Faith Kipyegon wins the 1500m at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels (© Giancarlo Colombo)
On a night when a major power cut in northern Brussels affected operations at the second IAAF Diamond League final of the season at the King Baudoin Stadium, world champion Faith Kipyegon and Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands lit up the AG Memorial Van Damme with an all-out surge around the final lap of the 1500m which eventually saw the Kenyan edge ahead to claim her first Diamond Trophy.
Kipyegon clocked a season’s best of 3:57.04, with Hassan – who leads this year’s world list with 3:56.14 – taking second place in 3:57.22, well clear of the nearest challenger, Kipyegon’s compatriot Winny Chebet, who clocked 4:00.18.
Organisers were unable to switch on the main floodlights, but managed to keep the whole show going thanks to the use of separate generators, enabling the gathered athletes to see out their season’s finale in front of a large and appreciative crowd.
“I’m so happy to end my season this way,” said Kipyegon. “Last year I was so disappointed but now I have won the Diamond League, proving I am in good shape.”
Sergey Shubenkov, whose defence of his world 110m hurdles title in London last month ended with a silver medal behind the new champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica, added another honour to his season competing as a neutral athlete. He finished powerfully to take his first Diamond Trophy in a time of 13.14, with Spain’s Olympic silver medallist Orlando Ortega second in 13.17 and third place going to the world record-holder Aries Merritt, who clocked 13.20.
The amiable Shubenkov proved a willing advocate for the new IAAF Diamond League format that has meant that the qualifying points accrued in the first 12 meetings of the season have been left behind for the finals, where all athletes who have reached that point start off with an equal chance of winning.
“At last I managed to win in 2017,” said Shubenkov. “I was bored of being second like in Birmingham, Stockholm and the World Championships. Now I’ve got my first overall Diamond League title – maybe thanks to the system of one all-or-nothing race in the final. But it worked for me, so I’m very happy!”
Noah Lyles had tweeted a question before his 200m final here asking whether his last race might be his fastest of the season. Given that he had won the Eugene IAAF Diamond League meeting in 19.90, that was some ask, and it proved beyond him.
But a time of 20.00 was enough to earn the 20-year-old from Gainesville in Florida, who didn’t qualify for the World Championships, a narrow victory ahead of US champion Ameer Webb, who clocked 20.01, and Turkey’s world champion Ramil Guliyev, who clocked 20.02.
“I just wanted to come out here and see what I could do,” said Lyles, who turned professional this year after a hugely successful college career. “I didn’t manage to qualify for the World Championships but this is a great way to end my season. It doesn’t feel like revenge or something, but more like an opportunity I took with both hands. Next year I will try to do even better.”
Throwing on a circle still slippery after the recent rain proved challenging for the women’s discus throwers who had got the evening’s IAAF Diamond League action underway.
But Dani Stevens, who gave defending world champion Sandra Perkovic a run for her money in London last month, eventually taking silver with an Oceanian record of 69.64m, again offered a serious challenge as she led after the first round with a throw of 65.85m.
It took a couple more rounds before Perkovic established business as usual with an effort of 68.82m that proved sufficient to earn a sixth consecutive Diamond Trophy, a record tally for a woman.
Stevens finished second, with Cuba’s 2015 world champion Denia Caballero moving up to third with 64.61m.
Olympic 400m hurdles champion Dalilah Muhammad made her intentions very clear with a blinding start, and the US athlete held her lead as the field came into the straight. But down the home stretch she came under heavy pressure from the Czech Republic’s Zuzana Hejnova, world champion in 2013 and 2015, who had run a more conservative early half of the race.
Hejnova, one lane outside Muhammad, finished powerfully but ran out of track as Muhammad hung on to win in 53.89, with the Czech athlete recording 53.93.
As expected, the woman who has dominated the high jump all year, double world champion Maria Lasitskene, earned victory here in her characteristic fashion, crushing all opposition with a virtually faultless sequence of jumps from 1.84m up to 1.97m, which she cleared at the second attempt, before going on to clear 2.02m at her third attempt .
Yuliya Levchenko, the Ukrainian who took silver in London behind Lasitskene – who is competing under a neutral banner this year – was again her closest challenger, taking second place with a clearance of 1.94m.
Behind her, three athletes finished on 1.88m, including the home star Nafi Thiam, world and Olympic heptathlon champion, who ended up fourth on countback behind Michaela Hruba of the Czech Republic and ahead of Poland’s joint 2014 world indoor champion Kamila Licwinko.
“I’m not fully satisfied with the 2.02m,” said Lasitskene, giving an indication of the standards within which she is now operating. “But it was extremely cold for a high jump competition.”
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF