The Diamond League final event, in Brussels, gave Justin Lagat some time to reflect on seasons that were both amazing and challenging for Kenyan athletes….
Eunice Sum, photo by PhotoRun.net
An exciting last Diamond League meeting in Brussels, by Justin Lagat
Having started on May 9th in Doha, Qatar the IAAF diamond league series finally came to an end in an exciting meeting at the AG Memorial Van Damme meeting in Brussels. The fact that it was the last meeting and that the diamond trophies were at stake in a number of races made it more interesting to watch.
One thing I learned from Eunice Sum in the women 800m event, about the diamond league races, is that it is always good to earn as much points as possible while you are in your best form so that even if you settle for second or third positions in the last races, you are always far ahead of the rest in points. Sum was exceptionally strong at the start of the season and was the first winner in the women 800m event in Doha following that with other straight consecutive wins up to July 3rd in Lausanne when she already had 16 points. Other women in the podium positions with her were not always consistent. Even if for some valid reasons she had had to end her season before running the Lausanne diamond league, she still would have remained the Diamond League winner besides becoming undefeated this year. Brenda Martinez who finished second in points behind her in this event had a total of nine points only.
But then, one may start the season very well, but someone else finishes it even better. This became the case in the men’s competitive 1500m event where Silas Kiplagat was able to take the trophy. It was Asbel Kiprop who had started the season well, but his main rivals were always not giving him enough breathing space. Silas soon took the lead in points when Asbel seemed to have started having other more ambitious plans that cost him the lead. He wanted to go for the world record in Monaco and this saw him focus more on that particular event including running in the 800m event in order to sharpen his speed. But as he himself had pointed out, he knew he was taking a risk. It would have been great if he had broken the world record, but he was also prepared for negative results of failing to achieve his goal.
With about 150m to go, Makhloufi Taofik did a good timing and made a determined run for the finish line. It paid. He was able to surprise everyone; even Silas Kiplagat himself known for his great finishing kick was not able to react in time to catch him as he crossed the line slightly ahead. Souleiman Ayanleh came in third earning one diamond league point that enabled him to tie in second position with Asbel Kiprop with 11 points.
The men’s 3000m steeplechase event was not typical of the other diamond league races where Kenyans would take almost all the first ten positions.
Here in Brussels, Mekhissi Benabbad and Evan Jager spoiled the party for the Kenyans as they finished in 2nd and 3rd positions behind Jairus Birech who had staged such a great performance of the evening by running 7:58.41 which was a world leading time and a PB for him. Jairus has been doing great throughout the season, had accumulated a lot of points and was the obvious winner of the trophy even days before the final meeting in Brussels.
In the end, Jairus won the trophy with 28 points. His countryman, Brimin Kipruto was second with 5 points while four athletes; Ezekiel Kemboi, Mekhissi Benabbad, Evan Jager and Conseslus Kipruto were all third with 4 points each.
The women 3000m also had another star-packed field with Mercy Cherono already in contention for the trophy, but with Sifan Hassan, Genzebe Dibaba, Violah Kibiwot and Ayana Almaz among others, it was bound to be a tough race. With one lap to go, many athletes were still all in a huge leading pack and it was not easy to predict a potential winner. Mercy Cherono made a move with about 200m as she began to overtake the rest from the outside lane and went for the win, Sifan Hassan was second while Genzebe Dibaba finished third. Violah Kibiwot who was third in points finished in sixth place.
The Diamond league races are now over for this year and it is definitely time to shift focus on the road races and to look forward to another exciting track season next year.