Five Key Takeaways from the Rabat Diamond League

By David Melly

May 29, 2023

The Diamond League season is now well underway with the second round of the sport’s pro circuit taking place in Rabat, Morocco yesterday at the 2023 Meeting International Mohammed VI d'Athlétisme. At the end of the night, the crowd was treated to a big win from their hometown hero, World and Olympic steeplechase champion Soufiane El Bakkali, who ran 7:56.68, the 8th-fastest mark in history and the fastest steeple in the world in over 10 years. The most exciting moments for the international viewers, however, were the intriguing matchups between established stars and up-and-coming challengers, and while the biggest names persevered, not all the races went as expected. We’re in for a very interesting year!

Full results from the meet can be found here.

Here are our five biggest takeaways from the meet:

1. Jakob is still the king.

All eyes were on the men’s 1500m to see if the On Athletic Club crew led by Yared Nuguse could seriously threaten reigning Olympic champ Jakob Ingebrigtsen. Anyone who has watched Ingebrigtsen run in the last 3 years knows what his race strategy is going to be in a fast rabbited race: get on the pacers’ heels, hit the front around halfway, and tighten the screws to run the kicks out of the competition. The only way to beat him is to simply be better. With 200 meters to go, Olli Hoare and Nuguse were right on his tail, but Ingebrigtsen had both the positioning and the gears to hold them off.

Nuguse was rewarded with an outdoor PB of 3:33.02 and a second-place finish, and his final 100 meters looked as strong as Jakob’s but he was coming from farther back and had to pass his teammate. With more experience racing on the international circuit, the supremely talented American may be able to give the Norwegian a real scare, but he’s not there yet.

2. Shericka is still the queen.

World 200m champion Shericka Jackson picked up where she left off in the event, clocking a controlled 21.98 victory in Rabat without being seriously pressed. That mark puts her at #2 on the 2023 world list behind Texas star Julien Alfred’s 21.91, but the ease with which Jackson ran suggested she can go much, much faster very soon. Sha’Carri Richardson was able to hand Jackson a loss in the 100m in Doha, but Jackson, a former 400m specialist, is nearly unbeatable in her best event.

The two questions this year in the women’s 200m are (1) how close can Jackson get to FloJo’s world record of 21.34? And (2) with all the young talent coming up through the NCAA system, will a new star emerge to threaten her dominance? Jackson ran 21.45 last year and all indications are that she hasn’t missed a step, but the emergence of runners like Abby Steiner, Favour Ofili, and Julien Alfred will certainly make the podium discussion interesting moving into the championship season.

3. Fred Kerley finds a way.

The pre-race hype between Olympic champ Marcell Jacobs and World champ Fred Kerley did not come to fruition as Jacobs pulled out of the meet with a back issue, but Kerley always seems to put his money where his mouth is and came away with the win against a strong field in a meet record 9.94.

With strong starters like Trayvon Bromell and Ferdinand Omanyala in the race, it was expected that Kerley would have to make up some ground in the final 40 meters, but the tall man kept it fairly close early and eased away from the chasers as his stride opened up. It was something of a surprise to see South African Akani Simbine finish second over Bromell, Omanyala, and Botswana’s rising star Letsile Tebago, but Simbine has run 9.84 and is no slouch if he’s sharp early in the season.

4. Upsets in the hurdles.

Not all former world champions walked away from Rabat unscathed. Dalilah Muhammad, the 2019 World champ and reigning bronze medalist in the 400m hurdles, looked a bit off her game in her season debut in the event. She only managed to finish 5th in 55.72 (fellow American Shamier Little won in 53.95), over 4 seconds off her lifetime best, which suggests that she’s going to have a lot of work to do to make another World team with the likes of Little, Britton Wilson, or even someone like heptathlete Anna Hall potentially in her way.

In the men’s 110m hurdles, reigning world champ Grant Holloway looked good, but 22-year-old Jamaican Rasheed Broadbell was simply better, as he handed Holloway his first defeat of 2023, 13.08 to 13.12. The race was delayed by two false starts (but no disqualifications- take note, U.S. officials), so it’s possible that one or more of the competitors may have been thrown a little off their rhythms. But the likeliest outcome is that Broadbell quite simply was better on the day, with Holloway beating the field through the first several hurdles but the Jamaican closing strong in the final 30 meters. Broadbell is a sub-13 runner with his 12.99 in Lausanne last summer, and in such a short, technical event with so much talent, even an all-time great like Holloway needs to be on top of his game to come out with the win.

5. Kristjan Čeh is red-hot.

Major props to the Diamond League broadcasters for giving the discus throw the coverage it deserves, as viewers were treated to multiple updates from the competition during the two-hour broadcast. The pacing of DL meets lends itself well to balancing track and field events, as keeping the number of events limited and not including preliminary rounds frees up a lot of space in the schedule. As a result, we got to see the battle in the event unfold for Slovenian World champ Kristjan Čeh and his challengers, although it wasn’t a close fight as Čeh launched his first round throw over 70 meters then improved to 70.32m on his fifth attempt. Swede Daniel Ståhl hauled a 69.21m effort of his own for second, but Čeh is on another level right now and keeps his undefeated 2023 going.

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.