Monday, September 19, 2011

World leads from Bekele, Bolt and Blake in Brussels

It was one of the greatest non-championship nights of athletics in a long time – perhaps the best since the 1997 Zurich meeting where three world records were broken in quick succession. The 2011 Samsung Diamond League series reached a fantastic climax tonight at the Belgacom Memorial van Damme in Brussels.
Unlike the Weltklasse meeting from 14 years ago, there were no world records tonight, but it was back to business for two of the world’s leading athletics stars as Kenenisa Bekele returned to form with a world-leading run over 10,000m, and Usain Bolt moved from seventh on the 2011 world 100m lists to first.

But just when it looked as though normality in international athletics had been restored, along came world 100m champion Yohan Blake to once again spoil the party and steal the limelight from his training partner, Bolt.
itial; background-clip: initial; background-color: transparent; background-image: initial; background-origin: initial; border-bottom-width: 0px; border-color: initial; border-left-width: 0px; border-right-width: 0px; border-style: initial; border-top-width: 0px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.4; margin-bottom: 20px; outline-color: initial; outline-style: initial; outline-width: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 20px; padding-right: 20px; padding-top: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; width: 440px;"> If anyone thought his victory in Daegu was cheapened by the disqualification of Bolt, Blake proved that he was a more than worthy champion with a mind-boggling display in the 200m – supposedly his ‘weaker’ event.
Blake made a significant breakthrough in the event last year when he reduced his PB from 20.60 to 19.78, and any further big jumps seemed unlikely. But Blake once again caused a shock as he won tonight’s half-lap race in a mind-boggling 19.26 (0.7m/s) to move to second on the world all-time list, one place ahead of Michael Johnson. Only Bolt has ever run faster.
What made it all the more impressive was the way he ran the race. His first half was modest as world silver medallist Walter Dix had a slight lead on Blake. But the young Jamaican then piled on the pace in the second half and made Dix – who ran a 19.53 PB – look like an also-ran.
Blake’s reaction time was 0.269. He could have afforded to be 0.16 quicker out of the blocks, which would have resulted in a time of 19.10, smashing Bolt’s 19.19 world record.
Blake’s team-mate Nickel Ashmeade finished third, one place behind Dix, clocking a PB of 19.91. Jaysuma Saidy Ndure made it four men under 20 seconds, running 19.97.
Just minutes before Blake’s run, Bolt – determined to end his season on a high – had won the 100m. His start was similarly poor, but he soon got into his stride and pulled away from team-mate Nesta Carter to win with a world-leading 9.76 (1.3m/s) – his fastest time since setting the world record of 9.58 in Berlin two years ago.
Carter clocked a season’s best of 9.89 in second, with Commonwealth champion Lerone Clarke making it a Jamaican 1-2-3 with his 10.05 in third. British duo Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (10.14) and Mark Lewis-Francis (10.19) were sixth and seventh respectively.
At the other end of the distance spectrum, double Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele proved he is not the spent force that his Daegu DNF suggested. Competing in just his second track race in two years and returning to the venue of his world-record performance in 2005, Bekele looked like his former all-conquering self as he won the 10,000m in 26:43.16 – complete with trademark last-lap kick.
It was the fastest time in the world for three years, and Kenya’s Lucas Rotich smashed his PB to finish a close second in 26:43.98. USA’s Galen Rupp, training partner to world 5000m champion Mo Farah, also obliterated his PB to set an American record of 26:48.00, and behind him four other Kenyan athletes dipped under 27 minutes.
The night almost had a perfect ending in the shape of a would-be world record in the women’s high jump, but although Anna Chicherova had three very solid attempts at 2.10m, the world best mark was not to be. Instead the world champion had to settle for victory with a leap of 2.05m – a meeting record and her second-best jump to date after her 2.07m Russian record from earlier in the year. World silver medallist Blanka Vlasic, clearly tired after a long, draining season, finished down in fifth with a best of 1.93m.
Morgan Uceny was many people’s favourite to win the world 1500m title, but the American fell in the final. After seeing how the race in Daegu played out, Uceny must have been even more frustrated. But tonight she let her feet vent all of her anger and ran another smart race to win with a PB and world-leading 4:00.06.
Mariam Alaoui-Selsouli, returning early from what should have been a three-year ban for using EPO, also set a PB in second place with 4:00.77, while world silver medallist Hannah England ran her second-fastest time to date to finish fifth in 4:02.03. World champion Jenny Simpson was just 0.14 off her season’s best, but her 4:03.68 was only good enough for 13th place.
But one world champion who was on form was Carmelita Jeter, who won the 100m in 10.78 (0.4m/s) and the three podium places from Daegu were replicated with Veronica Campbell-Brown finishing second (10.85) and Kelly-Ann Baptiste taking third (10.90).
World 100m hurdles champion Sally Pearson may have escaped the “cover curse” of the daily programmes while in Daegu, but it came back to get the Australian tonight in Brussels. Pearson, the coverstar of the current issue of Athletics Weekly, clipped the sixth hurdle and was then off-balance in her approach to the next hurdle. She was too low in her clearance of it and came off it bad, crashing awkwardly to the track.
World silver medallist Danielle Carruthers then came through to take the win in 12.65, capping what has been by far her best season to date. Her victory was also enough to overtake Pearson in the overall Diamond League standings, landing the $40,000 bonus.
Reese Hoffa’s late-season rush of good form was not enough to displace Dylan Armstrong at the top of the Diamond League standings, as the Canadian had already won the overall shot title before tonight’s meeting. But that’s to take nothing away from Hoffa’s performance tonight, unleashing a season’s best of 22.09m in the final round to defeat team-mate Christian Cantwell by a mere two centimetres.
Newly-crowned world champion Matthias de Zordo proved his victory in Daegu over Andreas Thorkildsen was no fluke and the German once again beat the Norwegian superstar tonight in the javelin. Latvia’s Vadims Vasilevskis took an early lead with 85.07m, but De Zordo responded in round three with a PB of 88.36m to effectively end the contest. Thorkildsen managed just three throws over 80 metres, his best of the day being 81.86m.
World champion David Rudisha was running on tired legs at the end of a long season which began back in March, climaxed in Daegu with the world 800m title, and peaked again last week in Rieti with his 1:41.33 clocking. Understandably, another world-record attempt was not on the cards tonight for the Kenyan, but he managed to extend his unbeaten run and he won in 1:43.96. Ethiopian rising star Mohammed Aman was second (1:44.29) and world 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop was third (1:44.46).
The fourth meeting record of the night came in the women’s 3000m steeplechase. Already guaranteed of the overall Diamond League title, Kenya’s Milcah Chemos was not the force she has been in all of her other appearances on the circuit this year and finished a distant fifth. Instead world champion Yuliya Zaripova commanded the race and won in 9:15.43 from Habiba Ghribi (9:16.57).
World champion Dai Greene did just enough to secure the overall Diamond League title in the men’s 400m hurdles. Had he finished any lower than second to Javier Culson, Greene would have waved goodbye to the $40,000 bonus. But Culson and Greene finished first and second, 48.32 to 48.78, and the Briton ended his dream season on a high.
Phillips Idowu was another Diamond League winner, but to secure his $40,000 bonus he needed to simply take part in the triple jump in this, the final event of the series. He recorded one legal jump of 16.29m, then fouled in round two and passed on his two final jumps, finishing fifth. Frenchman Benjamin Compaore won with a PB of 17.31m.
Elsewhere, the Borlee twins landed a 1-2 in the 400m with Jonathan (44.78) winning from Kevin (44.97). Amantle Montsho won the women’s race in 50.16 as Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu was fifth in 51.37. With Mo Farah passing up the chance to compete for the overall Diamond League 5000m title, Ethiopia’s Imane Merga came away with the win in 12:58.32 to guarantee himself the bonus.
On the in-field, world champions Olga Saladukha (14.67m) and Li Yanfeng (66.27m) won the triple jump and discus respectively, while Konstadinos Filipidis won the pole vault on countback from Renaud Lavillenie, both clearing 5.72m.