The Diamond League Final — To Run, Or Not To Run?

By Kyle Merber

September 6, 2023

Since the beginning of the season, Noah Lyles has been dreaming of World Championship gold medals and on August 26th he earned his third – mission accomplished. Anything that happened after that was secondary, like the Diamond League final three weeks later.

Much to the disappointment of many fans and commenters who have not raced almost thirty times since January, it highlights a major issue in the outline of the season schedule. Maybe there would be fewer opinions if the finals were not being hosted in Eugene at the Prefontaine Classic for the first time ever. If you could draw it up, then ideally the biggest star from Budapest would be competing on home soil, although that’s not an uncommon sight.

This is unlike other conversations about athletes or coaches who race sparingly, that’s definitely not a Lyles issue. So let’s not blame him for having minimal interest in extending a wonderfully successful season an additional three weeks with little or nothing to gain from it. Listen to him speak in any interview or YouTube video and this is a dude who is fully in tune with his body. Trust that if he felt like there was a 19.18 still in his legs then he’d be out there racing. Besides, most of us would have been getting a charley horse on the dance floor of Szimpla Kert the next few nights had we won the 100m. Maybe it’s time to let him celebrate.

Whether it’s the need for a big rest prior to the build-up to Paris or a neuromuscular system running on fumes, what’s there to gain? $30,000 of prize money might be motivation for some professional runners…

Of course, the underlying issue is that the biggest meet of the year is not the finale. The Denver Nuggets weren’t playing more games after they won the NBA title. They went on a yacht to tell everyone that they won the world championship!

In fact, the complicated relationship between World Athletics and the Diamond League is a fundamental issue that makes it difficult to streamline many aspects of the sport. There are different sponsors, broadcasting partners, organizing committees, meet directors, and therefore 14 different ways of doing things. The positive is that this is not completely unlike Formula 1 – though Liberty Media has recognized the benefit of actually owning the property it’s promoting and invested $500M in the creation of the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

What does that have to do with Noah Lyles? Well, I am sure Seb Coe wishes the Diamond League final was not well into the new school year. (It’s cross country season dammit!) The best part of track and field – aside from the nine days I’m forced to spend away from my family… PSYCHE! – is all the speculation during the build-up to a global championship. Worlds not being the end of the season sort of makes it like reading the plot on Wikipedia before going to see the movie.

And I am not saying that I don’t care who wins in the races after Worlds because that’s NOT what I am saying… but I am saying I do care less! And I don’t think that waning enthusiasm is a unique human experience. The events immediately following Budapest are best used as a barometer to gauge who had the most fun after the closing ceremonies.

Perhaps unrelated, but the same day Christian Coleman tied his (and Zharnel Hughes’s world lead) Noah tweeted that he might have another 100m in him this year. With only a win in Paris, he technically sits outside of qualifying for the Diamond League final. But with an injured Trayvon Bromell not running and a nine-lane track, there is theoretically room for two of the four men tied at eight points in the standings. The World Champion in the event, who did not earn any points for the effort, seems like a good pick to let in.

All this hand-wringing might be for naught then! (Editor’s Note: It turns it was. It was all for naught! Lyles is confirmed to run the 100 at the Pre Classic.) Yet it all speaks to what gets athletes excited, which might give a little insight into what would in turn reignite the fans’ enthusiasm. We have seen everyone compete all season long in their best event. How many times can we really watch Ryan Crouser throw 23-plus meters in a year? But I haven’t seen him throw a discus in years! (He did finish 5th at NCAAs in 2015 and there are rumors of an eventual return.)

With the ongoing banter in press conferences between Karsten Warholm and Mondo Duplantis about potentially racing a 100m or Fred Kerely and Lindon Victor squaring off in a 1500, what if every season finished off with an all-star challenge meet? Rather than expecting athletes to get excited about doing the same thing once again, there is a Pro Bowl-like event as a sole postseason competition to create some buzz. The NFL can keep Hawaii because this one is in Ibiza.

Enough of the think-pieces about whether or not Noah Lyles should run the 200 at the Diamond League final! Instead fans could spend three weeks arguing if he could beat Josh Kerr in a 500.

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Kyle Merber

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.