Ethiopia's Meseret Defar on her way to victory (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Sollentuna, Sweden

Defar and Gebremeskel break 10,000m world leads in Sollentuna

The claim of “the greatest ever night of 10,000m running” is of course open to discussion, but it is an undisputable fact that never before have the combined winning times of the men’s and the women’s 10,000m races in a one-day competition been below 57 minutes.

On Thursday night (27) at the Folksam Grand Prix in Sollentuna, Ethiopian duo Meseret Defar and Dejen Gebremeskel won the two 10,000m finals with their combined time being 56:59.08. The previous best one-day combination was recorded at the Prefontaine Classic last year by Tirunesh Dibaba (30:24.39) and Wilson Kiprop (27:01.98) for a total of 57:26.37.

Both winning performances in Sollentuna were extremely impressive not just in plain numbers – Gebremeskel 26:51.02 and Defar 30:08.06 – but also because both winners took the lead long before halfway and could still muster blistering finishes. Their performances indicated that they will be in the hunt for the World titles in Moscow in less than two months.

Gebremeskel, who was making his debut at the distance, looked almost like the perfect pace maker for the others churning out 64-65 second laps for the last two thirds of race, trailed by Abera Kuma, Imane Merga and Yigrem Demelash. But then Gebremeskel was still the quickest at the end leaving them behind with his 2:34 (final 1000m), 2:01 (final 800m), 57.2 (final 400m), 27.6 (final 200m) finish.

In second, Kuma lowered his PB by 20 seconds to 26:52.85. Merga dipped under 27 minutes with his 26:57.33, while junior Demelash finished in 27:15.51. Such was the quality up front that Half-marathon specialist Atsedu Tsegay looked like an also-ran, despite clocking 27:28.11 in fifth (and last) place.

In the women’s race Meseret Defar took the lead after just 2km and only relinquished it for about a lap-and-a-half around 3000m. During the sixth kilometre she left the last ‘surviving’ opponent Afera Godfay and from then on it was just Defar vs the clock.

In her super smooth running style she then gradually sped up and concluded with an all-out sprint. Her last 1000m was 2:49.1, her final lap was 63.1 and the closing 200m was 30.3. Having recorded negative splits of 15:15 and 14:53, Defar’s margin grew to more than a minute, despite the fact that second-place finisher Godfay lowered her PB by more than three minutes to 31:08.23!

Defar’s 30:08.06 ranks as the 10th fastest performance in history and is just nine seconds outside her own PB. In the process she lowered not just Tirunesh Dibaba’s five-hour-old world-leading time from Ostrava by 18 seconds, but also Dibaba’s eight-year-old Sollentuna track record by seven seconds.

National records for Souleiman and Lehata

In the men’s 800m Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman showed that he is not just a strong and tenacious runner but also carries considerable speed. Sprinting away from training parther Musaeb Bala in the final stages, Suleiman recorded a national record of 1:43.63, lowering specialist Abubaber Kaki’s stadium record by 0.06 and missing the world-leading time by a mere 0.36.

Lesotho’s Mosito Lehata lowered his national 200m record by 0.12 when winning in 20.37 (1.8m/s), pulling home runner Nil de Oliveira to a 20.53 PB, just 0.01 off the Moscow ‘A’ standard.

In the 1500m four runners fought hard for the win all the way to finish line with young Moroccan Youness Essalhi coming out on top with his 3:35.52 PB.

Spanish high jumper Ruth Beitia had the kind of day where you have to fight for every centimetre. 1.85m on her second attempt and 1.89m on her third attempt still left her behind Ukraine’s Oksana Okuneva but finally Beitia persevered after making 1.92m on her second attempt.

Reigning World junior champion Sofi Flinck, still only 17, proved once again that she is never to be dismissed before having made her last attempt. In Barcelona last year she moved from third to first with a huge PB of 61.40m and in Sollentuna she replicated that by again going from third to first, improving by four-and-a-half metres on her sixth throw to a world junior-leading 60.96m – a mark only eight other juniors have ever surpassed.

Lennart Julin for the IAAF