A sequence of vivid performances on Friday (19) lit up the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco as brightly as the firework display which concluded the night’s entertainment.
A near-capacity crowd at the Stade Louis II witnessed outstanding victories from home favourite Renaud Lavillenie, who pole vaulted 5.96m, Amantle Montsho, who won the 400m in a national record of 49.33, Brigetta Barrett, who high-jumped 2.01m, and Asbel Kiprop, who became the fourth-fastest 1500m runner of all time as he won in 3:27.72, with Britain’s Olympic 5000m and 10,000m champion Mo Farah setting an astonishing European record of 3:28.81 behind him. Some sharpener for Moscow.
All told, there were seven world-leading performances here. Kenyan Edwin Soi’s 5000m time of 12:51.34 and Vitezslav Vesely’s Javelin throw of 87.68m joined the efforts of Lavillenie and Montsho within the Diamond League framework. The men’s 1500m was not a Diamond Race-counting event on this occasion, and nor were the two sprint relays which began the track action, which produced world leading times of 37.58 and 41.75 respectively for the US men’s and women’s quartets.
It may not have been a Diamond Race event here, but the men’s 1500m was a diamond of a race. Kiprop had been effectively launched into a last-lap lead as his fellow Kenyan pacer, James Magut, dropped off shortly after the bell, and he had a 20-metre lead over the rest of the field, led by the smaller figure of Farah, as he came around the final bend.
But the Briton closed up in the finishing straight to finish only a few strides adrift of the tall and upright Kenyan, thus breaking the European record of 3:28.95 set by Spain’s Fermin Cacho in 1997, and the British record of 3:29.67 set just along the coast in Nice in 1985 by Steve Cram – commentating here for BBC TV.
For Farah, who had been hoping to match or narrowly better the 1500m best of 3:33.98 he set on this track in 2009, it was an astonishing result – and one which will give his potential rivals in Moscow more to worry about.
Kiprop, meanwhile, was “happy and excited” about his performance, adding: “I’m very surprised about Mo Farah and his mark of 3:28.81 – that’s crazy! Now I want to give my best in Moscow.”
Lavillenie the last man standing
Lavillenie provided the crowd with the final piece of action as, with all his rivals beaten, he went on to clear a Diamond League record of 5.96m at his first attempt before making three close efforts at 6.02m.
The man can do no wrong right now, and he is closing on his outdoor personal best of 6.01m. Brad Walker of the United States finished second with 5.78m, and Olympic silver medallist Bjorn Otto was third with 5.70m.
Montsho, Botswana’s World 400m champion, produced another of the evening’s stand-out performances as she won in 49.33, the fastest time in the world this year, a national record and a Diamond League record.
Behind her, two athletes were towed to personal bests – Stephanie McPherson of Jamaica clocked 49.92 in second, with Francena McCorory of the United States third in 49.96.
“I did not expect to run this quick, honestly,” said Montsho. “For some reason I always seem to run fast here and I love the crowd’s support. Now I really need to take a rest and focus on Moscow. I really want to be on that podium.”
Big jumps from Barrett and Okagbare
Barrett celebrated victory in a top quality High Jump competition with characteristic vivacity as she danced and hopped and looked as if she would like nothing more than to give her noted singing voice another big airing.
As it was, she had her wish, performing a well-rehearsed version of For Once In My Life before the final fireworks, complete with a group dancing routine. It was certainly a step on from Barry McGuigan’s dad singing Danny Boy after his boy had won another boxing bout…
The US champion went clearance-for-clearance with Russia’s Olympic champion Anna Chicherova, albeit that she had begun at 1.80m when Chicherova had passed, until the bar got to 2.01m. Barrett cleared it first time – cue crazy dancing – but the Russian could not match her.
Both competitors had been tracked throughout by two-time World champion Blanka Vlasic, who had insisted the previous day that the achilles tendon operations she had earlier this year meant she would not be back to full fitness until this point next season.
But, to the delight of the packed crowd, the willowy Croatian defied that suggestion with a sequence of first-time clearances to 1.98m, a height she jumped at her second attempt. However, 2.01m was to prove too much for her and she had to settle for third place.
The High Jump was one of three outstanding women’s field events. The opening Diamond League event of the evening, the women’s Long Jump, turned into a competition of the highest quality as Russia’s European indoor champion Darya Klishina produced a second-round leap of 6.98m, just seven centimetres off her personal best, only to see Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare outdo her with successive seven-metre jumps.
Okagbare, who had warmed up with 6.86m for a first-round lead, produced a wind-assisted 7.04m (2.1m/s) in round two and followed up with a third-round PB of 7.00m (0.0m/s).
Klishina, jumping consistently well, managed a fifth round of 6.90m but could not do anything to prevent the Nigerian taking maximum points to join Brittney Reese, the US Olympic champion, at the top of the Diamond Race standings with 10 points.
Okagbare also moved up to third place in this year’s world listings behind Reese’s winning effort of 7.25m at the opening IAAF Diamond League event of the season in Doha.
Britain’s Shara Proctor managed 6.74m to take third place and move into third place in the Diamond Race with nine points.
Afterwards, Okagbare commented: “I would say nine out of ten. It’s a PB for me. My fourth and fifth jumps were better but I fouled them. My seven metres jump was far from perfect, and we’re working on a lot of different things.”
Perkovic and Soi leave it late
Two other mighty field event competitors were operating at the same time as the Long Jump in the Discus cage at the other end of stadium – Croatia’s Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic and Cuba’s Olympic bronze medallist Yarelis Barrios.
Barrios took the lead with a second-round throw of 64.24m as Perkovic struggled to find her timing in the early rounds. The Croatian’s second effort looked big, but landed just outside the throwing line to her right, smashing down the plastic marker for 65 metres.
It was not until the fifth round that the world leader found the way to win as she sent the Discus out almost to the same spot where it had landed for her second round foul, but on this occasion it was the right side of the line and it secured a distance of 65.30m.
Perkovic thus increased her Diamond Race total to 24 points, 18 more than Barrios in second place. Gia Lewis-Smallwood threw 63.63m to secure third place on the night and maintain third place in the Race.
“Everything was under control for me, although I am a little sick, I have a sore throat,” said Perkovic. “Right now I’m back in heavy training for Moscow so it’s a good result for me. The circle was a little slippery. If they fix it next year I can throw 70m. Barrios had a great first and second throw and I woke up at my fifth to win.”
The men’s 5000m was won in dramatic style by Soi, who passed Bahraini junior Albert Rop as they came into the final straight and maintained his lead under heavy pressure to cross in 12:51.34, the best in the world this year and a meeting record.
Rop’s reward for his persistence was a senior Asian record of 12:51.96 as he finished more than four seconds clear of Kenya’s Isiah Koech, who ran a season’s best of 12:56.08 ahead of countryman Thomas Longosiwa, who clocked 12:59.81, also a season’s best. Kenya’s Lawi Lalang ran a personal best of 13:00.95 for fifth place, and Farah’s training partner Galen Rupp took sixth in a season’s best of 13:05.17.
Vesely, the Czech Republic’s European Javelin champion, won here with a second-round effort of 87.68m before retiring from the competition in the fourth round. Russia’s Dmitriy Tarabin was second with 84.33m with Norway’s 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen third with 83.71m.
Australia’s World and Olympic 100m Hurdles champion Sally Pearson, in her own words, playing catch-up with the other girls after recovering from early season injuries, had hoped to get a good start here and finish strongly. She will have been only half satisfied.
Pearson got away well, and was first to the barriers, but by the halfway point she was coming under pressure from both sides, and she faded back into fifth place as three US athletes moved into the podium places, with Queen Harrison winning in 12.64. Yvette Lewis was second in 12.69, with Kellie Wells, the Olympic bronze medallist, third in 12.70. Pearson clocked 12.75.
In the men’s Triple Jump, World and Olympic champion Christian Taylor held off the challenge of his two Italian rivals and the young Cuban who tops the world listings for 2013 with 17.69m – but it was close.
In the end a second-round effort of 17.30m proved sufficient for the US athlete, although Daniele Greco came very close to it with a final effort of 17.25m that was a season’s best. World leader Pedro Pablo Pichardo finished third with 16.94m.
Felix Sanchez, the Olympic 400m Hurdles champion, had a bad night as he faded to sixth place in 48.83 in a race won from lane eight by Trinidad and Tobago’s Jehue Gordon, who finished fast to record a season’s best of 48.00.
For most of the race it appeared as if Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson was going to be the winner as he powered into an early lead, his yellow headband standing out brightly in the late evening air. But one lane inside him Johnny Dutch was working to come through and he did so over the final 10m, only to look across and see Gordon right field.
Dutch was second in 48.20, with Culson third in 48.35.
“I couldn’t feel anyone from lane eight, but I felt strong,” said Gordon. “At 300m I started feeling the others but I had a lot left. I have always wanted a Diamond League win and to have it here in Monaco in front of a world class field and just before I shut off from competition is fantastic. In Moscow I will take one round at a time. No one’s name is written on any medal yet.”
Meeting record for Chemos
As expected, the women’s 3000m Steeplechase came down to a battle between the two Kenyans currently setting the pace in the Diamond Race, and on this occasion it was Milcah Chemos who came through in a meeting record of 9:14.17 as she held off the challenge of the woman who had come into this competition two points ahead of her in the Race, Lydia Chepkurui, who finished in 9:15.18.
Jennifer Simpson, the world 1500m champion from the United States, showed her staying power as she won here in a season’s best of 4:00.48, regaining the lead from Hellen Obiri after the Kenyan runner had forced her way past her as they entered the finishing straight. Obiri clocked 4:00.93, followed home by two other US athletes – Brenda Martinez, who recorded a personal best of 4:00.94, and Shannon Rowbury, who had a season’s best of 4:01.28.
The evening’s track action began with men’s and women’s 4x100m Relays. Carmelita Jeter anchored the USA Red team to victory in 41.75, the fastest recorded this year, and the men’s event was won by USA Red in 37.58, also the world’s fastest time, with Justin Gatlin running the last leg in impressively fluid style.
“The 4x100m is the perfect warm-up for my 100m later tonight,” he said, and he was right as he won the individual sprint in 9.94 ahead of fellow US sprinter Dentarius Locke, who ran a personal best of 9.96, and home favourite Jimmy Vicaut, who had wanted to get another sub-10 clocking after breaking through the barrier for the first time at the previous weekend’s national championships, and who had his wish as he clocked 9.99 for third place.
Sadly for Jeter, the relay did not help her prepare for her individual event as she did not start the 200m, where she had been expected to challenge Jamaica’s double Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who leads this year’s world listings with 22.13.
The World 100m champion may have been absent but the challenge to Fraser-Pryce was not as Ivory Coast’s Murielle Ahoure won in a national record of 22.24, with Tiffany Townsend of the United States second in a personal best of 22.26. Fraser-Pryce had to settle for third place in 22.28.
Duane Solomon of the United States, who leads this season’s 800m world lists, duly came home to win his specialist event in 1:43.72, but the crowd noise rose steadily as France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse closed up on him all the way down the finishing straight, finishing on his shoulder in a personal best of 1:43.76.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF