There is a ton of action this weekend for the track fan. The collegiate conference championships could fill their own post – the coaches’ association has all the information you need, including how to watch it all – and then there’s the US 25k Championships on Saturday morning and Portland Twilight on Saturday night. If you’re in the Portland area, you can come and have a beer with us after the meet!
The biggest show of them all is on the other side of the world. The Diamond League goes to China for its second stop on Saturday with the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix. I’ll start celebrating my 8th annual 39th birthday by getting up at 5:30am to see the whole meet.
US fans can see the meet live via NBC Sports Gold from 5:30am Eastern Time (subscription required), or live on Universal HD from 7:00am. Canadian fans can see it live via CBC.ca/sports (free) from 7:00am, or tape-delayed on CBC from 4:00pm.
Below I have an event-by event preview, along with a start list. I have developed my own “power rankings” for each event and those are included, along with each athlete’s best marks in 2017.
Women’s Shot Put (5:45am)
This event has a rare two-weeks-in-a-row appearance in the Diamond League. Olympic champion Michelle Carter (USA) won by over a foot last week in Doha but won’t be here. In her absence, European indoor champion Marton is the heavy favorite, but Gong will have the crowd behind her and didn’t have the long travel into Shanghai that most of her competitors had.
Men’s High Jump (6:35am)
Another two-week-in-a-row event. Barshim won handily in Doha where he had home advantage, and second through fourth in that meet (Grabarz, Thomas, and Ghazal) have made the trip to Shanghai. Of the top seven in my power rankings, only #3 Bohdan Bondarenko (UKR) is not here. This is the first serious competition of the year for Drouin, the Olympic champion.
Men’s Pole Vault (6:45am)
This is another deep field, with only top-ranked Piotr Lisek (POL) missing. World record holder Lavillenie didn’t have a strong indoor season but is more than good enough to win this. Kendricks, Braz, Phillipidis, and Barber all had major indoor wins. This is the first meet for Barber since he came out. If you’re playing the Fantasy Diamond Race, my advice is to stay away from an event where no-heights are common and 9 of 11 competitors traveled halfway around the world to get here.
Men’s and Women’s Discus (6:50am)
The men’s and women’s discus events will be held together in an alternating-round format (first round for men, then first round for women, and so on). Obviously the competition is men against men and women against women, but the discus is unusually well suited for direct head-to-head comparison between the sexes. 70 meters is the mark of greatness for both.
The long throws are making just four appearances in the Diamond League this season, so basically all of the top competitors are showing up. Malachowski is the favorite in the men’s competition but “Edel” Weisshaidinger is a rapidly-improving youngster. Perkovic is rock-solid and hasn’t lost since 2015.
Men’s 400m Hurdles (7:03am)
Last week’s race in Doha was not an official Diamond League race, and was won by Qatar’s young Abderrahaman Samba. He’s not here, but second (Clement) and third (Van Zyl) are. Ageless wonder “Batman” Jackson is a late addition to the field as he continues his farewell tour.
Women’s 1500 meters (7:10am)
Olympic champion Kipyegon makes her season debut here. Seyaum could give her a push (she ran 8:37 for 3k indoors) but no one else on the start list has run under 4:08 this year. US entries McGee and Mackey are coming off of productive indoor seasons. If I am not mistaken, the name of the Italian entry translates to “I will have a margarita tomorrow.” Why wait?
Men’s 100 meters (7:24am)
This is a non-Diamond League race that will not count in the season scoring. Last week in Doha it was very surprising to see Justin Gatlin (USA) and Andre De Grasse (CAN) well-beaten in fourth and fifth. Gatlin was originally on the start lists but was a late scratch. Collins (the St. Kitts & Nevis record holder) made his first Olympic team just eight months after Kiryu (the Japanese record holder) was born.
Men’s Long Jump (7:27am)
Manyonga, the Olympic silver medalist, rates a favorite since he’s been en fuego during the South African season. His big jumps have been at high altitude and should be taken with a grain of salt, but he’s obviously in fine form. Henderson is the Olympic champion and spent more time as a sprinter than a jumper during the indoor season.
Women’s 400 meters (7:34am)
This is the first big race of the year in this event, but we can compare some splits at the World Relays.
Mitchell 51.71 (leadoff)
Men’s 800 meters (7:42am)
When is Rudisha anything but the favorite? Other than that, this race is hard to read. This is the first major race of the year, only Kszczot took indoors seriously at all (and most just skipped it) and the 800 is always a bit of a crapshoot anyway. It’s a bit early in the season for it, but in the right race McBride could take a shot at Gary Reed’s Canadian record (1:43.68).
Women’s Steeplechase (7:51am)
This is another non-Diamond League race being held just a week after a Diamond League scoring race. Kiyeng won last week and she and Jebet had a season-long war in last year’s Diamond League. A short turnaround plus long travel means the favorites could be ripe for an upset, though. Chespol is (supposedly) just 18 years old and is a World Youth and World Junior champion. Among the more interesting entries is Sarah Pease, one of the few runners whose two specialty distances are the steeplechase and marathon. She is also the mother of our fierce feline forecaster Malcolm.
Women’s 100 meters (8:11am)
Thompson appears ready to pick up where she left off last year, when she went undefeated in eight finals (including the Olympics). She had a convincing win at 200 meters last week in Doha over Dafne Schippers (NED). Bowie may be able to give her a push.
Men’s 200 meters (8:20am)
It’s hard to say who the favorite is. Gemili is the sharpest at 100 meters right now and Merritt is the sharpest at 400. But the athlete most ready to run a fast 200 just might be 19-year-old Noah Lyles. He’s already just 0.07 off his PR from last summer’s Olympic Trials.
Women’s 5000 meters (8:27am)
Obiri is the one to watch. She put up some fast times indoors and only lost once (to Britain’s Laura Muir). Hassan twice finished second behind Obiri in major indoor races. Gidey won the junior race at the World Cross Country Championships two weeks ago, while Teferi, Chelangat, and Lewetegn were 10th, 12th, and 14th in the senior race. Another possible factor is Assefa, a fine steeplechaser who hasn’t made as much of an impact in flat races.
Men’s 100m Hurdles (8:53am)
The organizers chose to finish with the hurdles and for good reason. Hurdlers rarely duck each other, but this is the first meeting of the year for McLeod and Ortega (they spent the indoor season on opposite sides of the Atlantic). Merritt is looking his best since his kidney transplant, Oliver is making his season debut, and Shubenkov is returning to international competition. This should be a great race.