David Rudisha wins the 800m at the 2013 Doha Diamond League (© Errol Anderson)
David Rudisha produced an 800m victory of characteristic grace and majesty here, contributing one of 11 world-leading performances as the 2013 IAAF Diamond League got off to a hugely successful launch on a warm and balmy night in Doha.
Of course, it is early in the season. But the qualities of these performances spoke for themselves. When Olympic champions are setting personal bests – as Brittney Reese did with 7.25m in the women’s Long Jump – you know you are watching the real thing.
Apart from Rudisha and Reese, the Doha world-leaders club numbered Sandra Perkovic in the Discus, Ryan Whiting in the Shot Put, Konstantinos Filippidis in the Pole Vault, Abeba Aregawi in the 1500m, Dawn Harper-Nelson in the 100m Hurdles, Lidya Chepkurui in the 3000m Steeplechase, Amantle Montsho in the 400m, Asbel Kiprop in the 1500m and Hagos Gebrhiwet in the 3000m.
The Olympic 800m champion, in his first appearance of a season in which he hopes to retain his World title, floated over the line behind a smile of gritted teeth in 1:43.87. After the eager pacemaker – rather than a field 10m further back – had passed the 400m mark in 49.04 before dropping away, Rudisha, the tallest man in the field, emerged as leader, and as he approached the final bend there was a jostling mass of young and eager opponents at his shoulder, closest of whom was the 19-year-old Ethiopian Mohammed Aman, who has been the only runner to find a way of beating the Kenyan in the last couple of years.
For all the frenetic efforts, however, the rest of the field could make no impression on the tall, easy figure gliding away from them. Aman took second place in 1:44.21, with third place going to Job Kinyor in 1:44.24.
“I feel good and I ran OK,” said Rudisha. “It’s always nice running here in Doha and tonight the crowd was just fantastic. I like that the kids cheered me. It’s a world lead, but I can do better for sure.”
Aman commented: “I did not want to stay behind Rudisha. I tried to pass him but I could not.” But of course there’s no shame in that.
Montsho ends Felix’s winning streak
Spectators here at the Hamad Bin Suhaim Stadium saw something new – Allyson Felix losing on this track. After 10 consecutive victories in Doha, the Olympic 200m champion, racing over her less fancied distance of 400m, was beaten at last by the strength of Botswana’s World champion Montsho, who clocked 49.88 with Felix timed at 50.19. Britain’s Olympic silver medallist from London 2012, Christine Ohuruogu, ran a characteristically solid race, finishing strongly to take third place in 50.53.
“The fans helped me to run that fast,” said Montsho. “This season I trust I can run below 49 seconds and I aim to retain my World title in Moscow.”
A terrific race over the metric mile ensured that the women’s 1500m was the fourth event of the night to be won in a World-leading performance as Sweden’s Aregawi was pushed to the formidable limits of her powers to cross the line ahead in 3:56.60, just 0.06 outside her personal best, with Kenya’s diminutive Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon – still a junior – moving past the tiring figure of Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba to finish second in a national record of 3:56.98.
Dibaba had led at the bell and then resisted Aregawi’s attempted pass on the back straight, travelling the full length of the final bend shoulder-to-shoulder with the woman who won the European Indoor title in the new home territory of Gothenburg earlier this year before ceding a couple of metres.
The Ethiopian’s consolation in third place was a personal best of 3:57.54 at the end of a dramatically fluctuating race which had been fully and vocally appreciated by the banks of Ethiopian and Kenyan followers.
Aregawi’s winning time smashed the Swedish record, while Kipyegon’s 3:56.98 not only broke the senior Kenyan record, but also improved the African junior record, making her the fifth-fastest junior in history behind a quartet of Chinese athletes.
As the early competition had got underway the stadium was already filled with noise and colour in the form of the usual lively phalanx of green, red and yellow flag-waving Ethiopian supporters, who were straight into pre-celebration mode as they chanted, clapped and beeped hooters on the crown of the final bend.
On this occasion, however, they were answered by a slightly smaller but no less fervent gathering of flag-waving Kenyan supporters. Considering no Kenyan or Ethiopian athlete had yet entered the fray, it was an impressive early exhibition of athletics enthusiasm.
Perkovic, Reese and Whiting smash meeting records
Olympic and European Discus champion Perkovic had set the tone for the night at the start of the meeting with a first-round throw that sailed out through the warm evening air to 67.37m – a world-leading distance and a meeting record.
As the figures came up, the powerful figure of the Croatian, clad in a red vest, stood in triumph, arms pumping. Zinaida Sendriute of Lithuania did her best to respond to this frankly discouraging effort with a second-round distance of 63.92m which took her into second place.
Perkovic continued in demoralising fashion with throws of 66.36m, 65.70m and 67.13m before raising the world lead to 68.23m on her last attempt. It was an exhibition of total domination – all five valid efforts being unmatched by any of her competitors.
“I am very happy with my start,” said Perkovic. “I was a little nervous because I changed my coach and I had an injury in January and I was out for a month. But everything is OK and the atmosphere here tonight was great.”
Perkovic’s flourish in the Discus was matched in the Long Jump as the Olympic champion, Reese, after two early fouls, produced a fourth-round leap of 7.25m – the best in the world for nine years, and an improvement of six centimetres on her 2011 personal best. Not only was it a meeting record, but it was the best jump ever recorded in the history of the Diamond League.
Before the American had rumbled into top gear, Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria had consolidated an early lead with a jump of 7.14m that would have topped the world season’s list but for a wind reading of 2.2m/s – just 0.2 over the allowable limit for official purposes. By the time she reached 7.03m in the third round it had risen to 2.4m/s.
Reese’s compatriot Janay Deloach Soukup was also thriving in the warm and blowy conditions, taking third place with a fifth-round jump of 7.08m (2.2m/s).
Whiting, whose distance of 21.74m at the weekend’s meeting in Kingston established a world lead for the year, offered early evidence that his form was in consistent shape as he took a first-round lead in the Shot Put with 21.14m, which he extended to 21.62m in the next round.
But it was not until the fifth round that the 26-year-old World indoor champion produced his tour de force, a throw of 22.28m replacing his own mark at the top of the world list for 2013, and setting a meeting record. It smashed his three-year personal best of 21.97m and left him jumping up and down with glee. A final effort of 21.99m confirmed his domination. He pogo-ed away from the circle on this occasion after a gloriously productive night’s work.
There was lively action too elsewhere in the competition as Reese Hoffa, with a 21.01m opener, was replaced in second place by German Lujan Lauro of Argentina, whose 21.26m was a South American record. “I hope I can throw these metres again in Moscow but it will not be easy against athletes like David Storl, Majewski or Hoffa,” said Whiting, who now sits at 12th on the world all-time list. “I know they will be there when it will count most.”
Poland’s Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski, meanwhile, seeking a first win in Doha at the fifth time of asking, was struggling to find effective form with a best of 19.96m in his first competition of the year after undergoing elbow surgery during the winter.
Favourites falter in Pole Vault and Steeplechase
Filippidis ensured the men’s Pole Vault contributed a world-leading statistic as he won with a Greek record of 5.82m on count-back from last year’s winner here Malte Mohr, who headed three other German vaulters including Olympic bronze medallist Raphael Holzdeppe, who was third with 5.70m.
Germany’s Olympic silver medallist and pre-competition favourite, Bjorn Otto, had an off night, only managing one clearance – at 5.50m – before finishing seventh. Perhaps Otto has been studying a little too hard for his airline pilot exam coming up on Wednesday…
Lidya Chepkurui had the Kenyan flags waving again half an hour after Rudisha had produced his opening season flourish as she won the women’s 3000m Steeplechase in a world-leading time of 9:13.75, which was also a meeting record.
Sofia Assefa of Ethiopia was second in 9:14.61, with third place going to her compatriot Hiwot Ayalew in 9:17.60.
Harper-Nelson, who has won successive Olympic gold and silver in the 100m Hurdles, joined the Doha world-leaders club with a time of 12.60 to hold off fellow American Kellie Wells, who clocked 12.73, with third place going to Queen Harrison, who completed a US clean sweep in 12.74.
Gebrhiwet of Ethiopia produced the final world-leading effort as he won the 3000m in 7:30.36 ahead of Kenya’s Thomas Longosiwa, who clocked 7:32.01 with Ethiopia’s Yenew Alamirew third in 7:32.64. Gebrhiwet now moves to third on the world junior all-time list behind Augustine Choge and Tariku Bekele.
Jamaica’s double Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who has talked uncertainly this week about how she is coming to terms with running the 200m, offered clear evidence that the new challenge is being capably met as she finished a metre clear of her compatriot Sherone Simpson in a time of 22.48 (2.2m/s).
Simpson, Olympic 100m silver medallist in 2008, clocked 22.73, with third place going to France’s Myriam Soumare in 22.81.
Vesely defeats two Olympic champions
Vitezslav Vesely of the Czech Republic won the Javelin with a third-round effort of 85.09m in a competition where the assembled talent struggled to express itself fully. Tero Pitkamaki, Finland’s former World champion, was second with 82.18m, one place ahead of the 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen, who managed 81.51. Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott was sixth with 79.79m.
Olympic and World champion Christian Taylor got his Diamond League campaign off to a winning start in the Triple Jump as he finished with a best of 17.25m off a shortened approach. His nearest challenger, Benjamin Compaore of France, achieved 17.06m while Alexey Fedorov of Russia was third with 16.85m.
Local hero Mutaz Barshim, joint Olympic High Jump bronze medallist, managed a season’s best of 2.30m to take second place behind the Ukraine’s former World junior champion Bohdan Bondarenko, who equalled the meeting record of 2.33m, thus adding three centimetres to his personal best. Aleksander Shustov of Russia was third in 2.27m, with Barshim’s fellow bronze medallist from London 2012, Robbie Grabarz of Britain, only managing 2.24m for fourth place.
The men’s 400m Hurdles went to Olympic silver medallist Michael Tinsley, who finished strongly to cross in 48.92 as early leader Bershawn Jackson, the 2005 World champion, dropped out of contention as he caught the last hurdle, finishing behind his US compatriot in 49.12. Cornel Fredericks of South Africa, who had taken up the early running with Jackson, maintained his form to finish third in 49.35.
Justin Gatlin won the men’s 100m in 9.97, two hundredths ahead of fellow American Michael Rodgers, with Nesta Carter of Jamaica third, also in 9.99.
In the men’s 1500m – not a Diamond Race event on this occasion –Kenya’s former Olympic champion Kiprop wound up to produce an unassailable surge over the final lap, but it registered yet another world-leading performance on the night of 3:31.13. Bethwell Birgen chased his fellow Kenyan home in 3:31.90, with Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti third in 3:32.59.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF