Ayanleh Souleiman became the fifth-fastest 1000m performer of all time to highlight the middle distance action at Lausanne’s Athletissima meeting, the 11th stop in the 2016 IAAF Diamond League, on Thursday (25).
The event, valid for the 800m Diamond Race, was billed as a duel between Olympic 1500m champion Matthew Centrowitz and Asbel Kiprop, Kenya’s three-time world 1500m champion. But the 2014 world indoor 1500m champion, who broke the world indoor record over the non-championship distance last winter, had his own plans.
With Centrowitz lingering in the middle of the leading pack and Kiprop running third from last at the halfway point of the race, Souleiman made his move for the front, trailing the second pacemaker through the bell.
He powered down the back straight and off the final turn, easily fending off the late challenge by quick-closing Kenyans Robert Biwott and Jonathan Kitilit.
Souleiman clocked an IAAF Diamond League record of 2:13.49, trailing just Noah Ngeny, Sebastian Coe, Steve Cram and Taoufik Makhloufi on the world all-time list.
He would have gone even faster had he not looked at the crowd and celebrated his run over the final 30 metres.
"I had a really bad Olympics and today finally I was strong, ready and had a great mindset," said Souleiman, who was actually fourth in the Olympic 1500m final.
Biwott was next in 2:13.89, just ahead of Kitilit who clocked 2:13.95. Kiprop made up ground over the final 300 metres and finished fourth in 2:14.23 but Centrowitz was never really in the hunt and finished well back in sixth place, another two seconds behind.
Dibaba back to winning ways
Conversely, the women’s 3000m did go according to the pre-meeting script, with Genzebe Dibaba collecting a convincing victory.
However, post-Rio fatigue was a common and expected theme on the evening and that meant that an assault on Almaz Ayana’s 8:23.11 world-leading time from the opening IAAF Diamond League meeting Doha in early May never materialised.
Hellen Obiri, Dibaba and Mercy Cherono led a six-woman pack with three laps to go, one that didn’t really break until Dibaba made her move for the front as she approached the bell.
Unleashing her superior closing sprint, the Ethiopian covered the final lap in an unofficial 57 seconds to win unchallenged in 8:31.84, knocking nearly three seconds from Vivian Cheruiyot’s meeting record set in 2010.
“This race and particularly my kick over the last 400 metres gives me confidence for the rest of the season," said the Olympic 1500m silver medallist Dibaba, who'll end her injury-shortened 2016 campaign in Brussels.
Another Olympic silver medallist, this time in the 5000m, Obiri held on for second in 8:33.96 with Cherono third in 8:34.49.
Olympic 800m silver medallist Francine Niyonsaba was the emphatic winner in the 800m, clocking 1:57.71 to solidify her number two spot in the Diamond Race. Kenya’s 2013 world champion Eunice Sum held off the fast-closing Lynsey Sharp to take second, 1:58.41 to 1:58.82, while Canada’s Melissa Bishop, who was second at the bell, faded to fourth.
In the men’s 3000m steeplechase, Abraham Kibiwott led a Kenyan top-five sweep in 8:09.58 to notch his first career IAAF Diamond League victory.
Battling Nicholas Kiptanui Bett – not to be confused with the world 400m hurdles champion who was also running in Lausanne on Thursday – over the waning stages, the 20-year-old took the lead for good over the final barrier with Bett second in 8:10.07.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF