Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo had to produce the fastest run of her career to hold off the challenge of Bahrain’s 20-year-old Salwa Eid Naser on a steamy night in the Stade Louis II stadium on Friday (20). And she did, setting an IAAF Diamond League and Bahamian record of 48.97.
Her smaller opponent was second in 49.08, taking almost half a second off her own Asian record.
The first meeting of the season between Miller-Uibo, who has been concentrating mainly this year on the 200m, at which she has become Commonwealth champion, and the young woman who had won the four previous IAAF Diamond League meetings was always going to generate its own steam.
The 6ft 1in Bahamian, running in lane six, set off fast and had passed Jessica Beard in the outside lane by the start of the backstraight.
But as she turned into the final straight, the small, smoothly balanced figure one lane inside her had remained obstinately in touch – and so it remained all the way to the line.
The vivacious Miller-Uibo managed a smile for the cameraman as she clasped her winner’s bouquet at the end, but you could see the effort in it. It was almost a grimace. The Olympic champion, however, was not about to show any sign of weakness to the dogged figure who had tracked her all the way down the home straight, not gaining, but not losing.
She had surpassed herself, smashing the personal best of 49.44 in which she had catapulted herself over the line to take the 2016 Olympic title ahead of Allyson Felix of the United States. It was the fastest women’s 400m race run since September 2009.
The strain was more clearly written on Naser, who sank to her hands and knees in the aftermath.
She had surpassed herself, passing far beyond the previous season’s best of 49.52 jointly held by Miller-Uibo and world indoor silver medallist Shakima Wimbley of the United States, who was a distant third here in 50.85, with her compatriot, world champion Phyllis Francis, one place behind her in 51.05.
It was a measure of the intensity of the duel that had just taken place that these two huge US talents were never in the frame.
“I got this sub 49 I was waiting for, so I’m very happy, although also very tired,” said Miller-Uibo. “The crowd here is amazing, Naser was doing a great race and that helped too. It was only my fourth race over 400m this season.”
El Bakkali breaks eight, Cheruiyot wins quality 1500m
On a night when the women’s 3000m steeplechase record was smashed to smithereens by Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech, the men’s race was of only marginally less quality – and produced the unusual sight of two men contesting the race over the final lap, neither of whom were Kenyan.
Having taken the bell together, Morocco’s world silver medallist Soufiane El Bakkali and Olympic silver medallist and world bronze medallist Evan Jager of the United States were separate figures by the end of the back straight as the Moroccan athlete pushed on.
By the line, the gap was nearer to 20 metres as El Bakkali raised his arms before crossing in a personal best of 7:58.15, with Jager finishing second in a season’s best of 8:01.02, not far off his all-time best of 8:00.45.
On this occasion Kenya’s world and Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto could only manage third place, coming home in 8:09.78.
The men’s 1500m also produced running of breath-taking quality as the man who has had a long winning run this season, Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot, drove to the line in a personal best time of 3:28.41 that improved on his own world-leading performance.
That was too much for the fellow Kenyan and training partner who beat him to world gold last summer, Elijah Manangoi, who was second in a season’s best of 3:29.64.
In third place, Norway’s European champion Filip Ingebrigtsen set a national record of 3:30.01, with 17-year-old brother Jakob – a double medallist at this month’s IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018 – finishing a place behind him in a personal best of 3:31.18, a world age-17 best.
“It was a great race for me,” said Cheruiyot. “I planned that attack for my personal best and world lead and it was clearly my target and it all worked as I wanted. Now I need to think how I can break 3:28.”
Taylor over Pichardo
Meanwhile another classic and familiar duel was shaping up in the men’s triple jump, where the two men who have pushed each other into 18-metre-plus territory in recent years, world and Olympic champion Christian Taylor of the United States and Pedro Pablo Pichardo, lit the blue touch paper in the early stages.
Pichardo struck first, with 17.60m in the second round, which Taylor responded to with the next jump, moving ahead with a big 17.86m and bounding out of the pit with obvious excitement.
But despite an improvement by Pichardo in the next round, to 17.67m, the firework fizzled out on this occasion and that’s how it stayed.
As home world champion Pierre-Ambroise correctly predicted of the men’s 800m race in Monaco, it could have been won in 1:45 or 1:40. As it happened, this race – not an IAAF Diamond League scoring event, but brimming with world-class talent – was won in a meeting record of 1:42.14, a meeting record and the fastest time run so far this season, by 2012 Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos of Botswana.
Two national records were set behind him as Canada’s Brandon McBride finished second in 1:43.20 and Saul Ordonez of Spain took third place in 1:43.65.
Bosse, never in the hunt, had to settle for sixth, although such was the quality of the race that he still had a season’s best of 1:44.20, half a second faster than his season’s best from 2017, set when winning the world title.
One place behind him, Australia’s Joseph Deng set an Oceanian record of 1:44.21 to eclipse the 1:44.3 (1:44.40 electric timing) run by Ralph Doubell, which equalled the then world record, to win the 1968 Olympic title. Another historic race on the night.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF