Mo Farah on his way to winning the 5000m at the Birmingham Diamond League (© Mark Shearman)
Nobody leapt to the top of the world rankings on a warm and sunny afternoon at the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix in Birmingham this afternoon (30), but Olympic champion Christian Taylor came closest in the men’s Triple Jump, while elsewhere at this IAAF Diamond League meeting it was day of big-name defeats.
Among the major stars who relinquished unbeaten records were Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the women’s 200m and Sally Pearson in the 100m Hurdles, while two other Olympic champions, Aries Merritt and Felix Sanchez, were left adrift in their hurdles races.
Meanwhile, Amantle Montsho was handed her first Diamond League loss of the season by Christine Ohuruogu in the 400m, and Diamond Race leader Vitezslav Vesely withdrew from the men’s Javelin with a stiff shoulder, leaving Andreas Thorkildsen to take his second win of the year.
But the biggest athletics name of all in this part of the world refused to join them on the casualty list. Evoking memories of his Olympic triumphs last August, Mo Farah brought the meeting to a rousing close with an eye-popping last 100m to beat Ethiopia’s Yenew Alamirew and Hagos Gebrhiwet at the end of a topsy-turvy tactical 5000m.
The announcer was warning the sell-out crowd to cover up and slap on the sun cream, yet despite the rare appearance of summer weather, it was not a day of many records. Milcah Chemos set a meeting record in the women’s 3000m Steeplechase, and Bohdan Bondarenko matched Javier Sotomayor’s 20-year-old meeting record in the High Jump.
But that hardly lessened the enjoyment of the crowd, who filled the Alexander Stadium almost to capacity to witness four British victories of which Farah’s was, as ever, the last and loudest.
Farah defeats toughest rivals
Last week, Farah described this race as “the real thing”, a true test of his readiness to defend his World 5000m title. He certainly had to draw on all his reserves when first Gebrhiwet then Alamirew challenged him at the end of a cat-and-mouse race.
With the crowd bellowing like London 2012, Farah ran 52.36 for the last 400m and 27.26 for the final half lap to hold off his tormentors. Alamirew came to his shoulder as they rounded the final bend, but Farah crossed the line in 13:14.24, a stride ahead and with just enough time for the ‘Mobot’ pose.
“It was important that I won the race,” said the relieved Farah. “It was a tough field so I’m really pleased I came through it with a victory.
“It’s important that I keep working hard now and get ready for the World Championships.
“I got a massive roar from the crowd which was good. It reminded me of the atmosphere at the Games, I’ve got great memories from London so that was great today.”
The earliest cheers of the day were for Taylor, the Birmingham-based American who triumphed in a thrilling Triple Jump tussle with Teddy Tamgho, eventually taking victory just 3cm short of the world lead with a season’s best of 17.66m.
Taylor produced an impressive series of six jumps, all beyond or close to 17 metres, while Tamgho managed just one legal attempt, although that was enough to lead at half way.
Tamgho was dicing with death after two fouls from his first two jumps, before he let fly with his third, hitting the sand at 17.47m to overtake Taylor who’d opened with 16.98m and improved to 17.12m.
The Olympic champion, competing off a full run-up for the first time this year, responded with 17.32m to trail by 15cm at half way. Neither improved in the fourth, but Tamgho landed close to 18m with a marginal foul, as he did in the fifth when Taylor snatched back the lead.
Tamgho may have lost this battle but the World indoor record-holder showed that he's close to his best after all the injury problems last year.
“I knew it was going to be a special day,” said Taylor. “I live down the street now so I can almost call it home.
“To come away healthy is the key right now. We lost Teddy last year and I would have liked to have competed against him but the Triple Jump is coming back alive, that’s what I want.”
Tamgho’s fellow Frenchman, Yoann Rapinier, was third with 16.88m.
Big names tumble
Fraser-Pryce’s first defeat of the year after six straight wins came at the hands of Blessing Okabare, the Nigerian out-running the double Olympic 100m champion over 200m while World 100m champion Carmelita Jeter was a distant seventh.
Okabare crossed the line in 22.55 to beat the laboured Fraser-Pryce who clocked 22.72 in second.
Bulgaria’s Ivet Lalova was given third in 23.02 after Anthonique Strachan was disqualified, while Jeter clearly still has work to do after her thigh injury six weeks ago. She ran 23.36.
As for Pearson, she endured her worst defeat for three years when she could only finish fourth in the 100m Hurdles behind US pair Dawn Harper-Nelson and Kellie Wells, with Britain’s Tiffany Porter taking third.
Pearson won her injury comeback race in Ostrava three days ago in 12.67 and was only six hundredths slower here, but Harper-Nelson and Wells surged ahead of her from half way to clock 12.64 and 12.67 respectively.
Porter ran a season’s best of 12.72 to beat the Australian World and Olympic champion by a whisker.
Merritt has also had his injury problems and clearly still lacks some of his 2012 sharpness. The Olympic 110m Hurdles champion was well beaten by Ryan Brathwaite of Barbados, 13.13 to 13.22.
Brathwaite, the 2009 World champion, led from start to finish while Poland’s Artur Noga took third in 13.32.
The men’s 400m Hurdles was pitched as the race of the meeting, with all three Olympic medallists, plus World champion Dai Greene, on the start line. If it really was a preview of the World Championships final, then Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson will be pleased for the long-striding London 2012 bronze medallist won with ease.
Culson led all the way to record 48.60 ahead of Britain’s European champion Rhys Williams who was close to his PB in 48.93. Diamond Race leader and Olympic silver medallist Michael Tinsley was third in 48.94.
As for Olympic champion Sanchez, he was never in the race, and struggled home seventh in 49.68 while Greene was little quicker, fifth in 49.55.
Montsho suffered her first defeat in this year’s Diamond League when she was pipped by the fast-finishing Briton Christine Ohuruogo. Urged on by the crowd, the Olympic silver medallist clawed her way up to Montsho over the last 80m and leaned ahead to win by a hundredth in 50.63.
Meeting records by Chemos and Bondarenko
The first meeting record fell in the women’s 3000m Steeplechase when Chemos held off the Ethiopian pair Sofia Assefa and Hiwot Ayalew to add victory in Birmingham to her previous Diamond League win in Rome.
The Kenyan led at the bell and summoned the strength to stay ahead, crossing the line in 9:17.43 to beat Assefa’s meeting record from last year. Assefa was second in 9:17.97 with Ayalew third.
Bondarenko produced a perfect series up to 2.36m to break the stadium record in the men’s High Jump, out-leaping USA’s Olympic silver medallist Erik Kynard and Britain’s Olympic bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz.
The Ukrainian pushed his PB up by 3cm, while Kynard needed three apiece at 2.31m and 2.34m. That was good enough to beat Grabarz who had been clear first time up to a season’s best of 2.31m but could not clear 2.34m.
Carter, Shakes-Drayton and Judd produce track highlights
A powerful finish from Nesta Carter brought victory in the men’s 100m ahead of the two heat winners, Kim Collins and Britain’s James Dasaolu. The Jamaican had qualified in third place behind Collins in the first heat but saved his best for the final where he dipped under 10 seconds with 9.99.
European indoor silver medallist Dasaolu was runner-up, lowering his PB for the second time in the afternoon, clocking 10.03 to Collins’ 10.06.
As for Yoshihide Kiryu, the 17-year-old Japanese athlete who ran 10.01 in April and was hoping to be the first Asian to break 10 seconds, he trailed home last in his heat, five metres behind 37-year-old Collins in 10.55.
Britain’s Perri Shakes-Drayton recovered from a slow start to beat her compatriot Eilidh Child in the women’s 400m hurdles with a season’s best of 53.82, just five hundredths short of her PB.
Child broke the Scottish record for the second time in eight days, clocking 54.22 in second place, while Yadisleidy Pedroso of Italy took third in 55.40, despite being badly impeded by Angela Morosanu coming off the final bend.
There was another well-received British victory in the women’s 800m, won by 18-year-old Jessica Judd in a lifetime best of 1:59.85.
Judd was an impressive winner at the European Team Championships in Gateshead last weekend and the World Junior silver medallist timed her finish to perfection again, overcoming a big lead by fellow Britain Marilyn Okoro to dip under two minutes for the first time.
Okoro hung on to second in 2:00.76, with Ethiopia’s Fantu Magiso third.
Alamirew may have fallen short against Farah, but there were three impressive Ethiopian wins in the other middle-distance races.
Mohammed Aman led from the front to hold off a group of four in the men’s 800m, crossing the line in 1:45.19 ahead of South Africa’s Andre Olivier, while Abeba Aregawi beat Nancy Langat of Kenya in the women’s 1500m in 4:03.70.
Earlier Ethiopia’s Aman Wote out-sprinted Morocco’s long-time leader Abdelaati Iguider to win the men’s 1500m – the meeting’s third non-Diamond League event – in 3:35.99.
Perkovic and Menkov continue winning streaks
There were no hiccups for Sandra Perkovic, who remains undefeated in the women’s Discus after another comfortable win. The Croatian won with a best of 64.43m to make it four from four in Diamond League meetings this year.
Perkovic took the lead early with 64.17m and didn’t improve until her final effort of 64.32m, some way short of the 68-metre form she’s displayed so far this year. USA’s Gia Lewis-Smallwood was second with 62.46m.
There was more great jumping from Aleksandr Menkov in the men’s Long Jump. The Russian continued his season-long consistency to again beat Britain’s Olympic champion Greg Rutherford.
Menkov’s best was 8.27 in round four but he also reached 8.22m and 8.26m while Rutherford’s third-round 8.11m was good enough for second.
Reese Hoffa beat his US compatriot Ryan Whiting to win the men’s Shot Put with a best of 21.05m. Whiting was well short of his world-leading 22.28m, finishing second with 20.89m.
Cuba’s Yarisley Silva took her first Diamond League win of the year in the women’s Pole Vault, beating the reigning Olympic and World champions, USA’s Jennifer Suhr and Brazil’s Fabiana Murer, with 4.73m.
Matt Brown for the IAAF