Jamaican sprinter stays in top shape as Britain’s Laura Muir is a Diamond Race winner

Christian Taylor and Elaine Thompson were among few Olympic champions to produce some of their best form as the first of two Diamond League finals decided the overall standings. Their marks of 17.80m and 21.85 stood out alongside those of Caster Semenya’s 1:56.44, Ruth Jebet’s 9:07.00 and Tomas Walsh’s 22.20m as some of the highlights, while Britain’s Laura Muir took the Diamond Race despite a narrow loss.

At the end of their long season and with the major championships in the past, athletes generally were past their peak as series points clearly mattered more than top-draw performances. Fourteen “Diamond Race” winners – those who scored the most points in their events overall in the series – were decided in Zurich, with the remainder of the disciplines being staged at Brussels on September 9. At stake was a top overall series prize of $40,000 for each event.

Thompson set a Diamond League record of 21.85 as she was just seven hundredths outside her world lead in the 200m – after pipping Dafne Schippers into second by one hundredth.

The Jamaican added to her win in Rio with a late charge as, unusually, it was the fast-finishing Dutchwoman who ran the best bend. Behind Schippers, who ran her quickest time of 2016 and took the Diamond Race, American Allyson Felix was third with 22.02. Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith was fourth with 22.38 – 0.07 off her fastest this summer.

In the triple jump, with Troy Doris of Guyana (17.01m) the only other athlete over 17 metres, Taylor’s fifth-round effort of 17.80m was easily enough for the win and the series title. That was just six centimetres short of the American’s world lead.

Muir wins Diamond Race

From the point of view of British athletics supporters, the appearance of Muir in the 1500m was the most eagerly anticipated. On the points standings, it was between the British world No.1 and the Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon for the Diamond Race.

In echoes of Paris five days earlier, when Muir’s attacking tactics paid off with that British record, she followed closely behind pacemaker Jenny Meadows, who led through 400m in 62.59 seconds and 800m in 2:08.10. However, the rest responded better on this occasion and did not allow her to get away.

Kipyegon, beaten by Muir in that race in Paris, took over with 500m to go, but Muir hung on and came past. But it was American Shannon Rowbury who squeezed through on Muir’s inside in the dying strides, crossing the line in 3:57.78.

Muir’s time of 3:57.85 represented the third occasion this season that she has run below Kelly Holmes’ former British record. Kipyegon would have needed to have placed only top-five to deny Muir the series win, but she faded to seventh.

Sandra Perkovic extended her record number of Diamond League victories to 34 as she won the discus with 68.44m. The Croatian Olympic champion needed only to show up to become the first woman to win five Diamond Race titles and she duly secured maximum points with four throws further than that of the next-best, France’s Melina Robert-Michon (63.91m). Britain’s Jade Lally was ninth with 57.39.

French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie knew he also would just have to turn up to gain what was for him a seventh consecutive Diamond title, extending his record tally. In the end, his 34th Diamond League meeting win was shared with American Sam Kendricks as both had a best of 5.90m and were equal on failures. Brazil’s Olympic champion Thiago Braz was third with 5.84m.

World records missed

In the build-up, three events had been seen as having world record potential, but neither Semenya, Kendra Harrison nor Jebet came close.

As so often, Semenya did just enough to win the 800m, running 1:56.44 off an opening lap of 56 seconds. Francine Niysonsaba and Margaret Wambui were next across the line as they replicated their Olympic final positions. Britain’s Lynsey Sharp was 11th in 2:00.55.

Harrison, who had set a world record of 12.20 in the 100m hurdles in London, won with just 12.63 here as Britain’s Cindy Ofili ran her closer than ever, running 12.70 for second.

In the 3000m steeplechase, Jebet chased a world record-pace for the first 1000m, but it slowed and she had to be content with a comfortable win in 9:07.00 and – as with the others in the record-seeking trio – the Diamond Race title.

Walsh puts area record

In the shot put, Walsh set an Oceania record of 22.20m to beat Olympic champion Ryan Crouser of the United States (22.00m). The Rio bronze medallist’s mark would have won every competition this year apart from that Olympic final and it was enough to give the New Zealander the Diamond Race.

Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet overhauled a lead of around 100m held by Olympic steeplechase silver medallist Evan Jager to win the 5000m in 13:14.82. The pack had been content to let Jager, along with two pacemakers, go well clear at outside 13:10 pace. It seemed as though the American, who has run 13:02, would hold on despite the pack’s closing on him from 4000m. However, a clearly tired and below-par Jager had to be content with third, also behind American Paul Chelimo.

Significantly, Muktar Edris led the overall standings going into the race, but his finishing outside the top three – he was 10th – meant Gebrhiwet took it.

Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta fell to earth with a bang after Rio as she placed sixth with 6.51m behind fellow American Brittney Reese, who produced 6.95m in the fourth round. That overtook the 6.93m of Ivana Spanovic, who nevertheless took the overall title. The three British Olympic finalists were all down on their best. Lorraine Ugen was fifth 6.52m, Shara Proctor seventh with 6.51m and Jazmin Sawyers next with 6.44m.

Powell sub-10 again

Asafa Powell, the most prolific sub-10 100m runner in history, added another with 9.94 for victory. Britain’s Adam Gemili ran a season’s best 10.11 for fifth, while CJ Ujah was eighth with 10.13.

American Shamier Little, the 2015 world silver medallist, got out quickest in the 400m hurdles and hung on, coming to win in 53.97. Denmark’s Sara Petersen was second with 54.22, ahead of third-placed Eilidh Doyle of Britain (54.55).

The men’s event saw Olympic champion Kerron Clement cross the line first in 48.72 to take the series win. The home crowd had been excited to see 2014 European champion Kariem Hussein appearing to close in on his best form as he led for much of the race before dropping to fifth. He was one place ahead of Ireland’s Thomas Barr, who clocked 49.34.

Lashawn Merritt, the 2008 Olympic 400m champion, gained victory in his race and over the series with a 44.64 clocking, the American just holding off Grenada’s Bralon Taplin (44.70). Britain’s Martyn Rooney had a solid run in fourth and 45.32 as he came back from his Olympic heats disappointment, but there was misery for a relay team-mate of his.  Matthew Hudson-Smith pulled up little over 100m into the race and limped off the track. Earlier he had escaped a false-start disqualification after stumbling out of his blocks.

Olympic champion Ruth Beitia of Spain won the high jump with 1.96m and secured a big winning margin overall for the series.

Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch beat the Olympic champion Thomas Rohler in the javelin, his 87.28m enough to narrowly give him the Diamond win.

Earlier on in the evening, Jamaican Christania Williams won the non-Diamond League 100m with 11.04. Also away from the Diamond events, Jamaica won the 4x100m easily in 41.65. The Americans messed up an exchange and failed to finish, while big-hitters like Netherlands and Britain weren’t fielding a team.

The women’s pole vault had been held indoors the night before the main session and it saw a surprise win for the resurgent Brit Holly Bradshaw. The Rio fifth-placer had her third best-ever jump of 4.76m as she enjoyed a perfect record up to that point before failing at 4.81m. American Sandi Morris was second, also on 4.76m but with an inferior scorecard, while Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi was third with 4.71m.