By Kyle Merber
May 10, 2023
If you want non-championship meets to “matter” to athletes and fans alike, then the logical vehicle to make that happen is the Diamond League. That makes this past weekend’s meeting in Doha the unofficial opening day of the true regular season!
Regular readers of this newsletter – you loyal diehards who have gone digging through your spam folder the last couple of weeks, or god forbid, visited the website – know that if I had to sum up one “problem” with the sport it’s that there’s too much of it. There are too many events and too many people to follow.
That’s why, as I fire up my personal laptop next to my work one for the occasional weekday afternoon stream, I’m intentional about my rooting interests.
As much as sports fans love a good underdog story, in the early season I root for the most familiar faces. The turnover rate in athletics is brutal and the likelihood that even an Olympic champion will remain healthy and competitive for the span of two cycles is uncommon. I could take a decade off from watching any amount of basketball but tune into the Lakers-Warriors series and still know a handful of the players. Run down the list of winners in Qatar and the only individual who was also a medalist in Rio was Faith Kipyegon. Faith’s often referred to as the Lebron James of middle-distance running, not just for her dominance but for her longevity.
What it lacked in long-tenured stars, Doha was still good to the favorites, as most stars picked up right where they left off. And while Sha’Carri Richardson may not be a defending World Champion, it does not take TV writers to develop this plot line (The Lap Count stands with the WGA!). Richardson’s late race surge to overtake Shericka Jackson and win the 100m in 10.76 (+0.9) means she’s been running “too fast,” “too early” for several weeks now.
Fred Kerley pulled a similar stunt in the 200m on his way to a 19.92 (+0.3) win, rocking what could best be best described as 1/8th tights. If there was live betting in this one, which seems complicated, then at 150m the odds would not have been in his favor. But the billion-dollar man found a way.
The performance of the meet for anyone with a distance bias would have to be the 3000m. The indoor world record holder Lamecha Girma opted to race outdoors sans barriers and battled against the likes of Olympic 10,000m champion Selemon Barega and the defending Diamond League 5000m winner Berihu Aregawi. Ultimately, Girma won handily over his steeple rival Soufiane El Bakkali, which begs the question: should Girma stick to the flats? El Bakkali is 7-1 in head-to-head matchups against him over the water. Or has Girma’s fitness improved to such a significant extent that he’ll finally be able to capture that elusive global gold?
In last week’s newsletter that no one read, I suggested that an African nation might be a good host for the next Diamond League meet. Well, toss India’s hat into the ring for consideration as well. Olympic hero Neeraj Chopra threw 88.67m to establish a new world lead and is the man with the most Instagram followers in the sport – triple that of World Athletics. I cheer for the #ChopraBump.
This year, India is expected to surpass China to become the most populous country in the world. The key figure however is that 42.7% of that population is under the age of 25. And as of a few weeks ago, there is finally an Apple store in India – can Doha say that? Tim Cook already did the SWOT analysis for us, so let’s hope the Diamond League follows his lead.
After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.