A night in Ostrava with Wayde, Usain and Mo, by Cathal Dennehy


The 2017 Ostrava Golden Spike meeting was one of the finest meets in this event's history. It also shows that, there are meets outside of the Diamond League, that surpass Diamond League expectations. Here's Cathal Dennehy's story.

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Once again, on a night that was supposed to belong to Usain Bolt - who was making the last of his annual pilgrimages to the Golden Spike in Ostrava - it was Wayde van Niekerk who rocked up and stole the show.

Just like in Rio, when Bolt's 100m triumph somehow played second fiddle on a night when van Niekerk set a 400m world record of 43.03, it was the South African who shone brightest again, joining ranks with the all-time greats at the very time the sport needed reminding that there is life after Bolt.

The moment the gun fired for the men's 300m, the South African rocketed into orbit, powering into an immediate advantage and making his rivals - world-class quarter-milers themselves - look astonishingly mediocre.

In the press conference the day before, van Niekerk had spoken about going out and doing something "ridiculous", and that's exactly what it was. He shredded the field over the first 200m, then propelled himself further clear down the home straight, reaching the line in 30.81 to break Michael Johnson's world best of 30.85.

It made him the first man in history to run under 10 seconds for 100m, 20 seconds for 200m, 31 seconds for 300m and 44 seconds for 400m.

Of course, Bolt is far too big a star ever to go quietly about his business, especially not in Ostrava, where both the love from the crowd and the organisers' cheque book have always been forthcoming for the Jamaican great.

Tonight his opposition was less than stellar, to put it mildly, but this was only ever going to be a victory salute to Bolt, not an actual contest. After his usual antics on the start line, rousing the crowd with his 'to di world' pose, he came out of the blocks in his customary fashion - well behind his rivals.

But that's only ever a temporary setting for Bolt, and sure enough he soon opened up his gargantuan stride and gobbled up his rivals, drawing alongside Cuba's Yunier Perez at halfway and then slipping into cruise control.

At the line, which he reached in 10.06, he had long since taken the foot off the gas. Perez was dragged to a lifetime best in second of 10.09, with Turkey's import Jak Ali Harvey taking third in 10.26.

It may have been the final race of the evening, but no one was leaving, not when Bolt was around to sign autographs and pose for photos. Minutes after his race the entire crowd rose to their feet, held yellow cards in the air, and tried their best to sing along to the Jamaican national anthem, with Bolt standing on the home straight leading the chorus.

It was a long, loving goodbye to a man who made the meet what it was on so many occasions in the past decade.

In truth, there was little value in dwelling on Bolt's actual performance. It told us little about his shape, and never looked anything close to a proper effort.

The men's 10,000m, however, told a bigger story, at least in terms of how August's IAAF World Championships will go.

After being on sub-27-minute pace for much of the race, Mo Farah eased back on the throttle when he had to do the leading, aware, perhaps, that he could potentially be teeing the race up for his one remaining rival, Mathew Kimeli.

The Kenyan 19-year-old was running his third 10,000m in the space of 10 days, and long before they reached the business end it was clear it was unlike no other he had run before. He sat in Farah's slipstream for several laps, then with the bravado of youth shot past the four-time Olympic champion with 500m to run.

It was, of course, short-lived, with Farah settling in behind then changing gears impressively with 250 metres to run, the battle put to bed in an instant. The Briton came home in 27:12.09, two seconds clear of Kimeli who clocked a lifetime best of 27:14.42.

It may not have been the sub-27-minute race Farah wanted, but what it told us was this: Farah is in shape, aerobically fit enough that a fast race will not ruffle his feathers come the 10,000m in London in five weeks' time. Also, his speed looks as sharp as ever, his acceleration appearing as slick as that which carried him to his basket full of gold medals at home. As a result, barring injury or illness, he appears an unsolvable riddle when it comes to retaining his world titles in London.

As time goes on, Thomas Rohler is appearing equally unstoppable in the javelin, and tonight the German Olympic champion proved himself once again, taking victory with two throws over 91 metres. The longest of those, 91.53m, came in the second round and it was a mark none of his seven rivals could come close to, with compatriot Johannes Vetter second with 87.88m.

Christian Taylor continued his winning addiction in the men's triple jump with a meeting record of 17.57m, while France's Garfield Darien joined some rarefied air in the 110m hurdles, taking victory in a PB of 13.09.

The two major disappointments of the night, at least for fans wanting to see the stars at their peak, came in the men's 3000m steeplechase and men's 1000m. Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto was forced to withdraw hours before the steeplechase, a foot injury picked up at the Kenyan trials last weekend failing to come around in time. That left his compatriot Benjamin Kigen to win in convincing fashion in 8:11.54.

Then came the 1000m, where all eyes were on 800m world record holder David Rudisha. He had withdrawn from the Kenyan trials last weekend citing poor form, but things had clearly not changed in the days since.

After leading into the home straight, Rudisha folded swiftly when challenged, with Kenya's Nicholas Kipkoech spoiling not just Rudisha's part, but also that of the hosts as he held off Czech hero Jakub Holusa, 2:18.51 to 2:18.60.

All in all, another outstanding evening's athletics at a meeting that punches several categories above its weight, one which if it again expresses an interest in joining the Diamond League, should really be welcomed with open arms.

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