Shericka Jackson wins the 200m in Rome (© Getty Images)
Shericka Jackson secured the spotlight in a superb 200m showdown, while Kenya’s Nicholas Kimeli stormed his way up the world 5000m all-time list on an evening of top-class action at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea in Rome on Thursday (9).
The earlier storm had passed and blue skies returned in time for the meeting, leaving it down to the athletes to produce the sparks and prompt thunderous support at the Stadio Olimpico for the fifth meeting in this season’s Wanda Diamond League series.
In a field featuring four reigning global champions, it was Jamaica’s Olympic 100m bronze medallist Jackson who triumphed above them all in the women’s 200m. Blasting out of the blocks, the versatile sprint talent surged off the final bend and couldn’t be caught, setting a meeting record of 21.91 (1.3m/s) – her third-quickest ever time behind her 21.81 PB set in Zurich last year.
Becoming the first athlete to break 22 seconds in the event at this meeting, the 27-year-old – who also has world and Olympic 400m medals to her name – blazed away ahead of her five-time Olympic champion compatriot Elaine Thompson-Herah (22.25), Britain’s world champion Dina Asher-Smith (22.27) and two-time Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo (22.48).
“I just wanted to come out and run a strong race, so I think I did pretty good,” said Jackson, who will soon race for World Championships places at the Jamaican Championships. “The thing is, when it comes to Jamaican trials or major championships, I try not to have a different mindset than when I am at a Diamond League meeting or a development meet. Anything could happen on the day, so I just focus on coming out and performing at my best.
“After the trials, and if everything goes well, my aim is to add a gold medal to my name. I have many individual medals at 400m and 100m, but I need to get that gold medal in any event that might be.”
Similarly in the men’s 5000m, Kenya’s Nicholas Kimeli might have been up against multiple global gold medallists but he too left them all for dust, surging to seventh on the world all-time list with a world-leading 12:46.33 to break the meeting record that had been set by Eliud Kipchoge back in 2004.
Running behind Ethiopia’s two-time world indoor 3000m champion Yomif Kejelcha through 3000m in 7:41.50 and 4000m in 10:15.10, Kimeli – who narrowly missed out on Olympic 5000m bronze in Tokyo – went on to battle with his compatriot Jacob Krop and edged to victory. Krop was right behind him in 12:46.79, a time that puts him joint ninth on the world all-time list with Kejelcha, who this time ran 12:52.10 for third.
Ethiopia’s Olympic 10,000m champion Selemon Barega finished fourth (12:54.87) and Canada’s Olympic silver medallist Mohammed Ahmed fifth (12:55.84) as the top eight all dipped under 13 minutes.
“I am feeling great because I had never won a Diamond League race before and I really pushed to make it happen,” said Kimeli. “The race was very, very competitive.
“Last year, I missed an Olympic medal and came fourth. So this year I really focus on our trials and coming home with a medal from the World Championships. This race has shown me that I am in good shape, and it has given me a lot of confidence.”
Girma gets another sub-eight, Mu makes rapid return
Before 31 May, Ethiopia's Lamecha Girma had never broken eight minutes for the 3000m steeplechase. In the space of 10 days, the Olympic silver medallist has done it three times – first running a national record of 7:58.68 in Ostrava for a performance that puts him 12th on the world all-time list, then clocking 7:59.24 to finish second in Rabat and now, in Rome, storming to a dominant 7:59.23 victory.
Never troubled, Girma won by more than seven seconds ahead of Kenya’s Abraham Kibiwot (8:06.73), with Ethiopia’s Olympic fourth-place finisher Getnet Wale third in 8:06.74.
The women’s 1500m saw Ethiopia’s Hirut Meshesha, fresh from a PB run of 3:57.30 to win in Rabat, triumph again in a tactical race. The world indoor bronze medallist moved away from her compatriot Axumawit Embaye, the world indoor silver medallist who was third in Rabat, to win – 4:03.79 to 4:04.53, with Britain’s Olympic silver medallist Laura Muir third in 4:04.93.
At the pre-event press conference, USA’s Olympic 800m champion Athing Mu had expressed her hope for something “fast and under two minutes” in Rome. Mission accomplished. Racing the day after her birthday, the 20-year-old was in fact almost three seconds under that two-minute barrier as she strode to a world-leading 1:57.01 to show no ill-effects from the Covid diagnosis that had prevented her from racing in Eugene last month.
Mu followed the pacemaker through the first lap in 56.42 and then kicked with 200m to go. Renelle Lamote of France gave chase and finished second in 1:58.48, with multiple Italian champion Elena Bello inspired to a big PB of 1:58.97, as she went sub-2:00 for the first time – one of eight athletes to dip under that barrier in this race.
Puerto Rico’s Olympic 100m hurdles champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn carried her recent fine form to Rome, following her wins in Eugene and Ostrava with another victory at the Stadio Olimpico. Clocking a world-leading 12.37 (0.1m/s), she improved her own meeting record set last year by 0.01 and held off Jamaica’s Britany Anderson, who pushed Camacho-Quinn all the way but hit the last hurdle. She was second in 12.50, ahead of world champion Nia Ali (12.71).
Jasmine Camacho-Quinn and Britany Anderson battle in the women's 100m hurdles at the Wanda Diamond League in Rome (© Getty Images)
After clocking 53.94 at a wet FBK Games in Hengelo, Dutch Olympic 400m hurdles bronze medallist Femke Bol had been hoping to build on that in better conditions in Rome. Although still racing on a damp track, she did exactly that – recording a season’s best of 53.02, 10 days after she set a 36.86 world 300m hurdles best in Ostrava. Bol won by more than a second, with Jamaica’s Commonwealth champion Janieve Russell second in 54.18 and Ukraine’s Anna Ryzhykova third in 54.50.
Four years after his 400m win in Rome, the versatile Fred Kerley claimed the 100m crown, clocking 9.92 (0.2m/s). The Olympic silver medallist got a strong start and was clearly away, leaving the rest of the field behind as he matched the season’s best he ran in Nairobi last month. His US compatriot Kyree King was second in 10.14.
Grenada’s multiple Olympic medallist Kirani James also maintained his winning record in Italy, clocking 44.54 to take the 400m ahead of USA’s Vernon Norwood in 44.81. James, who won world U18 200m and 400m titles in Bressanone in 2009, was narrowly ahead off the final bend and although initially under pressure from Norwood, he was strongest in the closing stages. USA’s Michael Cherry was third in 45.24.
USA’s Olympic silver medallist Kenny Bednarek raced to a dominant win in the men’s non-Diamond League 200m, clocking a season’s best of 20.01 (-0.1m/s) ahead of South Africa’s Luxolo Adams (20.33) and Filippo Tortu (20.40), who anchored the Italian 4x100m team to victory at the Tokyo Olympics.
The men’s 3000m race walk was won by Italy’s Francesco Fortunato in 10:57.77 from Gianluca Picchiottino in 10:59.91. The event was held to celebrate Massimo Stano and his Olympic 20km race walk win in Tokyo and the 30-year-old charged to third place in 11:06.15, to big cheers from the Stadio Olimpico crowd.
Ceh continues to impress
Slovenia’s European U23 discus champion Kristjan Ceh continued his superb season with a meeting record-breaking throw of 70.72m to achieve his third Diamond League victory of the year. After his world-leading national and Diamond League record of 71.27m in Birmingham, the 23-year-old threw 69.68m in Rabat on Sunday and again faced a strong field in Rome featuring all three Tokyo Olympic medallists.
Holding his nerve, he improved the 12-year-old meeting record three times, first with 69.06m, then 69.71m and again with 70.72m in the final round, after encouraging the crowd to clap along in support. Those claps soon turned to fierce cheers as the final distance was confirmed, as he added almost two metres to the meeting record set by Poland’s 2015 world champion Piotr Malachowski in 2010. Ceh also came close to that mark with his third-round 68.76m.
Austria’s Lukas Weisshaidinger ended up being his closest challenger, throwing 68.30m in the fifth round, while Sweden’s Olympic and world champion Daniel Stahl was third with 65.87m from his third throw.
“Every competition it is getting better and better, so it is a good result here today,” said Ceh. “Having competed against the three medallists from the Olympic Games does not make me more nervous than usual, because I am always nervous before every competition. My first throw showed that, but I tried to focus on my technique and avoid added pressure.”
Kristjan Ceh continues his win streak in the discus at the Wanda Diamond League in Rome (© Matthew Quine / Diamond League AG)
USA’s two-time world champion Joe Kovacs took command in the men’s shot put, throwing 21.85m in the third round for a lead he wouldn’t relinquish. There was a close battle for the runner-up spot, with Croatia’s 2016 world indoor bronze medallist Filip Mihaljevic throwing a season’s best of 21.18m in the fourth round, Poland’s Konrad Bukowiecki matching that mark in the fifth and Brazil’s world indoor champion Darlan Romani recording 21.15m.
USA’s Sandi Morris went into the pole vault contest as the world leader and she took that mark even higher in Rome, clearing 4.81m before having three attempts at 4.90m. The two-time world indoor champion entered at 4.40m and had first-time clearances up to 4.60m, before needing two attempts at 4.70m – a height that secured her the win – as well as 4.75m and 4.81m. Four athletes cleared 4.60m, with Britain’s Olympic bronze medallist Holly Bradshaw and Italy’s Roberta Bruni sharing second place on countback.
USA’s two-time double NCAA champion JuVaughn Harrison triumphed in the high jump to leave home favourite Gianmarco Tamberi still searching for his first win at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea. Harrison cleared a season’s best of 2.27m to win on countback ahead of Norbert Kobielski, while joint Olympic champion Tamberi claimed another third-place finish in front of a passionate adoring audience as one of three athletes to clear 2.24m.
Ukraine’s world silver medallist Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk soared to success in the long jump, leaping 6.85m to win by six centimetres ahead of Germany’s Olympic, world and European champion Malaika Mihambo. USA’s Quanesha Burks was just two centimetres off that, finishing third with 6.77m.
Jess Whittington for World Athletics