With the end of the ’18 Diamond League season in sight, this weekend’s Müller GP in Birmingham will jump-start the excitement after the 3-week break for the various continental championships. Half the events on the DL program have wrapped up their pre-Finals competition, but the list of qualifiers for the other 14 will be decided here: men’s 100, 400, 800, St, 110H, HJ & JT; women’s 200, 1500, 5000, 400H, PV, LJ & SP.
With that in mind, here are 5 events we think you’ll find especially worth following in England on Saturday night as the world’s elite fight for position in next weekend’s Zürich and Brussels finales:
1. Women’s 200: Which Favorite Is Favoritest?
In winning the Euros in a world-leading 21.89 (plus that 10.85 dash), Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith has made herself the woman to beat. Or has she? There’s the little matter of reigning DL champ Shaunae Miller-Uibo, undefeated this year, and with a win over “Dina-Mite” (as one Brit paper dubbed her) in the London DL. Saturday will prove an important benchmark for the season as they face off against a solid field that also includes Jenna Prandini—USATF Champ and now NACAC 100 winner, NACAC 200 champ Shericka Jackson, Gabby Thomas (with a PR 22.19 in her last race), Euro runner-up Dafne Schippers, 100 co-world leader Marie-Josée Ta Lou, plus a comebacking 2-time Olympic 100 champion in Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. Whew! This could be the 200 race of the year. Well, at least until some/many/all of the same cast of characters reassemble in Brussels on the 31st.
2. Men’s 800: Korir vs. The World
In another race that brings together almost everyone who is anyone, Emmanuel Korir is looking for redemption after unexpectedly losing the African title to Nijel Amos in a slowish 1:45.20–1:45.65 battle. Amos won’t be in Birmingham, but Clayton Murphy will. The Olympic bronze medalist chased Korir to his world-leading 1:42.05 at the London DL. Canadian Brandon McBride (1:43.20) is also in fine form. Kenyans Jonathan Kitilit (1:43.46) and Ferguson Rotich (1:43.73, and already automatically qualified for the final in Brussels) are two more who have broken 1:44 this season. An interesting add to the field is 1500 world champ Elijah Manangoi, who has only run one 800 this year and boasts a modest PR of 1:44.8.
3. Women’s 400H: Could This Be Little’s Year?
Shamier Little, fresh off a blazing 53.32 win at NACAC, is looking like she is intent on putting together a No. 1 season. The A&M grad has been unbeaten since her Bislett loss to Dalilah Muhammad. If she wants to be considered the top long hurdler of the year—Sydney McLaughlin’s lack of international exposure will kill her chances to rank No. 1—she’ll have to crank her next couple of races, here and at Weltklasse. She’ll be facing off against Jamaican Janieve Russell again—Little has won their last 3 encounters. “I can’t call it a rivalry,” says Little, “but then lately these past few races we’ve been neck and neck and that’s honestly really thrilling for me. I enjoy every moment of competing alongside Janieve. She’s from the rival country of America and she’s like the rival brand and it’s just very fun to have somebody so that we’re pushing each other in our races.”
4. Men’s 100: Coleman Against Lyles, Again
With a few weeks off from the races, Christian Coleman is hopefully healthy enough to take on Noah Lyles again. He won their only encounter of the year in Rabat, hitting 9.98 to Lyles’ 9.99 (in 3rd). Coleman’s hamstring problems have kept us from seeing more clashes, but as fans we hope he’s past that now. Notably missing from the Birmingham clash will be Ronnie Baker, whose lead in the DL point race is large enough that he’ll still be on top without running there. He has tweeted that he’s ready for big things, but we’ll have to wait until Brussels to see what he’s got cooking. Quick-starting Mike Rodgers will be in Birmingham, though, and with a 9.89 to his credit this year could well be a factor. British fans will be voicing loud support for new European champ Zharnel Hughes. There are so many high-end sprinters available for this one that heats will be run.
5. Women’s PV: Another High-Flying Clash
No shortage of top-flight competition in the fiberglass event, as most of the big names continue to regularly bash heads. OG/WC gold medalist (and newly crowned Euro champ) Katerína Stefanídi of Greece will take on Americans Sandi Morris and Katie Nageotte, who just won the NACAC gold with an outdoor PR of 15-7 (4.75). Eliza McCartney will try to get back on track; in mid-July she cleared a then-world-leading 16-2½ (4.94) but 3 days later in Monaco had her worse finish of the season.
And Just to Hedge Our Bets…
Of course there will be more to keep an eye on than these 5 events. The men’s javelin features the amazing Germans. In the men’s 400, we’ll see Christian Taylor come back to the track for one more crack at sub-45, though the story might end up being the return of Fred Kerley, whom we haven’t seen since early June. And in the men’s mile, a solid field may prove a showcase for American 5K standout Paul Chelimo, who surprisingly has never broken 4:00 outdoors (PR 4:08.06, though indoors this year he ran 3:58.59). Meanwhile, Laura Muir will be running the 1000 with hopes of taking down Kelly Holmes’ 21-year-old British Record.