Sifan Hassan on her way to winning the 1500m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris (© Jean-Pierre Durand)
The women’s 1500m provided the seventh IAAF Diamond League meeting of the season with a full-on charge for the line by two of the world’s finest athletes, with Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands holding on steadfastly to a lead that was challenged all the way round the final bend and down the finishing straight by Kenya’s Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon.
On a blustery night in the elegant Stade Charlety – new home to the Meeting de Paris after its years in the vast bowl of the Stade de France – Hassan, who heads this year’s world list with 3:56.14, had the strength to take maximum points on the road to the final. She clocked 3:57.10, the third fastest time seen this year, with Kipyegon second in a season’s best of 3:57.51 ahead of Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia, who claimed third place in a personal best of 3:59.55 ahead of Poland’s Angelika Cichocka, whose 4:01.61 was also a personal best.
“It was very difficult – I think I pushed it too much from the beginning,” said Hassan. “This win is very important to me because this was a very strong field, so the victory is fantastic. It also gives me confidence, which everybody needs before the World Championships in London.”
The judgement to move this meeting to the more intimate surrounds of the 20,000-capacity Charlety Stadium – built in 1938 and elegantly modified before hosting the 1994 IAAF Grand Prix final – proved inspired. The stadium was not packed out but the atmosphere was terrific, and late evening sunlight after a day of downpour seemed a fitting reward for the organisers.
The men’s pole vault, as one might expect, was a huge focus of interest given the presence of national treasure Renaud Lavillenie, only now getting into his full run-up after a winter in which he had to overcome some troublesome injuries.
In what turned out as another fascinating tactical battle, he had to give best again to the US vaulter who beat him at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai, and who won last weekend’s US Championships with his first six-metre jump, Sam Kendricks.
In their pre-event press conference, Kendricks said Lavillenie always asked him, jokingly, what height he would be coming in at, as he knew he would always start at the first and lowest option.
The same pattern obtained here, as Kendricks ticked off first-time clearances at 5.37m, 5.52m, 5.62m and 5.72m. The Frenchman, meanwhile, took the opposite strategy, coming in at 5.62m, which he cleared first time, and then passing to 5.77m.
But after two failures, Lavillenie, in dayglo pink, had to clear his third attempt for his gamble to work out – and the pressure on him increased as the man who had taken bronze behind his silver at the Rio Olympics achieved 5.77m on his third attempt.
Lavillenie, on this occasion, was unable to rise to the challenge, and Kendricks rounded off his night by clearing 5.82m before retiring after what was a potentially telling victory.
“Tonight I feel very frustrated,” said Lavillenie. “I am not here in Paris for this kind of result. But strong wind was a problem all through the competition. With these conditions, it’s very hard to perform.”
Germany’s Olympic javelin champion Thomas Rohler admitted on the eve of the competition that wind was the one thing he found difficult when it came to competition.
That may have lessened the surprise that the man who landed his third and fourth 90-metre-plus throws in Ostrava on Wednesday night could only manage third place here with 87.23m, as fellow German Johannes Vetter won with 88.74m, ahead of the Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch, who equalled his personal best with 88.02m.
It was business as usual in the men’s high jump as Mutaz Essa Barshim, who heads this year’s world list with 2.38m, secured victory with a first-time clearance of 2.35m that proved beyond any rival on the night.
Up until that point Ukraine’s Bogdan Bondarenko had been leading, thanks to Barshim’s one foul before clearing 2.32m. And while the 2013 world champion was unable to go higher, his faultless progress to that point after making a late start to the season at last month’s IAAF Diamond League meeting in Oslo will doubtless produce growing confidence.
“Everything is going according to plan, and my coach is very satisfied,” said Barshim, who despite being second on the world all-time list behind world record-holder Javier Sotomayor is still seeking his first outdoor global title.
Sadly there was no 25th birthday present for Italy’s European champion Gianmarco Tamberi, attempting to get back to competitive mode after the serious ankle injury he suffered on the eve of last year’s Olympic Games. Tamberi, who has jumped 2.18m and 2.20m respectively in his first two competitions this year, started at his season’s best height here but could not clear it.
Jamaica’s Olympic 100m and 200m champion Elaine Thompson, who confirmed here yesterday that she would only be doing the shorter sprint at this year’s World Championships, produced the goods, winning in 10.91.
Thompson was pushed to the line by Ivory Coast’s Marie-Josee Ta Lou, who finished second in a season’s best of 10.96 ahead of Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare, who also clocked a season’s best of 11.09, with Ta Lou’s compatriot Murielle Ahoure fourth in 11.10.
“The result is not bad especially after two false starts,” said Thompson. “But this was a great preparation for the World Championships. Coming straight from the Jamaican Trials, it was important to get back in the blocks. It is different weather in Jamaica! But I am glad for my first time in Paris. In this moment I am exactly where I want to be, feeling good, feeling excited with one month to go to the World Championships.”
There was more sprinting success for the Ivory Coast as Ben Youssef Meite won the 100m, not an IAAF Diamond League event here, in a season’s best of 9.99 after 41-year-old Kim Collins of St Kitts and Nevis, who won the world title in this city 14 years ago, had been disqualified for a false start.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF