Ruth Jebet on her way to winning the 3000m steeplechase at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich (© Jiro Mochizuki)
Ruth Jebet threatened her own world record in the 3000m steeplechase at the Weltklasse Zurich on Thursday (24), the first of two 2017 IAAF Diamond League finals.
Jebet, who shattered the world record last year with an 8:52.78 run just 12 days after winning the Olympic title by some 40 metres, has had an off season by comparison this year, and came to Zurich with a point to prove after a disappointing fifth place finish at the World Championships in London 13 days ago.
In London she faded from first to fifth over the final lap but here, energised by another capacity crowd at Letzigrund Stadium, she looked the polar opposite.
From the midway point onward she was at or near the front, trading places with Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech. With the clock reading 7:46, Jebet broke away for good at the bell, on a desperate chase of her standard set in the French capital last year. It appeared to be in reach as she approached the final straight but fell out of reach as she slowed to a sluggish stutter as she approached the final barrier. She nonetheless crossed the line in 8:55.29, the second fastest performance in history.
“It was a great race,” Jebet said. “I wanted to run this time in London but I wasn’t feeling good. It was three seconds from my personal best but the record is mine. Next year there is a new chance.”
Chepkoech, who was fourth at the World Championships despite a race of mishaps, was second in 8:59.84 to become the fourth woman to dip under nine minutes.
Her compatriot Norah Jeruto knocked more than 10 seconds from her previous best to finish third in 9:05.31. In another race, this one for fourth, world champion Emma Coburn of the US closed well to prevail in 9:14.81, just ahead of Kenyan Hyvin Kiyeng who clocked 9:14.93.
The first IAAF Diamond League final under this year’s new championship-style format featured several high profile head-to-heads which pitted freshly-minted world champions against Olympic gold medallists, battling for a part of the US$ 1.6 million prize purse, with $50,000 going to each winner, along with the Diamond Trophy.
Miller-Uibo dominates 200m
Shaunae Miller-Uibo powered to a 21.88 200m victory in one of the most anticipated face-offs of the evening to claim the first Diamond Trophy of her young career in what is, for now anyway, her second event.
Running in lane seven, the towering Bahamian powered off the turn to finish unchallenged en route to the second fastest performance of the year.
Elaine Thompson and Dafne Schippers, the former the Olympic champion over the distance and the latter the two-time world champion, were no match for Miller-Uibo, whose performances chipped 0.03 from the national record she set in Eugene in May, the last time the three squared off over the half lap.
“I tried really hard and went for a fast race,” said Miller-Uibo, whose late race loss of concentration cost her a medal in the 400m at the World Championships earlier this month. “There was definitely some energy left in my legs.”
Thompson was second in 22.00 with Marie Josee Ta Lou third in 22.09. Never quite in the hunt, Schippers was a distant fourth in 22.36.
Barshim and Kendricks remain unbeaten in 2017
Things went according to plan in the high jump with Mutaz Essa Barshim winning for the ninth time this year in as many competitions. Early evening conditions --unseasonably cool temperatures and a wet surface-- didn't bode well for the jumpers but as the night progressed the sun reappeared to salvage, at least in part, the competition.
The Qatari was perfect through 2.31m when he effectively won the competition, needed a second try before topping 2.33m and a third before clearing 2.36m en route to collecting a third Diamond Trophy.
Majd Eddin Ghazal of Syria was second at 2.31m, beating Bohdan Bondarenko of Ukraine on countback. No other jumpers went higher than 2.24m.
Like Barshim, Sam Kendricks also extended his 2017 unbeaten streak, in his case to to 11 after his victory at 5.87m to claim his first Diamond Trophy. There were nervous moments midway through the competition for the 24-year-old US jumper, who needed a third try before topping 5.80m. That gave Poles Piotr Lisek and Pawel Wojciechowski, who each topped 5.80m on their second attempts, the lead. But Kendricks topped 5.87m on his first attempt while Lisek and Wojciechowski could go no higher.
The story early on however was the unceremonious ending to Renaud Lavillenie's Diamond League reign. The Frenchman's quest for an eighth Diamond Trophy ended with three misses at his opening height of 5.63m.
Throws triumphs for Spotakova and Gong
In the women's javelin, things were going Sara Kolak's way until the final round, one which the Olympic champion began as the leader but would end no better than third.
The Croat controlled the competition from her third round 64.24m throw, only to be surpassed by both Australian Kelsey-Lee Roberts who threw a lifetime best of 64.53m, and two-time world champion Barbora Spotakova who stole the victory with her final round 65.54m effort and with it her Diamond Trophy after wins in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015.
As expected, Gong Lijiao dominated the women's shot put, winning by more than a metre with a fifth round 19.60m effort. Each of her six throws, even her opening 18.81m toss, would have sufficed for the victory, her tenth in as many starts this season.
Hungary's Anita Marton was second at 18.54m and Yuliya Leantsiuk of Belarus third at 18.47m.
Cheruiyot leads Kenyan romp at 1500m
Timothy Cheruiyot led a top-six finish for Kenya in the 1500m, holding off Silas Kiplagat and world champion Elijah Motonei Mangangoi down the homestretch to win in 3:33.93.
Kiplagat clocked 3:34.26 and Manangoi 3:34.65. Asbel Kiprop, a three-time Diamond Trophy winner, was fourth clocking 3:34.77.
The first Diamond Trophy of the night was claimed by Olga Rypakova who notched a minor upset in the triple jump. The 2012 Olympic champion, who was third in London earlier this month, arrived in Zurich without an international victory to her name in 2017, but that meant little in the series’ new set-up. Competing on the stadium’s chilly and damp back straight, the Kazakh took immediate control with her 14.48m opening round leap. She improved to 14.55m in round four, enough padding it turned out, to nab her second series trophy.
“I did not expect to win against Rojas and Ibarguen today,” said Rypakova, who was the series winner in 2012. “Today I felt good despite the rain.”
World champion Yulimar Rojas was second with a 14.52 leap in round five, with Caterine Ibarguen, who took home the event’s last four Diamond Trophies, third with 14.48m. The last time Ibarguen finished lower than second was on 31 May 2012.
The pre-programme includes a pair of strong women’s races that weren’t part of the Diamond Trophy hunt. Christania Williams produced a convincing 11.07 win in the 100m, a solid run given the early evening conditions. Jura Levy was a distant second in 11.18.
Czech Zuzana Hejnova ran down Sara Slott Petersen over the final barrier to take the 400m hurdles in 54.13, a season’s best. The Dane clocked 54.35, equaling her 2017 best.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF