DL 2014 an overview: 14 magic moments with a mention of some other pretty special performances.
Helen Obiri (from Drake Relays, April 2014), photo by PhotoRun.net
Leg 1 Doha
The Diamond League season was kicked off in style by Kenya’s Helen Obiri as she produced the best performance in a women’s 3000m in 21 years. Running a fine race alongside compatriot Mercy Cherono, Obiri took victory in 8:20.68 holding on to record a time that has only been bettered by those questionable performances in 1993.
Elsewhere, Ivan Ukhov set the tone for this brilliant season of high jumping as he literally raised the bar for his opponents by clearing 2.41m. Behind him, the next three athletes all cleared 2.37m, indicating just how much strength in depth the competition has.
In the 1500m Asbel Kiprop and Silas Kiplagat both went sub-3:30 minutes in race one of even, Kiprop winning in 03:29.18.
Emma Coburn, (from Pre Classic, May 2014), photo by PhotoRun.net
Leg 2 Shanghai
It was ladies night in China with the majority of the outstanding performances that evening coming from the female athletes.
Starting in the field,in the discus, Sandra Perkovic, proved untouchable on her way to throwing the second furthest distance of the year in 70.52m. At the time it was a world leading throw and it remained that way until August at the European Championships, where the Serb bettered he own performance to unsurprisingly take gold.
In a far less clear cut scenario, the multi-talented Blessing Okagbare took long jump victory from Ivana Spanovic by just 1cm. Every little helps!
Across to the track, New Balance and America’s Jenny Simpson fought valiantly to finish 2nd behind ‘Sweden’s’ Abeba Aragawi, who became the first women this year to go sub four minutes.
While her training partner Simpson might have just missed out on first place, Emma Coburn made sure she wouldn’t have the same problem; surging through to the front as always and holding on to win her first Diamond League and send a shock to the system of the East Africans.
One man who did not disappoint as he so rarely does, was Renauld Lavellinne; the French pole-vault world record holder managed to clear 5.92m despite his competition dropping out long before hand. It remains the best performance in 2014.
Galen Rupp, Pre Classic, May 30, photo by PhotoRun.net
Leg 3 Eugene Pre Classic
If the DL embers were already burning brightly beforehand, then they were certainly ignited in TrackTown USA, as the meet showed why it is so famous for producing fast middle distance times.
With the action was split over two days, the star of day 1 was undeniably Galen Rupp, as the former University of Oregon student, blasted away the American record on what used to be his home track.
Tracking his Kenyan opponents closely for the majority of the race, Rupp, timed his sprint finish to perfection to produce an incredible turn of speed that probably even sent training partner Mo Farah into shock.
That race was not the only electric competition of the night. Beforehand there had been a five way battle for supremacy in the women’s long jump where all five athletes jumped further than 6.80m. Tying for the top distance jumped were Europeans Ivana Spanovic and Darya Klishina. Victory went to Spanovic due to her recording a better series of jumps, ensuring this time she would not miss out on victory, like in Shanghai.
Leo Manzano, Pre Classic, Day 2 (May 31), photo by PhotoRun.net
Day 2 was when the real action started and it was a brilliant time to be a middle distance fan, as we were treated to 3 great examples of mile racing and its metric equivalent. First up Leonel Manzano defied his critics to take victory and record a world leading 3:52.42 minutes, narrowly beating Jordan Mcnamara. Then 5 ladies went under 4 minutes in the 1500m led by early season star Helen Obiri in 3:57.05 minutes a time that still ranks as the second fastest this season.
Finally saving the best until last, the Bowerman Mile 2014 was arguably the strongest mile race in history. Manzano’s awesome world lead lasted just 2 hours as it was eclipsed not just by one athlete but 11 of the 14 finishing athletes, all of whom went comfortably below 4 minutes. 6 runners broke 3:50 as Ayanleh Souleiman produced a superb final 100m to blast past Silas Kiplagat and take victory. Race favourite and early leader Asbel Kiprop faded badly to finish back in 7th, although he did still manage to run 3:50.26!
Away from the distance events, one of the best rivalries in the sport came to fruition for the first time in 2014, as a dip for the line saw Kirani James beat Lashawn Merritt by the tiniest of winning margins. The pair having been neck and neck throughout, both finished in a world leading 43.97.
After having finished 5th a day earlier in her recognised event of the Long Jump, Tori Bowie showed that she could mix it up in the sprints too with a huge breakthrough victory in the 200m metres in an incredible 22.18.
Tori Bowie, Roma Golden Gala, June 2014, photo by PhotoRun.net
Leg 4 Rome
The atmosphere at the Olympic stadium may have been slightly subdued in comparison to recent years due to the absence of a certain Mr Bolt, and the performances similarly down from the previous 3 legs, but Bowie picked up exactly where she left off 5 days earlier.
This time running in the 100m, Bowie powered past a strong field to gain another win and a personal best 11.05 seconds. Amazingly 8 runners went under 11:20 in that race.
Mutaz Essa Barshim the recent world indoor champion stepped up his game in Rome as he joined the 2.40m+ club for the first time, equalling Ukhov’s 2.41m world lead.
As was to be the case for the rest of the season, the women’s 100 metre hurdles were a tight affair, with the Americans unsurprisingly at the forefront of the competition. On this occasion it was world champion Brianna Rollins whose dip of her donut hair bun over the line saw her beat former Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson by .01 of a second, with her winning time a WL 12.53 seconds.
Ayanleh Souleiman, (from Pre Classic), photo by PhotoRun.net
Leg 5 Oslo
Similarly to in Rome, this was not a vintage Bislett Games, although there were a few performances of note.
A surprise winner in Eugene, Pascal Martinot-Lagarde showed just why he would be one of the standout athletes in 2014 by taking the men’s 110 metre hurdles by a country mile in a new personal best time of 13.12 seconds.
After two close affairs in the previous DL long jump competitions, there was finally a clear winner in Oslo and with it a 7 metre plus jump, from American Tianna Bartoletta, the only one in 2014.
In the famous dream mile race Souleiman made it two mile wins from two as he once more showed his dominance in the event, to post another sub 3:50 time 3.49.49, despite the absence of his big East African rivals. Finishing in a brilliant second was the mercurial Nick Willis; the New Zealander produced a new personal best 3:49.83, his first sub 3:50 mile, at the age of 31.
Mutasz Barshim flies over 2.42m, adidas GP NYC, photo by PhotoRun
Leg 6 New York
The tour returned to America and the city of New York, before a small break ahead of various national championships.
Competing in city famous for its glamour and desire for the spectacular the men’s high jump did not disappoint as competition heated up towards melting point.
In what was statistically the greatest competition in history, Bohdan Bondarenko and Mutaz Essa Barshim battled it out like titans as the both went in search for of a new word record. Playing a game of cat and mouse the pair used different strategies to try and claim victory. For Barshim there were attempts and clearances at all the available distances up to 2.42m as he looked to warm himself up as he progressed through the competition. Yet for a Bondarenko it was a case of pass and hope as he only took 8 jumps throughout the competition.
After similarly producing 2nd time clearances of 2.40m, both produced incredible jumps on their next height of 2.42, as they together claimed their respective personal bests and area records, much to the excitement of on looking fans, whose attention had been well and truly diverted away from the track.
Next up there was a failed attempt at 2.44m from Barshim, after which he passed in favour of a tilt at the world record with Bondarenko. On his two attempts the man for Quatar was whiskers away from the monumental achievement, with the Ukrainian less successful. However, with their quest now in vein, it was Bondarenko who would become winner on the day due to Barshim’s three attempts at 2.35m to his one.
The mouth-watering contest had left journalists and fans united in their desire to see more of the same as the season progressed.
Slightly overshadowed due to the brilliance of that field event, Brazil’s Fabianna Murer cleared an excellent 5.80m in the pole vault.
On the track, the Bowie train continued to motor on, as she made it 3 from 3 with another win in the 100m, while in the men’s 200m Warrier Weir ran a WL 19.82 seconds.
Part two to appear tomorrow