Ethiopians take women’s middle-distance double in Diamond league
Last year the women’s 1500m was one of the most bland events on the circuit, but already this year it is far more exciting in comparison. First came the breakthrough of Genzebe Dibaba indoors, winning the world indoor title. She continued that good form outdoors, winning in Shanghai two weeks ago with a national record of 3:57.77.
But Genzebe’s status as the top 1500m runner not only in the world but just in Ethiopia has only lasted a matter of months as she was outshone in Rome by team-mate Abeba Aregawi. The 21-year-old finished second to Genzebe in Shanghai, but she had clearly learned from that race and tonight she breezed past her compatriot on the final lap, quickly opening up a huge lead.
Full of running, Abeba ended up winning by more than three seconds, stopping the clock in 3:56.54 – the fastest time in the world since 2009. It also broke Genzebe’s national record and bettered the meeting record by 0.01.
World indoor 3000m champion Hellen Obiri passed Genzebe in the closing stages to finish second with a PB of 3:59.68, with Genzebe clocking 4:00.85. USA’s Morgan Uceny was fourth (4:01.59) while Britain’s Steph Twell was down in 12th in 4:09.50.
The excitement in the distance events continued in the women’s 5000m with a classic duel between arch-rivals Meseret Defar and Vivian Cheruiyot. Little happened in the early stages as Gelete Burka took up the running once the pacemakers dropped out.
The inevitable happened and it all came down to a last-lap sprint. Double world champion Cheruiyot had the advantage going into the home straight, but 2004 Olympic champion and former world record-holder Meseret appeared to be gaining on the Kenyan. Just when it looked as though Meseret would edge ahead, Cheruiyot managed to do just enough to hold off the Ethiopian.
The finish was so close that Meseret initially thought she had won, but victory went to Cheruiyot with a world-leading 14:35.62, just 0.03 ahead of Meseret. Britain’s Jo Pavey, who was chasing the Olympic A standard having missed out on making the team for the marathon, succeeded in her quest, clocking 15:09.53 in 10th.
In recent years the women’s 800m has witnessed two extremely prodigious talents in the form of Pamela Jelimo and Caster Semenya. Kenya’s Jelimo, the 2008 Olympic champion, and South Africa’s Semenya, the 2009 world champion, were both in action in Rome, but instead the victory went to another African teenager – Ethiopia’s Fantu Magiso.
The pacemaker had been instructed to go through halfway in 56 seconds, but no one – not even Jelimo – went with her. Instead she sat with the rest of the field and began her kick 300m from home. But Fantu – a semi-finalist in both the 400m and 800m at last year’s World Championships while still a junior – went with her, eventually passing her on the final bend.
She continued to drive for the line and stopped the clock in 1:57.56, improving her own national record she set in Doha earlier this month. Jelimo was almost a second behind in 1:58.33, with world champion Mariya Savinova, making her outdoor debut, finishing in third with 1:58.56. Semenya was outside two minutes in eighth place, while Britain’s Emma Jackson was 10th in 2:00.38.
In the men’s event, world youth champion Leonard Kosencha notched up his second 800m Diamond League victory of the season. The 17-year-old Kenyan won in 1:44.42, holding off the challenge from European champion Marcin Lewandowski (1:44.64), with Britain’s Andrew Osagie finishing strongly to take third in 1:44.71, marginally outside the PB he set earlier this month. (Athletics Weekly)
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