Several races at the first of this year’s IAAF Diamond League finals had thrilling finishes but the one that had the packed Letzigrund Stadium gasping was the women’s 1500m, when the USA’s Jenny Simpson held off a desperate charge from Shannon Rowbury to win in 3:59.92, just 0.01 ahead of her compatriot on Thursday (28).
Simpson and Rowbury both ended up prostrate on the track at the famous Weltklasse meeting in Zurich, after the latter had tried to squeeze through the merest of gaps on the inside in the final 10 metres, with the pair desperate to take get the full eight points in the Diamond Race, the final counting double, but in the end it was the 2011 world champion who got the verdict.
With 50 metres to go, it actually looked like the Netherlands’ European champion Sifan Hassan had the legs to take her to victory and a win would also mean Hassan took the Diamond Race, but after getting on the outside shoulder of Simpson, she dramatically weakened and finished fourth.
With Hassan and Sweden’s 2013 world champion Abeba Aregawi, who finished eighth, out of the points, it was Simpson who stood on the champions’ dais at the end on the night.
The full Diamond Race standings for each event can be seen here.
An even closer finish came in the women’s 100m.
Veronica Campbell-Brown battled with Murielle Ahoure all the way down the track and both women were given the same time of 11.04 but the Jamaican got the verdict, the times to three decimal places being given as 11.032 and 11.034.
The two thousandths were worth $20,000 each to Campbell Brown as she also took the Diamond Race and the $40,000 first prize. If the positions had been reversed, it would have been the Ivorian who would have pocketed the cash.
Panama’s Alonso Edward sizzled around the bend to win the 200m in 19.95 despite a slight headwind and also come out on top in the Diamond Race.
Jamaica’s Nickel Ashmeade, in lane six and directly inside Edward, pushed his rival for much of the race but eventually had to settle for second in 20.01.
Merritt wins by a big margin
The newly-laid track had proved it was quick during the European Championships earlier this month and this was proved not just by the 200m men but also LaShawn Merritt, who had already secured the Diamond Race before the Zurich final but, without any serious rival down the home straight, clocked an outstanding 44.36, a full 0.6 ahead of his fellow American, second-placed Gil Roberts.
Dawn Harper Nelson produced an almost flawless race to fly over the 10 barriers and win the 100m hurdles in 12.58 and also become a Diamond Race winner. She celebrated in effervescent fashion, and delighted the crowd on the first bend, by turning cartwheels on the track beyond the finish line.
However, there was drama in the lane outside the 2008 Olympic champion as Queen Harrison, her only rival for the Diamond Race, clipped the ninth hurdle and went sprawling on the track.
Unfortunately, later scans showed that Harrison had fractured her arm.
In second place was Australia’s London 2012 Olympic Games champion Sally Pearson in 12.7. Pearson and Harper Nelson are regular rivals and also set to do battle at next month's IAAF Continental Cup.
South Africa’s Cornel Fredericks came out on top in a thrilling three-way battle down the home straight in the men’s 400m hurdles, going from third to first in the final 50 metres, before winning in 48.23 for a season’s best and just 0.11 outside his personal best set three years ago.
USA’s London 2012 Olympic Games and 2013 World Championships silver medallist Michael Tinsley just did enough to hold off Javier Culson to finish second and take the Diamond Race, the pair clocking 48.31 and 48.53 respectively.
In another battle over the barriers, Habiba Ghribi ran a tactically perfect race, hitting the front just before the bell after Emma Coburn had been the only one to follow the exaggerated early pace set by her fellow American, Aisha Praught, who went through 1,000m in 3:01.32.
The Tunisian came won in a meeting record of 9:15.23 after an impressive last lap, pulling away from Ethiopia’s Hiwot Ayalaw with 350 metres to go, the latter finishing second in 9:19.29 to secure the Diamond Race.
Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet who caught up with Coburn with 600 metres to go and briefly challenged for the lead before Gharibi took off, finished fourth in an Asian record of 9:20.55, just 0.18 outside the world junior record set by Ethiopia’s Birtukan Adamu in 2011.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF