Americans To Have A Major Influence At Brussels DL Too

In Brussels Sam Kendricks will be looking to bounce back from a poor meet in the Zürich train station. (MARK SHEARMAN)

Some 24 hours after Zürich’s Weltklasse concludes the first part of the Diamond League wrapup, some 650km (about 400 miles) away, the Van Damme Memorial in Brussels will host the second segment. The Belgian capital will host 16 DL events, with only the shot on Thursday. Here’s our take on the Americans who can make a difference:

Men’s Pole Vault: Can Kendricks Reel In Mondo?

Probably not a lot of college frosh are checking out after a couple of weeks of class to squeeze in a quick DL Final, but Mondo Duplantis is that kind of guy. The European champion—now one of history’s highest vaulters ever—has perhaps made himself the man to beat after his stunning 19-10¼ (6.05) performance in Berlin. Says father/coach Greg, “It will be a quick trip. Hopefully, we get our poles there.”

But he won’t lack for competition. American Sam Kendricks has met Duplantis 7 times this season and beaten him 6. He’s riding a great season of his own; in the 14 meets since his 9th in Shanghai, he has won 10, although he had one of his poorer showings of the season in Zürich’s train station on Wednesday. He and 8 others from that competition, including winner Timur Morgunov and WR holder Renaud Lavillenie will be in Brussels. The matchup should be a classic.

Women’s Steeple: Another AR In The Offing?

It will be hard to top the last DL splash-and-dash, where Beatrice Chepkoech stunned with a World Record-smashing 8:44.32 while in her wake Courtney Frerichs beat Emma Coburn and brought the AR to the brink of the 9:00 barrier. It’s frightfully hard to predict what any of the Kenyans will do this time around, but we know for a fact that both Frerichs and Coburn have their sights set on being the first American on the sunny side of 9:00. Frerichs prepared at altitude before her return to Europe, telling us, “I want to get a really good block of training before Brussels so that way I can really feel ready to hopefully run even faster.” She added that 9:00 “is very doable and I think it’s doable for Emma as well. It would be such a great day if we had two Americans under 9:00.”

Women’s 1500: Houlihan The Favorite?

With the fastest time in the field and a brutally searing kick, Shelby Houlihan is clearly the woman to watch in the metric mile. When she won at Lausanne, she beat Sifan Hassan, who might be her toughest competition here. However, though Hassan has run a sparkling 4:14.71 mile since then and also won the Birmingham 1500, she will be coming off the 5000 in Zürich, where she suffered a narrow loss. It could be a tough double after she finishes a car ride of some 6-7 hours between the two cities. Not to be counted out: European champion Laura Muir and always-savvy American Jenny Simpson.

Men’s Triple Jump: Taylor Ready For Pichardo?

With a 10-6 career edge over world list leader Pedro Pablo Pichardo, including recent DL wins in Lausanne and Monaco, Christian Taylor is the man to watch. The ultimate big-meet performer, with 2 Olympic and 3 World golds, Taylor jumped back into the 400 for a couple of meets after his Monaco win, but is surely focused on his bounding bread-and-butter here. However, Pichardo delivered Taylor’s only loss of the year in a spellbinding match in Doha back in May. As much fun as it would be to see old-timer Nelson Évora (all of 34) follow his Euro win with a surprise here, it’s more likely that he would have trouble getting by the other Americans in the field: Chris Benard, Omar Craddock & Donald Scott.

Men’s 100: Coleman vs. Baker

Maybe British Euro silver medalist Reece Prescod can get into the mix, but a fan can’t be faulted for expecting this one to come down to the fast-starting Christian Coleman trying to hold on in the final strides while Ronnie Baker closes like a freight train. Coleman’s win at Birmingham in 9.94 was a close 0.001 (yes, one one-thousandth) decision over Prescod, whose fast-closing 9.94 was a lifetime best. However, Baker has been amazingly consistent, his last 3 races all at 9.90 or better. His 9.87 at the Skolimowska Memorial is the world leader. His slowest final since May is the 9.98 he ran in Rabat in finishing 2nd to Coleman by an eyelash margin.

Women’s 100H: Which American For The Win?

With the four fastest PRs in the field, the U.S. hurdlers will likely be battling each other in the final strides. WR holder Keni Harrison is the world’s fastest this season at 12.36 and since her USATF Champs win has had one loss to Sharika Nelvis and wins at the London DL and NACAC. Brianna Rollins-McNeal has been remarkably steady all summer save for one disastrous 8th. Her last 4 flights have all been between 12.41 and 12.51. Look for Nelvis, Christina Manning and Dawn Harper-Nelson (in her last DL race ever) to deliver solid performances as well.

That’s not all the 42nd edition of the Van Damme Memorial has to offer U.S. fans. Paul Chelimo in the 5000? We could see that happening. Jenna Prandini in the 200? Yup, maybe. Clayton Murphy in the 800? With a return to form and an off-race by Emmanuel Korir, that could be a thing too. Tune in to a computer screen near you.