After the highs of Doha we had the slightly less thrilling but still intriguing event in Shanghai and now we move on to one of the most anticipated legs of the Diamond League, the Prefontaine Classic from Eugene, Oregon. This event usually brings out most of the world’s biggest stars and this year is no different. From probably Mo Farah’s last appearance at this event to the STACKED women’s 1500 and 200 metre races, this should be another great event and Eugene is usually known for its quick times, particularly for the sprints. So with that said, here are my top 5 event to look out for at this year’s Prefontaine Classic.
WOMEN’S 1500 METRES
Wow. That’s all you can say when you look at the entry list for this race. With the exception of Genzebe Dibaba you will see the majority of this year’s final London in London. Olympic Champion Faith Kipyegon, Helen Obiri, Jenny Simpson, Shannon Rowbury, Laura Muir, Dawit Seyaum are all involved in one of the strongest fields this season. Not that this is necessarily a huge surprise as a lot of these women compete against each other fairly regularly but a field with 7 sub 4 minute runners outside of a major final is a pretty amazing thing. Furthermore, I’m not sure you can predict who will win here with any clear certainty. Kipyegon as the reigning Olympic Champion will presumably start as favourite but you can’t discount the form of Laura Muir over the last year, certainly not the two experienced and tactically strong Americans or even one of the Ethiopians especially so early on in the season where everyone will be at different stages of their preparations.
WOMEN’S 200 METRES
In Doha Elaine Thompson won convincingly over the 200 (into a fairly strong headwind as well) and then did so again over the 100 in Shanghai and is without doubt the fastest women in the world right now and a big favourite for London to do another sprint double. This could well be the toughest test before those championships however with her now perennial challenger Daphne Schippers joined by 200 metre legend Allyson Felix, Olympic bronze medallist Torie Bowie, Olympic 400 metre champion Shaunae Milller-Uibo among a truly stellar field.
The field creates a lot of interesting scenarios and questions and I wouldn’t be surprised if Shaunae Miller featured heavily in this race even though she is known for her 400 metre running and her PB of 22.05 suggests she can. The sub-plot here is the inclusion of Felix who if she was to beaten over the half-lap event then that would be a big psychological boost for Miller although an athlete of Felix’s calibre can never ever be counted out and will be right there come London.
MEN’S POLE VAULT
When it comes to the Diamond League this is an event where most of the big names usually turn up but this one has an interesting addition in a 17 year old who’s been breaking records for a while now. Armand Duplantis (he is a Swede despite some articles I’ve read that claims him as American!) has the current WL with a huge 5.90m which is way higher than any youth or junior vaulter has ever jumped. Jumping 5.90 in the US system is one thing but doing that against the absolute best in the world is another though and I think it will be interesting to see how he performs in their company. Olympic Champion Thiago Braz didn’t jump too well last time out but American Sam Kendricks certainly did as he got an early morale boosting win over Renaud Lavillenie. Thrown in a couple of World Champions including Shawn Barber and you have a talented and intriguing pole vault field.
WOMEN’S 400 METRE HURDLES
An event that usually takes a while to see those really impressive times (not surprising of course bearing in mind the nature of the event) but with a field which has 5 of last year’s Olympic final should mean that this event will start to come alive this year. The top 3 for Rio are all here but it is one of the athletes who was not in that Rio final, Georganne Moline who has the WL with 54.10 and she seems in good shape to get close to her PB of 53.72.
It’s the first outing of the year for the Olympic Champion Dalilah Muhammad who exploded onto the scene last year going under 53 seconds and followed that up with the gold medal in Rio. The silver and bronze medallists Sara Peterson and Ashley Spencer are here with the latter opening her season as is World Champion Zuzana Hejnova whose late return to form last year nearly saw her make the podium in Rio but if she can return to her previous form she will be a big threat in Rio and is the only other athlete apart from Muhammad who has ever run under 53 seconds. One of 5 Americans in this race, Shamier Little had a disappointing 2016 not making the Olympic team after medalling at the last World Championships and with strong domestic competition (including the very talented youngster Sydney McLaughlin not here) she will a good year to get back into the US team.
As for the race, it’s pretty unpredictable especially that it is early in the season for most of the field and I wouldn’t want to predict it (stay away from it in terms of the Fantasy Diamond race by the way!) especially as there is quality throughout the whole field.
MEN’S 5000 METRES
There are only a handful of track races life in Mo Farah’s career (we think!) and this has been an important race for Mo over the years and it was this event where he broke-through on the world stage setting a new British record at this event in 2011 over 10000 metres and we know what happened from there. For the 6 years since the question has been, how do you beat Mo Farah? This is especially for the championships where only a tactical mistake and a phenomenal finish from Jeilan has been his only major championship final defeat and that was also in 2011. There’s always been the sense that Mo is slightly more vulnerable over the 5k which is the race being run here (sadly no 10k as there usually is) and it is a formidable field. It’s a big field as well so to name everyone would be overkill but with the Kenyan contingent of Tanui, Ndiku and Kamworor you have 3 of Mo’s closest challengers in recent years between the 5k and 10k, the young Ethiopian Kejelcha who could be the one to take Mo’s spot at this distance combined with the many other east African talent, a reasonable strong American contingent including Olympic medallist Paul Chelimo and even the other Brit Andy Butchart after his 6th place in Rio. Is a defeat for Farah, the beginning of the end of his dominance? Not necessarily but as he creeps up in age it might just give a few doubts as to whether he can still win but it might take someone to get to the next level in order to truly challenge him. Maybe we’ll see that on Saturday.
Well that concludes my preview for the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, I hope you all enjoy the event and thank you for reading. Until next time!