The Sports Examiner

ATHLETICS: Final “regular-season” Diamond League meet comes to Birmingham Saturday

After three and a half months of running, jumping and throwing, the IAAF Diamond League season will finish its “regular” schedule with the Muller Grand Prix at Alexander Stadium in Birmingham (GBR) on Saturday.

The top point scorers will then advance to the two “finals” of the Diamond League season at the Weltklasse im Zurich (SUI) on 30 August and the Van Damme Memorial in Brussels (BEL) the next day. In most events, the top eight scorers will advance, but only seven go to the finals of the 200 m, 400 m and 400 m Hurdles. The top 12 will go in the middle and long-distance events and the high jump and pole vault. The current standings are here.

The points race makes the men’s 100 m one of the features of this meet. At present, only American Ronnie Baker (31 points) is safe (and not entered) and there are only eight points between second-ranked Michael Rodgers (USA) and Akani Simbine (RSA) – with 15 – and 10th-placed Zharnel Hughes (GBR) and Zhenye Xie (CHN), both with seven.

So, the field has Christian Coleman (USA: 13), Reece Prescod (GBR: 12), Yohan Blake (JAM: 9), Chiji Ujah (GBR: 8), Rodgers (15), Simbine (15), Hughes (7) and co-world leader Noah Lyles of the U.S. (6).

The IAAF scores its events 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 for eight places, so placing is really much more important than time in Birmingham and the athletes all know it.

Why so much focus on the Diamond League finals? Money: the top finishers in Zurich and Brussels will receive $50,000-20,000-10,000-6,000-5,000-4,000-3,000-2,000 to the top eight.

Some of the other high-profile events coming in Birmingham:

Men’s 400 m: Qatar’s Abdalelah Haroun is the runaway leader with 35 points (and not entered), but then only nine points separates places 2-10 and only seven will advance. That means Americans Paul Dedewo (17) and Fred Kerley (13) want to lock up their spots and Britain’s Matthew Hudson-Smith needs a high finish to assure his place in the final. American Christian Taylor will once again look to join the elusive 44-second club.

Men’s 800 m: This is the best event besides the 100 m, with world leader Emmanuel Korir (1:42.05), Clayton Murphy of the U.S. (1:43.12), Brandon McBride (CAN: 1:43.20), Kenya’s Jonathan Kitilit (1:43.46), Ferguson Rotich (KEN: 1:43.73) and tactical genius supreme Adam Kszczot (POL: 1:44.59) among others. Only McBride needs a high finish to get to the final, but it wouldn’t hurt Murphy and Kitilit to finish in the top four to assure their advancement.

Men’s 3,000 m Steeple: World leader Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco has taken the spotlight away from the Kenyans – for now – and with 12 going to the Diamond League finals, there is not much need among the favorites for points. But El Bakkali will face a tough field with Olympic and World Champion Conseslus Kipruto (KEN) and Diamond League points leader Benjamin Kigen (KEN). Hillary Bor (USA: 8:12.20 this year) needs to score at least a couple of points to be assured of advancement.

Men’s 110 m Hurdles: World leader Sergey Shubenkov (RUS) and American Devon Allen are safely in the final with 29 and 23 points, respectively, and are not in Birmingham. Commonwealth Games champ Ronald Levy (JAM: 13.15 in 2018), France’s Pascal Martinot-Largarde (13.17) and Spain’s Orlando Ortega (13.17) are the class of the field. Ortega is into the final with 22 points; Levy (17) is fairly safe, but Martinot-Lagarde (12) needs to do well.

Men’s Javelin: The top two Diamond League scorers are here: Germans Thomas Rohler and Andreas Hofmann. They are also 2-3 on the 2018 world list at 92.06 m (302-0) for Hofmann and 91.78 m (301-1) for Rohler. This should be a fun one to watch.

Women’s 200 m: The crowd will be on fire to see new national hero Dina Asher-Smith, the world leader at 21.89, battle World Champion Dafne Schippers (NED: 22.14), Diamond League leader Jenna Prandini of the U.S. (22.16), Olympic 400 m champ Shaunae Miller-Uibo (BAH: 22.06) and the second-ranked Diamond Leaguers in this event, Shericka Jackson (JAM: 22.05) and Marie-Josee Ta Lou (CIV: 22.34). Schippers, sitting at nine points, could benefit from a high finish here.

Women’s 1,500 m: With 12 going to the final, not too much worry about advancement, but any time that Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay (3:57.64 this year) and Dutch star Sifan Hassan (3:57.41) are on the track, it’s worth watching. Americans Kate Grace (4:04.05 this year) and Brenda Martinez (4:02.65) have outside shots at getting to the final with a high finish.

Women’s 3,000 m: This event qualifies for the 5,000 m finals, with 12 entries, so there isn’t a lot of pressure on the top entries such as Kenya’s Hellen Obiri or Agnes Tirop. Kenyan Lilian Rengeruk will be looking for a high finish to secure her spot and no one knows what European 10,000 m champ Lonah Chemtai Salpeter of Israel will do.

Women’s 400 m Hurdles: American Dalilah Muhammad (32) leads the scoring and is not entered, but second-placed Janieve Russell (JAM: 29) is and third-placed Shamier Little (USA: 27). Georganne Moline (USA) stands fourth with 18 and should be safe, but she’s in and wants to clinch her spot.

Women’s Pole Vault: American Sandi Morris leads the field with 32 Diamond League points and is safely in the final, along with European Champion Katerina Stefanidi (GRE) and American Katie Nageotte.

Women’s Long Jump: Four of the top five in the Diamond League standings are in, including world leader Lorraine Ugen (GBR: 7.05 m/23- 1 3/4), followed by Malaika Mihambo (GER: 15 points), Shara Proctor (GBR: 12) and Sha’keela Saunders of the U.S. (9). That’s going to make it hard for others to move up easily and into qualifying spots for the final.

Among the non-Diamond League events, the men’s long jump includes South Africa’s World Champion, Luvo Manyonga, second on the world list at 8.58 m (28-1 3/4) this season. The women’s 1,000 m has British heroine Laura Muir, the European 1,500 champ, and American distance ace Paul Chelimo is going to run in the Emsley Carr Mile, looking for a big improvement on his outdoor best of 4:08.06 from 2013.

NBC’s Olympic Channel has coverage of the meet starting at 9 a.m. Eastern on Saturday. Look for the IAAF’s detailed results site here.

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