Abderrahman Samba leads Rai Benjamin in the 400m hurdles at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai (© Errol Anderson)
Once again, Abderrahman Samba stole the spotlight with another superb performance to highlight the IAAF Diamond League Shanghai on Saturday (18).
Already in the spotlight as the key protagonist in the meeting’s most eagerly anticipated face-off, Samba lived up to expectations with a decisive victory over Rai Benjamin in the pair’s first head-to-head battle.
Running to the Qatari’s outside in lane five, Benjamin, the third-fastest 400m hurdler of all time, took the early lead, leading Samba, history’s second fastest ever, by about half a stride until the pair reached the fifth hurdle. Samba briefly pulled ahead, but Benjamin kept up the pressure through the turn as they approached hurdle nine. There, Benjamin lost his rhythm, giving Samba an opening he took full advantage of. Three strides later, Samba was in the lead for good, padding his advantage as he cleared hurdle 10 before crossing the line in 47.27, the second fastest time of his career in just his second race of the season. And he did it on less than a handful of restless hours of sleep after losing a battle with jetlag.
“To be honest with you, I couldn't sleep last night,” Samba said. “I fell asleep this morning at about 7 and got up at 10:30. But I’m so happy. It’s my second fastest time so I think the season will be great again like last year.” It was his 12th straight victory.
Only eight other men have ever run faster, Benjamin, who clocked 47.02 last year, among them. Despite his late-race dip in fortunes, the 21-year-old was pleased.
“I was good until (hurdles) 9 and 10 - I wish I could have those hurdles back. But it's fine, it's the season opener so I can't really complain too much,” said Benjamin, whose 47.80 run was also the second fastest of his career. “I didn't go out too strong, he just had it at the end and I didn't. I just have to go home and work on some things and come back.”
McLeod takes fourth Shanghai sprint hurdles victory
Olympic champion Omar McLeod collected a record fourth 110m hurdles victory in what is considered the meeting's signature event.
Out strong, the 25-year-old Jamaican cruised to a 13.12 performance, holding off China's Xie Wenjun, the Asian champion, who lowered his lifetime best to 13.17, moving to second on the Asian all-time list.
It was an emotional victory for McLeod, who learned of his aunt’s death last night. The victory, he said, was a humble tribute.
“It was really tough to just get out of bed and show up, but I wanted to show up, and whatever the outcome, to be sure I was there and do the best that I could.”
Another meeting record fell in the women's 3000m steeplechase, courtesy of Beatrice Chepkoech. The world record-holder was already in front after the second kilometre and was never threatened en route to her 9:04.53 performance, another early season world lead. Celliphine Chespol was a distant second, clocking 9:11.10.
Following up on a sensational indoor season, Yomif Kejelcha opened with a convincing victory in the 5000m, holding off Selemon Barega 13:04.16 to 13:04.71, for another world lead.
Hagos Gebrhiwet rounded out the Ethiopian podium sweep just another step behind in 13:04.83, with Birhanu Balew of Bahrain next in 13:05.04.
While those two races followed conventional wisdom, there was an upset in the women's 1500m with Rababe Arafi taking the victory in 4:01.15 for her first IAAF Diamond League triumph. Making her move from a crowded pack in the homestretch, the Moroccan pulled ahead with about 40 metres to go to hold off Ethiopian Gudaf Tsegay by 0.10. Uganda's Winnie Nanyondo was third in 4:01.39, a national record.
Sifan Hassan, perhaps slowed by recent treks to much longer distances, couldn't respond in the waning stages and faded to fifth, clocking 4:01.91.
Hofmann and Lyu take javelin wins, Ealey impresses in shot put
On the infield, the men’s javelin was decided early, with Andreas Hofmann sealing the win with an 87.55m first-round effort, an early season world lead. Cheng Chao-Tsun of Chinese Taipei, the Asian record-holder, was second with 87.12m, a season’s best. Olympic champion Thomas Rohler opened his season a distant fourth, reaching 82.95m.
Likewise on the women’s side, as China’s Asian record-holder Lyu Huihui put that competition out of reach in the second round, hitting 66.89m to add four centimetres to the meeting record she set last year.
Latvian Lina Muze, a former European U23 champion, reached a PB of 64.87m in the fifth round to overtake Christin Hussong for the runner-up spot, the German throwing 64.10m.
In the shot put, world leader Chase Ealey notched the biggest win of her young career, taking not only her first IAAF Diamond League victory, but also defeating world champion Gong Lijiao in the process.
The US indoor champion reached 19.58m in the second round, her one solid throw of the competition, but enough to hold off Gong, who responded with a 19.42m in the second round and 19.44m in the sixth.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF