ATHLETICS Preview: Coleman vs. Gatlin and Muhammad vs. McLaughlin highlight sold-out Bislett Games

Oslo's Bislett Stadium will be full for Thursday's Bislett Games!

You knew track & field was in trouble a couple of years ago when the stands were hardly filled at the Bislett Games in Oslo (NOR), one of the showpiece events in the sport.

So last Friday’s announcement was welcome news:

“For the first time in our 54-year history there is no tickets left for spectators, one week prior to Oslo Bislett Games, meeting director Steinar Hoen announced today.

“- Which means that 14,200 spectators will fill the stadium next Thursday.

“- This is primarily thanks to the super generation of Norwegian Athletes such as the Ingebrigtsen brothers and Karsten Warholm, as well as the fantastic starting lists that we have published today, he continues.

“- For us as an organizer it is extra motivating to see such a response from the audience at Bislett Stadium , and for the athletes nothing is better than full stands and the atmosphere we know it generates, he says.”

The meet will be held in the newer Bislett Stadium, built in 2005 on the same site as the old facility, which was demolished in 2004. And it should be a great one, with terrific match-ups in almost every event:

Men/100 m: We’ll get to see what kind of shape Christian Coleman is in. After his world-leading 9.86 in Shanghai where he lost in a photo finish to Noah Lyles, he’s been training and waiting. He says he is healthy and focused on the USATF Championships. So what will be do against World Champion Justin Gatlin (USA), Michael Rodgers (USA), Reece Prescod (GBR) and others? Rodgers just beat Gatlin, 10.00-10.01 at the Nurmi Games in Finland on Tuesday; was that a one-off or the start of a trend?

Men/Mile: If we’re in Oslo, the question has to be, how many Ingebrigtsens are running? In this race, there will be Filip (3:53.23 lifetime best ‘17) and Jakob (3:52.28 ‘18), and they will likely be chasing Vincent Kibet (KEN: 3:33.21 1,500 m this season), Bethwell Birgen (KEN: 3:33.12 1,500 m this season), Ethiopia’s Aman Wote (3:48.60 mile best ‘14) and Ayanleh Souleiman (DJI: 3:47.32 ‘14). Americans Clayton Murphy (3:51.99 ‘17) and Johnny Gregorek (3:54.53 ‘18, but 3:49.98 indoors ‘19) could be surprises here.

Men/400 m hurdles: A chance for Norwegian fans to cheer World Champion Karsten Warholm, who will be challenged by Kyron McMaster (IVB: 47.54 ‘18), Ireland’s Thomas Barr (47.97 ‘16) and Americans David Kendzeira (48.99 this season) and T.J. Holmes (49.25). Warholm has run 47.85 this season, but is eyeing another national record; he currently owns it at 47.64.

Men/Pole Vault: Last week, the NCAA Championships in Austin, this week the Bislett Games in Oslo. Former LSU vaulter Mondo Duplantis is now a professional and is the world leader at 6.00 m (19-8 1/2). He’ll be facing the usual suspects: World Champion Sam Kendricks (5.91 m/19-4 3/4 in 2019) and Polish stars Piotr Lisek (2017 Worlds silver) and 2011 World Champion Pawel Wojciechowski. By the way, Kendricks leads Duplantis, 10-1, in their all-time meetings.

Men/Javelin: Estonia’s Magnus Kirt was the world leader at 89.33 m (293-1) until last Sunday when German Andreas Hofmann took over at 89.65 m (294-1). World champ Johannes Vetter (GER) and Olympic gold medalist Thomas Rohler (GER) are also in, as is emerging star – and Asian Champion – Chao-Tsun Cheng (TPE). Wow!

Women/200 m: World Champion Dafne Schippers (NED) is looking to stay healthy and for some faster times. She won’t have to deal with any Caribbean sprinters in Oslo, but Americans Jenna Prandini (22.53 this season), Gabby Thomas (22.78) and Kyra Jefferson (23.00) will give her an argument.

Women/3,000 m Steeple: The field is too big – as usual – with 17 runners, but they include world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech (KEN: 8:44.32 ‘18) and World Champion Emma Coburn of the U.S. The latter will be looking – once again – to break 8:00 and regain the American Record and she should have familiar company from Kenyans Hyvin Kiyeng (9:00.01 lifetime best, in 2016), Celliphone Chespol (8:58.78 ‘17) and Norah Jeruto (8:59.62 ‘18).

Women/400 m Hurdles: This is the match-up everyone has been waiting for. Rio Olympic champ Dalilah Muhammad is the world leader at 53.61 and Sydney McLaughlin was the 2018 world leader at 52.75. Muhammad has dominated the Diamond League, winning in Doha and Rome and McLaughlin has run the event once (54.14 ~ no. 2 in 2019) in a low-key meet in May. Reigning World Champion Kori Carter (USA) and 2015 Worlds silver winner Shamier Little (USA) are ready to bounce if either fails, but this should be a highlight.

Women/High Jump: Russia’s Mariya Lasitskene isn’t even the world outdoor leader, as Ukraine’s Iryna Herashchenko rose to the top of the list at 1.99 m (6-6 1/4) in Rehlingen (GER) on 9 June. So the reigning World Champion will be looking to take over the top spot, but will also be challenged by Herashchenko’s teammate, 2017 Worlds silver medalist Yuliya Levchenko and Bulgaria’s Mirela Demireva.

Women/Triple Jump: The world leader is Jamaica’s Shanieka Ricketts at 14.76 m (48-5 1/4) from way back in February, but that should fall on Thursday. Olympic champ Caterine Ibarguen (COL) leads the field, but will have company from Ricketts, Ukraine’s 2011 World Champion, Olha Saladukha (14.99/49-2 1/4 ‘12) and the American pair of Keturah Orji – in her European debut – and American Record holder Tori Franklin (14.84 m/48-8 1/4 ‘18).

Women/Shot Put: American Chase Ealey has been the revelation of the early season, getting out to 19.67 m (64-6 1/2) and scoring a win over 2017 World Champion Lijiao Gong of China at the Shanghai Diamond League meet. Gong struck back a few days later in Nanjing and took the world lead at 19.84 m (65-1 1/4) and now they meet again. Can anyone challenge, or are these the gold and silver medalists in Doha? The best bet is Jamaica’s Danniel Thomas-Dodd, out to a lifetime best 19.48 m (63-11) this season.

NBCSN has coverage from Oslo on Thursday, beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern time. Look for the live results here.