Hagos Gebrhewit, Mo Farah, Doha 3000m, photo by PhotoRun.net
Justin Lagat took a shot at the middle and long distance races in Doha and Shanghai with this column. Two great meets to start off the season with, Doha and Shanghai are within two days of each other, making it a bit difficult to reach both for this writer.
After the long expectant wait for the IAAF Diamond League season to finally kick off, two meetings just happened this weekend and they were as exciting as they had promised to be.
There were athletes who maintained their great form of last year, there were the new ones who surprised everyone by beating the race favorites and there were those whose performances were below the expectations of their fans.
In the just concluded Shanghai Diamond League, Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia ran a fantastic run in the women 5000m race after opening up a big gap of over 150m from the rest of the field before finishing in a IAAF Diamond League meeting record of 14:14.32. The time is also the third fastest in history despite the fact that Almaz wasn’t chasing a world record here. The time just came as a surprise to Almaz Ayana. Twenty-six seconds later, Violah Kibiwot who had tried to stay with her before she broke away finished second.
Kenyan men showcased their supremacy in the men’s 3000m steeplechase event by finishing in all the first eight positions as Jairus Birech started his season very well. He stayed clear ahead of the rest of his compatriots with about 2000m to go before proceeding to win the race in 8:05.36. Paul Kipsiele Koech finished second as Conseslus Kipruto came in to seal the first three positions.
Eunice Sum defeated a strong field in the women’s 800m to indicate that she will be the athlete to reckon with in the event this track season. Malika Akkaoui of Morocco, with a strong late finishing kick was able to run past Janeth Jepkosgei but could not reach Sum, who crossed the line in 2:00.28. Malika came in second in 2:00.73 and Jepkosgei finished third in 2:01.14.
Silas Kiplagat let Kenyan men to a 1-2-3 finish in the men’s 1500m race that was closely contested. Kiplagat won in 3:35.29, Hillary Cheruiyot was second in 3:35.40 while Collins Cheboi was third in 3:35.46.
For Doha, it was Virginia Nyambura who probably carried the day for many of the fans in the women’s 3000m SC event. She was the pace-setter, but having already done her duties of pacing, moved back into the pack and emerged again to finish the race engaging in a late duel with the race favorite, Hiwot Ayelew, before winning. Her running was amazing with great strides, perfect clearance of barriers and great strength. She definitely is now a name fans ought to get used to, as the season progresses leading up to the world championships in Beijing.
The battle in the men’s 3000m race, among Mo Farah, Thomas Longosiwa and Hagos Gebrhiwet, was thrilling especially in the last two laps. In most of the distance track races where Mo Farah has been running, he usually has a way of taking control of the race in the last two laps. By taking the lead and occupying the first lane in order to take advantage of the curves whenever another athlete tries to run past him, Mo Farah controls his races.
But, it was as if Thomas Longosiwa wanted to prevent that in Doha by bursting into a strong kick as they neared the bell and taking the lead. Hagos Gebrhiwet followed on his heels, with Mo Farah chasing them in third position.
On the homestretch, Longosiwa began to lose his strength and Gebrhiwet took the lead as he accelerated towards the finish with Mo Farah threatening to close his gap. Gebrhiwet emerged as the winner, Mo took second as Longosiwa settled for third position.
Now that the track season has finally started, other meetings coming up shall be more exciting as we see some athletes collecting more points and others remaining unbeaten.