Usain Bolt proves his Ostrava run was just a blip, Paul Kipsiele-Koech runs third-fastest steeple, Abebe Aregawi makes 1500m breakthrough, and British duo Robbie Grabarz and Greg Rutherford take jumps victories in Rome
When Usain Bolt took more than 10 seconds to cover 100m in Ostrava – his slowest ever run in a final – his legion of fans worried that the Jamaican superstar was carrying some sort of injury or was lacking form ahead of his Olympic title defence.
But the multiple world record-holder showed that his 10.04 last week was nothing more than just a blip as he returned to winning ways at the Compeed Golden Gala in Rome, the third leg of the Samsung Diamond League series.
It’s a good job too, as his opposition in the Italian capital was of a much higher calibre than it was in the Czech city six days prior, with Bolt having to face the likes of former world record-holder Asafa Powell and European champion Christophe Lemaitre.
Ultimately, though, they had to play second fiddle to the brilliance of Bolt. Running into a slight -0.1m/s headwind, Bolt got off to a much better start than last week and continued to pull ahead of the field. He stopped the clock in 9.76 – his equal fourth-fastest time ever, breaking the 9.77 meeting record set three years ago by USA’s Tyson Gay.
Powell had to settle for second in 9.91, with Lemaitre taking third (10.04) from world bronze medallist Kim Collins (10.05).
When asked about his turn-around in form, Bolt said that he had simply taken time to prepare properly before the race. “I knew I could do it but since I’ve been in Europe I’ve not been sleeping regularly so after Ostrava I decided that I would make sure I start going to bed early,” he said. “I felt extememly well, extremely great today, so it’s coming back and I feel good.”
But on a pure performance level, Bolt wasn’t the best athlete on the night. That accolade surely must go to Paul Kipsiele Koech. The Kenyan steeplechaser came close to his personal best in Doha earlier in the month, dipping well under eight minutes with 7:56.56. Tonight he continued that great form and went considerably quicker.
Paced through the first kilometre in 2:37.42, Kipsiele Koech was out by himself through the second kilometre (5:17.49), by which time world champion Ezekiel Kemboi and European champion Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad were well back. Coming into the home straight, Kipsiele Koech tried his best to get close to the world record, but ultimately he had to settle for 7:54.31 – the third-fastest performance in history.
Former world youth champion Abel Mutai was second, smashing his PB by 10 seconds with 8:01.67, while Kemboi was fourth (8:10.55) and Mekhissi-Benabbad fifth (8:10.96).
For the first time ever in a Diamond League meeting, two of the men’s jumping events were won by British athletes. Robbie Grabarz, the high jumper who made a big breakthrough indoors with a 2.34m leap and a sixth-place finish at the World Indoors, showed that his early-season form was no fluke.
In just his second outdoor competition of the year – and competing in his Newham & Essex Beagles club vest – Grabarz was in sublime form, recording a clean score-card with every height through to his winning clearance of 2.33m, a world-leading mark. He ended with three failures at 2.35m, but he had already done enough to defeat the past three global champions in the event – world champion Jesse Williams (equal second, 2.31m), 2010 world indoor champion Ivan Ukhov (fourth, 2.31m) and 2012 world indoor champion Dimitrios Chondrokoukis (fifth, 2.28m).
Just minutes after the high jump drew to a close, the men’s long jump was also reaching the final stages. World leader Greg Rutherford had led in the early stages before world indoor bronze medallist Aleksandr Menkov moved ahead with 8.13m. On his final attempt, Olympic silver medallist Godfrey Mokoena then took the lead with 8.20m, but Rutherford was not done and came back with 8.32m to take the win. Fellow Brit Chris Tomlinson was fourth with 7.77m.
Last year the women’s 1500m was one of the most bland events on the circuit, but already this year it is far more exciting in comparison. First came the breakthrough of Genzeba Dibaba indoors, winning the world indoor title. She continued that good form outdoors, winning in Shanghai two weeks ago with a national record of 3:57.77.
But Dibaba’s status as the top 1500m runner not only in the world but just in Ethiopia has only lasted a matter of months as she was outshone in Rome by team-mate Abebe Aregawi. The 21-year-old finished second to Dibaba in Shanghai, but she had clearly learned from that race and tonight she breezed past her compatriot on the final lap, quickly opening up a huge lead.
Full of running, Aregawi ended up winning by more than three seconds, stopping the clock in 3:56.54 – the fastest time in the world since 2009. It also broke Dibaba’s national record and bettered the meeting record by 0.01.
World indoor 3000m champion Hellen Obiri passed Dibaba in the closing stages to finish second with a PB of 3:59.68, with Dibaba clocking 4:00.85. USA’s Morgan Uceny was fourth (4:01.59) while Britain’s Steph Twell was down in 12th in 4:09.50.
The excitement in the distance events continued in the women’s 5000m with a classic duel between arch-rivals Meseret Defar and Vivian Cheruiyot. Little happened in the early stages as Gelete Burka took up the running once the pacemakers dropped out.
The inevitable happened and it all came down to a last-lap sprint. Double world champion Cheruiyot had the advantage going into the home straight, but 2004 Olympic champion and former world record-holder Defar appeared to be gaining on the Kenyan. Just when it looked as though Defar would edge ahead, Cheruiyot managed to do just enough to hold off the Ethiopian.
The finish was so close that Defar initially thought she had won, but victory went to Cheruiyot with a world-leading 14:35.62, just 0.03 ahead of Defar. Britain’s Jo Pavey, who was chasing the Olympic A standard having missed out on making the team for the marathon, succeeded in her quest, clocking 15:09.53 in 10th.
In recent years the women’s 800m has witnessed two extremely prodigious talents in the form of Pamela Jelimo and Caster Semenya. Kenya’s Jelimo, the 2008 Olympic champion, and South Africa’s Semenya, the 2009 world champion, were both in action in Rome, but instead the victory went to another African teenager – Ethiopia’s Fantu Magiso.
The pacemaker had been instructed to go through halfway in 56 seconds, but no one – not even Jelimo – went with her. Instead she sat with the rest of the field and began her kick 300m from home. But Magiso – a semi-finalist in both the 400m and 800m at last year’s World Championships while still a junior – went with her, eventually passing her on the final bend.
She continued to drive for the line and stopped the clock in 1:57.56, improving her own national record she set in Doha earlier this month. Jelimo was almost a second behind in 1:58.33, with world champion Mariya Savinova, making her outdoor debut, finishing in third with 1:58.56. Semenya was outside two minutes in eighth place, while Britain’s Emma Jackson was 10th in 2:00.38.
In the men’s event, world youth champion Leonard Kosencha notched up his second 800m Diamond League victory of the season. The 17-year-old Kenyan won in 1:44.42, holding off the challenge from European champion Marcin Lewandowski (1:44.64), with Britain’s Andrew Osagie finishing strongly to take third in 1:44.71, marginally outside the PB he set earlier this month.
British record-holder Goldie Sayers led the javelin until the final two rounds. The world and Olympic finalist opened her series with 64.73m – her third-best throw and her best since the 2008 Olympic final. It remained the lead until round five, when world record-holder Barbora Spotakova threw 65.54m.
But then South Africa’s world bronze medallist Sunette Viljoen snatched the lead on her final attempt with 67.95m, but that world-leading lasted just a matter of minutes as Spotakova responded with 68.65m, just one centimetre shy of the meeting record she set two years ago.
One woman who succeeded in setting a meeting record was world shot champion Valerie Adams. She led from the outset, opening with 19.61m, then continued to improve until round four when she produced her best of the day – 21.03m. It bettered the 20.82m meeting record set by Mihaela Loghin in 1985, and it’s just the third time Adams has broken 21 metres. China’s Gong Lijiao was second with 19.79m.
In the women’s 100m, world indoor 60m silver medallist Murielle Ahoure showed that she’s no flash in the pan. The Ivory Coast sprinter got off to a great start and maintained it to the finish, maintaining her composure with the likes of Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Olympic silver medallist Kerron Stewart breathing down her neck. In still wind, Ahoure broke her own national record with 11.00. Fraser-Pryce was second (11.06) with Stewart third (11.10).
Britain’s top two 400m hurdlers – Dai Greene and Perri Shakes-Drayton – were late withdrawals from their respective events. In their absence, Kaliese Spencer won the women’s race in 54.39. Melaine Walker, the Olympic champion and winner in Doha earlier this month, looked out of sorts in eighth with 56.26.
World silver medallist Javier Culson won the men’s race in 48.14, holding off a late challenge from Bershawn Jackson (48.25). Former world and Olympic champion Felix Sanchez was just a stride behind Culson in the home straight before suddenly dropping to the floor with a calf injury. In fifth, Britain’s Nathan Woodward ran a season’s best of 49.64, becoming the sixth British man this year to break 50 seconds.
The evening ended with the men’s 4x400m and 4x100m relays. In the longer event, Britain enjoyed a gun-to-tape win by more than two seconds. Nigel Levine got the team off to a good start before handing over to training partner Conrad Williams. Handing over in the lead to Chris Clarke, Britain maintained their huge margin of victory with Jack Green bringing the team home in 3:01.76.
In a 4x100m that included Dwain Chambers for the first time since 2006, Britain led until the closing stages before being passed by Canada, 38.63 to 38.82.
Elsewhere, Olympic champion Dawn Harper won a close women’s sprint hurdles in 12.66 from US team-mate Kellie Wells (12.67) as Britain’s Tiffany Porter was sixth (12.84). Ehsan Hadadi won the men’s discus, taking back the lead from Virgilijus Alekna in the final round, 66.73m to 66.31m. World leader Renaud Lavillenie won the men’s pole vault with 5.82m, beating fellow Frenchman Romain Mesnil (5.72m) with Britain’s Steve Lewis in sixth (5.60m).