David Rudisha lived up to his promise at the Sainsbury’s Glasgow Grand Prix when he moved to the top of the 800m world list with a commanding performance. There was also a world-leading run at the IAAF Diamond League meeting from Hiwot Ayalew in a record-breaking women’s 3000m steeplechase on Saturday (12).
Rudisha predicted at a press conference in Glasgow two days ago that he would run close to 1:42, but the cool, grey conditions and lack of race practice mitigated against him, and the world record-holder had to be satisfied with 1:43.34, equalling the time his Kenyan compatriot Asbel Kiprop ran in Paris a week ago.
It may not have been as quick as he’d hoped, but Rudisha still delivered a solo sub-53-second final lap which left the 15,000 fans gasping after pacemaker Sammy Tangui had run the first 400m in 49.94.
At that point, Rudisha was leading the chase five metres back but, once in front, he immediately opened a gap, stretching his long legs round the penultimate bend before sprinting down the back straight to go through 600m in 1:16.28, a penultimate 200m of 26.34.
Rudisha kicked again around the bend and entered the straight 20 metres clear before powering down the home straight and across the line.
“I am getting back into shape and I’m happy to run a season’s best time despite the conditions not being the best for a perfect time,” said Rudisha. “I’m happy to have done what I came for.”
It was the 15th Diamond League win of the Olympic champion’s career and takes him to the top of the this year’s Diamond Race ahead of Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos.
The Botswanan chose to run the 400m in Glasgow, where he finished last in 46.34 in the non-Diamond League event won by his compatriot Isaac Makwala in 44.71, while Andre Olivier followed Rudisha home over two laps of Hampden Park.
The South African looks likely to be Rudisha’s main rival at Commonwealth Games here in three weeks’ time but he was more than two seconds back in 1:45.65.
Rudisha now ready to return to Glasgow
It was a happy return to the UK for Rudisha nearly two years after his historic world record in the London 2012 Olympic Games final, a race he described this week as the “greatest ever”.
This was never going to match that remarkable performance, or get even close, but Rudisha was happy enough to have made his mark in the stadium where he will bid for a Commonwealth title in three weeks’ time and proved beyond doubt that he is getting back to his best after missing most of last season, and months of training, with a knee injury.
“It’s a great feeling to come here and test the field and the track ahead of the Commonwealth Games, it was a great experience,” said Rudisha.
Ayalew’s performance was less commanding but no less impressive in its way, as the Ethiopian took more than a half a second from Sofia Assefa’s world lead, crossing the line in 9:10.64 after another last-lap battle with Emma Coburn.
Coburn may have been beaten to the line, just like she was in Paris a week ago, but the US athlete won’t be worry too much about that as she clocked 9:11.42 to break the North American record she had threatened in the French capital.
Coburn plays her part in the magnificent seven
Indeed, it was a marvellous race for depth as behind Coburn there were national records for Sweden’s Charlotta Fougberg (9:23.96 in fourth), and Finland’s Sandra Eriksson (9:24.70 in sixth), a world youth best for Ethiopia’s 17-year-old Tigist Getnet (9:28.36 in seventh), and personal bests for three other athletes.
Even Kenya’s world champion Milcah Chemos ran her fastest time of the year, 9:21.91 for third.
It was Ayalew’s second IAAF Diamond League win of the season, and puts her level with her Ethiopian compatriot Assefa at the top of the standings, but this was by far the best steeplechase of 2014.
It was Coburn who set out hard from the start, tucking in behind pacemaker Virginia Nyambura as the rest hung back, her US compatriot Stephanie Garcia leading the hunt.
Nyambura passed 1000m in 3:03.00 and Coburn took over with five laps to go, as Ayalew moved up into second place but five metres adrift.
The field passed 2000m in 6:10.18, with Kenya’s Chemos now 20 metres back in third. Ayalew timed her final effort superbly, moving on to the American’s heels at the bell and taking the lead down the back straight before pulling away down the home stretch.
Coburn was beaten, but remained undaunted. She clung on over the final metres to take more than a second from the area record of 9:12.50 set by Jenny Simpson (then Barringer) in 2009, and almost three from the personal best she set in Paris.
“I was proud in Paris recently because I almost made it [the record] there,” she said.
“But today the race was exactly the same and I found myself thinking ‘not again, not again’. I knew I would have to dig deep but I did it and now I’m just beside myself with happiness."
Afterwards, she hugged her boyfriend Jason Bosshard and her parents in the crowd, and gave thanks to her dog, Arthur, named after the great distance coach Arthur Lydiard.
“I can’t wait to see my coach,” she said. “And my puppy called Arthur back home will also be pleased.”
Matthew Brown for the IAAF