This is Jesse Squire making my debut post here at Citius Mag, helping you in your quest to slack off at work and watch a track meet. The 2017 Diamond League season begins Friday with the Qatar Athletic Super Grand Prix in Doha’s Suheim Bin Hamad Stadium.
US fans can watch the action live via NBC Sports Gold (subscription required) from 11:00am, or tape-delayed on NBCSN at 8:30pm. Canadian fans can see the meet live at CBC.ca (free) or tape-delayed on CBC on Saturday at 1:00pm. Of course you can also follow live results via the Diamond League website.
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 (11:00am ET)
Valerie Adams (NZL), the dominant shot putter of the 21st century, just announced that she is pregnant, so no surprise that she is not entered (and likely will not compete this year at all). In her absence, the favorite status goes to Olympic champion Carter. She didn’t throw much during the indoor season but won when she did. European indoor champion Marton may be her toughest competition.
Women’s Pole Vault (11:15am ET)
Morris is riding a hot streak and beat Olympic champion Stefanidi in their lone head-to-head meeting during the indoor season. Stefanidi has been highly consistent herself and has put up bigger heights. Newman set the Canadian record just four weeks ago.
Men’s High Jump (11:45am ET)
Barshim has the home advantage and is already the world leader, so he rates as a heavy favorite. Kynard won last year’s Doha high jump over Barshim and showed good form indoors this year. Others who could be a factor include Grabarz, Thomas, and Ghazal.
Men’s 400 meters (12:03pm ET)
Merritt is coming off a win over rival Kirani James at the Drake Relays and is figured as a big favorite(James withdrew from this race citing a respiratory infection), but Gardiner is improving rapidly and could be a surprise. He ran the fastest split of the meet at the World Relays two weeks ago and broke the Bahamian record two weeks before that. Maslak ran a full indoor season and was the best of the Europeans.
Men’s Javelin Throw (12:05pm ET)
The javelin is an event known for inconsistency, and the fact that few entrants have much if any competition under their belts this season makes this even more of a toss-up. Pitkämäki is the two-time defending champion at Doha. Either Arai or Magour could provide the first Asian win in this event in Diamond League history.
Men’s 1500 meters (12:14pm ET)
I’m expecting this race to be unpredictable and entertaining. The 1500/mile was held five times on the World Indoor Tour and produced five different winners. Four of them are here: Manangoi, Kiplagat, Birgen, and Blankenship. The middle distances are always a bit of a crapshoot, and the fact that this is the first serious race of the outdoor season makes it more so. If you’re playing in the Fantasy Diamond Race, I’d steer clear of this event.
Women’s 800 meters (12:25pm ET)
All three medalists from last summer’s Olympics are entered, led by gold medalist Semanya who appears all but unbeatable. Dibaba adds an interesting element to the race; the 1500 meter world record holder appears to have never raced this distance. Jozwik dominated the European indoor season but appears a bit outclassed here.
Women’s 200 meters (12:35pm ET)
This is the only sprint event on the schedule that brings together the #1 and #2 athletes in my power rankings, and I think most would agree that these are the top two in the women’s 200. Thompson looked very good on relays over the last two weekends, and Schippers already has 22.29 and 10.95 to her credit.
Men’s Triple Jump (12:45pm ET)
Taylor was not only the top-rated triple jumper of 2016 but near the top of any of several all-event “Athlete of the Year” rankings. Certainly he was the most dominant field event athlete of the year. He’s already off to a good start in 2017, putting up a world leading mark on April 14 and then making the best of some horrid conditions at the Drake Relays last week. Second is likely a battle between Dong and Copello, the Cuban expatriate now competing for Azerbaijan.
Women’s 100 Hurdles (12:50pm ET)
Harrison, the world record holder, is one of the biggest favorites in the whole meet. Roleder lost to no one indoors but Harrison. Manning has made massive improvements in 2017, including a PR two weeks ago at Auburn. Ofili is #2 in the power rankings but ran poorly at the Drake Relays last week.
Women’s Steeplechase (1:05pm ET)
This event is a huge question mark because most of the competitors have raced little if at all yet this season. Ten of the top twelve from last summer’s Olympic final are entered, including all of the top six, and every one of the sixteen runners in my power ranking top 22. Three years ago Coburn snuck away from the field for a surprise victory, but obviously that element of surprise is now gone.
Men’s 100 meters (1:25pm ET)
This is the race that is creating headlines: old man Gatlin against rising star De Grasse. Based on form he showed at the World Relays, I’d have to call De Grasse the favorite. Adding depth to the race are Baker and Simbine, two other young athletes likely to make an impact over the next few years.
Men’s 400 Hurdles (1:35pm ET)
This is an “extra event”, one that does not score Diamond League points, but it still has a world-class field. Clement had a career resurgence last year, but can that continue at age 31? Mucheru and Bett are reminders that Kenyan talent is not limited to distance races only.
Men’s 3000 meters (1:45pm ET)
The men’s 100 meters will get all the attention in this meet because the sprints always do, but I think this is going to be the most interesting race of the day. The USA has won just one men’s 3k/5k race in all of Diamond League history (Ben True at the 2015 adidas Grand Prix) and Great Britain has won six (all by Mo Farah), and all the other victories have been by Kenyans or Ethiopians. Chelimo and True are both in great form and are serious threats to win. Butchart had a dream indoor season and could be a factor as well. Kipruto has dominated the steeplechase for the last year or two and is now trying the flat 3000.
There are plenty of other goings-on this weekend in the world of track and road racing.
Nike’s sub-2:00 marathon attempt is finally happening this weekend.
The Payton Jordan Invitational is on Friday night at Stanford University, and Oregon’s Edward Cheserek is running all-out for time in the 5000 meters.
Also on Friday night is the Oregon Twilight at Hayward Field, which will be carried live on the Pac-12 Network from 6:00 to 7:00pm Pacific time. Devon Allen will run his first hurdle race since football-related knee surgery.
The Ivy League Championships, aka the Heps, are on Saturday and Sunday at Yale. The rivalries run deep in this meet.
The Horizon League Championships are Friday through Sunday and can be seen on ESPN3.com. The men’s 110 hurdle finals on Sunday features two of the NCAA’s top hurdlers, Chad Zallow (Youngstown State) and Nate Pozolinski (Milwaukee).