Biggest Winners And Takeaways From The Monaco and London Diamond League Meets

By David Melly

July 24, 2023

In case you were on vacation this weekend away from televisions and cell phones or you (understandably) spent the last three days watching the final stages of the Tour de France, there’s plenty of thrilling track and field to catch up on. With the final Diamond League races before Worlds wrapped up, the plot has thickened considerably in events where months or even weeks ago there seemed to be a clear pecking order. Between established champions returning to form, early-season flames cooling off, and rising stars announcing their arrival, the battle for medals in Budapest is starting to look far less predictable than before.

Here are a few key takeaways from the biggest races this weekend in Monaco, London, and across the European racing circuit:

Marie Ta Lou - London Diamond League Marie Ta Lou - London Diamond League

Kevin Morris/@kevmofoto

1. The Battle For The Women’s 100m Crown Is Fierce

The competition to be the World’s Fastest Woman has been one of the most fascinating and exciting narratives of the sport in 2023, and this weekend only made things more interesting. Reigning World champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was conspicuously absent in the first half of the season as she made her way back from injury, and as the weeks ticked by with no SAFP 100-meter results to report, fans were getting increasingly nervous that time had caught up to the 36-year-old legend. But that concern was quickly put to rest when Fraser-Pryce clocked a pair of 10.82 and 10.83 victories in Luzern and Madrid two days apart. It’s clear she’s healthy and fit enough to contend for the win… but can she beat the women in front of her?

There are at least four other athletes who could be considered a threat, all of whom have legitimate cases to be made for gold. NCAA champ and newly-signed Puma pro Julien Alfred has not lost a 100-meter race all year and took down U.S. champ Sha’Carri Richardson earlier this week. Veteran Ivory Coast sprinter Marie-Josée Ta Lou is having a career year at 34 and is riding a seven-race win streak in the 100m dating back to April 15. Shericka Jackson is the world leader at 10.65, although this weekend was a mixed bag for her, clocking a blazing 21.86 in the Monaco 200m while beating Gabby Thomas, Dina Asher-Smith, and Alfred, then losing to Ta Lou and Asher-Smith two days later over 100m in London.

And then there’s Richardson. When the 23-year-old superstar is on, she looks invincible, but a long summer of racing may be taking its toll as she suffered her first 100-meter defeat in Hungary on Tuesday then withdrew from London with precautionary concerns over hamstring discomfort in warmups. A few weeks ago, the battle for gold looked to be a two-woman race between Richardson and Jackson, but even with both women running strong, they’ll have to beat some seriously big names to do it.

Men's 200m London Diamond LeagueMen's 200m London Diamond League

Kevin Morris/@kevmofoto

2. Letsile Tebogo Is The Real Deal

After breaking the world U20 record in the 100m three times last summer, sprints fans started to learn Bostwanan phenom Letsile Tebogo’s name and began to draw the inevitable comparisons to Usain Bolt. But with PBs of 9.91 and 19.96 headed into 2023, most considered him a podium threat for the future, not a legitimate contender in Budapest. All that changed this weekend when Tebogo improved his best in the 200m from 19.87 to 19.50 in one race, landing at No. 6 on the all-time list and appearing to close the gap on World champ Noah Lyles in the final 50 meters of the straightaway. Only the most passionate of African athletics fans would expect Tebogo to knock out the 2x reigning champ in a Worlds final, but with Erriyon Knighton struggling a bit in his 200m last week (finishing second in Hungary to Alex Ogando of the Dominican Republic in 20.05, his slowest final of the year to date) and Fred Kerley pulling out of London and Monaco, the 200-meter podium is looking a little less crowded than it did a few weeks ago

(NOTE: Even with the absence of Nigel Amos as he serves a 3-year doping ban for a positive test, Botswana has four men who’ve run between 44.61 and 44.91 in the 400m this season, so Tebogo’s first senior World medal may very well come in a relay).

Gudaf Tsegay - London Diamond League Gudaf Tsegay - London Diamond League

Kevin Morris/@kevmofoto

3. The Women’s 5000m Could Get Crazy

We got a mini-preview of what the Worlds final might look like in the 5000m this weekend in London when Gudaf Tsegay outkicked World No. 1 Beatrice Chebet and Olympic champ Sifan Hassan to win in 14:12.29 and the trio clocked the 5th, 8th, and 12th fastest marks of all-time. Combine that with the results of Paris, where Faith Kipyegon set the world record of 14:05.20, Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 14:07.94, and Ejgayehu Taye finished third in 14:13:31, and six of the 10 fastest women of all time are all in peak form at the same time. If they all race the 5000m at Worlds, things could get crazy.

That’s a big “if,” however. Tsegay is the reigning champ so she’ll almost certainly be there, but she also won the 10,000m at the Ethiopian trials and Ethiopia does try to avoid doubling their athletes when possible. Similarly, Gidey is the reigning 10,000m champ, although she did double last year in Eugene and should be expected to again. Chebet will probably be in the 5000m, as she’s raced it all season, although she raced the 1500m at the Kenyan national championships. Kipyegon is relatively new to the 5000m, but given that her specialty event, the 1500m, wraps up its final the day before the 5000m heats kick off, there’s no downside to her trying the double. And Hassan has said she’s definitely doubling, and definitely running the 10,000m, but that she hasn’t decided on a secondary event. The heats of the 1500m are 7.5 hours before the 10,000m final, but the easier double would certainly be to contest the longer distances, particularly with Kipyegon seeming unbeatable in her element.

Men's 1500m London Diamond LeagueMen's 1500m London Diamond League

Kevin Morris/@kevmofoto

4. Stiff Competition For Silver In The Men’s 1500m

Even without World No. 1 Jakob Ingebrigtsen, the men’s 1500m in London was a thriller, with U.S. champ Yared Nuguse clocking his first Diamond League win (also the first in the event for an American in over a decade) in 3:30.44, overtaking Norway’s Narve Nordås in the final few meters. 12 men finished under 3:32, showing almost unprecedented depth in an event that has been elevated to a new level in recent years.

Despite his surprise loss last year, Ingebrigtsen and his final 100-meter speed look increasingly out of reach for even the best milers in the world and he has to be considered the heavy favorite to claim gold. But in the last 3 global finals since 2019, there have been 8 different men on the podium (Ingebrigtsen’s gold in Tokyo and silver in Eugene is the only repeat). Between the OAC trio of Nuguse, Olli Hoare, and Mario Garcia Romo, the reigning bronze medalist Mo Katir (assuming he runs the 1500m and not just the 5000m), British champ Neil Gourley having the best year of his career, 3 Kenyans including 2019 champ Tim Cheruiyot under 3:31 this season, and Josh Kerr always turning up at the right time, it’ll be a roll of the dice to see who lines up next to Ingebrigtsen in Budapest. And if it’s an even-slightly slower final, you can’t count out the resurgent Cole Hocker or the tactically-brilliant Joe Waskom.

Heavy favorites can make races boring, but with the wide-open race behind Jakob and the potential for tactical shenanigans upsetting the form charts, the 1500m won’t be. With at least 8 nations and an even wider range of brands, training groups, and personalities in the mix, picking your 1500m ride-or-die and rooting hard for them in Budapest is a surefire way to make this event thrilling and emotional from the fan perspective.

Femke Bol - London Diamond LeagueFemke Bol - London Diamond League

Kevin Morris/@kevmofoto

5. Sydney Is Out, But That Doesn’t Mean The 400H WR Is Safe

When Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone ran her epic 50.68 400-meter hurdles world record in Eugene last year, two things seemed certain: (1) after being broken 6 times in 3 years, surely this one would stick around for a while, and (2) if anyone was going to break it, it would be McLaughlin-Levrone herself. And yet, only a year later, neither of those two statements seem quite as unquestionable as they were before.

While McLaughlin-Levrone tackles the flat 400m, Dutch superstar Femke Bol has been putting together her best year yet in the hurdles, improving her mastery of an event where she already has two global medals and the No. 3 spot on the all-time list. The 23-year-old clocked 4 sub-53 marks between June 2nd and July 23rd, the most recent of which was a 51.45 stunner in London that moved her up to the second-fastest of all time behind McLaughlin-Levrone and ahead of Dalilah Muhammad. There’s a big gap between 51.45 and 50.68, but what was Sydney’s best time before her breakthrough race? 51.41, recorded at the U.S. championships 27 days before her Worlds performance. How many days are there between yesterday and the 400m hurdles final in Budapest? 32 days.

Bol has also shown she can do it solo - her margin of victory in London was 2.30 seconds, and splits show she had a 0.42 second gap on the field by hurdle No. 5. She’s 7 months younger than McLaughlin-Levrone and has clocked PBs at 200m, 400m, and 500m this year as well. Her ability to get the record this year is far from a sure bet, but all signs indicate that she’s able to take a legitimate shot at sub-51, a barrier that had never been broken before last year and was hardly conceivable before 2021. Both Bol and McLaughlin-Levrone chasing big times in their respective events of choice in Budapest will be great for the sport, and the closer Bol can get to her rival, the more exciting the event becomes headed into Paris 2024.

David Melly

David began contributing to CITIUS in 2018, and quickly cemented himself as an integral part of the team thanks to his quick wit, hot takes, undying love for the sport and willingness to get yelled at online.