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Down Goes Dibaba: Rio Olympics Track and Field Day 5

Faith Kipyegon defeats Genzebe Dibaba over 800 1500m; no medals for the U.S. in the 110 Hurdles; minor surprises litter preliminary rounds.

Athletics - Olympics: Day 11 Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Though the men’s 110m Hurdles final served as the nightcap of NBC’s Primetime feature of track and field, the women’s 1500m was met with the most anticipation among many track fans.

Despite barely racing this year, Genzebe Dibaba was the presumptive favorite after her truly dominant 2015 outdoor season and performance in the semifinals. Faith Kipyegon had an argument of her own to be considered the favorite with a nearly successful world record attempt in the mile already this summer. Laura Muir provided a fun hipster pick—that Jeff and I both didn’t hesitate to get on board with—after sticking with that aforementioned world record attempt and racing well in subsequent races.

So, with a ton of fast runners, they got to the final of the 1500 and...went out in 2:27 for 800. Just after 800m, Laura Muir, perhaps sensing that she didn’t stand much of a chance in a short kick against the likes of Dibaba, started pressing. A 60-second lap ensued as it appeared that the entire field was sprinting.

Going into the final lap, it appeared to be a three woman race with Dibaba, Kipyegon, and Muir gaining some separation from the rest of the field. Muir was the first to drop off, leaving Kipyegon and Dibaba to battle for the final 250 meters. With 100 to go, it was clear that Kipyegon had broken Dibaba, and the former went on to win by over a second.

With Muir already out of the picture, the pack of Jenny Simpson, Shannon Rowbury, and Sifan Hassan looked ready to claim a medal. Jenny Simpson turned it on over the last 100m, and, honestly, it almost looked like she was going to overtake Dibaba and steal a silver medal here, but that was not to be as the former World Champion had to settle for bronze. With the third-place finish Jenny Simpson became the first American woman to medal in the 1500m.

Kipyegon defeating Dibaba will go down as one of the biggest upsets of the Rio Olympics. It brought back memories of the 5000m at last year’s world championships where Almaz Ayana hammered a 8:19 final 3000m to obliterate Dibaba. The long kicks, it turns out (on an admittedly tiny n of 2), may not be Dibaba’s bailiwick.

Other Action

Men’s 110m Hurdles

Throughout the entire season, Jamaica’s Omar McLeod looked like the person to beat and he did nothing throughout the preliminary rounds to cast any doubt on his ability. He handled the field without much effort, cruising to a 13.05 win. Spain’s Orlando Ortega took second and Dimitri Bascou of France outleaned his countryman to take bronze.

The Americans were swept off the medal podium which doesn’t sound that surprising, but think how that would have sounded a year ago?

Women’s 200m

There are three medal contenders until proven otherwise: Dafne Schippers, Elaine Thompson, and Tori Bowie. They all made it through and looked dominant over everyone else on the way there. Deajah Stevens advanced on time to put two Americans in the finals.

Men’s 400m Hurdles

Kerron Clement will be the only American in the final, but that’s ok for their medal chances as he was the only athlete in the event to put on a dominant performance in his heat. No one in the final has run faster this season than the 48.26 time Clement won to advance, and only Javier Culson has run faster than that in his career. Clement is the prohibitive favorite.

Women’s 400m Hurdles

An impressive season comes to a sad end for 17-year old Sydney McLaughlin as she fails to make the Olympic final in the 400 hurdles. However, that is nothing at all to be disappointed about. As a high schooler, McLaughlin has had a much longer season and likely has raced many more times than anyone else in these games. Put her on a reasonable professional schedule, and she likely would have done a lot better here in August.

If Clement is the favorite in the men’s field, Dalilah Muhammed is at least as favored on the women’s side. She had the fastest time in the semifinal by over half a second. She’s looked unbeatable since the final heat of the U.S. Olympic Trials in early July.

Similarly impressive was Ashley Spencer. She won her heat despite a poor first 200m and nearly tripping over the ninth hurdle. She had so much more speed between the hurdles than anyone else in her heat. If she can get the hurdling right, she could possibly challenge Muhammed for gold.

Morning Notes

Women’s 100m Hurdles

All three U.S. women advanced out of the first round of heats for the hurdles and they all finished in the top-6 times for the morning. This remains the best (only?) U.S. chance at sweeping medals in an event on the track or in the field in Rio.

Men’s 200m

It’s hard to get a sense of where Bolt is fitness-wise after this because he basically jogged 75 meters of this. He ran 20.28, but that time means nothing with how he approached the last 100m of that race. What we can say is that if anyone is going to challenge Bolt here, it is Andre De Grasse. De Grasse only let up over the final couple meters, but ran 20.09. To be clear: Bolt is going to win gold here. But, De Grasse looks like the favorite for silver at this point.