Over a dozen world leads and meet records (no mean achievement in itself, considering what’s happened here before) emphasised yet again the quality of the Qatar Super Grand Prix - IAAF World Athletics Tour - in Doha, on Friday (8) evening.
World High Jump champion Blanka Vlasic of Croatia, Athlete of the Meet two years ago with 2.04m, went one better, for another victory, 2.05m this time (and one passable attempt, of three, at a World record 2.10m).
In the men's Shot Put, Reese Hoffa toppled the giant Polish Olympic champ, Tomascz Majewski, with 21.64m (twice), to 21.13m.
Kemboi goes sub-8 in Steeple, Shaheen returns to the track in the 3000m flat
Ezekiel Kemboi – Olympic gold 2004 and three times world silver winner – made a claim for ‘chaser of the early 21st century with a sub-eight minutes victory (7:58.85) over the best field of the night.
And the only man to challenge that claim, Saif Saaeed Shaheen, of course, made a return to the track after 18 months out with injury (which required surgery), and ran 7:32.46 for 3000m – and finished fourth!
Nevertheless, having said the day before that he would be happy with 7:35-7:37, Shaheen clapped his hands exultantly after he crossed the line, evidently overjoyed that he had finished so close to last lap runaway winner, Eliud Kipchoge’s 7:28.37.
Kaki 1:43.09, Choge 3:30.88
And so to the action, as it unfolded - Abubaker Kaki Khamis of Sudan was an early contender for top performer of the evening, with an impressive front-running victory (1:43.09) in the 800m, holding off the late charge of Olympic 1500m silver winner, Asbel Kiprop of Kenya. For Kiprop, a 1500m man, this was pretty impressive, and he was rewarded with a personal best of 1:43.17. Mohamed Al Salhi of Saudi Arabia was third in 1:43.66.
Kiprop’s medal speciality, the 1500m was dominated by two of his colleagues, who swapped the lead three times in the last 10 metres. Haron Keitany should learn never to relax when he’s racing Augustine Kiprono Choge ‘til he’s crossed the line. The pair were running the final lap in around 52sec, and Keitany clawed five metres back in the last fifty, but then having snatched the lead, he relaxed a metre from the line, and allowed Choge to nip him by 0.02 secs in 3:30.88. Mohamed Moustaoui of Morocco was third in 3:33.28.
Felix impresses again over the full lap
Allyson Felix is adamant she is staying at 200m for the World Championships in Berlin, but another elegant win at 400m, this time over the Olympic silver medallist, Shericka Williams of Jamaica should be more ammunition for those like me who feel she will dominate the one-lap when she makes the definitive move. Felix was close to a second slower than her breakthrough time last year, but still won as she liked, in 50.75sec. African champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana wore down Williams’lead in the final 50 metres, then outleaned the Jamaican on the line, with both given 51.08sec.
Stewart and Padgett dominate 100m
While Vlasic was warming up her fan club, who provide raucous support from the stands at the end of the straight, adjacent to the high jump fan, Kerron Stewart was dispposing of the 100m opposition in similar style. The tall Jamaican was never remotely threatened, and underlined her early season form by winning with ease, in 10.93sec, just one hundredth outside her season’s best. Stephanie Durst of the US was second in 11.15sec, and another Jamaica, Sheri-Ann Brooks was third, in 11.20sec.
Travis Padgett struck a blow for US men’s sprinting, beating two of the Jamaican world record breaking Olympic gold medal squad, Michael Frater and Nesta Carter. Padgett dominated both his heat and the final, winning the latter in 10.00sec (+1.4mps), with Frater second in 10.15sec, and Britain’s Marlon Devonish third in 10.19sec.
Vlasic meanwhile disposed of Ruth Beitia of Spain on 1.92 metres, and Vita Palamar of Ukraine on 1.95 metres, before going on to clearances at 2.01 and 2.05 metres at her first attempt. The tries at 2.10m underlined the shock of having failed to win at the Olympics, but beating Stefka Kostadinova’s 2.09 metres, set in 1987, may provide some balm soon for the Croatian.
Those who did win the Olympic title in Beijing had a mixed night. Tomasz Majewski of Poland opened well enough in a stacked shot field, taking an early lead with 20.89m, only to be surprised by Saudi putter Sultan Al-Hebshi setting a personal best and Area record of 21.13m in round three. But when World champ Reese Hoffa finally wound up his coil, and blasted out a 21.64m effort a few minutes later, and repeated it in round four, the rest were scrabbling for second. Majewski won that one with the last put of 21.22m, but Al-Hebshi served notice of being a welcome addition among the Big Shots.
Reese threatens 7m barrier
Maurren Higa Maggi was another Olympic champ who couldn’t cut the mustard, or the sand, far enough out in the Long Jump, and had to give best to the US pair of Brittney Reese, who won with a career best 6.99m leap, with Funmi Jimoh second on 6.96m. Maggi was third with 6.90m.
But the wooden spoon went to surprise Beijing 1500m winner, Nancy Lagat. The Kenyan was never in the hunt, as Gelete Burka of Ethiopia stole a march on everyone, going into an early lead, and never relinquishing it. Burka won in 4:06.67, from Vivian Cheruyiot of Kenya, in 4:07.41, with Sudan’s Ehssan Arbab in third, in 4:08.49. Lagat was eighth in 4:10.27, with another luminary, Janeth Jepkosgei proving again that 1500m is not (yet) her forte, finishing 11th in 4:13.87.
Another Olympic champ (twice over) was not going to be ousted though. Andreas Thorkildsen has really got the measure of his javelin opponents. The Norwegian repeated his previous wins here with 83.39m on his second attempt. Erik Rags of Latvia was second with 82.23m, and former world champion Sergei Makarov of Russia third with 80.63m.
Like Felix, David Oliver didn’t repeat his breakthrough of last year (going sub-13sec), but like his US colleague, he did more than enough to win the high hurdles in 13.09, with Antwon Hicks, also of the US clocking 13.24sec in second, and Britain’s Andy Turner third in 13.31.
The women’s ‘highs’ looked much more competitive, until Olympic bronze medallist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Canada blasted out of the blocks, and ran a personal best, and meet record 12.52, with US pair Damu Cherry and Danielle Carruthers second and third on 12.72 and 12.73 respectively.
Kemboi dominates strong steeplechase field, Kipchoge takes another 3000m win
The two final men’s events of the night were worth the entry fee alone. Talking of stacked fields, how about themen's 3000m Steeplechase? Take two Olympic champions, Kemboi and the reigning Brimin Kipruto, who is also current World champ (and won Olympic silver in Athens); add two World junior champs, Mike Kipyego and Willy Komen, a Commonwealth silver medallist, Wesley Kiprotich; and the fastest man in the field, with 7:56.37, African champion and Olympic bronze medallist, Paul Kipsiele Koech. And what have you got? A race to remember, particularly from Koech, who took it up when the pacemakers dropped out, and Kemboi who struck with 300 metres to run. The pair were well away by then, and Kemboi eventually won by over ten metres, in 7:58.85, with Koech second on 8:01.72, and Kipruto, who has yet to break eight minutes, third on 8:08.71.
Former World 5000m champion and current Olympic silver medallist, Eliud Kipchoge is used to taking the curtain call in Doha. The tiny Kenyan has won the flat 3000m three times here, and like Koech in the ‘chase, he was always the man right behind the pacers, and when they dropped, like Koech, he forged on, with compatriots, Thomas Longosiwa and Edwin Soi right behind, and Shaheen trying to stay in touch. Unlike Koech, Kipchoge was wasn’t going to get caught. He opened up with 300m to run, and gradually went away to a well-deserved victory, in 7:28.37. Longosiwa did well to finish second, in 7.30.09, and stay ahead of Olympic 5000 metres bronze medallist Soi, third in 7.31.50. But possibly the happiest man at the end was Shaheen. Fourth place in 7:32.46 was a superlative time in his first serious track race in close to 18 months.
Pat Butcher for the IAAF