Mo Farah brought his track career to an end in the most fitting fashion, producing a dramatic 5000m victory at the Weltklasse Zurich on Thursday (24), the first of two 2017 IAAF Diamond League finals.
It was classic Farah and couldn’t have been scripted better, a performance athletics fans around the world have come to expect from the two-time double Olympic and world champion, with the Briton emerging triumphant from a scrappy homestretch brawl that left a small pile of bodies on the ground in his wake.
Biding his time near the middle of the pack in the early stages, Farah worked his way to the front with about 1400 metres remaining, taking turns at the lead with Canada's Mohammed Ahmed. He positioned himself in front at the bell with Ethiopians Muktar Edris, the world champion, and Yomif Kejelcha shadowing him closely.
Paul Chelimo of the US joined the melee over the final half lap, turning the race into a four-man skirmish over the final 200 metres. Farah fought valiantly down the final straight, fighting off or charging back every move his opponents threw his way. Sprinting towards the line, eyeballs out and grimacing, he held firm, even in the blanket finish, to take the win in 13:06.05, just 0.04 ahead of Edris and Chelimo, who was later disqualified for obstruction.
"It was important to go out with a victory,” Farah told the crowd, who were still on their feet clapping and paying tribute, several minutes after the race. “It’s every athlete’s dream to go out this way.”
“But it was hard work,” he added later. A job that was rewarded with his first Diamond Trophy.
It was the evening's longest race but only two were closer in the first IAAF Diamond League final contested under this year’s new championship-style format which featured a prize pot of US$1.6 million with $50,000, along with a Diamond Trophy, going to the winners.
Photo finish wins for Pearson and Ujah
Farah’s nail-biter was only outdone by a pair of contests that couldn’t have been any closer.
Sally Pearson followed up her 100m hurdles World Championships victory with a narrow win over Sharika Nelvis after running down the American after the final barrier. Both were credited with 12.55 but the win, and a first Diamond Trophy, went to the Australian.
In the men's 100m, Chijindu Ujah of Great Britain held off Ben Youssef Meite’s late race charge to end his breakout season with a Diamond Trophy. Both were timed at 9.97, with Ronnie Baker of the US finishing third in 10.01, 0.03 head of world champion Justin Gatlin.
Conversely, there was nothing close about Isaac Makwala’s victory in the 400m. The Botswanan, who was sidelined from the event at the World Championships by illness, chiseled a clear lead by the midway point and entered the home straight alone en route to his 43.95 victory. His win was however made significantly easier by world silver medallist Stephen Gardiner’s mishap at the start. At the gun, the slender Bahamian slipped from the blocks and fell flat on his chest, forced to watch his rivals run away while laying on the track.
Gil Roberts of the US was second in 44.54.
The 400m hurdles provided drama as well, but much of that came at the finish. As is rapidly becoming his trademark, world champion Karsten Warholm stormed to an early lead, holding it into the final bend. With fatigue setting in and the field chipping away at the gap behind him, the Norwegian stuttered badly as he approached the eighth hurdle, which provided an opening for his pursuers.
World leader Kyron McMaster took full advantage, catching Warholm and running past by the ninth hurdle and holding his ground through the line to end his breakout season as the Diamond Trophy winner. The British Virgin Islander won in 48.07 but Warholm fought on in the waning stages to clock 48.22 and chisel another 0.03 from his national record. Kaarien Hussein of Switzerland was third in 48.45, equaling his lifetime best.
Semenya extends unbeaten streak to 20
Meanwhile, Caster Semenya won her second straight 800m Diamond Trophy handily. Sixth at the bell, the South African worked her way to the front with just under 200m to go en route to a straightforward 1:55.84 win, about a second clear of Francine Niyonsaba and Kenyan Margaret Wambui, who clocked 1:56.71 and 1:56.87 respectively, to duplicate their finish at last year's Olympic Games. Semenya will end her 800m season with a 20-meeting win streak in her specialist event.
There was more Diamond Trophy success for South Africa in the men's long jump with Luvo Manyonga and Ruswahl Samaai finishing 1-2. Manyonga, the world champion, sealed the victory with an 8.49m leap in round four to extend his unbeaten streak to 10. Ruswahl was second with 8.31m with Jarrion Lawson of the US third at 8.12m.
The men’s javelin throw didn’t quite go according to the playbook, but Jakub Vadlejch's victory can't necessary be considered an upset. The Czech illustrated strong consistency to claim his second successive Diamond Trophy, controlling the competition from his 88.50m toss in the second round. Olympic champion Thomas Rohler came closest, reaching 86.59 in round three with Finn Tero Pitkamaki third just two centimetres behind the German.
World champion and season leader Johannes Vetter never quite found his rhythm, reaching a best of 86.15m for fourth.
The second 2017 IAAF Diamond League final will take place at the Van Damme Memorial in Brussels on Friday 1 September.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF