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The final meet of the Diamond League’s 10th season — its 14th of the season and its 140th overall — is upon us: Friday’s Diamond League final at the Memorial Van Damme meet in Brussels.
In many ways, it’s a farewell. Not to the track season — many of these athletes will be at the World Championships, which begin three weeks from now in Doha — but to the Diamond League as we currently know it. Changes are coming in 2020.
Next year, four men’s and four women’s disciplines will be dropped from the circuit. We already know the 5,000 meters is one of them. The others have yet to be announced, but events like the triple jump and discus are clearly in jeopardy. And what about the 200? Though Noah Lyles has electrified the event in recent years, there’s a significant talent overlap with the 100. If the IAAF is looking to cut a second track event, that may be the pick.
As a result of those cuts, the TV window for DL meets will be shorter (90 minutes in 2020 compared to 120 now), and the IAAF will move to a one-off final, which will be hosted in Zurich in 2020 and 2021. The Memorial Van Damme has seen some incredible performances through the years — Aries Merritt (12.80 110 hurdles), Kenenisa Bekele (26:17.53 10,000), and Saif Saaeed Shaheen (7:53.63 steeple) all set world records here that still stand — but it won’t be quite the same next year without Diamond Trophies to hand out at the end.
Which is all the more reason to make this year’s meet count. For athletes in those endangered events, it’s one last chance to stir up some excitement and make the case to the IAAF that their event should be preserved. And of course, because it’s a Diamond League final, the fields are stacked across the board with $50,000 on the line for the win in each event. The results here will give everyone a very clear picture of where we stand with Worlds just three weeks away.
For the men, the race of the night is the 400, which features a rematch of the terrific USA final between Fred Kerley and Michael Norman. In the 200, Noah Lyles goes for his second DL title of 2019, while Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce leads the way in the women’s 100.
There are four distance finals on tap: the men’s steeplechase and 1500, and the women’s 800 and 5,000. The women’s 5000 is the women’s race of the night. In addition to sadly (Editor’s note: and stupidly) being the final DL 5,000 ever, it also features Sifan Hassan, Konstanze Klosterhalfen, and world champ Hellen Obiri. In the steeple,Olympic and world champ Conseslus Kipruto will try to take another step forward in his comeback from his foot injury as he faces rival Soufiane El Bakkali — who will look to become the first non-Kenyan man to win the DL steeple title. Timothy Cheruiyot goes for his third straight DL title in the men’s 1500 against the Ingebrigtsens and US champ Craig Engels, while on the women’s side, Ajee’ Wilson will try to earn the US an extra spot at Worlds by winning her first DL title.
This will be our last look at most of these athletes before they head to Doha. Don’t miss it. Preview of the top events below.
What: 2019 Memorial Van Damme
Where: King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, Belgium
When: Friday, September 6