Femke Bol wins the 400m hurdles in London (© Getty Images)
Femke Bol produced the most dominant display at the London Athletics Meet on Sunday (23) – the final Wanda Diamond League fixture before the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 – winning the 400m hurdles in 51.45, the third-fastest time in history.
The Dutch athlete smashed her own Diamond League record and continental record, showing the kind of form that could land the European champion with her first global title next month.
It set the tone for the rest of the afternoon on a day when several athletes broke meeting records, including Noah Lyles in the 200m and Marie-Josee Ta Lou in the 100m.
Bol led from the first barrier and continued to open up distance on the rest of the field with every stride. At the half-way point she had a lead of half a second over US champion Shamier Little; that margin grew to a full second by the time Bol entered the home straight.
If she felt fatigue on the home straight, she did a good job of hiding it as she charged down the final 100 metres to cross the line in 51.45 – a time which, just 13 months ago, would have been a world record. Only world and Olympic champion Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone has ever gone quicker, first with her 51.41 world record at the 2022 US Championships and then with her 50.68 world record at the World Championships one month later.
Commonwealth champion Janieve Russell ran one of her fastest times of the year, 53.75, but still finished more than two seconds adrift of Bol. Little was third in 53.97.
“This is amazing, I cannot believe it yet,” said Bol. “I felt really good at some points in the race, but I tried not to think about the goal. I've been wanting to run a 51 ever since Tokyo; I had a feeling I could do it but I still can't believe I've done it.
“I hope we can put up a great race at the World Championships,” added Bol, the world silver medallist. “There's always room to improve but for now I'm going to enjoy this.”
Lyles extended his winning streak in the 200m, but he only just managed to hold on for victory in what proved to be one of the most exciting races of the afternoon.
The two-time world 200m champion was level with Botsana’s Letsile Tebogo and Britain’s Zharnel Hughes entering the home straight. Hughes’ challenge started to fade with about 50 metres remaining while Lyles pulled ahead. Tebogo, meanwhile, started to close on Lyles towards the end, but the US sprinter held on for victory in a world-leading 19.47, taking 0.29 off Usain Bolt’s meeting record from 2008.
Tebogo, the world U20 record-holder at 100m, finished second in an African record of 19.50, while Hughes placed third in a British record of 19.73.
Another sprints meeting record fell just moments later as Marie-Josee Ta Lou powered to victory in the women’s 100m in 10.75, breaking Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s meeting record from 2013 and equalling the UK all-comers’ record set by the Jamaican when winning the 2012 Olympic title.
Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith got off the best and had a slight advantage at half way. Ta Lou came through towards the end to take the win, while Asher-Smith held on for second place in a season’s best of 10.85. World 200m champion Shericka Jackson – who had won over her specialist distance in Monaco just two days prior – was third in 10.94.
Tsegay, Chepkoech and Crouser break UK all-comers’ records
In one of the most highly anticipated races of the afternoon, world champion Gudaf Tsegay produced a well-timed finish to beat Olympic champion Sifan Hassan and Diamond League champion Beatrice Chebet in the highest-quality women’s 5000m ever.
Pacemaker Margaret Akidor led the field through 3000m in a swift 8:35.18, but which point a lead pack of seven women – Tsegay, Hassan, Chebet, Medina Eisa, Alicia Monson, Birke Haylom and Melknat Wudu – had formed.
Haylom and Wudu soon drifted back to form a chase duo, while Hassan took up the leading duties, maintaining the pace that had been set. With one lap to go, the five women were still close together as they all started to kick for home. Hassan continued to lead into the home straight, but then Tsegay and Chebet went past her.
Tsegay went on to win in a UK all-comers’ record of 14:12.29, just seven seconds shy of the world record and moving to fourth on the world all-time list. Chebet was second in a PB of 14:12.92 and Hassan third in a European record of 14:13.42.
A few strides behind, Eisa was fourth in a world U20 record of 14:16.54 and Monson followed a few seconds later in a North American record of 14:19.45.
“At a championships, it’s all about positions, but today was all about times,” said Tsegay. “My coach wanted to look at my 5000m speed. We’ll decide about which event to do (5000m or 10,000m) at the World Champs nearer the time.”
Ryan Crouser smashed the UK all-comers’ record in the shot put with 23.07m, returning to 23-metre territory for the first time since his world record of 23.56m in May.
He led throughout, opening with 22.07m and then improving to 22.63m in round two, his first of three meeting records. Tom Walsh, who won the world title in this stadium in 2017, then applied some pressure with a 22.58m heave – his best throw since the 2019 world Championships.
After throws of 22.60m and 22.65m, Crouser sent his shot out to 23.07m in round five before rounding out his series with 22.66m. Walsh didn’t improve on his earlier mark, but ended his series with a 22.31m effort. Two-time world champion Joe Kovacs was third with 21.87m.
The UK all-comers’ record was also broken in the women’s 3000m steeplechase with Jackline Chepkoech running away from world record-holder Beatrice Chepkoech in the second half to win in 8:57.35.
The field went through 1000m in 2:55, then Beatrice Chepkoech led at 2000m, which was reached in 6:01.07. But the younger Chepkoech (no relation) soon set off and opened up a gap on her more experienced compatriot.
Beatrice Chepkoech finished second in 9:04.34 and Britain’s Aimee Pratt was third in 9:16.10, season’s bests for both.
The seventh and final meeting record of the day came in the women’s 800m, the last event on the programme.
World and Olympic silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson was a late withdrawal, but fellow Briton Jemma Reekie secured a popular victory for the home crowd, winning in a season’s best of 1:57.30 – her second-fastest time ever – to smash to meeting record by almost a second.
Jamaica’s Natoya Goule-Toppin was second in 1:57.61 and 2019 world champion Halimah Nakaayi was third in a Ugandan record of 1:57.62. In fourth, Catriona Bisset broke her own Oceanian record with 1:57.78.
Holloway, Van Niekerk and Nuguse win in close finishes
Two-time world champion Grant Holloway maintained his consistency in the 110m hurdles, winning in 13.01 (1.3m/s), but the world indoor record-holder was challenged by Japan’s Shunsuke Izumiya, who finished second in 13.06, just 0.02 shy of his national record.
Wayde van Niekerk, returning to this track for the first time since the 2017 World Championships when he won his second world title, was once again victorious over one lap of the track. But the South African had to work hard for his 44.36 triumph as US duo Bryce Deamon (44.40) and Vernon Norwood (44.46) put up a strong challenge down the home straight.
The men’s high jump was also nail-bitingly close between Mutaz Barshim and JuVaughn Harrison.
Barshim had a clean card up to and including 2.30m, a height that Harrison needed two attempts to clear. Barshim continued to lead at 2.33m, with both men going clear. But Harrison was the only one to successfully get over 2.35m, giving him a welcome confidence boost ahead of the World Championships.
US champion Yared Nuguse won a highly competitive 1500m in a stadium record of 3:30.44. Australia’s Stewart McSweyn built up a comfortable lead at half way, but was caught by Norway’s Narve Gilje Nordas on the final lap. Nordas continued to lead into the home straight, but Nuguse caught him in the closing stages and crossed the line first in 3:30.44.
Nordas was second in 3:30.58, just holding off Britain’s Neil Gourley (3:30.62) and Elliot Giles (3:30.92). For the first time ever, 12 men finished inside 3:32 in the same race.
European champion Wilma Murto produced a season’s best of 4.80m to win the women’s pole vault, beating world and Olympic champion Katie Moon on countback. Tina Sutej and Nina Kennedy were third and fourth respectively, both clearing 4.71m.
The women’s long jump looked set to be a close and competitive contest on paper, but it ended with a decisive victory for USA’s Quanesha Burks.
She sailed out to a PB of 6.98m in the opening round, which remained the best mark of the day by quite some distance. She backed it up with 6.78m in round four, which would have also been enough to win from Australia’s Brooke Buschkuehl, who was second with 6.72m. US champion Tara Davis-Woodhall was third, also with 6.72m.
Olympic champion Daniel Stahl notched up another discus victory over arch rival Kristjan Ceh, the world champion. Ceh took the lead in round two with 65.93m, improving to 66.02m in round three. But in round four, Stahl took the lead with 67.03m, then Australia’s Matthew Denny moved ahead of Ceh with a season’s best of 66.77m.
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics