American runs sensational 12.80 – Brussels Diamond League report
Aries Merritt had been knocking on the door of the world record all season and here the Olympic 110m hurdles champion finally revised the mark – and he did so quite radically too with 12.80.
Having taken the Games title last month, the American had clocked a record-equalling seventh sub-13 of the season last week, but his consistency had not been rewarded with the world mark.
However, in his last race of the season and in the final Diamond League meeting of the year, Merritt took 0.07 seconds off the world mark of Dayron Robles from 2008. It equalled the biggest revision of the world record since Renaldo Nehemiah took it from 13.16 to 13.00 in 1979.
Nehemiah then brought it down markedly to 12.93 in 1981, but since then progress had been very slow. Roger Kingdom took it to 12.92 in 1989 and Colin Jackson ran 12.91 in 1993 – matched by Liu Xiang in 2004. Liu comparatively obliterated it then with his 12.88 in 2006 before normal service was resumed by Robles.
However, it was no surprise that Merritt ran quicker in Brussels. Since the end of June, he had ran a 12.92, three 12.93s and a 12.94.
“I can’t believe I ran that fast. I’m in shock,” Merritt told the BBC. “I was focused on running under 13 for one last time to cap off a really good season, and I obliterated it.
“When I crossed the line and saw the time I was still in shock. I think it was almost the perfect race. I had a good reaction out of the blocks and I just kept going.
“I’m so happy I’m finally living up to my potential after all this time with injuries and hamstring tears and so many people telling me I should throw in the towel and get a normal job.”
The top three positions replicated those in the Olympic final as American Jason Richardson clocked 13.05 and Jamaica’s Hansle Parchement ran 13.14.
Britain’s Lawrence Clarke admitted he may been distracted watching Merritt’s performance as he struggled home in last with 13.71.
It may seem of little consequence by comparison but Merritt’s win also secured the Diamond League title for his event. Points for the top three per discipline in each of the 14 meetings in the series are added up and the winner in each gains $40,000 in prize money and a potential bye to next year’s IAAF World Championships. The meeting in Zurich last week had been the final instalment for 17 of the disciplines, with 15 titles to be decided in the Belgian capital.
Overshadowed for a change was Usain Bolt, who was made to work hard for his win in the 100m. The Jamaican did not enjoy the best of starts and did not move into a clear lead until the final 20 metres. He still clocked 9.86 to finish a tenth in front of compatriot Nesta Carter. Another Jamaican, Kemar Bailey Cole, was third with a personal best of 9.97.
Bolt then shortly afterwards had to watch his training partner, Yohan Blake, who looked as though he may have a chance of beating Bolt’s world lead in the 200m. It was on this track, with its amenable bends, that Blake clocked a surprising 19.26 to go within seven hundredths of Bolt’s world record 12 months ago. After looking like he ran a good curve, it seemed Bolt’s 19.32 from the Olympics might be under threat, but his actual time of 19.54 has only ever been beaten by four athletes. He later admitted he may have run too close to the line on the curve and had to adjust.
Jamaican Jason Young was well back in second with 19.92 and Britain’s Harry Aikines-Aryeetey crossed the line last in 20.85.
Like the 200m, the men’s 10,000m was not a Diamond League event but as usual at this meeting produced one of the highlights. No one had run below 27 minutes, thanks mainly to a lack of paced races on the circuit, but here Kenya’s Emmanuel Bett led four athletes under the barrier.
The 19-year-old, who was only fifth in Kenya’s Olympic trial for the 5000m, shaded his PB set in Brussels last year. The next three also set PBs: Kenya’s Vincent Chepkok ran 26:51.68 and Kenneth Kipkemoi clocked 26:52.65, while Ethiopia’s Yigrem Demelash was fourth with 26:57.56.
Burundian 19-year-old Francine Niyonsaba caused a major upset in the 800m, clocking 1:56.59 to beat 2008 Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo into second.
Niyonsaba, who broke two minutes for 800m for the first time in July of this year, took more than two seconds off her national record. Having finished seventh in the Olympic final, she is now third on the world all-time junior rankings behind Jelimo and Caster Semenya and she is also second on the 2012 performance list.
Jelimo, who did enough to take the Diamond Race, was timed at 1:57.24. Russia’s Olympic champion Mariya Savinova lost out on the chance to pip her to that honour as she was third with 1:59.05.
Lynsey Sharp won the battle of the Brits as she finished seventh in 2:01.49 – one place ahead of Jemma Simpson (2:01.78).
In the 400m hurdles, Kaliese Spencer, who was already guaranteed the overall Diamond League title, hung on for victory from Britain’s Perri Shakes-Drayton in 53.69.
Shakes-Drayton was just on her outside and pushed the Jamaican all the way until the home straight when the Olympic fourth-placer moved clear. The Brit to had to fend off the fast-finishing Olympic bronze medallist, Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic, as she was just 0.12 off her PB with 53.89.
In the long jump, Russia’s Aleksandr Menkov secured the overall long jump Diamond Race with a personal best of 8.29m.
In the absence of Menkov’s two main challengers for the title, Greg Rutherford and Mitchell Watt, he made sure of gaining the honour with his best in the fifth round. Fellow Russian Sergey Morgonuv was the best of the rest with only 8.04m, while Britain’s Chris Tomlinson was fourth with 7.96m. Rutherford is nursing a niggle and hopes to be back in action at the Great North CityGames next weekend.
Estonia’s Gerd Kanter has made the most of Robert Harting’s snubbing the Diamond League this year and duly collected the overall title with a win after throwing 66.84m. British record-holder Lawrence Okoye produced a solid 64.67m for fifth to confirm his status as one of the world’s very best.
However, the competition was perhaps most notable for the retirement of Lithuania’s Virgilijus Alekna, consistently of the best throwers of this millennium. The 2000 and 2004 Olympic champion was third with 65.78m. Alekna, 40, is the second furthest thrower in history with 73.88m.
In the 1500m, Olympic champion Taoufik Makhloufi had announced he was looking for a sub-3:30 time, but the Moroccan looked a completely different athlete to the one that took a surprise win in London last month.
After he was led through 800m by the pacemaker in 1:52.25, the pace slowed over the next lap with a 58.04 split. He looked strong in the home straight, as did world No.1 Asbel Kiprop, who kicked with 200m to go. However, both faded and it was Silas Kiplagat, who was seventh at the Olympics, who came through in the sprint finish in 3:31.98. He thus won the close battle for the overall Diamond Race.
The Borlee twins gave a capacity home crowd something to celebrate as Kevin and Jonathan placed first and second respectively in the 400m. The winner’s 44.75 guaranteed him the Diamond League title as Dominican Republic’s Liguelin Santos, fourth, and American Angelo Taylor, sixth, threw away their chances of the honour. Britain’s Martyn Rooney was fifth with 45.56.
Brimin Kipruto took the win in the 3000m steeplechase with 8:03.11, but Paul Kipsiele Koech had already guaranteed the overall series win and was third here.
In the 200m, France’s Myriam Soumare gained victory in 22.63 to overcome Jamaica’s Anneisha McLaughlin. American Charonda Williams’ late-season run of form suffered a blip, but her third place was enough to give the Diamond League title to the woman who did not make the US Olympic team.
The battle for the final Diamond Race to be decided came right down to the wire, as Vivian Cheruiyot beat her only serious challenger for the prize, Mercy Cherono, into second on the last-lap burn up between the Kenyans.
However, Cheruiyot – who leads the world 2012 rankings and took Olympic silver in London – was a comfortable winner in the end after a slow race, clocking 14:46.01 to the 14:47.18 for the runner-up.
Britain’s Julia Bleasdale had been expected to go sub-15 for the first time in a more true-run race, but after going through 3000m on target, drifted back to 11th and 15:16.63.
Germany’s Silke Spiegelburg settled the wide-open battle for the overall prize in the pole vault, clearing a best of 4.75m. After beating Brazil’s Fabiana Murer into second, she had three failures when attempting to add a centimetre to her 2012 world lead and German record with 4.83m.
Britain’s Holly Bleasdale had a disappointing end to her Diamond League campaign as the UK record-holder cleared just 4.25m for ninth, failing at 4.35m.
After suffering a surprise loss to South Africa’s Sunette Viljoen in Berlin last weekend, Czech Republic’s Barbora Spotakova was back on top in the javelin, landing the spear at 66.91m. The Diamond Race winner was trailed in second by Viljoen, who threw 65.33m.
In the high jump, it was fortunate for American Chaunte Lowe that she had already done enough in the Diamond Race as she flopped to sixth with just 1.89m. A Russian one-two saw Svetlana Skholina beat Olympic champion Anna Chicerova with a best clearance of 2.00m.
Kazakhstan’s Olga Rypakova added the Diamond League title to her Olympic crown from last month as she took the triple jump with 14.72m. Four of her jumps were better than the best of the runner-up, Olha Saladukha who recorded 14.40m.