All smiles! Mutaz Barshim after topping a meeting record in Oslo (© Jean Pierre Durand)
Mutaz Essa Barshim finally released meeting organiser Steinar Hoen from his personal pain here at the Oslo Bislett Games, the season’s fifth IAAF Diamond League meeting, by breaking the Bislett Stadium’s 28-year-old high jump record of 2.37m on Thursday (15).
After assembling another stellar high jump field, Hoen – who won this event in 1994 with an effort of 2.35m – admitted: “I feel personally that I want to kill this record.”
Lo, Qatar’s baby-faced assassin did the deed, having teetered on the brink of an earlier-than-hoped-for exit with two failures at 2.35m before clearing at the last and then setting the meeting record of 2.38m at his second attempt, thus bettering the mark set in 1989 by the only man who has jumped higher than him, Cuba’s world record-holder at 2.45m, Javier Sotomayor.
“That was the target,” said Barshim. “We came for 2.38m, so mission completed. At the beginning I was feeling a little bit sleepy, but after 2.33m I woke up and came into the right rhythm.
“Also my coach was happy and I especially, because I took this record off Sotomayor after 28 years. Our plan works, we go step by step. I’m blessed for every opportunity I can get.”
Barshim’s mark is also the best recorded so far this year, and a clear marker of the 2014 world indoor champion’s intention of earning a first outdoor global title at this summer’s IAAF World Championships London 2017.
The Qatari had the event won with a first-time clearance of 2.32m, with Ukraine’s 2013 world champion Bogdan Bondarenko, in his first competition of the season, relatively content to settle for second with 2.29m, four centimetres clear of Canada’s Olympic champion Derek Drouin.
Wightman notches shock 1500m win
The concluding men’s 1500m – involving a field that would normally have raced under the traditional banner of a Dream Mile had that not been transferred to the U20 race here involving home athlete Jakob Ingebrigtsen – produced a breakthrough victory for Britain’s Jake Wightman, who took more than a second off his personal best of 3:35.49 as he finished strongly in 3:34.17.
In his wake, the 22-year-old left some of the world’s most accomplished metric milers, with Kenya’s Elijah Manangoi, who has a personal best of 3:29.67, finishing second in 3:34.30 and the hugely experienced Polish athlete Marcin Lewandowski third in a personal best of 3:34.60.
It was a night to remember for the man whose parents Susan Tooby and Geoff Wightman, who is also his coach, were both successful international marathon runners.
And all told it was marvellous timing by the young British athlete with two former British legends of the mile here, IAAF President Sebastian Coe and the BBC's Steve Cram, both looking on.
After his younger brother’s resounding win in the night’s Dream Mile, it would have been a home stretch for next up brother Filip, the European champion, to make it a family double. In the end, the 24-year-old had to settle for fourth place in a season’s best of 3:36.74.
Schippers and de Grasse take the short sprint spoils
There was some embarrassment for the organisers as world 200m champion Dafne Schippers, who was awarded a special Oslo medal for her performances after coming home first in the 200m in 22.31 and serenaded with Happy Birthday on the day she turned 25, then learned she had been disqualified for an earlier false start.
But the Dutch athlete, who had run under protest, belatedly regained her victory on appeal after claiming she had been put off by someone close by standing up and banging their seat back. “It was noisy at the start, so much noise, very hard to concentrate,” she said.
The Ivory Coast athlete who had chased her home, Murielle Ahoure, was second in 22.74, with Jamaica’s Simone Facey third in 22.77.
Andre de Grasse – just – held off the challenge of his sometime training partner Chijindu Ujah to retain his 100m title in Oslo, clocking 10.01.
Canada’s 22-year-old Olympic 100m bronze medallist had hoped to set his 10th sub-10-second time here, but despite a slight following wind of 0.2m/s, the cooling and blowy conditions did not help him in that ambition.
What did help him to generate speed, however, was the driving challenge, immediately to his right, of Ujah. The Briton pushed to the line to finish in 10.02 – the same time in which he won the last IAAF Diamond League 100m in Rome.
Both men look as if they are developing the consistency that will see them contesting podium places at this summer’s IAAF World Championships in London.
Third place went to the Ivory Coast’s Ben Youssef Meite in 10.03.
As the women’s 800m field entered the final straight, it looked, for a moment, as if Francine Niyonsaba was going to achieve a rare victory over the athlete who beat her to Olympic gold in Rio last summer, South Africa’s Caster Semenya.
The Burundi athlete, her white singlet blustering, showed the strain on her face as she pushed for home. Behind her, and then alongside her, and then in front of her, the face of the Olympic and 2009 world champion was impassive as she maintained her now customary dominance of the two-lap event, winning in 1:57.79.
Niyonsaba was second in a season’s best of 1:58.18, with early leader Margaret Wambui third in 1:59.17, thus replicating exactly the Rio medal placings.
Sweden’s Lovisa Lindh was fourth in a personal best of 1:59.23, just ahead of Canada’s world silver medallist Melissa Bishop, who clocked 1:59.89.
Silva ups season’s best to 4.81m
On an evening when some women’s pole vaulters found a fitful wind troubling – the national and Diamond League flags on the rim of the stadium couldn’t ever seem to make up their minds – Cuba’s world champion Yarisley Silva managed best, winning with a first-time effort of 4.81m before going on for three attempts at what would have been a world lead of 4.92m.
Silva – whose hair is now, temporarily, gold – reached her winning height with only two failures on an evening when other high achievers, notably New Zealand’s Olympic bronze medallist Eliza McCartney, struggled to find any kind of form. Both McCartney and Switzerland’s Nicole Buchler failed to record a mark.
The Cuban thus took maximum advantage of the absence of the Olympic gold and silver medallists, respectively Ekaterini Stefanidi and Sandi Morris, in the IAAF Diamond League’s road to the final.
Anzhelika Sidorova, competing here as a neutral, provided the strongest challenge to the Cuban, finishing second with 4.75m ahead of Germany’s Lisa Ryzih, who managed 4.65m.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF