The Diamond League returns for its fifth meet (or installment, or episode, what have you) tomorrow in Rome. While the sprints have gotten a fair bit of attention at this meet--Justin Gatlin, Trayvon Bromell, Wayde Van Niekerk--the distance fields, particularly those of the women's 800m and men's steeplechase, are strong as well.
As with other Diamond League meets this year, BeIN Sports will be your play with coverage running from 2-4pm EST. If you don't have access to a television--which is totally understandable on a Thursday afternoon in the United States--you can roll with some online streaming options via BeIN Sports Connect or Sling TV.
Coverage is better than no coverage, but we're still all waiting for NBC to make a go all in on the track and field game.
Schedule of Diamond League and Other Notable Competitions
(All times EST)
11:45am: Men's Discus
12:25pm: Women's Shotput
12:50pm: Women's Triple Jump
1:15pm: Women's Pole Vault
1:55pm: Women's Javelin
2:04pm: Women's 400m Hurdles
2:10pm: Men's High Jump
2:15pm: Men's 200m
2:25pm: Women’s 800m
2:35pm: Men’s 400m
2:40pm: Men’s long jump
2:45pm: Women’s 5000m
3:05pm: Men’s 110m hurdles
3:15pm: Men’s 1500m
3:25pm: Women’s 100m
3:35pm: Men’s 100m
3:45pm: Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
Preview of Five Notable Events
Men's 200m (2:15 pm EST)
Trayvon Bromell headlines this event from a name-recognition standpoint with a bronze medal in the 100m in last summer's World Championships and an indoor World Title in the 60m. But, the 200m is a bit of a mystery for Bromell since he is yet to break 20 second, despite his clear talent. He'll face a relatively soft field without Bolt or Gatlin, which should provide a good litmus test as to whether he has a realistic shot at making the US team in the event out of Eugene.
If Bromell wins tomorrow, or even notches a top-3 finish--beating two of Ameer Webb, Alonso Edward, Aaron Brown, and Ramil Guliyev--that should bode somewhat well for his Olympic viability in the event.
Women's 800m (2:25 pm EST)
Caster Semenya is the story of the 800m this year. She's won the last two Diamond League races she's contested in Doha and Rabat and has a good chance to do that again here as her season best time of 1:56.64 is better than everyone in the field's PR outside of reigning indoor champion Francine Niyonsaba.
She's facing a very strong field here though that also includes all three 2015 World Medalists (Eunice Sum, Melissa Bishop, Marina Arzamasova) and American Ajee Wilson. If there is any doubt remaining that gold in Rio is Semenya's for the taking, she can put it to rest tomorrow afternoon with a victory. Alternatively, we might find out that the women's 800m is as deep and unpredictable as it appeared before the rise of Semenya.
Men's 400m (2:35 pm EST)
This event doesn't deserve much of a preview other than to note that Wayde Van Niekerk will likely be hoping to get the world lead as he currently sits only .03 seconds behind Kirani James on the year. Bralon Taplan, who currently dwells as the 5th fastest man in the event this season could provide WVN with enough competition to make it happen.
Women's 5000m (2:45 pm EST)
In terms of "who will win?" this race also isn't all that interesting. Absent Genzebe Dibaba, Almaz Ayana is certain to win, or at least as close to certain as we can come. The real intrigue is whether she can take down the world record in the event after coming up short in Rabat where she ran a more-than-respectable 14:16.31. She'll have to drop just over five seconds to beat the 14:11.15 World Record currently held by Tirunesh Dibaba.
But, after making an attempt two weeks ago in Rabat, will Ayana go for the record again in Rome? She doesn't seem to mind running from the front and being aggressive in a race that she could win doing much less work, so I have to imagine the World Record is her goal. But the World Record is just that for a reason: it's hard to get. A lot will depend on the skill of the rabbits in race no matter how good of shape Ayana is in. She'll win, and make a bid for the WR, but my off-the-cuff prediction is that she ends up a couple seconds short. Let's say 14:14.
Men's 3000m Steeplechase (3:45 pm EST)
Kemboi, Birech, 2 x Kipruto, Koech. This is a stacked field of Kenyans in an event dominated by Kenyans. Conseslus Kipruto has looked solid in both his Diamond League wins this year (Rabat and Doha) and currently holds the world lead for his performance in Rabat, but the gap between him and Jairus Birech has narrowed each race (3.15 seconds in Doha; 1.13 in Rabat). If the progression is linear, Birech will beat him in Rome.
But, progression is never linear and Kipruto gave back some time in both Doha and Rabat celebrating before the line, meaning the gaps listed above may be larger than the clock tells. Most of the other Kenyans--Ezekiel Kemboi, Paul Koech, Brimin Kipruto--are seriously suffering from "What have you done for me lately?" syndrome. While any of them could win, I'm certainly not going to put money on it at this point.
Offer your predictions and join us tomorrow afternoon to talk about the meet in the comment thread.