All eyes were on Kenya’s Hellen Obiri and Sweden’s Abeba Aregawi in the women’s 1500m, number one and two in the world prior to Saturday night’s IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris on Saturday (5), but neither woman was in contention for victory at the bell.
Instead, it was the USA’s 2011 world champion Jenny Simpson who led the way into the final lap with the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan shadowing her.
Hassan moved in front of the US runner midway down the back straight and was never headed but with Simpson literally breathing down her neck, the Dutchwoman crossed the line in a national record and 2014 world-leading time of 3:57.00.
Simpson came home in 3:57.22, a personal best and just 0.1 short of Mary Decker-Slaney’s US record, which has stood for nearly 31 years.
Obiri came through strongly on the final lap to finish third in 3:58.89 but Aregawi had a miserable birthday, after turning 24 on Saturday, with her worst race since 2011.
Hassan’s run was just one of three world-leading performances in the middle and long-distance races.
The men’s 5000m saw the first sub-13 race of the year with Kenya’s Edwin Soi being the quickest of the four men in serious contention for the win coming into the home straight.
Galen Rupp took the lead with 500 metres to go, but the US 10,000m champion never managed to put any daylight between himself and his African opponents. Going down the back straight for the final time, Soi, his Kenyan compatriot Paul Tanui and Ethiopia’s Yenew Alamirew surged past him.
In the battle for the victory over the next 200 metres, Soi finally edged in front halfway down the home straight before crossing the line in 12:59.82.
Alamirew, who stays in front of the Diamond Race with 12 points, came home second in a season’s best of 13:00.21 while Tanui was third in a personal best of 13:00.53. Rupp never threw in the towel despite not being able to match his rivals for sheer speed and came home fourth in 13:00.99.
Kiprop tunes up over two laps
Two-time world 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop produced a stunning drive over the last half lap of the 800m, hitting the front coming into the final bend before holding off all challengers to cross the line in a world-leading 1:43.34, the perfect preparation for a possible tilt at the 1500m world record at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco on 18 July.
Pushing Kiprop all the way home was Botswana’s Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos, who had to settle for second in 1:43.70.
Cuba’s Yeimar Lopez was the fastest man down the home straight, coming from a long way back with 100m to go, but left his run for the line too late and was third in 1:43.71.
Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare got into her stride in the final 80 metres of the women’s 200m to overhaul US sprinter Allyson Felix, who had a slight lead coming off the bend in the final couple of metres.
Okagbare won in 22.32, despite having the equal slowest reaction time in the race, with Olympic champion Felix second just 0.02 in arrears.
Like Felix, Jamaica’s Stephenie Ann McPherson also held a slight lead coming off the final bend in the women’s 400m but Sanya Richards-Ross went through the gears to edge away from her rivals and cross the line in 50.10, with McPherson a rather distant second, 0.3 behind.
Michael Rodgers won the last event of the night, the men’s 100m, in 10.00. The US champion showed a clean air of heels to the rest of the field over the final 40 metres. Trinidad and Tobago’s 2008 Olympic silver medallist Richard Thompson was second in 10.08, a long way from his recent time of 9.82 on home soil.
An entertaining women’s 3000m steeplechase saw USA’s Emma Coburn push the pace with three laps to go with only Ethiopia’s Hiwot Ayalew able to follow her, only for the latter to overtake her US rival with 250 metres to go.
Ayalew won in 9:11.65 with Coburn reducing her personal best to 9:14.12, barely a second outside Jenny Simpson’s US record from the days when she used to tackle the barriers.
Olympic silver medallist Michael Tinsley recovered the best from the men’s 400m hurdles being also staged two nights ago in Lausanne, where he had finished second.
Tinsley went out hard and overtook Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson in the final 100m to win in a season’s best of 48.25.
“We are used to running back-to-back races in the US so it was no problem for me running in Lausanne as well,” commented Tinsley.
South Africa’s Cornel Fredericks, third in Lausanne, finished second in 48.42. He just edged out Lausanne winner Culson, who was third in 48.45.
The win also took Tinsley to the top of the Diamond Race standings with 12 points.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF