Usain Bolt beats the rain in Oslo - world-leading 19.86 (© Hasse Sjögren)
Usain Bolt’s sublime confidence in his ability to run the 200 metres better than anyone else turned out to be fully justified at a rainswept Bislett Stadium tonight as he completed his first long sprint for 13 months in a time of 19.86sec. He finished easily clear of his nearest challenger in the fifth of this season’s Samsung Diamond League meetings, home runner Jaysuma Ndure.
But Bolt, whose two other races this season have seen him win over 100m in 9.91, relatively ordinary for the man with a 9.58 to his credit, happily batted away the suggestion after the ExxonMobil Bislett Games were over that he was “back in business.”
“I’ve never been out of business,” he said with a grin after completing a long, wet lap of honour which appeared to have taken more out of him than his watery run. “I think business was just slow.
“I think people expect too much of me. I’m only human. I’m taking steps to get back to my best. I’m feeling good. I’m going to get there.
“I’ve got two and a half months until the World Championships so now I am going to go back home and get back to work and I am going to try and stay injury free. That’s the key.”
Bolt’s galloping performance produced the third and final world-leading mark of a meeting that began in drifting rain and ended in a steady downpour, with the other high points being provided by Morocco’s Halima Hachlaf, who recorded 1:58.27 in beating an 800m field which included World champion Caster Semenya, and Paul Kipsiele Koech, who turned from a would-be pacemaker into a winner in the 3000m Steeplechase, crossing the line in 8:01.83.
For the crowd who had sat so patiently in the rain, the Jamaican’s performance, and indeed his generous and slow tour of the stadium afterwards, clad in a blue waterproof cagoule which shone under the lights, made the waiting worthwhile.
“It was a good race,” he concluded, after finishing oceans clear of Ndure, who clocked 20.43, and his training partner Mario Forsythe, who recorded 20.49. “I’m glad I came out of it injury-free. I’m back to being Usain Bolt. I’m not perfect, but I’m getting there.”
Bolt will now go back and discuss his race with coach Glen Mills before deciding whether he needs to race again at the Jamaican national trials. Given his wild card status for Daegu as a defending champion, such a commitment is not mandatory, and it seems more likely he will stick with his current schedule of racing three more times before going to Korea.
Asked about Tyson Gay’s reported decision not to contest the 200m this year, Bolt responded: “I think Tyson is looking after a really bad groin injury. I thought that was why he wasn’t doing any 200s this year. But it’s never about one person. If you concentrate on one person, someone else may sneak up on you.”
He added that he felt easier in Oslo than he had in Ostrava, where he had run his last race, over 100m. “I felt more relaxed today. The 100 metres was a little bit intense. There I need the speed, but in the 200m I know it is more about technique and execution.”
The Bolt effect worked wonders for this Samsung Diamond League meeting in terms of ticket sales – all 14,800 seats were reported sold out three days before the competition began. But even Bolt could do nothing about the elements.
Hachlaf surprises Savinova and Semenya
Despite her defeat, Semenya she was satisfied at running faster than she had in Eugene five days earlier. The South African, who had allowed herself to get forced into an outside lane on Saturday, appeared to have got her race plan sorted out here as she moved away from Britain’s Jenny Meadows around the final bend to lead into the straight. But as Meadows faded, Russia’s European champion Mariya Savinova moved past Semenya with 50 metres remaining; and with 10 metres remaining, Morocco’s Halima Hachlaf came past the Russian on the outside to win in a world-leading 1:58.27.
Savinova was second in a season’s best of 1.58.44, and Semenya third in 1:58.61.
“My coach told me I should be brave and go into the front and try for a fast time,” Semenya said. “And I fulfilled it and I’m satisfied with my time. Now I’m improving with every race and I think I can be later in the season much better than today.”
Kiprop’s kick upstoppable
By the time the Exxon Dream Mile got underway the drifting rain that had hindered the throwers in the early part of the meeting had returned, more heavily. It was the tall, lean figure of Kenya’s Olympic 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop who weathered the conditions best, coming through with a final burst in the last 10 metres to take the win in 3:50.86 ahead of his compatriot Haron Keitany, who had beaten him five days earlier in Eugene in setting the world-leading time of 3:49.09.02.
Drenched Oslo rather than sunny Eugene saw Keitany register a time of 3:51.02, with Ethiopia’s Mekonnen Gebremedhin third in 3:51.30. Late entrant Mohammed Shaween of Saudi Arabia was pleased he had made the trip as he finished fourth in a national record of 3:52.00.
The downpour had started properly during the women’s 5000m, where Ethiopia’s former World champion Meseret Defar returned to the scene of one of her greatest achievements, when she took eight seconds off her then world record in 2007 of 14:16.63.
The weather precluded a time approaching that in a race that was effectively an Ethiopian 400 metres challenge as Defar and four of her compatriots lined up for a charge around the last lap, with Defar recording a split of just over 60 seconds to finish first in a season’s best of 14:37.32, just ahead of Sentayehu Ejigu, who clocked 14:37.50, and Genzebe Dibaba – younger sister of the absent world record holder Tirunesh – who earned a personal best of 14:37.56.
Meselech Melkamu was fourth in a season’s best of 14:39.44, and Emebet Anteneh completed the Ethiopian sweep in fifth place with a personal best of 14:43.29.
Koech glides to Steeplechase world lead
Paul Kipsiele Koech, the only man in the 3000m Steeplechase field to have run under 8 minutes – something he had achieved eight times – almost made it nine as he held a clear lead over the last two laps before finishing in a world-leading 8:01.83, a time which was also a meeting record.
His Kenyan team mate Brimin Kipruto, the Olympic champion, took second place in 8:05.40 with Ethiopia’s Roba Gary recording a season’s best of 8:10.41 in third place. France’s European champion Mahiedine Mekhissi, who had been targeting the European record of 8:01.13, finished a disconsolate fourth in 8:14.38.
“I wanted to push the pace and help the others,” said Koech. “They spoke about the European record. But then nobody followed me so I used my shape and was pushing alone.”
Lalova’s comeback continues
With many of the world’s leading female 100m runners preparing across the Atlantic for the 200m in Saturday’s Samsung Diamond League meeting in New York, Ivet Lalova took her chance of earning maximum Diamond League points in the short sprint. The Bulgarian was the only woman in the field to have broken 11 seconds – her personal best stands at 10.77 – and she finished more than a tenth of a second clear in a season’s best of 11.01 (w +2.2) despite the damp conditions.
The result will move Lalova closer to the territory she inhabited seven years ago, when she was fourth in the 2004 Olympics, before she broke her leg in a freak accident while warming up for a meeting in Athens – and injury which required seven operations.
“It was a long way back before I was able to run fast times again,” said Lalova. “The most important thing is that I’m healthy and I’ve made some changes in my life. I train most of the time now in Rieti with Italian coach Roberto Bonomi. I missed the start today but executed well at the end.”
Germany’s Verena Sailer, who set her best of 11.10 in winning last year’s European title in Barcelona, never recovered after making a poor start and finished seventh in 11.46. Olesa Povh of the Ukraine took second place in a season’s best of 11.14, with Norway’s Ezinne Okparaebo third in 11.17 – also a season’s best.
Rain soaks the infield
Matthias de Zordo of Germany won the Javelin Throw with a third round effort of 83.94m, with Robert Oosthuizen of South Africa underlining his consistency by taking his third top three finish in successive Diamond League meetings, finishing second here with 82.07m. Petr Frydrych of the Czech Republic was third with 81.09m on a bad night for throwing.
Godfrey Mokoena, South Africa’s Olympic long jump silver medallist, won an event which saw the bulk of competitors landing in the same part of the pit. He held a lead from the first round, in which he jumped 8.07m, extending it by a centimetre with his sixth and last attempt.
Home jumper Morton Jensen took second place with 8.01m, and third place went to Louis Tsatoumas of Greece, who recorded 7.96m.
Kyriakos Ioannou of Cyprus overcame the conditions best in the men’s High Jump, winning with 2.28m on countback ahead of Russia’s Andrey Silnov and Germany’s Raul Spank, who achieved the same height.
A clearance of 4.60m was enough to win Brazil’s Fabiana Murer the Pole Vault and maintain her place at the top of the Diamond Race standings. Murer took just five vaults in all, clearing 4.40m and 4.60m first time before having three failures at 4.71m.
Aleksandra Kiryashova of Russia was second with 4.50m, which equalled her season’s best, and Poland’s world champion Anna Rogowska had to settle for third with 4.40m.
Vukicevic and Merritt take sprint hurdles
Home runner Christina Vukicevic generated huge applause as she won the 100m Hurdles – not a Samsung Diamond League event on this occasion - in a season’s best of 12.79, close to her personal best of 12.74, to put clear daylight between herself and her nearest challenger, Kristi Castlin of the United States.
Castlin’s US colleague Nichole Denby was third in 13.06.
Aries Merritt of the United States earned victory in the 110m hurdles with a season’s best of 13.12, ahead of Jamaica’s Dwight Thomas, who finished in a national record of 13.15.
Merritt’s fellow American Joel Brown was third in a personal best of 13.20 with Britain’s European and Commonwealth champion Andy Turner, who had been hoping to beat his personal best of 13.27, fourth in 13.32.
Gerd Kanter, Estonia’s Olympic champion, laid down an early marker in the Discus Throw, taking a first round lead with 65.14m. Spain’s Frank Casanas provided the best response with a second round effort of 63.31m, and then Lithuania’s Virgilijus Alekna, Kanter’s predecessor as Olympic champion, moved into second place in the fifth round with 63.76m.
Casanas upped his game again in the last round, shaking his head in disappointment as he came out of the cage having registered 64.54m. One last effort from the old campaigner Alekna reached out to 64.00m. Again, not quite enough. Just to emphasise his victory, Kanter produced another 65 metres throw – 65.06m – before shaking the judge’s hand and raising a beefy right arm to acclaim his win.
The throwing events, scheduled for earlier in the evening, suffered the worst of the drifting rain that fell. “It was slippery, of course, but it was the same for everybody,” Kanter said, adding: “After Olympic gold the next two years were not so successful for me, so I am hungry for the World Championships in Daegu.”
Adams defeats Ostapchuk
Valerie Adams made an emphatic debut in this season’s Samsung Diamond League as she earned victory over a Shot Put field that included the overwhelming Diamond Race winner of last year, Nadezhda Ostapchuk, producing the four best efforts of the competition, the best of which was her fourth round of 20.26m.
After fouling with her first attempt, New Zealand’s World and Olympic champion took the lead with 20.14m and was never seriously challenged as Ostapchuk was unable to reach beyond the 20 metres barrier. Adams added efforts of 20.10m and 20.17m before slipping off the 20m standard with a last throw of 19.90m.
The smaller, powerful figure of Ostapchuk had paced impatiently before going into the circle for her last attempt, but although her delivery had its usual snap, the usual distance was missing the Belarussian, who produced a world-leading 20.59m in Saturday’s Samsung Diamond League meeting in Eugene, had to settle here for 19.92m. China’s Lijiao Gong was third with 19.57m in a competition that saw competitors sheltering for long periods from the drifting rain under umbrellas.
“It was a little bit slippery and I was a little bit rusty but all is OK,” said Adams. “In my first Diamond League I beat all the main opponents, so the feelings are very positive. That was a really good start for me.”
The World champion defeated the European champion in the women’s Triple Jump. But it was close, and Cuba’s Yargelis Savigne only made certain of victory with her sixth and final attempt of 14.81m after she and Ukraine’s Olha Saladuha, who set a world-leading mark of 14.98m in Eugene on Saturday, had both reached 14.71m.
As it turned out, victory would have gone to Savigne if neither jumper had improved, as she had a better second effort, 14.70m. Her compatriot Mabel Gay took third place with 14.31m.
Montsho dominates 400m
With Allyson Felix otherwise engaged over 200m in New York on Saturday, Botswana’s Amantle Montsho, second in the Diamond Race, took the opportunity to strengthen her position in the 400m, finishing 10 metres and almost a second clear of her opposition in a season’s best of 50.10 having put her mark on the race from the gun.
With a personal best of 49.83, Jamaica’s Novlene Williams-Mills had the ability to get closer, but she had to settle for third place in 51.17 behind the Czech Republic’s Denisa Scerbova-Rosolova, who clocked 51.04.
Russia’s European champion Tatyana Firova was a relatively disappointing sixth in 52.28.
Russia’s European champion Natalya Antyukh was favourite to win the 400m Hurdles, but a bad stutter before the penultimate set of barriers put her out of contention after she had taken an early lead. One lane inside the Russian there was no such hesitation from the Czech Republic’s Zuzana Hejnova, who has run 54.26 this year, and she maintained her form to win in 54.38sec from Britain’s Perri Shakes-Drayton, who took second place with a season’s best of 54.77. Antyukh had to settle for third place in 55.45.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF