The advertised world record attempts by Almaz Ayana and Conseslus Kipruto both unravelled early in their respective 5000m and 3000m steeplechase races but that doesn’t mean that they were not enthralling and entertaining elements of the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels on Friday night (9).
Ayana, who set a 10,000m world record when winning over 25 laps of the track at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, had asked for three opening kilometres of 2:50.00, 5:40.00 and 8:30.00 but was quickly outside that schedule.
Ukrainian pacemaker Tamara Tverdostup took the field through the first 1000m in 2:53.19 before stepping aside. Kenya’s Alice Aprot then took over at the front but, having reached agreement that she could finish the race, seemed more intent on setting a pace that suited her rather than the world champion over this distance, and passed 2000m in 5:49.17.
With just over five laps to go, Ayana went to the front and passed Aprot before throwing in a 65.75 lap.
Although she must have realised that her chances of improving on Tirunesh Dibaba’s eight-year-old world record of 14:11.15 were almost nil, she was determined to finish her season in style.
Only Kenya’s Olympic silver medallist Hellen Obiri and her Ethiopian compatriot Senbere Teferi followed her when she started to accelerate and then for only a short while. There was quickly a five-metre gap back to Obiri and an even greater distance to Teferi.
Ayana carried on trying to make up the deficit of time and with two laps to go Obiri was 25 metres in arrears but Ayana had too much time to make up.
She crossed the line in a meeting record of 14:18.89 – the eighth fastest time ever and Ayana has now runs half of those times and it also cemented her hold on the Diamond Race – and towed the next five women to personal bests, for whom the pace had been perfect to make an improvement even if it ultimately didn’t quite suit Ayana.
Obiri reduced her best by almost four seconds to 14:25.78 while Teferi took more than five seconds off her best when clocking 14:29.82
In fifth, Olympic 1500m fourth-place finisher Shannon Rowbury took more than three seconds off the North American record with 14:38.92.
Kipruto trades world record attempt for win
If the 5000m was basically a one-horse race, the 3000m steeplechase surprisingly turned into a head-to-head duel.
Belgium's 2009 European junior cross-country champion Jeroen D’Hoedt took the field through 1000m in 2:39.54, just over two seconds outside the prescribed world record schedule.
Kipruto then took off, when he realised that the second pacemaker Paul Kipsiele Koech, who was having the last track race of his long and illustrious career, was not able to help out.
However, he could not shake off the man who followed him home in Rio: USA’s Evan Jager.
The 2000m mark was hit in 5:21.72, still well on course for a time within eight minutes taking into account the increase in speed over the last lap, but then the pace eased as Kipruto readied himself for what was likely to be an astonishingly fast last 150 metres off the last water jump.
Out of the water for the last time, and with one barrier to go, Jager had no answer to the speed of a man who has reputedly run under 48 seconds for a 400m in training, and Kipruto crossed the line in 8:03.74 with Jager running a season’s best of 8:04.01.
France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi surprisingly didn’t try to stay with the leading pair when they made their break just after the first 1000m but eventually finished third in 8:08.15 to replicate the Rio podium.
Cheruiyot makes big breakthrough
Another Kenyan win the the Belgian capital came courtesy of 20-year-old Timothy Cheruiyot, who got arguably the biggest win of his career, and compensation for missing out on Olympic selection after finishing fourth at the Kenyan Olympic Trials, when he produced a surprise victory in the 1500m.
Pacemaker Andrew Rotich reached 800m in 1:50.64 before dropping out and fellow Kenyan Elijah Kiptoo carried on for another 200 metres.
With just over a lap to go, Algeria’s Olympic silver medallist Taoufik Makhloufi took up pole position, shadowed by Morocco’s Abdalaati Iguider and Cheruiyot, with pre-race favourite and world leader Asbel Kiprop in fourth.
The bell was heard in an unofficial 2:35.2 and Makhloufi stayed at the front until entering the home straight, when the stooping Cheruiyot and Iguider got past him.
Cheriuyot won the sprint for the line in 3:31.34, taking more than two seconds off his best, with Iguider second in 3:31.40.
Notably, the last lap was announced at 55.99 and Cheruiyot, who was third at the bell, would have been even slightly quicker.
Kiprop got himself out of position with 250 metres to go and had to come from a long way back down the home straight before finishing third in 3:31.87. Nevertheless, it was more than enough to win the Diamond Race.
The final men’s event of the 2016 IAAF Diamond League, and final event on the track for the series, was the 800m and although the two-time Olympic champion and world record-holder David Rudisha would have been a welcome addition to the race, it was still an entertaining finale.
Bram Som did his usual efficient pacing job and took the field through the bell in 50.70.
Clayton Murphy then took up the running down the backstraight for the second time and passed 600m in 1:17.97 but the US runner showed none of his phenomenal acceleration down the home straight that earned him a bronze medal in Rio and faded to seventh.
By contrast, Poland’s two-time European champion Adam Kszczot, who failed to make the Olympic final, did have something left in the tank and came through with a late burst to win in 1:44.44 to edge out Kenyan rising star and world U20 champion Kipyegon Bett, who was 0.08 in arrears with Bosnia’s world bronze medallist Amel Tuka third in a season’s best of 1:44.54.
Kenya’s Ferguson Rotich finished fourth in 1:44.59 in a close finish which saw less than 0.3 cover the first six, but it was enough to win him the Diamond Race for season-long consistency
Phil Minshull for the IAAF