Alex Mills has been writing for us for about 18 months now. He showed up in Monaco the night before the race and did not stop until he headed back to London. Here is his piece on Asbel Kiprop, and his example of serious middle distance running…
In life few things are for definite, not least when it comes to sport. Yet every July, I can say with almost full certainty that we will see a fast men’s 1500m at the Monaco Diamond League. Luckily Friday night (July 17)’s race lived up to my expectations.
Not only does the event deliver super fast exhilarating competition on an annual basis, but it offers depth and back stories like no other race on the circuit.
Amazingly last night’s race was a non-Diamond League event, not that you would have known it. Usually in such circumstances the fields are thin on the ground and generally unforgettable, but on Friday night the who’s who of middle distance running came together to put on an almighty show.
Within an explosion of top class performances that saw four men run sub-3:29 for the first time ever, and a further two dip under 3:30, there was no doubt who the headliner was. Cruising to victory having led from the gun, Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop, king of the time trials, reiterated his credentials to retain his world title in Beijing next month, as he won in a magnificent 3:26.69 to become the third fastest man in history. His victory was so comfortable that he was more than two seconds ahead of runner-up Taoufik Makhloufi despite the Algerian smashing his own personal best in 3:28.75.
The win and the time will come as a relief for the Kenyan, having overcooked his race at Stade Louis last year, following an ambitious attempt at Hicham El Guerouj’s world record, which saw him “only” run 3:28.45 to lose out on victory to Silas Kiplagat.
In spite of cruising to such an impressive win, Kiprop seemed slightly annoyed not to have beaten the Moroccan’s 18 year-old record this time, although he needn’t be worried, especially with the Monaco DL going nowhere fast. I hope.
When Kiprop runs fast it invariably means that his rivals do too, but also leads more often than not to victory.
On this occasion while the others settled in a pack a few seconds behind the pace setter, the Olympic champion went with him. Hanging onto his shadow up to 800m before taking matters into his own hands with a 1:49 last 800m that none of his rivals including the king of the kicks, Mo Farah, could respond to. Rightly or wrongly though, unlike with Dibaba the focus within the stadium was with the margin of his victory rather than his time. At least until they realised how spectacularly he had run.
Then again for a regular attendees of the Herculis meeting, 3:27 is commonplace.
Behind Kiprop and Makhloufi the PB’s and records went into free fall. Of all of the top seven athletes only Farah missed out on a lifetime best. While only last placed finisher Henrik Ingebrigtsen did run a season’s best time.
Perhaps the most notable bests came from the athletes to which Monaco has become an annual hunting ground for such targets, as a way of marking their progress. Building on his 3:29.83 from 2014 Abdelaati Iguider went even better, finishing 3rd in 3:28.79.
As for the evergreen New Zealander, Nick Willis, another man for whom it was to be a second sub 3:30 PB in two years, not to mention a new area record he was rewarded with 5th and 3:29.66. Even more impressively consistent despite finishing in his worse position in the race for three years, was the 10th placed Matt Centrowitz, who set a third consecutive Monaco PB to climb to 3rd on the US all-time lists with 3:30.40.
It’s easy to say this now, but if Kiprop can get ready to have a good race in a solid tactical battle at the world championship then the title is his, should he suffer from one of his occasional mishaps in that department then any one of the top-10 athletes from last night could easily prosper instead.
As for his chances of ultimately breaking the WR, there is definitely still time for the Kenyan to approach it this season in Brussels or Rieti. Although perhaps his best chance to do so, will when he returns to the South of France next summer.