In the end it wasn’t even a world-leading time for the year, but the Ethiopian pair of Genzebe Dibaba and Almaz Ayana threw almost everything they had at their assault on the 5000m world record in Paris on Saturday (4).
The results will show Dibaba claimed the victory at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in a personal best and meeting record of 14:15.41, with the hard-working Ayana second in 14:21.97, some seven seconds outside her solo-run world lead from Shanghai in May.
But that doesn’t tell the full tale of a sometimes bizarre but always enthralling race in which the pair had been meant to share the pace as they attacked Tirunesh Dibaba’s world record from 2008.
It was actually Ayana who did the lion’s share as the tempo fluctuated from six seconds down to five seconds up on record pace at half way, before they finally faltered over the last kilometre.
Dibaba bided her time before pouncing at the bell and running a last 200m of 31.3 to leave her compatriot in her wake.
It was all a bit déjà vu for Ayana, who finished second to the elder Dibaba here in 2013, a performance that persuaded her to switch to 5000m after some early career success in the steeplechase; and drew her back here this evening with the world record in her sights.
The throat-gripping stickiness of earlier in the day had fortunately given way to a warm gentle breeze by the start of the race, making the conditions almost perfect for a record attempt.
Or so it seemed. When the first 1000m went by in a sluggish 2:54.12, six seconds down on record pace, Ayana decided she’d had enough and took off with the younger Dibaba on her heels.
She put in a near suicidal 63.6 fifth lap and pulled her Ethiopian rival through 2000m in 5:38.98, now five seconds up. Dibaba then moved to the front for about 800 metres until Ayana led again through 3000m in 8:36.17.
At 4000m, they were just 0.11 inside Tirunesh’s time, although Ayana was visibly tiring.
Tirunesh had run her last 1000m in 2:42.71 in Oslo, so this was going to be tough.
End of agreement
Ayana ploughed on, but Dibaba spotted her chance and flew away at the bell to run a last lap of 61.17.
“The pace of Ayana was too fast for me,” said Dibaba. “That is why I went to my race. I knew there was an agreement before but I could not follow that pace. When it was clear there was no world record I concentrated on my win.”
Ayana saw things differently. “I’m disappointed because the agreement was not kept,” she said. “I did more laps than my rival, especially after 2k. Next time I will run different.”
Ayana’s wasn’t the only athlete disappointed as local hero and meeting poster boy Renaud Lavillenie failed to win at the Stade de France for the first time in seven years.
The world record-holder had set his sights on clearing six metres outdoors for the first time on home soil, but the Olympic champion drew huge groans from the crowd as he managed just one clearance at 5.71m before failing at 5.86m.
Konstandinos Filippidis took the win with a Greek record, matching the performance of his compatriot Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou who broke her own Greek record in the women’s vault, pushing the world lead up to 4.83m in the process.
Filippidis leapt 5.91m, six centimetres above his personal best, to beat Brazil’s new hope Thiago Braz, who equalled his recent South American record of 5.86m with Lavillenie a modest fifth.
No referendum needed, Kyriakopoulou in pole position
Kyriakopoulou’s victory means she takes over at the head of the women’s pole vault Diamond Race standings as Brazil’s 2011 world champion Fabiana Murer came equal third with a best of 4.63m behind Cuba’s Yarisley Silva.
There was another surprise in the men’s high jump when Mutaz Essa Barshim went out at 2.32m and could only finish fifth with a best clearance of 2.29m.
Daniil Tsyplakov took the win for Russia ahead of 2007 world champion Donald Thomas. Both men cleared 2.32m.
Lavillenie and Valerie Adams' string of wins may have now come to an end, but Caterine Ibarguen goes on and on.
The Colombian triple jumper was last beaten in an IAAF Diamond League contest way back in May 2012 and she notched up her third victory of this season with a 14.87m victory over Russia’s world leader Ekaterina Koneva.
Ibarguen produced a series of terrific consistency with four jumps of 14.84m or better, while Koneva had a best of 14.72m.
Czech Republic’s two-time Olympic javelin champion Barbora Spotakova took her first win of 2015 when she threw a season’s best of 64.42m to beat Australia’s Kimberly Mickle, who was second with 63.80m.
Spotakova become the fourth different women's javelin winner in as many IAAF Diamond League contests this year.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF