Shaunae Miller-Uibo wins the 400m at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels (© Giancarlo Colombo)
Shaunae Miller-Uibo of The Bahamas added the 400m Diamond Trophy to the 200m version she had won a week earlier in Zurich at the first of two IAAF Diamond League finals, clocking a world-leading 49.46 at the AG Insurance Van Damme Memorial in Brussels on Friday (1).
The Olympic 400m champion had appeared on the brink of adding a world title at her specialist distance in London last month before faltering and dropping out of the medals 20 metres from the line.
But she has finished her season on a high with Diamond Trophies in Zurich and now here that have earned her a total of US$100,000 under the revised rewards for this year’s series, which carried a prize total of US$1.6million.
Miller-Uibo needed to concentrate all the way to the line, however, under the challenge of the 19-year-old Bahrain athlete Salwa Eid Naser, who beat both Allyson Felix and world 400m champion Phyllis Francis at last month’s IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham and took second place here in 49.88, putting her third on the world U20 all-time list.
Jamaica’s Olympic 100m and 200m champion Elaine Thompson, who failed to earn a medal at last month’s IAAF World Championships in London, finished her season with a victorious flourish as she earned a second consecutive Diamond Trophy in the women’s 100m.
Thompson had admitted on the eve of this final that she’d had “a funny season” so far, having gone top of the 2017 list with 10.71 in her native Kingston before the London disappointment.
But her form since then has been encouraging – victory at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham in 10.93 followed by second place in last week’s 200m at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich in 22.00 – and her optimism going into this race proved well founded as she won in 10.92, holding off the challenge of the Ivorian athlete who earned silver at 100m and 200m in London, Marie-Josee Ta Lou, who was second in 10.93 ahead of Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor, who clocked 11.07.
After earning her prize, and its attendant benefit of a US$50,000 winner’s cheque, Thompson’s reaction was wonderfully direct: “I’ve just got one thing to say – I’m happy, happy, happy!”
The men’s 3000m steeplechase provided huge drama in the final lap as Kenya’s world and Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto, with a huge burst of energy that would have been most welcome in the nearby blacked-out areas of the city, edged past Soufiane El Bakkali to win his third Diamond Trophy in a time of 8:04.73, with the Moroccan clocking a personal best of 8:04.83.
Kipruto and El Bakkali had been led through the bell by Olympic silver medallist and world bronze medallist Evan Jager. The tall and powerful US runner, blond hair tied back, had pushed the pace all the way through, but in the back straight of the final lap his two rivals got away from him and his weariness became evident as he fell at the final water jump and lost his placing.
But Jager found energy from somewhere over the final 30 metres to accelerate past his compatriot Stanley Kebeni to reclaim third place, finishing in 8:11.71 to Kebeni’s 8:11.93.
Another compelling middle distance spectacle saw Kenya’s world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri prevail after a huge battle with her compatriot Caroline Kipkirui. Obiri won in 14:25.88, with Kipkirui clocking a personal best of 14:27.55 ahead of third-placed Senbere Teferi of Ethiopia, who recorded 14:32.03.
Serbian long jumper Ivana Spanovic, who missed out on a medal at the World Championships, finished her season on a high here as another final effort, this time 6.70m, earned her the spoils.
Unlike the world final, this was a competition in which no one got anywhere near seven-metre territory, with the marks being concentrated, offering the possibility of dramatic shifts in the order.
Britain’s Lorraine Ugen moved up from fourth to first with her fifth-round effort of 6.65m, only to be eclipsed by the Serbian’s final effort.
Only four centimetres covered the second to fifth places, as Ugen finished just a centimetre ahead of Shakeela Saunders of the United States, with her compatriot and Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta taking fourth place with the 6.63m that had given her a third-round lead, and the fellow US jumper who had beaten her to the world title the previous month, Brittney Reese, managing a best of 6.61m.
“I kept on fighting until my last attempt and I came out on top,” said Spanovic.
Nijel Amos was another athlete whose medal ambitions were frustrated in London who managed to find a golden lining in Brussels as he won the men’s 800m in 1:44.53.
Poland’s double world silver medallist Adam Kszczot appeared poised to take second place, but eased off just before the line, looking inside him, as his compatriot Marcin Lewandowski moved past on the outside to take second place in 1:44.77.
Kszczot, realising his mistake too late, was third in 1:44.84.
Lithuania’s world discus champion Andrius Gudzius earned another victory with a best effort of 68.16m from Jamaica’s Fedrick Dacres, second with 66.31m, and Poland’s 2015 world champion Piotr Malachowski, who managed 65.73m.
World and Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor had been targeting the meeting record of 17.60m set by Jonathan Edwards in 1995, but that proved beyond him on the night. With a best of 17.49m, he nevertheless secured his sixth Diamond Trophy, leaving him just one adrift of France’s world pole vault record-holder Renaud Lavillenie in the overall lists.
His US colleague Will Claye, double Olympic silver medallist behind him in 2012 and 2016, was second here in 17.35m, just three centimetres ahead of Cuba’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo.
Greece’s world and Olympic pole vault champion Ekaterini Stefanidi prevailed again to earn her second Diamond Trophy with a first-time clearance at 4.85m, as Sandi Morris of the United States finished second with 4.75m, the same height cleared by Canada’s third-placed Alysha Newman, who equalled her national record in so doing.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF