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Eugene, USAA torrential downpour might have affected some of the events on the first night of the 2012 Prefontaine Classic - Samsung Diamond League meeting but in the aftermath the temperature cooled and spectators were treated to a pair of terrific 10,000m races (1 June).
Fifteen of Kenya’s top male distance runners were in Eugene to compete for three Olympic team places. After 5000m reached in 13:43.81 the pace picked up with Mike Kigen and Moses Masai the 2009 World championship bronze medallist at the front.
With a lap to go Eliud Kipchoge was perched on Masai’s shoulder but then Wilson Kiprop came past and the sprint for home was on.
Pumping his fist as he passed Masai some fifty metres from home Kiprop went on to claim the victory in a world season leading 27:01.98. Masai was rewarded with a 27:02.25 season best with 21 year old Bitan Karoki claiming third in 27:05.50. Kipchoge faded to 7th place (27:11.93).
"I am feeling delighted, It was a tough race but I have been preparing for it," said the winner. "I am the World Half Marathon champion and now to represent my country at the Olympics is the most special thing I have done."
Dibaba - wins 10,000m and will also race 3000m
Ethiopian superstar Tirunesh Dibaba won a thrilling women’s 10,000m after taking over the pace at 5000 (15:05.79) and pushing through the second half of the race. But it was a close finish. Kenya’s Florence Kiplagat went in front the final kilometre and helped turn the race into a three person affair.
Dibaba won in 30:24.39 a world leading time with Kiplagat second in 30:24.85 and 21 year old Beleynesh Oljira, also of Ethiopia, claiming third in a personal best of 30:26.70.
"The race was very good," Dibaba said shyly, "It was not hard. I had a little bit of a pain in my stomach during the race. I am very happy to go to the Olympics now."
Not able to achieve the sub-30 time she was aiming for, Dibaba subsequently asked, and has been granted, the opportunity to race on Saturday (2) in the Prefontaine Classic 3000m against Sally Kipyego, the hometown favourite who appeared to have no competition in the race after the withdrawal of Lineth Masai due to flu. Dibaba has an outdoor 3000m PB of 8:33.37.
Centrowitz fast but not fast enough
Under a torrential downpour the men’s international Mile let the pacemakers go ahead of them more content to be in position for a sprint down the final straight. That suited James Magut perfectly as the 2010 Commonwealth Games 1500m silver medalist sealed victory with a time of 3:54.16.
Second place went to Russell Brown of the US in 3:54.48 while Aman Mote of Ethiopia finished third in 3:54.73
Matt Centrowitz, the 2011 World Championship bronze medallist was a badly beaten 7th, although his time of 3:57.44 was a personal best.
"The race was good," said Magut. "I did my best for my last two years because I had an injury in my knee. Now I have picked things up and I hope to make the team for the Olympics.
"The 1500m is my event. I was the Commonwealth Games silver medalist. I will see when my put more effort into my training it is my hope to be in the Kenyan team for the Olympics."
Simpson succumbs to Schmidt
Alice Schmidt won the women’s 1500m beating the Olympic qualifying standard with a time of 4:05.64. She took the lead along the final back straight and held off a fast charging, Jenny Simpson, the reigning World champion. Simpson was timed in 4:06.10 her fastest of the season.
Third place went to another American, Gabrielle Anderson in 4:06.77.
"I thought 'someone’s going to make a move. I have got to make a move first.’" Schmidt said. "It’s better for me to be surging than reacting to a surge because I have a little bit of a longer stride than a lot of the women in the 1500m.
"Honestly, if someone had come up on my shoulder maybe I would have had a little bit more grit in my belly but I was going about as hard as I could."
With her Olympic 800m standard beating time of 1:58.61 from last year she now intends to attempt both distances at the U.S. Olympic trials.
Montano – 1:57.37
The women’s 800m field raced through the first 400 metres in 55.49 seconds setting up a grand opportunity for Alysia Montano to run a fast time. She ran 1:57.37 to win the race.
Behind her both Geena Gall in second (1:59.28) and Canadian Melissa Bishop (1:59.82) recorded personal bests.
Of the very fast first lap, which a reporter deemed 'ambitious’, the winner responded with a laugh.
"I don’t feel it was ambitious at all for what I want to achieve. For you it might be a little ambitious," she said laughing. "Obviously I would like to finish a little bit different but that’s something that’s easy to fix. I felt great. I felt absolutely great being this was my first 800m race of the season. I am really excited for the things to come."
Bishop didn’t know her time as she met the media. But when she saw the results she leaped up in the air in excitement. A top three finish in the Canadian championships will book her ticket to the London Olympics.
"I feels so good I have waited so long for this," she revealed. "I was hoping to run the standard here. My last race was in Puerto Rico and was in 2 minutes. I was going out there to have fun, I was in the right race. It was fun."
Heidler holds Wlodarczyk and the rain at bay
Fortunately for the women in the Hammer Throw competition they completed their final round before the rain came down. Germany’s Betty Heidler the reigning European champion and 2007 World champion and silver medallist in 2009 and 2011, trailed Anita Wlodarczyk through three rounds before unleashing the winning throw of 75.93m in the fourth.
Wlodarsczyk retained second place with 75.60m while Russia’s World champion Tatyana Lysenko finished 3rd.
"I am happy about the result because I arrived yesterday from all the overseas meetings," Heidler admitted. "I tried to have a good journey and a good competition and really 76m here is really good. I am a little over 2m behind my season best but I won the competition."
An excited Jessica Cosby set a personal best of 74.19m for fourth place. Asked what it does for her confidence she laughed:
"Wonders! I am actually ready to go back home and start training," she declared. "Now I feel like I am really understanding what coach has been doing with me. My goal is to make sure I am in one of the top three spots at OT."
Meet record in Discus
While high jumper Blanka Vlasic recovers from injury Croatian athletics is getting behind discus thrower Sandra Perkovic who won the event here in a new meet record of 66.92m.
Darya Pishchalnikova of Russia was second with 63.76m and Poland’s Zaneta Glanc third with 62.84m
"I expected a long throw because I feel good and I am in good shape now," Perkovic said. "Two weeks ago in Shanghai I threw 68m in this kind of weather. I thought here it would be good weather, sunny. But it also rained and the circle was too slippery. I was a little afraid. But after the second attempt I knew I could throw over 65m. I knew nobody could throw farther in this kind of conditions. It rained more and more."
Taylor defeats Idowu with season leading 17.62m
Christian Taylor who won the 2011 World Championship last year at the age of 21 came out on top of a very strong men’s triple jump field. The American set a meet record and world leading mark with his 17.62m leap in the second round. His compatriot, Will Claye who turns 21 on Monday gave himself an early birthday present by finishing 3rd in a season best performance of 17.48m.
The British favourite, Phillips Idowu was disappointed to reach only 17.05 for third place.