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The Best Rise to the Top: London Diamond League Recap

Kendra Harrison sets a world record; Laura Muir is a medal favorite; Mo Farah, Usain Bolt, and Dafne Schippers are simply the best.

Track and Field: London Anniversary Games Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Friday Action

Men’s 800m

Pierre-Ambroise Bosse has always had the talent to challenge for a medal in Rio, but this season he’s really shown that he can take the step forward and actually do it. After sticking with David Rudisha in a fast 600m earlier this Diamond League circuit, Bosse arrived as a threat for the Olympic gold. He made another statement toward that Friday in London as he beat a field with Nijel Amos and Ferguson Rotich in a time of 1:43.88.

Before the race, we expressed concern about Nijel Amos as his season hasn’t gone great. He finished fourth in this one, but encouraging in that was that he ran a season best of 1:44.66, which is nearly a half-second improvement on his previous best.

Lastly, how in the world did Charles Jock make the U.S. team? He ran 1:48.48 in London yesterday and was never in the thick of the race at all. He barely advanced through the rounds of the Olympic Trials and had his only good race of the season in that final. He’s quickly looking like the 2016 version of Christian Smith.

Women’s 100m Hurdles

This is the problem with the trials-only format the United States employs in selecting their team: There is no mechanism to correct for a fluky poor performance from an athlete who truly represents the country’s best chance at a medal. Kendra Harrison was clearly that, as she entered the Trials with the American Record in the event and looked nearly unbeatable throughout the Diamond League circuit up to that point in the season. She ended up having a poor race in the final—the one race where it was a bad idea to have an off day.

Today, she proved that she should have been on the U.S. team, as she beat all three American Olympians and set a World Record in the process by running 2.20. The next three finishers after Harrison were the three Americans representing the country in Rio, so the United States’ medal hopes are certainly in good hands, just not the best they could be in.

Women’s 1500m

With this race located on her home turf of London, Laura Muir seized the energy of the crowd and dominated the race from the gun. From the start, Muir was the only woman to go with the rabbit. Even after the rabbit dropped out, Muir picked up the pace, dropping a 63 from 800-1200m. Over that stretch, though, Sifan Hassan made a move to pull up right behind Muir, and she was the only woman willing to offer a challenge. In the bell lap though, Muir wore down Hassan as, with 150m to go, the race was not at all in doubt.

Muir ran a 61.6 second last lap to beat her personal best by over a second. Her final time of 3:57.46 is a new British record. She absolutely broke Sifan Hassan over the last lap of the race, and ended up beating her by over three seconds. After her performance in Oslo and her domination of this field that contained the World Indoor Champion, Muir has solidified herself as a real medal contender in Rio, and perhaps even more than that if Genzebe Dibaba is affected by the Jama Aden stuff.

Men’s 200m

It wasn’t quite the Usain Bolt of a couple years ago, but a win in 19.89 is at the very least a clear indication that he is healthy after a hamstring injury sidelined him at the Jamaican Trials. He got off to a strong start, maybe the best in the field, and, although he opened up a gap in the final 100m, it wasn’t the same level of second-half dominance we saw from Bolt during his peak. We’re still weeks out from the Olympics though and Bolt is coming off injury, so that guy could very well show up in Rio.

Saturday Action

Women’s 800m

Molly Ludlow did all the work, but ended up with a third place finish behind both Lynsey Sharp and Shelayna Oskan-Clarke. The field decided to let the rabbit go—she was instructed to take the race out in 56 seconds—and Ludlow was the woman forced to take charge. She led the non-rabbit field for nearly the entirety of this race and, despite looking like she was about to pull away at about 600m, was overtaken by the two British women in the final meters.

In a non-Diamond League race, to see four women dip under 2:00 is all the testament you need that the women’s 800m is insanely competitive and deep right now. We often lose sight of that with Semenya, Wambui, and Niyonsaba dominating the news wire, but even if you take them away, this event is stronger and deeper than it ever has been.

Women’s 200m

The women’s 200m is officially Dafne Schippers’ world. We can argue about her dominance in the 100m as her starts are vulnerable enough that she could be beaten on some days, but in the 200m, she’s looked so much stronger than every other woman to cover for any sins in the first 50 meters.

Running into a headwind this morning, Schippers ran 22.13 and beat Tiffany Townsend, who finished second, by half a second. Especially without Allyson Felix around to race her in Rio, the 200m should be considered Schippers’ gold medal to lose.

Men’s 5000m

This was a different Mo Farah than we’ve seen in competitive races over the last couple years. Despite his dominance in terms of medals and wins, it’s always proven difficult to determin his place on the list of all-time bests simply because his tactical style doesn’t allow him to run the sort of times that would make him a no-doubt all-time great like Kenenisa Bekele.

Saturday, Farah decided to finally take things out on his own. He took the lead from the rabbits just before 3000m—a deviation from his typical style of sitting back until the very final laps—and opened up on the field. He ran solo for the final 2000m of the race and broke 13:00 for the first time this season, setting a new World Lead with his 12:59.29 performance.

Elsewhere in the field, Bernard Lagat followed up on his Olympic Trials victory with a season-best performance of 13:14 for third place. Americans Ryan Hill and Eric Jenkins both recorded season bests as well.