Selemon Barega and Telahun Bekele in the 5000m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome (© Jean-Pierre Durand)
A familiar name but an unfamiliar face came out on top in the men’s 5000m at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea as Telahun Haile Bekele won in a world-leading 12:52.98 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome on Thursday (6).
No relation to world record-holder Kenenisa, twice a 5000m winner in Rome, this Bekele wasn’t one of the best-known athletes in the field. He had finished fifth in Shanghai last month, but six days before that had won the 5000m at the Ethiopian Championships.
Paced through 1000m in 2:33 and 2000m in 5:08.8, it was clear from the outset that the finishing time would be well inside 13 minutes. Once the pacemakers had dropped out, Diamond League champion Selemon Barega did much of the work at the front.
Five or six men were still in contention as they reached the bell in 11:58.3. Bekele and Hagos Gebrhiwet led with Barega close behind. Barega looked to have timed his final effort well and hit the front with 200m to go, but Bekele wasn’t done and kicked back in the final stages, catching his fellow Ethiopian just before the line.
Bekele crossed the line in 12:52.98 with Barega close behind in 12:53.04. Six men in total finished inside 13 minutes.
The women’s 1500m wasn’t quite as close but was no less exciting.
After being paced through the first 800m in 2:09.24, Genzebe Dibaba overtook the second pacemaker before they reached 1000m (2:40.6). She continued to lead from fellow Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay with European champion Laura Muir close behind in third.
They moved up a gear with one lap to go and Muir caught Tsegay with 200m remaining. Dibaba and Muir, now both moving at top speed, kicked again in a desperate bid for the line. While Muir appeared to make up a bit of ground, there was no catching Dibaba who won in 3:56.28 – her fastest time since breaking the world record in 2015. Muir was just a stride behind in 3:56.73, the second-fastest time of her career.
“I was certain that I was in good enough shape to clock a world lead in Rome and I am happy I managed to do so,” said Dibaba. “But honestly I am ready to run faster even now.”
World leads for Brazier and Kigen
A well-timed run down the home straight in the men’s 800m gave Donavan Brazier his first ever IAAF Diamond League victory. After the pacemaker led the field through the first lap in 49.96, Nijel Amos and Wycliffe Kinyamal took up the running.
Kinyamal edged ahead as they entered the home straight, but clipped Amos in doing so, throwing the pair off balance. Brazier was sat close behind but stayed out of trouble. Kinyamal faded badly in the closing stages while Amos tried desperately to hold on to the lead, but the US runner just caught him on the line to win in a world-leading 1:43.63.
Amos was second in 1:43.65 and Canada’s Brandon McBride came through for third place in 1:43.90.
Benjamin Kigen lived up to expectations in the 3000m steeplechase, a non-scoring event in Rome.
The field started to get strung out at about the half-way mark. By the start of the final lap, Kigen was part of a three-man lead pack.
As was the case in Rabat and Eugene last year, Kigen’s finishing speed proved unbeatable and he closed well to win in a world-leading 8:06.13. Ethiopian duo Getnet Wale and Chala Beyo were second and third in 8:06.83 and 8:09.95 respectively.
Big win for Craddock, Bondarenko back on top
Omar Craddock headed to Rome as the world leader in the triple jump, but he had never previously won at an IAAF Diamond League event and was up against a tough field.
He underlined his current form in the second round, though, and bounded out to 17.50m, overtaking Pedro Pablo Pichardo by just three centimetres. USA’s Donald Scott also pulled a big jump out of the bag in the second round, leaping a PB of 17.43m.
The top three positions didn’t change after the first two rounds, but Craddock produced three more jumps beyond 17 metres.
Hopes of an Italian victory in the men’s high jump didn’t quite materialise but Gianmarco Tamberi nonetheless entertained the crowd on the first bend for most of the evening.
While Tamberi had to settle for fourth place on countback, Bogdan Bondarenko made a superb return to form after missing the 2018 season through injury.
Bondarenko, the 2013 world champion, cleared 2.15m and 2.22m on his first attempt. Majd Eddin Ghazal then took the lead by clearing 2.28m on his first attempt. Maksim Nedasekau also got over it on his first try, while Bondarenko needed two tries. Tamberi and Ilya Ivanyuk finally got over it on their final attempt.
But as the bar moved to 2.31m, Bondarenko got over it on his first try and was the only athlete to clear it. It was his first win at an IAAF Diamond League meeting since the 2016 Golden Gala.
“I still feel discomfort in my foot, so I know that I have a limited number of jumps,” said the Ukrainian. “It makes me more focused and gives me additional motivation.”
On a day when many poles weren’t moving the way they should, several of the athletes in the women’s pole vault field struggled with the higher heights and ended up coming down on the bar early.
The overall depth was good – as would be expected for a field containing six women with lifetime bests in excess of 4.90m. 10 of the 13 women in the field cleared 4.56m, and six of them got over 4.66m.
But the next height, 4.76m, proved decisive.
World and Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi, world indoor champion Sandi Morris – competing on new poles – and European indoor champion Anzhelika Sidorova all failed to clear it. Sweden’s Angelica Bengtsson, somewhat surprisingly, was the only athlete to successfully negotiate the height, setting an outdoor Swedish record in the process.
“It was a difficult fight tonight and we were all faced with technical challenges,” said Bengtsson. “But I’m very satisfied with everything I managed to do in the field today.”
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF