The second of two series finals was played out tonight in spectacular and surprising style at the Belgacom Memorial Van Damme - Samsung Diamond League in Brussels’ King Baudouin stadium.
You would not have bet on Usain Bolt being upstaged by anyone at the final Samsung Diamond League meeting of the season in Brussels, especially after he had succeeded in his ambition of running the fastest 100 metres recorded this year, 9.76, in a race that was outside the night’s Diamond Race events.
But upstaged he was, by the training partner who profited from his 100 metres false start in Daegu to take the World title, Yohan Blake. With Bolt still waving to the crowd and signing autographs on the back straight, Blake won the Van Damme Memorial 200 metres in a startling 19.26sec – the second fastest time ever behind Bolt’s World record of 19.19sec. Faster than Michael Johnson’s landmark 1996 Olympic time of 19.32. Had he produced that performance in the Bird’s Nest Stadium three years ago, he would have been Olympic champion rather than Bolt.
No wonder the senior partner was registering a certain amount of shock as he hugged his smaller compatriot. Blake had spoken on his arrival of wanting to run “the perfect race” here. A lot of athletes say that sort of thing. And it probably wasn’t technically perfect. But it wasn’t far off.
“I knew I could do something crazy,” Blake said. “But to be honest I was surprise when I saw the clock at the finishing line. This was a perfect controlled race. I started slow, and while I’m not a good bend runner I accelerated afterwards.
“Usain stays the best runner, but after tonight I feel I’m capable of breaking the World record over 200 metres. I’m looking forward to competing with Usain next season.”
“Bolt is always motivating me before the race. We call each other ‘the Beast’ – a real big animal that can do anything.”
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Despite the final two events on the Diamond League circuit carrying double points, Blake was not in a position to win the Diamond Race Trophy and accompanying $40,000 on offer to 16 athletes on a night when the crowd was also around the 40,000 figure.
A week after the first batch of Trophies had been claimed at the Zürich Samsung Diamond League meeting (8 Sep), the final statistics showed a rapid turnover in that only 11 (7 tonight) of the 32 Diamond Races were won by last season’s victors.
Interestingly, Blake’s reaction time was 0.269sec, slowest of the field. Had he got away to a sharper start, or perhaps not taken things a little cautiously on the bend, as he said he had afterwards, who knows what time he might have run…
The cash and the Diamond Race trophy for the best season long consistency in the 200m went to Walter Dix of the United States, who also had the satisfaction of producing a personal best of 19.53sec in second place as he pushed Blake to the line. It was be a nice counterpoint to last season, when injury prevented the American from contesting the final when he looked poised to win overall.
Another Jamaican earned a personal best – 21-year-old Nickel Ashmeade, third in 19.91. Jaysuma Saidy Ndure of Norway also got under 20 seconds, recording 19.97 at the end of a classic race.
There was a shock of a less happy kind in the 100m Hurdles, where Sally Pearson appeared on course to add a Diamond Race Trophy to the World gold she so consummately won in Daegu, only to come to grief at the seventh hurdle as she led the field.
By the time the Australian had risen to her feet and walked away with a sad wave to the crowd, the race – and the Diamond Race – had gone to Danielle Carruthers of the United States, who won in 12.65sec ahead of compatriots Yvette Lewis and Kellie Wells, with both clocking the same time of 12.77.
Jeter at the double
Carmelita Jeter emulated Allyson Felix’s achievement of last year as she completed a Diamond Race double, adding the 100m title to the 200m honours she had secured in Zürich the previous week. She had also won the Diamond Race for 100m in 2010.
With an eight point lead and a superior record of victories, Jeter was effectively unassailable in terms of her second-leg effort, but she had to earn it the hard way as she was pushed all the way to the line by the woman she beat to the World 100m title last month, Veronica Campbell-Brown.
Jeter won in 10.78 with the Jamaican recording 10.85. Kelly-Ann Baptiste reprised the Daegu finishing order as she took third place in a season’s best of 10.90, with Shalonda Solomon of the United States also recording a season’s best, 11.08, in fourth place.
Chicherova dominates in Brussels but far too distant for Diamond Trophy
Russia’s World High Jump champion Anna Chicherova had no chance of overtaking Blanka Vlasic in the overall Diamond Race standings, but she finished her season with a winning flourish as the only high jumper to clear 1.99m here, and went on to clear 2.02, then 2.05, before having three decent attempts at a World record of 2.10. It was some end to the season for her.
Chicherova’s fellow Russian Yelena Slesarenko took second place after clearing 1.96, a height that proved too much for Croatia’s former World champion, who finished fifth after clearing 1.93.
This was Vlasic’s second Diamond Race Trophy, she having also won the season long quest in 2010.
Uceny gets back on her feet
The women’s 1500 metres might have had a sub-title – The Fall and Rise of Morgan Uceny. Having seen her World Championship ambitions disappear when she was brought down to the track by the stumbling Kenyan, Helen Obiri, the American had a chance to finish 2011 with a happier memory as she came into this event leading the Diamond Race stakes by a two-point margin from the former World champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal.
Uceny capitalised in style, powering for home from 150 metres out and passing the long-time leader Mariem Alaoui Selsouli of Morocco as she entered the finishing straight before crossing the line in 4:00.06, the fastest time in the world this year.
“Of course this is a sweet revenge for what happened in Daegu,” Uceny said. “I wanted to show I had to be among the best at those worlds. And I did it tonight with a personal best. Next year at the Olympics, one of the medals will be for me!”
Selsouli was second in a personal best of 4:00.77, with Jamal third in 4:01.40.
De Zordo takes Diamond Trophy from under Thorkildsen’s gaze
Andreas Thorkildsen will not look back on 2011 with great satisfaction. Having lost his World title to Matthias De Zordo in Daegu, the Norwegian also saw the German deprive him of the Diamond Race Trophy as he won with a personal best of 88.36m.
The double Olympic champion, who had carried a five points lead into the final competition, did not get into the points as he finished fifth with a best effort of 81.86. Vadims Vasilevskis of Latvia was second with 85.06, and Fatih Avan of Turkey produced a national record of 84.79 to take third place.
“Not even in my wildest dreams did I expect all this at the beginning of the season,” said De Zordo. “I hoped to have a few good battles with Andreas, but he was not in his best shape these last months. I don’t know what’s wrong with Andreas, but still for me he is the best javelin thrower in the world.”
Rudisha falls short of Kipketer’s mark
World 800m champion David Rudisha was unable to break the 14-year-old stadium record of 1:42.20 set by his predecessor as world record holder, Wilson Kipketer.
But the Kenyan secured his second career Diamond Race Trophy and prize by winning in 1:43.96, never headed by anyone save the pacemaker who dropped out after passing 400m in 49.21.
Mohamed Aman of Ethiopia produced a late sprint to pass Kenya’s Olympic 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop in the straight, finishing second in 1:44.29 to Kiprop’s 1:44.46.
In fourth place, Marcin Lewandowski of Poland equalled his season’s best of 1:44.53.
Greene - Diamond Trophy by a point
The 400m Hurdles proved to be a race too far for Britain’s World champion, David Greene. As in the Daegu final, he cleared the final hurdle trailing Javier Culson. But on this occasion there was no inexorable charge from the man coached by Malcolm Arnold. Greene struggled home in second place, clockinig 48.78, as the tall Puerto Rican won in a season’s best of 48.32.
The loser won overall, however. Greene’s final effort to hold off the pack behind him paid off, literally, as four points for second place earned him the Diamond Race Trophy and accompanying $40,000 with a total of 16 points. Culson finished with 15 points. Daegu all over again...
Cornel Fredericks of South Africa was the best of the challengers, taking third place in 48.96.
Despite defeat Barrios collects the bigger prize, but only just…
China’s new world Discus Throw champion Li Yanfeng only narrowly failed to bring off a winner-takes-all triumph in the Diamond Race. Li established her superiority with a first round effort of 65.79m and compounded it with a fifth round throw of 66.27.
With double points being awarded in the two final Diamond League meetings, that meant a score of eight for the Chinese athlete, bringing her season’s total to 13.
Unluckily for her, however, the second place secured by Yarelis Barrios added four points to a previous total of 10, giving the Cuban the cash by virtue of a single point so retaining the title she won last year.
Barrios, who had arrived in Brussels trailing the Diamond Race leader Nadine Muller by one point, responded to the stimulus of the final test with five top quality throws ranging from 63.15 to 65.33, and although she lost the battle on the night, she had won the war.
Muller, by contrast, had a hugely frustrating night, eventually finishing sixth with a best effort of 59.90m.
Lavillenie back on-top; Chemos fifth but Diamond Race winner too
Renaud Lavillenie turned his big lead in the Pole Vault into trophy and cash as he secured second place with an effort of 5.72 behind Konstantinos Filippidis of Greece, who won on countback with the same height.
Milcah Chemos, already assured of retaining her Diamond Race Trophy in the 3000m Steeplechase, was not able to deliver on the world record she had been hoping for. The Kenyan finished well down the field, fifth in 9min 21.41sec, in a race won by Russia’s Yuliya Zaripova in a meeting record of 9:15.43.
Both Lavillenie and Chemos, both Trophy winners in 2010, had suffered surprise defeats in Daegu.
Montsho’s dominance continues to end of season
World 400m champion Amantle Montsho was also unassailable in the 400 metres, and she underlined her superiority by winning in 50.16sec ahead of Novlene Williams-Mills of Jamaica, who clocked 50.72, and Russia’s Tatyana Firova, who ran a season’s best of 50.84.
Merga retains; Saladukha secures first Trophy
Imane Merga, another of the seven athletes tonight to retain their Diamond Race titles, won the 5000m here in 12:58.32 from Kenya’s Thomas Pkemei Longosiwa, who recorded 12:58.70 and Vincent Chepkok, who clocked 12:59.50.
Olha Saladukha, the newly ensconced world champion, sealed the formality of her Diamond Race victory in the Triple Jump with a suitably dominating performance.
The Ukraine athlete took the lead in the first of four scheduled rounds, reaching out to 14.67m, and was never headed. She rounded things off with by registering an identical distance in her fourth and final attempt. Now there’s consistency for you.
Olga Rypakova, who is only two centimetres below her in this year’s world lists on 14.96, moved into second place with a second round effort of 14.49 having fouled on her first attempt. But two more fouls saw her slip down a place to finish third.
In the absence of the injured Yargelis Savigne, leader of the world season’s listings this year with 14.99, the Cuban banner was carried by Mabel Gay. She took a while to get into the groove, but ended up with a smile on her face as she put together a final effort of 14.58 which brought her the runners-up position behind Saladukha.
Armstrong’s ‘won, let’s have fun’
Like Saladukha, Dylan Armstrong had already done enough in the season to be assured of his $40,000 bonus, but he made it clear early on in the Shot Putt that he was putting all his usual competitive energy into this event as he produced a second round effort of 21.38m to move onto the shoulder of the early leader Christian Cantwell, who registered 21.46 with his first attempt.
“Dylan’s won – we’re throwing for fun,” Cantwell had observed on the ride up to the stadium from the meeting hotel. The 30-year-old Olympic silver medallist and former World champion certainly enjoyed himself on the night – but not quite as much as his compatriot Reese Hoffa, who earned victory on the night with a season’s best effort of 22.09m in the last round. A sweet way to round off the season for the affable 33-year-old former World champion.
Cantwell’s early lead was eclipsed by a third round effort of 21.56 by Mikhnevich of Belarus, but the American regained the initiative with a flourish in the fifth round, where he threw a season’s best of 22.07. It almost did the trick.
Idowu secures Trophy
Phillips Idowu of Britain did enough to secure his Diamond Race Trophy in the Triple Jump, despite only managing 16.29m to finish in fifth place behind the winner, Benjamin Compaore of France, who achieved a personal best of 17.31.
Away from the Diamond Race…Bekele stuns in the 10,000m
It may have been at the end of the season, but Kenenisa Bekele announced his return to the heights he has previously occupied in middle distance running as he won a 10,000 metres that was not part of the Diamond League programme in 26min 43.16sec, taking over from the 26:46.57 run by the absent Briton, Mo Farah, at the top of this year’s world list.
Farah’s training partner Galen Rupp had reason to celebrate, however, earning a hug from coach Alberto Salazar after setting an area record of 26:48.00 in third place behind Lucas Rotich of Kenya, who was also in celebratory mode after running a personal best of 26.43.98 as he chased home the Ethiopian, who had made a trademark break for home 150 metres out, showing all the old cadence and speed of old following his two-year break with injury problems. It will certainly have given Farah, and the onlooking Salazar, food for thought as they look ahead to Olympic year…
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The home crowd were able to celebrate a 1-2 in the men’s 400m - not part of the Diamond League events – as Jonathan Borlee led home his brother Kevin to win in a season’s best of 44.78. Oscar Pistorius, who became the first amputee to compete in an able-bodied World Championships last month, was third in 45.46.
The experimental “reverse” 400 metres was won by Belgium’s Stef Vanhaeren in 47.28sec. “It was a strange race,” he said. “I had only one thought: ‘Where is the end? Where is the end?’ It is hard to judge where exactly the finish line comes.”
Where will reverse 400m running end, one wonders? Probably here.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF
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