World and Olympic 3000m steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto won maximum points for Team Africa.
But that was the only predictable result in a dramatic race where Africa’s decision to play the joker for double points in the event of an overall win – which looked a banker given the presence of Soufiane El Bakkali, the Moroccan whom Kipruto narrowly beat to the world title last summer – went horribly awry.
And overall victory went to Team Europe.
All the African plans came to grief as the field approached the line ahead of the first elimination in a race where the last man was scheduled to drop out on each lap after the first three.
Because Evan Jager, the Rio Olympic silver medallist who was due to represent Team Americas, scratched from the race, the first elimination did not occur until the field approached the three laps to go marker.
In his apparent desperation to make the cut, Team Asia’s Japanese runner Kosei Yamaguchi began to stagger with the effort, and appeared to veer into El Bakkali, who was cruising along just ahead of him.
Yamaguchi succeeded in his immediate object as his team-mate John Koech was first to be eliminated, but within a few steps El Bakkali, injured, had collapsed onto the infield, requiring to be taken away on a stretcher. The bearers carried away Africa’s hopes of a points bonanza.
Ironically the unhappy loss of El Bakkali meant that no elimination needed to take place at the two-lap marker, so the Japanese athlete was able to struggle along until he accepted his destiny at the bell.
By that point Kipruto, yellow-shirted and in a sunny mood, had turned the final 400m into a lap of honour, exhorting the crowd to up the noise with upward motions of his arms before crossing, miles clear, in 8:22.55 to collect the eight points due to the winner.
“I am always happy to represent my country and especially my continent at international events,” said Kipruto, winner last weekend of the IAAF Diamond League trophy in the event. “I had enough power in the last 100 metres and I asked the crowd for more support because I love loud tribunes. I love to enjoy every moment as it motivates me to be even better.”
Canada’s Matthew Hughes was second in 8:29.70, but the two remaining runners were from Europe - Yohanes Chiappinelli of Italy, third in 8:32.89, and Fernando Carro of Spain, fourth in 8:33.76. That meant a combined total of 11 points. And a huge upset.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF