Paul Chelimo takes the Continental Cup 3000m title (© Getty Images)
Had Team Americas not already played, and won, on their joker for the men’s events on the second day, then Paul Chelimo and Mohammed Ahmed would have done them proud in the men’s 3000m, where they took first and second place respectively in a race where the elimination element loomed huge.
But for Team Africa, who played their men’s joker on this race, it was a disaster.
After an initial slow-bicycle style race had warmed up a little as the field approached the fateful four-laps-to-go marker where the first last man would be politely shown the red card, there was a veritable bundle as the line approached.
And the first man out was the fastest in the field on paper, Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew, representing Asia-Pacific, whose 7:34.26 timing at the Rabat Diamond League put him second in this year’s world lists.
As the field approached the second cut, it spread into a line of desperate men, with Getaneh Molla of Ethiopia, a sub-13 minutes man this season, being the next eliminated runner.
Another surge and scramble with two laps to go ended with Britain’s Marc Scott taking an early bath, but in the melee Team Africa’s second runner, Kenya’s 16-year-old Edward Zakayo, appeared to sustain some damage.
The youngster has already amassed a formidable record on the track, having won 5000m bronze at this year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and then gold at the Africa Championships in Asaba and the IAAF World U20 title in Tampere.
However, he was a jogging figure by the back straight and meekly accepted his fate as he saw red with a lap to go, the main field already half a lap ahead of him.
Chelimo is the man for the big occasion – Rio 2016 5000m silver medallist, world 5000m bronze medallist last year, he had everything in hand and sprinted clear to take maximum points and the $30,000 first prize for the event in 7:57.13.
Ahmed followed him home in 7:57.99, with Henrik Ingebrigtsen matching the third place his kid brother Jakob had earned in the earlier men’s 1500m as he finished in 7:58.85.
An unexpected fourth place went to Australia’s Stewart McSweyn in 8:02.01.
“It was a good race,” said Chelimo. “The most important thing was that Team Americas got the overall points win. Preparing for Ostrava I had to be ready to accelerate at every lap, because of the elimination rule. So I needed to be in good shape here – it was tough when there were only four competitors in the last lap!”
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF