Pamela Jelimo’s latest improvement of the senior African and World Junior 800m records, and Usain Bolt’s first outing since Beijing were the undoubted highlights of tonight’s Weltklasse Zürich, ÅF Golden League meeting, in front of a capacity 26,000 strong Letzigrund stadium crowd.
Bolt electrifies but provides no shocks
“Lightning Bolt” electrified us again but there was to be no storming finish in Zürich. While not quite as extravagantly coasting to victory as he did in the Beijing 100m final, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt was smoothness personified as he made up for an appalling start. His 0.193 reaction time to the gun was the slowest of the entire nine man line-up, but he effortlessly cut through the field from about 30 metres out to take a comfortable victory in 9.83 sec (-0.5m/s wind).
Has anyone run such a time in cruise control, without hitting top gear? Bolt brilliance again and we were served up the now customary “Lightning Bolt” posing after the race which sent the crowd wild.
In second, USA’s Walter Dix, the double Olympic bronze medallist, produced 9.99, with Olympic silver medallist Richard Thompson third in 10.09.
“It was good, nice track, great crowd,” said Bolt who spoke with a noticeable cold. “My start was not too good. I concentrated on winning, and as I’m starting to get a cold I was not able to think about any faster time. My coach told me that I should make sure to end the season healthy.”
Jelimo and Vlasic remain in the $1 Million hunt
With only one more meeting to go, Pamel Jelimo and Blanka Vlasic successfully completed the fifth of six stages in their quest to at least share the ÅF Golden League $1 Million Jackpot by the conclusion of the series in Brussels next Friday (5 Sep).
Jelimo improves Area senior and World Junior record again!
There is no stopping the 18-year-old Pamel Jelimo. The Kenyan Olympic 800m champion improved the Area senior and World Junior records jointly for the fourth time this season (the junior mark for a fifth) with a 1:54.01 run. This puts the phenomenal teenager who has only been racing 800m for the first time this season into third place on the all-time list, with just World record holder Jarmila Kartochvilova (TCH 1:53.28 – 1983) and Nadezhda Olizarenko (URS 1:53.43 – 1980) ahead.
The race was taken through 400m by Svetlana Klyuka in 55.66sec. The Russian who was fourth in Beijing had been specially contracted to pace the race given there are few athletes who have the strength to set the necessary tempo for Jelimo. Klyuka continued down the back straight for quite a way before stepping aside for the Olympic champion, who is learning race by race a more balanced approach to two lap running. What will another winter’s training and a year’s more competitive experience bring the world we can only guess, and there are still at least two more opportunities for Jelimo to stun us in 2008.
Bahrain’s World 1500m champion Maryam Jamal, a heavily legged fifth at her specialist distance in Beijing, showed a lot more spark in the Kenyan’s wake tonight, setting a national record of 1:57.80. 1:58.66 back in May was Jamal’s previous national best.
Well beaten in third was World 800m champion Janeth Jepkosgei in 1:58.26. What a difference a year makes. A year ago, Jepkosgei was the season’s great find and won here in 1:59.03, with the Kenyan record at the time standing to her at 1:56.04. There is no argument that we have witnessed a seismic change in women’s 800m running in 2008.
“I can tell you I’m so tired,” said Jelimo. “The World record is now closer but I’m not sure I can do it this year, maybe next.”
Maria Mutola, who has taken twelve victories in Zürich, made her final farewell to the crowd in great style finishing fourth in 1:58.71, while a newcomer to the two laps, Olympic 1500m champion Nancy Lagat, was ninth in 2:05.84.
Vlasic resumes control
With Olympic champion Tia Hellebaut exceptionally heavy legged following her first time clearance 2.05m victory in Beijing - the Belgian would finish eighth here with 1.90 - it was left to World champion Blanka Vlasic to overcome a shaky moment at 1.98. With two poor attempts at that height the Croatian sailed clear on her last effort, and being the only athlete to successfully scale the next height of 2.01 (with her second jump) she confidently kept herself on path to the $1 Million Jackpot.
Russia’s Olympic bronze medallist Anna Chicherova was second at 1.98 beating USA’s Beijing sixth placer Chaunte Howard, at the same height on count back.
“Everybody was so tired,” said Vlasic. “So it was good to win and remain in the Jackpot race. I must say that the track surface was soft for me. When I pushed hard I could not find my technique.”
Thorkildsen emphasises who is boss
If breaking Jan Zelezny’s Olympic record in Beijing with a 90.72m release to become only the fourth man in history to retain an Olympic Javelin Throw title wasn’t enough, Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway hit another 90m mark in Zürich to emphasise once again who is the boss with a spear.
All but one of Thorkildsen’s series of four valid efforts - 86.29, 90.28, 88.15 and 89.05, pass, foul - would have taken the victory tonight. While Finland’s World champion Tero Pitkämäki is slowly rediscovering his top form (87.26m for second), compatriot Tero Järvenpää also threw long again (86.45), and 2004 Olympic silver medallist Vadims Vasilevskis of Latvia was also over 85 metres (85.97 – season’s best), the Norwegian was once again in a different class.
“I threw really well today,” said Thorkildsen. “I made only very small technical mistakes, otherwise I could have thrown even further.”
Wariner bounces back
Jeremy Wariner was blown away by LaShawn Merritt in Beijing who was all but a full second ahead of his season long rival. Tonight the double World champion was the one in charge, winning in 43.82 from the Olympic gold medallist who finished in 44.43. Wariner took control from the midway point and Merritt, who was running in lane 3 immediately inside him, had no response.
Wariner’s time was his season’s best. Notably only Merritt’s win in Beijing of 43.75 is faster in 2008, but that will be the one that lives in the memory such is the ultimate reality of all post Olympic comebacks even when as impressive as the one Wariner produced today.
Robles pushed all the way by Oliver
There was none of the expected dominance by Cuba’s World record holder and newly crowned Olympic champion Dayron Robles. It’s not that he ran a bad sprint hurdles race, it’s just that David Oliver, the only other man under 13secs this year, suddenly rediscovered his top form. The American had beaten Robles in their opening outing of the season in Berlin (1 June) but by the time Beijing was reached Oliver had no answer to the fluency of the Cuban. Tonight Oliver was back to very near his best clocking 12.98 in lane 4 with such a drive that Robles, outside him in 5, only just held him off, winning in 12.97.
Jones back to winning ways
Lolo Jones made no hurdle error in Zürich, as had cost her the Olympic title last week. The experience which will probably haunt the World Indoor 60m Hurdles champion for the rest of her career, was put to the very back of her mind tonight. The American won the 100m Hurdles in a tight finish (12.56; -0.2m/s) from Spain’s Josephine Onyia (12.62), with Australia’s Olympic silver medallist Sally McLellan in third (12.63).
USA’s surprise Olympic winner Dawn Harper was back in sixth in 12.73. But like the few other defeated Beijing winners tonight, I doubt the 24-year-old who won in China in a PB of 12.54 will lose much sleep, as unlike Jones and the other successful avengers she no longer needs to dream about owning an Olympic gold medal.
Taylor holds off Clement
Angelo Taylor, was well aware that the 2007 and 2005 World champions, respectively Kerron Clement and Bershawn Jackson, who had finished behind him in the 400m Hurdles in Beijing in that order, were intent on gaining revenge here.
Taylor, who also won the Olympic laurels in 2000, was not about to give them that satisfaction. Taylor bravely took on the field from the gun, blasting the first 200m, and still had a sizeable advantage on Clement entering the final straight. Clement was closing fast but just as we thought the Olympic champion had shot his bolt, he dug deep and in the run off the final hurdle to the line had enough strength to prevail – 48.07 to 48.20.
Also challenging hard down the home straight was Jamaican Danny McFarlane who closed out just behind these two protagonists in 48.40. Jackson was never in the race finishing in seventh in 49.19.
Ethiopia’s World 5000m and 10,000m Olympic champion and World record holder made a demonstration out of tonight’s 5000m. Eight Kenyans (not counting the two pace makers), two Ugandans, and one Qatari, the vast majority of whom had not even raced in Beijing, had no answer to the relatively fatigued limbs of Kenenisa Bekele.
The Ethiopian maestro said yesterday he was “a little tired” after his three races, two golds and two Olympic records in China. But even at 90% capacity Bekele is a match for the rest of the world. His virtually solo run this evening ended in a 12:50.18 world season lead, nine seconds ahead of his nearest rival (Moses Kipsiro of Uganda 12:59.48). Enough said!
Isinbayeva takes straightforward victory
Why ever doubt Yelena Isinbayeva in the women’s Pole Vault? In trouble at 4.75m, her doubts if she ever experienced any, which is unlikely, were soon dispelled at her next height. Game over and no surprise!
The Russian, who has taken everything that there is to be won during the last Olympiad and set her 24th World record in Beijing while defending her Olympic title, celebrated with a first time clearance at 4.88.
In second position after a third time success at 4.75 behind American Area record holder Jenn Stuczynski, who had taken that bar in her second attempt, the peerless Isinbayeva flew well clear over 4.88, while the American had three failures at 4.93 in response, after passing what was ultimately Isinbayeva’s winning height.
Isinbayeva made no attempts at any further heights, ending her day with the straightforward victory, still fatigued after Beijing.
Season’s best for Richards, redemption also for Felix
Her recent extravagant racing tactics were slightly subdued tonight. After her heavily legged run into the line in China, Sanya Richards produced a more conservatively paced race even though after the first 150m she was already up on the stagger on the athlete immediately outside her in lane five. Shericka Williams of Jamaica, who had taken silver ahead of Richards’ Olympic bronze, was that athlete, and she had no answer (finished fourth in 51.28) this evening to the former Golden League Jackpot winner who came home easily in a season’s best of 49.74.
The American was most of a second ahead of her nearest opponent, Russia’s Tatyana Firova (50.70). Confidence restored for Richards? Perhaps yes but oh what might have been in Beijing!
Allyson Felix was another Olympic disappointment by her own illustrious standards. Like Richards, the double World champion at 200m made up in sorts for her silver behind Veronica Campbell-Brown in Beijing with a confident run in 22.37. Felix was probably surprised to find she was not in the lead with 90m to go, as in front coming out of the bend was Lauryn Williams. Felix took little time to settle that attack and crossed in 22.37, with Williams second in 22.68, and Marshevet Hooker completing a USA sweep in 22.74.
Koech off sub-8 form
It was a brave bid to become the first sub-8min steeplechaser of 2008 but Paul Kipsiele Koech, the world season leader with 8:00.57 couldn’t quite manage the effort needed when alone at the front with three laps to go. He crossed in 8:04.26.
Well beaten but setting the European lead for 2008 in second place was Mahledine Mekhissi-Benabbad of France in 8:08.95. There was a PB for Kenyan Michael Kipyego in third (8:09.05). Olympic bronze medallist Richard Matelong was eighth in 8:28.38.
Running in the first track event of the main programme this evening, Rashid Ramzi, one of the large group of Beijing Olympic champions who had assembled in Zürich, was beaten in the run into the line in the men’s 1500m. The Bahraini who took the Olympic crown in style was upstaged by African champion Haron Keitany in a PB of 3:32.06 to Ramzi’s 3:32.86, which was his season’s best.
Third and fourth places were also taken by Bahrain via Belal Mansoor Ali and Yusuf Saad Kamel, respectively 3:33.06 (SB) and 3:33.11 (PB). In 8th was 2007 World 800m champion and Beijing 800m bronze medallist Alfred Kirwa Yego, who set a PB of 3:33.69.
Very heavily legged was Asbel Kiprop, the Beijing 1500m silver medallist, who was in the lead at the bell (behind the pace maker) but faded badly in the last 400m to finish 13th in 3:36.68.
Long Jump taken by Al-Saba, and relay by USA
The men’s Long Jump was won by Saudi Hussein Taher Al-Sabee, who was eleventh in Beijing, with a PB equalling 8.35m. Back into some form was European champion Andrew Howe of Italy, with 8.06 for second place. The Italian who was injured earlier in the season, had been one of the major casualties of the Beijing qualification round. These two were the only athletes over 8m tonight.
The evening was closed out by the Zürich Trophy, a 4x100m relay race which went to the USA thanks to a dip finish which denied a quartet from Trinidad and Tobago – 38.01 to 38.03.
Chris Turner for the IAAF