Wind denies Liu Xiang an equal world record, while Farah easily defeats Bekele in the 5000m and Barbara Parker smashes the UK steeplechase record
It had been billed as one of the events of the day at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene. World champion Mo Farah was up against Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele in the 5000m – a race that acted as something of a dress rehearsal for this summer’s Olympics.
But ultimately the Ethiopian world record-holder proved not much of a challenge to the double European champion. Instead it was Kenyan youngster Isiah Koech and Farah’s own training partner Galen Rupp who posed the biggest threat.
Paced by Kenya’s Kenneth Kipkemoi, both Farah and Bekele played their cards close to their chest for much of the first few kilometres. Farah took up the running with two and a half laps to go, at this point well on course for a sub-13 run.
Bekele was still within touching distance, but Rupp was closest to Farah with Koech close behind. As Farah began to kick for home on the final lap, Koech passed Rupp to move into second.
But Farah had saved enough for one final burst down the home straight and won comfortably in a world-leading 12:56.98, breaking the meeting record by two seconds with his second-fastest run of his career.
Koech finished second in 12:57.63 as Rupp dipped under 13 minutes for the first time with 12:58.90. Bekele finished a well-beaten fourth in 13:01.48.
Had it not been for the wind being slightly over the allowable limit in the 110m hurdles, Liu Xiang could have reclaimed the world record – or at least a share in it.
But his 12.87 victory, aided by a +2.4m/s tailwind, was nonetheless impressive, as he finished a clear stride ahead of a top-class field, worthy of an Olympic final. The only notable athlete missing was world record-holder Dayron Robles, but Liu comfortably beat world indoor champion Aries Merritt (12.96), world champion Jason Richardson (13.11), US record-holder (13.13) and world bronze medallist Andy Turner (13.46).
Liu has struggled with injury since winning the 2007 world title, suffering the misfortune of a high-profile breakdown on the startline at the 2008 Olympics, where he was carrying the weight of expectation of the entire nation.
Since then has had flashes of brilliance amid long spells of injury, including world silver last year and world indoor silver earlier this year. With this, his third international victory of the year, Liu finally appears to be over the worst of his injuries and on course for a medal at this summer’s Olympics.
While the illegal wind prevented any records being broken in the sprint hurdles, there were numerous meeting records and world leads set elsewhere. Kenya’s Milcah Chemos smashed her own meeting record from two years ago in the steeplechase, winning in 9:13.69, almost two seconds clear of Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa (9:15.45).
Britain’s Barbara Parker had the run of her life to finish fourth in 9:24.24, smashing the UK record by five seconds. The previous UK record had been held by Helen Clitheroe since 2008.
World champion Anna Chicherova made her seasonal Diamond League debut in the high jump, but came up against a surprising challenge from one of her own team-mate. Svetlana Shkolina recorded a clean score-card through to 2.00m to lead throughout, while Chicherova needed two attempts at that height. But on her final attempt at 2.02m, Chicherova succeeded while Shkolina failed, securing the victory with a world-lead and meeting record.
Just two days after British athletes secured a jumps double at the Rome Diamond League meeting, Shara Proctor added to the British jumping success in the Diamond League, winning the women’s long jump in Eugene. The world indoor bronze medallist led from the outset, leaping 6.76m in round one and improving to an outdoor PB of 6.84m in the second round.
World champion Brittney Reese had a competition she’ll be keen to forget and finished in seventh, missing the cut-off for the final three rounds. France’s Eloyse Lesueur came close to snatching the lead with her final attempt, a windy 6.83m, but Proctor held on to victory.
World indoor champion Sanya Richards-Ross exacted her revenge on Jamaican rival Novlene Williams-Mills in the 400m, having been beaten by her last month in Kingston.
Adopting a modified ‘sit-and-kick’ strategy, the American record-holder was a couple of metres down on world champion Amantle Montsho coming off the final bend, but with a controlled run down the home straight, she won in 49.39 – her fastest time for three years.
Montsho clocked her second-fastest time of her career in second with 49.62, with Williams-Mills also dipping under 50 seconds in third (49.78).
For the first time since last year’s World Championships, Merritt was up against world champion Kirani James. For a second it appeared as though the 19-year-old from Grenada would take the win, but Merritt kept his cool in the closing stages to edge ahead and win in 44.91. To add insult to injury, James was later disqualified as he had false-started at the first time of asking.
Justin Gatlin has been keen to establish himself as a threat to Usain Bolt’s dominance in the 100m. Although the American won in Eugene, his run was nowhere near as impressive as the 9.76 from the Jamaican two nights ago in Rome.
Gatlin came through strong at the end to win in 9.90 (1.3m/s) from Jamaica’s Nickel Ashmeade, who set a PB of 9.93 in second. Just 0.03 separated the next five athletes across the finish line.
World silver medallist Abubaker Kaki made his outdoor 800m debut, and on the evidence of his win, the Sudanese athlete is clearly in great form. With his trademark grimace, the 22-year-old dug deep in the final 200m, holding off a late charge from Ethiopia’s Mohamed Aman, the teenager who succeeded Kaki as world indoor champion. But Kaki had the edge and won in 1:43.71, just 0.03 ahead of Aman.
The Bowerman Mile, a permanent fixture at the Pre Classic, was packed full of the world’s top milers. But when it came to the kick finish, Asbel Kiprop showed exactly why he is the world and Olympic champion. The tall Kenyan opened up his long-loping stride to pull ahead of the field, winning in a world-leading 3:49.40.
In a race where 16 athletes finished under 3:57, Ethiopia’s Mekonnen Gebremedhin was second (3:50.17) while Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman set a national record of 3:50.21 in third. Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis was seventh, while world indoor champion Bernard Lagat was even further back in 14th place.
Three-time world champion Allyson Felix would have watched with interest the 200m victory by Veronica Campbell-Brown in Ostrava last week. Not to be outdone, Felix was just as impressive over the half-lap sprint in Eugene.
Although she has worked on her speed this year, Felix was still level with the field at the half-way point. But over the second half she opened up a sizeable lead, winning in 22.23 (0.8m/s). USA’s Jeneba Tarmoh was second (22.61) while world 100m champion Carmelita Jeter faded badly and was fifth in 22.78.
The men’s 200m was the final sprint event on the programme with US athletes having won both 400s, the men’s 100m and the women’s 200m. So the pressure was on Wallace Spearmon to maintain the record.
He duly delivered, despite having to run into a -2.1m/s headwind. The multiple world medalist kept his unbeaten streak this year to win in 20.17 from Churandy Martina (20.49)
Elsewhere, Reese Hoffa threw a world-leading 21.81m to win the shot ahead of Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski (21.60) with Canada’s Dylan Armstrong and world indoor champion Ryan Whiting also breaking 21 metres. Vadims Vasilevskis set a meeting record of 84.65m in the men’s javelin, while Mariem Alaoui Selsouli achieved the same feat in the women’s 3000m, winning in a world-leading 8:34.47.
A tie-break was needed in the women’s pole vault to decide the winner, with world champion Fabiana Murer clearing 4.68m to get the nod from Svetlana Feofanova. British record-holder Holly Bleasdale was some way off the pace though, failing at 4.48m and needed three attempts to get over 4.28m, her only valid clearance of the competition.
A handful of events had been staged the night before, including the men’s triple jump where European champion Philips Idowu was up against the USA’s top two. But in drizzly conditions, Idowu landed awkwardly in the third round and had to withdraw from the competition injured.
It left him unable to respond to world champion Christian Taylor, who leapt a world-leading 17.62m to set a meeting record. World indoor champion Will Claye was second with 17.48m. Idowu’s best of the night was 17.05m.
The Hayward field also played host to the Kenyan Olympic 10,000m trial race. Wilson Kiprop, the 2010 world half-marathon champion, came out on top, winning in a world-leading 27:01.98. 2009 world bronze medallist Moses Masai was second (27:02.25) with Bidan Karoki making up the top three (27:05.50)
After missing all of last summer, Tirunesh Dibaba made a top-class return in the women’s race to show that she will not surrender her Olympic 10,000m crown easily – but first she had to prove worthy of being named on the Ethiopian team.
Ultimately that was not a problem for Dibaba, who won in 30:24.39, holding off a strong challenge from Florence Kiplagat (30:24.85), who is seeking Olympic selection in this event having failed to make the Kenyan team in the marathon, despite her sub-2:20 PB.
In the women’s throws, European champion Sandra Perkovic dominated the discus to win by more than three metres with 66.92m. World record-holder Betty Heidler was met with tough opposition in the hammer from former world champion Anita Wlodarczyk, who led at half-way with 75.60m. But the German responded with 75.93m to take the win. World champion Tatyana Lysenko was third, while Jessica Cosby set an American record of 74.19m in fourth.