The final “regular-season” meet in the IAAF Diamond League series comes Saturday at the Stade de Charlety in Paris, France, with places in the two Diamond League final events at stake in most of the events.
The two final meets, in Zurich (SUI) on 29 August and Brussels (BEL) on 6 September, not only have significant paydays of up to $50,000 for the winners of each event, but can alter the entries at the IAAF World Championships in Doha at the end of September. A Diamond League winner, in most cases (but not all), will get a wild-card entry into the Worlds if not already qualified.
For the U.S., that could be significant as most events already have three Americans qualified (or four in the case of the eight U.S. winners in the 2017 Worlds).
With the news of a possible sanction against world leader Christian Coleman of the U.S. hanging in the air, there will be special attention paid to American sprint star Noah Lyles, who will run the 200 m.
The fields are good; the tastiest match-ups to watch for:
● Men/200 m: This is an excellent field, but can anyone catch Lyles? Reigning World Champion Ramil Guliyev (TUR: 19.99) will try, along with Texas Tech star Divine Oduduru (NGR), who ran 19.73 to win the NCAA title, but ran only 10.26 for eighth in the Monaco Diamond League since then. Lyles has been tweeting that his training has been exceptional, so what will he have to show us on Saturday?
● Men/800 m: Not a Diamond League event, but a good test for American Clayton Murphy (1:44.47 in 2019) to gauge his readiness against Kenya’s Michael Saruni (1:43.70) and Canada’s Brandon McBride (1:43.83). French fans want to see if Pierre-Ambroise Bosse can approach his 2017 World Champion form; battling back from injury, he has run 1:45.43 so far in 2019.
● Men/1,500 m: Very strong field with 13 men who have run sub-3:35 this season. The Norwegians Jakob (3:30.16) and Filip (3:30.82) Ingebrigtsen, Uganda’s Ronald Musagala (3:30.58) have the fastest times for 2019, but Sam Tefera (ETH: 3:31.39), Ayanleh Souleiman (DJI: 3:30.79) and Kenyans Bethwell Birgen (3:33.12) and Vincent Kibet (3:33.21) will have a lot to say on the final lap.
● Men/3,000 m Steeple: Eleven men have run under 8:10 this season and six are in this race, starting with world leader Soufiane El Bakkali (MAR: 8:04.82). Kenyans Benjamin Kigen (8:05.12) and Abraham Kibiwot (8:05.72) are close, as is Ethiopia’s Chaya Beyo (8:06.48), but most eyes will be on the return from injury of Olympic and World champ Conseslus Kipruto, who hasn’t anything other than a road race (in February) this season. Is he in shape?
● Men/110 m hurdles: Here is a near-World Championships final preview, finally including the two American collegiate stars Grant Holloway (12.98) and Daniel Roberts (13.00). They will have their hands full with 2016 Olympic silver winner Orlando Ortega (ESP), 2015 World Champion Sergey Shubenkov (13.12 this year), 2018 European champ Pascale Martinot-Lagarde (FRA: 13.34), China’s Wenjun Xie (13.17) and Jamaica’s Ronald Levy (13.23). Only Omar McLeod (JAM: 13.12) is missing; has the season been too long for the ex-SEC foes?
● Men/400 m hurdles: The amazing Karsten Warholm (NOR) has twice lowered his lifetime best this season, now down to 47.12, making him the world leader and no. 7 in the event all-time. He won’t face his expected challengers in Doha – Abderrahmane Samba (QAT) and Rai Benjamin of the U.S. – but will have to contend with T.J. Holmes (48.58) and David Kendziera (48.69) of the U.S., plus Kyron McMaster (IVB: 48.94) and Turkey’s 2017 Worlds silver medalist Yasmani Copello (48.93).
● Men/Pole Vault: This is not a Diamond League event, but does feature the top U.S. vaulters: Sam Kendricks (6.06 m/19-10 1/2). Chris Nilsen (5.95 m/19-6 1/4) and Cole Walsh (5.81 m/19-0 3/4). London Olympic champ Renaud Lavillenie will be competing in front of an adoring home crowd; he’s cleared 5.85 m (19-2 1/4) so far this year.
● Men/Triple Jump: The top three on the world list are Americans Will Claye (18.14 m/59-6 1/4), reigning World Champion Christian Taylor (17.82 m/58-5 3/4), and Omar Craddock (17.68 m/58-0 1/4). They’re all here and their performance – albeit without Portugal’s great Pedro Pablo Pichardo – will be a good indicator if a sweep is possible in Doha. The mystery man of the event is Fabrice Zango (BUR), who has jumped 17.50 m (57-5) at his nationals and has set four nationals records in 2019. Is he a challenger to the top Americans?
● Women/100 m: Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson has been the one to beat in 2019 and won the Jamaican nationals in 10.73. She won the Pan Am Games gold in 11.18 in cold conditions, but this will be a better test against Marie-Josee Ta Lou (CIV/10.93) and Dutch star Dafne Schippers (11.04). American champ Teahna Daniels (10.99) managed only 11.24 at the Birmingham Diamond League in her first race since the USATF Nationals.
● Women/400 m: The U.S. does not appear to have a medal contenders for the Worlds in this event, but that could change in Paris. Shakima Wimbley (50.20), Kendall Ellis (50.38) and reigning World Champion Phyllis Francis (50.76) are all in the world’s top 12, but medals will be won in the 49s. Can any of them break through here?
● Women/800 m: No Ajee Wilson, so Americans Raevyn Rogers (1:58.65), Hanna Green (1:58.19) and Kate Grace (1:59.58) get to test themselves vs. Jamaica’s Natoya Goule (1:57.90) and Nelly Jepkosgei (BRN: 1:59.00).
● Women/Pole Vault: A perfect preview of the World Championships: list leader Jenn Suhr of the U.S. (4.91 m/16-1 1/4) and all the contenders. Greece’s World Champion Katerina Stefanidi (4.83 m/15-10) is back in form and hard to beat, but will be tested by Americans Sandi Morris (4.85 m/15-11) and Katie Nageotte (4.82 m/15-9 3/4), New Zealand’s Eliza McCartney (4.85 m/15-11), Russian Anzhelika Sidorova (4.86 m/15-11 1/4) and more. Suhr is not yet qualified, but a good showing will ensure her place in the Diamond League final.
● Women/Triple Jump: Four of the top five on the 2019 world list are in, starting with world leader Yulimar Rojas, fresh from her 15.11 m (49-7) win at the Pan American Games. She will be chased by Liadagmis Povea of Cuba and Shanieka Rickets of Jamaica (both 14.77 m/48-5 1/2) and American Keturah Orji (14.66 m (48-1 1/4). All but Orji have already qualified for the Diamond League final.
● Women/Discus: The three likely medal winners at the World Championships will face off for the second straight week. Cuba’s Yaime Perez is the world leader at 69.39 m (227-8), followed by teammate Denia Caballero (69.20 m/227-0) and reigning World and Olympic champ Sandra Perkovic (CRO), at 68.58 m (225-0)) so far. American Valarie Allman (67.15 m./220-3) stands fourth in 2019, but has shown no ability – yet – to stay with the top three.
A triathlon of the shot, long jump and 110 m hurdles is being held to feature Decathlon world-record holder Kevin Mayer (FRA), plus Kai Kazmirek (GER: 8,444 this season), Pieter Braun (NED: 8,306), American Devon Williams (8,295). It’s a nice way to get some exposure for these folks vs. putting them in open competitions where they are over-matched.
There are some other events, including the high jump and shot put for men, with good fields, but not as compelling as those above.
NBC’s Olympic Channel will have coverage starting at 2 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday from Paris. Look for results here.