For most of the 800m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne on Thursday (9), it looked as though Olympic champion and world record-holder David Rudisha was going to follow up his victory in New York exactly according to plan.
The tall, powerful Kenyan had taken his familiar place at the front once the pacemaker had dropped away on the second lap and he entered the straight having distanced himself from all his opposition – save for the determined little figure of the man who followed him home to take silver at the London 2012 Olympics, Nijel Amos.
The Botswanan athlete, gritting his teeth with the effort, moved up to Rudisha halfway down the straight, and as he did so an anxious glance back from the champion whose past two years have been blighted by a succession of injuries was the giveaway sign that the race would go to Amos.
His winning time was a season’s best of 1:43.27, with Rudisha clocking 1:43.76 and third place going to his fellow Kenyan Ferguson Rotich Cheruiyot, who recorded 1:44.44.
The pace proved too hot for Ethiopia’s world indoor and outdoor champion Mohammed Aman, who was eighth in 1:46.03.
Since their first clash at the 2012 Olympics, which Rudisha won, Amos has now won their five other encounters to date.
“The race didn’t go as I planned but I am happy with it” said Rudisha. “Now I have to get back to the drawing board and work on my last 100m.”
In recent years, Mo Farah has greeted a succession of victories with expressions of relief and joy at the line. Tonight in the Stade De La Pontaise stadium he greeted his 5000m victory with something approaching rage, punching his fist fiercely into the air after rousing the crowd with urgent upward motions of his arms once it was clear he had finally seen off the challenge of Ethiopia’s prodigiously talented 17-year-old, Yomif Kejelcha.
Farah was returning to competition for the first time since pulling out of last month’s IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham and flying back to his Oregon training base, citing mental and physical exhaustion.
But he showed no signs of tiredness in Lausanne. Farah waited patiently before moving into the lead at the bell, but the taller figure of Kejelcha loomed behind him.
And halfway down the back straight the young Ethiopian – whose winning time of 12:58.39 at the Rome IAAF Diamond League meeting leads this year’s world lists – made his own move, passing the world and Olympic 5000m and 10,000m champion and opening up a two-metre lead which he held as they entered the final straight.
It looked over. But Farah produced another electric burst to regain the lead before producing a final flourish which appeared to have dissipated an awful lot of angst and frustration. Helped by a 54.4-second final lap, Farah won in 13:11.77 as Kejelcha was second in 13:12.59.
“It was my first time in Lausanne and I really enjoyed starting my season properly here,” said Farah. “I wanted to race everybody and today offered this opportunity. I had a great finish. Overall I’m happy with the way the race went today.”
After speaking briefly with the stadium MC, Farah signed off to the crowd with “Merci” and a trademark mobot gesture. He looked quite like his old self.
Much was at stake for Allyson Felix in the women’s 200m. The Olympic champion, running in her favourite event, was being closely watched by her coach Bobby Kersee, who will now make the final decision about whether his charge will double up over 200m and 400m at next month’s IAAF World Championships.
Presumably Kersee will have been well satisfied with her victory in 22.09 as she showed the strength in blustery conditions to hold off the determined challenge of the Netherlands’ European champion Dafne Schippers in the lane to her right.
Schippers finished second in a season’s best of 22.29, with third place going to Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast in 22.36.
A powerful surge around the final bend saw Shaunae Miller of The Bahamas through to a commanding victory in the women’s 400m in a personal best of 49.92, which puts her just behind Francena McCorory of the United States at the top of this year’s world lists.
USA’s Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross was more than a second adrift in 51.12, with Jamaica’s Novlene Williams-Mills taking third place in 51.15.
Justin Gatlin, who leads the season’s 100m list with 9.74, matched the second-best time he has run so far this season, 9.75, as he moved inexorably away from a field including his US compatriot Tyson Gay and Jamaica’s Asafa Powell after 30 metres of a 100m race that was not an IAAF Diamond League event here.
It was, however, the first time these three strong contenders for World Championship medals had met this season, and it underlined how hard it is likely to be for Usain Bolt – who had to miss this meeting and last weekend’s IAAF Diamond League in Paris – to defend his world 100m and 200m titles in Beijing next month.
Powell was second, Gay third – each clocking 9.92.
Emma Coburn of the United States led for most of the second half of the 3000m steeplechase, but as the bell went she found two African opponents moving past her, with Kenya’s Virginia Nyambura leading the way ahead of Ethiopia’s Hiwot Ayalew.
The Kenyan maintained her form to the line, which she crossed in a meeting record of 9:16.99, with Ayalew finishing in 9:17.22 and Coburn settling for third in 9:20.67.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF