Silas Kiplagat produced the shock of the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco as he outsprinted a Kenyan compatriot who had been targeting a world record here, Asbel Kiprop, to win the 1500m in 3:27.64 on Friday (18).
Kiplagat’s thrilling performance made him the fourth fastest man in history.
His mark was, of course, the best run this year, and an IAAF Diamond League record, trimming 0.08 off the time Kiprop set in winning here last year.
For the two-time world champion, who finished in a season’s best of 3:28.45, it was a huge anti-climax after he had prepared for a supposed attempt on Hicham El Guerrouj’s 16-year-old world record of 3:26.00 by setting the fastest 800m time of the year, 1:43.34, at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris earlier this month.
“At 1200m I knew the race was too slow,” said Kiprop. “We went through in 2:47 and I had asked for 2:45. In the home straight, I could see the others behind me on the big screen and I knew they would get back on me. I could see Silas coming closer and closer. It was a tough race.”
As for Kiplagat, he is now thinking in terms of mounting a world record attempt himself.
“I have the fast time now, but why not be faster and attack the world record?” he said. “I’m still young and ready to train for it. I always run well here, so I’m thinking my win and result is no surprise. I was aware I can do it.”
It was the second outstanding middle-distance race of the evening following the non-Diamond League race over 800m which saw another surprise as world record-holder David Rudisha faded to fifth in a race won by Botswana’s Nijel Amos in a world-leading time of 1:42.45, with Pierre-Ambroise Bosse setting a French record of 1:42.53 in second place.
As he had hoped, Rudisha, returning from a year off injured, managed a 1:42 clocking here, but Kenya’s Olympic champion had to concede the honours in a stupendously competitive race to the man who followed him home in London.
As he rounded the final bend in the lead, it looked as if Rudisha, who had equalled the 2014 world lead with victory in 1:43.34 at the previous IAAF Diamond League meeting in Glasgow a week ago, was all set to secure another morale-boosting win.
But, as he entered the final straight, the smaller figure of Amos moved out to pass him in lane two, teeth bared with the effort.
In the final 20 metres the roars redoubled as Bosse moved through, closing on the Botswanan athlete, but running out of room.
As Rudisha faded, two others moved past him in the final 10 metres: Ethiopia’s world champion Mohammed Aman, who clocked a season’s best of 1:42.83, and Kenya’s Ferguson Rotich Cheruiyot, who finished fourth in a personal best of 1:42.84.
Bosse’s was the first of two French records on the track as his flourish was matched by Pascal Martinot-Lagarde in the 110m hurdles.
This most exuberant of athletes was entirely serious for the 12.95 it took him to destroy a field, which included Russia’s European champion Sergey Shubenkov, who finished third in 13.14, world champion David Oliver, sixth in 13.38, and Olympic champion and world record-holder Aries Merritt, making his first serious comeback after hamstring injuries, who was seventh in 13.47.
Martinot-Lagarde, who took silver in the 60m hurdles at this year’s IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, was never headed as he earned his first sub-13 clocking, but he was chased home by Cuba’s Orlando Ortega, who clocked a personal best of 13.01.
There were tears of joy for the Frenchman as he stood on the rostrum and, like Bosse, he will be the favourite for the gold medal in his specialist event at next month’s European Championships in Zurich.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF