-fastest at 10.72 did, however, redeem herself a little with a fourth-place finish in Brussels in the 200m clocking a 22.45.
Saying that, Christine Mboma, is toeing the line and will finish top-three; and probably win. She brings a best of 21.81 to the meet. At just 18-years-of-age, she owns the U20 world record with that performance, an Olympic silver medal, and the Namibian national record.
When she races, she appears effortless. She may soon have the world record.
Fred Kerley (19.79) Andre de Grasse (19.62), Kenneth Bednarek (19.68), and Aaron Brown (19.95) may just finish in the order of their personal bests. De Grasse of Canada is the Tokyo Olympic gold medallist and owns the fastest time on the start line.
Expect him to win.
The fight for second place should be entertaining. Kerley and Bednarek are a pair of Americans who would like some redemption after the US had a rough go at the Tokyo Olympic Games. They would like to dethrone the current king, de Grasse, the heir to the Usain Bolt legacy. Fellow Canadian, Brown, has been overshadowed by King de Grasse. This is his last chance this season to improve his lot in the game.
This is going to hurt. The 800m, the most competitive event in athletics is a middle-distance race and ever-so-slightly more aerobic than anaerobic, but the scope of the effort may be about to change. The current youth movent is about running negative splits in this event. It’s a new world order for this two-lap race that can be argued is turning into a long sprint, rather than a short distance event.
Nine of 10 athletes have run sub-2-minutes this season and all have run sub-2 during their careers. The sub-2-benchmark has lost a little of its importance and now getting to “mid-1:55” seems to be the talk of the track.
Tokyo you were cool!!Thankyou for all the messages of love&support, it has been amazing &overwhelming to see & I couldn't be more grateful for the incredible team I have around me❤️ special shout-out to the man behind the magic, wouldn't be where I am without you & the squad 🌪 pic.twitter.com/5NKzNrrS8R— KnH (@keelyhodgkinson) August 6, 2021
Great Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson, the Tokyo Olympic silver medallist behind American, Athing Mu, owns a powerful best of 1:55.88. The 19-year-old is part of the youth movement that is reshaping the women’s 800m event as we know it. Mu is also just 19. The two as well as bronze medallist Raevyn Rogers of the US all ran negative splits in the Tokyo Olympic final, while the rest of the field did not. Although Mu is not listed to start, the field is fast. British athlete Jemma Reekie is also racing. She finished fourth in the Tokyo Olympic final in the time of 1:56.90. The 23-year-old may be four years older than Mu and Hodgkinson, but she is also part of the youth movement at just 23 and may light up the track.
An interesting storyline is that of 30-year-old Swede Lovisa Lindh. She was left off the Olympic team, as the Swedish Athletic Association told her that they feel that she will not finish top-eight in Tokyo in the final. Her personal best and her season-best had her world-ranked within the allowable numbers.
She came back and raced last week in Brussels to a season-best time and qualified for the World Athletics Championships. Lindh is in the field and looks to show her association that they were wrong. During the opening round of heats in Tokyo, no one ran faster than her personal best (1:58.77). Only two bettered it during the semi-finals. So, in theory, she was very capable of racing the finals and only eight athletes started the 800m final event in Tokyo.
American track fans have been wringing their hands wondering what is going on with Clayton Murphy. He has run fast all year but has had trouble finishing in the top-three spots. This is his final chance this year to do something. If it is a fitness issue, forget it, he is done, but if it is tactics, this race may be simple: Get near the front and hang on for dear life. Dig very deep.
He will have to as the Tokyo Olympic gold and silver medallists are racing.
The Kenyan duo ran 1:45.06 and 1:45.23, respectively, which is well within the ability of every athlete who is listed, but the Diamond League is about speed. This race should be a ripper.
Interesting story, here, about Marco Arop. The Canadian seems to be dead set on demonstrating that he should have done something in Tokyo. He finished seventh in his semi-final and did not make it to the final round to contend, but he just needed to run a better race tactically — easy to say for a journalist. Arop clocked a 1:44.90, heartbreakingly close to Ben Adrian of Spain at 1:44.30, who was the final qualifier. Ouch.
Arop has since won a pair of Diamond League races in Lausanne and Eugene and has clocked a very strong 1:43.26.
See all of the starting line-ups here>>