Ethiopian distance runner Almaz Ayana (© Errol Anderson)
Almaz Ayana opened her 2015 campaign last month by running the fastest 5000m on Asian soil. Another continent, a different event, but the feat she achieved at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Rabat on Sunday (14) was essentially the same.
Competing in her first race since clocking a world-leading PB of 14:14.32 in the 5000m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai, Ayana dominated the 3000m at the Mohammed VI d'Athletisme in the Moroccan capital.
Paced through the first kilometre in 2:48.44, the world bronze medallist broke away from the rest of the field in the early stages. She maintained the pace that had been set and went through 2000m in 5:35.10, at which point it became clear that she was on course to break her PB of 8:24.58.
She continued churning out the 67-second laps right to the end, eventually crossing the line in a world-leading 8:22.22. Not only did she break the African all-comers’ record, her time was also an outdoor Ethiopian record.
Two-time world champion Vivian Cheruiyot finished more than 17 seconds behind, taking the runner-up spot in 8:39.75. Fellow Kenyan Irene Jelagat was a close third in 8:39.99.
Fajdek extends challenge lead
World champion Pawel Fajdek notched up his seventh consecutive victory in the hammer this year, once again beating arch rival and Olympic champion Krisztian Pars.
The Pole led from the outset, opening his series with 77.99m and then improving to 79.24m in round two. Pars put together a consistent series, but his fourth-round effort of 77.81m was no match for Fajdek, who saved his best for the last round, throwing a meeting record of 79.90m.
Asian Games champion Dilshod Nazarov finished within a metre of Pars in third with a best of 76.95m.
With the event forming part of the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge, Fajdek extended his lead in the overall standings to 160.65 points. Nazarov, who finished ahead of Pars in Ostrava, maintains his second-place standing.
Dominant one-lap wins from James and Felix
The winning times in both the men’s and women’s 400m were slower than expected, but that said more about the conditions than it did the form of Kirani James and Allyson Felix.
James already led coming into the home straight, but his leading margin more than doubled over the final 100m. The Olympic champion crossed the line in 45.15, almost a second ahead of Olympic bronze medallist Lalonde Gordon.
The women’s 400m played out in much the same way with Felix finishing way ahead of the field in a meeting record of 51.05. Zambian record-holder Kabange Mupopo was more than a second adrift, clocking 52.38 in second.
Meeting records galore
Felix, Ayana and Fajdek were just three of the seven athletes who broke meeting records in Rabat.
Much had been expected of Kenyan javelin thrower Julius Yego after his recent world-leading throw of 91.39m in Birmingham. But he was left chasing the man who preceded him as African record-holder, Ihab Abdelrahman, for the whole competition.
Abdelrahman opened with 81.44m and then extended his lead in the third round with a meeting record of 85.44m. Yego improved with each effort, throwing 80.12m in the first round before improving to 82.78m, 83.60m and then 83.99m, but it wasn’t enough to catch the Egyptian.
Russia’s Angelina Zhuk-Krasnova overcame an early scare in the pole vault, clearing her opening height of 4.36m on her third attempt. She briefly took the lead with her second-time clearance at 4.46m, but Germany’s Katharina Bauer then regained the lead by going over 4.51m at the first time of asking.
Zhuk-Krasnova responded by going over 4.56m, setting an African all-comers’ record in the process, while Bauer failed to clear it. Zhuk-Krasnova ended her series with three failed attempts at 4.66m.
European indoor champion Pascal Martinot-Lagarde eased away from the rest of the field in the second half of the 110m hurdles, clocking a meeting record of 13.37 (0.7m/s). World junior champion Wilhem Belocian was second in 13.55.
The other meeting record came in the women’s discus. Germany’s Anna Ruh held the lead from the first round with 61.28m, but Lithuania’s Zinaida Sendriute snatched the victory in the fifth round with 61.37m.
He finished an uncharacteristic fifth three days ago at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Oslo, but world high jump champion Bogdan Bondarenko was back on top in Rabat.
Adopting his usual approach of jumping sparingly, he cleared 2.24m with ease, and then passed to 2.31m, which he also got over on his first try. The three remaining competitors – Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov, Olympic bronze medallist Derek Drouin and Jaroslav Baba – all exited the competition at that height with three failures.
Bondarenko then cleared 2.36m before ending his night with three unsuccessful tries at 2.40m, which would have added one centimetre to the meeting record he set last year.
While the high jump was clear-cut, the long jump was anything but.
South Africa’s 2008 world indoor champion Godfrey Mokoena opened with 7.97m and improved to a wind-assisted 8.08m to take an early lead ahead of compatriot Zarck Visser. Australia’s Fabrice Lapierre then jumped 8.04m in round three to move into second place, while Bermuda’s Tyrone Smith leapt 7.96m following fouls in the first two rounds.
Visser then briefly took the lead with 8.10m in round five, but Mokoena got back on top by closing out that round with 8.16m. Smith also moved up the standings into third, thanks to an 8.08m leap.
Smith then took the lead and sailed out to 8.20m in the final round, just two centimetres shy of his own national record, and his South African rivals were unable to respond.
Vicaut and Lamote impress
On the track, there were victories for French duo Jimmy Vicaut and Renelle Lamote.
Vicaut shot into an early lead in the 200m and then held off a late charge from Qatar’s Femi Ogunode to win in a season’s best of 20.42.
European 1500m champion Sifan Hassan stepped down in distance to the 800m, but ran a pedestrian first 200m before sprinting the next half of the lap to hit the bell in about 58 seconds behind the pacemaker.
Hassan’s uneven pace proved to be her undoing and she was passed by Lamote in the final 30 metres with the Frenchwoman going on to win in 1:59.99. European bronze medallist Joanna Jozwik also moved past Hassan in the closing stages to take second place in 2:00.33 with Hassan clocking 2:00.62.
It was a good night for Polish athletes, too. With Fajdek having already won the hammer, Sofia Ennaoui and Adam Kszczot won the women’s 1500m and men’s 800m respectively.
Ennaoui launched a ferocious attack down the home stretch to make up significant ground, winning in 4:05.64. Kszczot made his move earlier and was already in front with 100m to go, maintaining his lead to the finish to win in 1:46.00.
Elsewhere, Qatar’s Mohamed Al-Garni won the 1500m in 3:36.15, holding off a determined challenge from Abdalaati Iguider. By contrast, African champion Jairus Birech had no one for company in the steeplechase. The Kenyan won by more than four seconds in 8:11.42.
USA’s Jessica Young won the 100m in 11.24 (-0.1m/s), while South Africa’s Wenda Nel took the 400m hurdles in 55.36.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF