Stuart Weir wrote columns for us on Rome and Birmingham. Here is his piece on Birmingham.
Birmingham Diamond League
Two Diamond Leagues (Rome and Birmingham) in less than 4 days has proved to be quite a logistical challenge for me – to say nothing of the athletes! At least the sun shone on one of them – Birmingham of course.
One athlete who impressed at both was Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba in the women’s 800 metres. She was second in Rome in 1:58.20 behind Castor Semanya and won in Birmingham in 1:56.92. She had already run 1:57.74 for second place in Rabat – again behind Semanya.
And if that was not enough she also won the 2016 World Indoor in Portland.
She said of her Birmingham run, achieved with a committed piece of front running, which broke both the meeting record and Kelly Holmes’ 20 year old stadium best: “I am very happy to win here and run a fast time which is fabulous. The sun is shining and that helped me towards a good performance. This gives me motivation for the rest of the season. These races are all about finding my speed ahead of the Olympic Games but I feel I am in a good position”.
The elephant in the women’s 800 metre room is Castor Semanya. Even though she was not in Birmingham several of the journalists’ questions to Niyonsaba and also to Lynsey Sharp (fourth in Birmingham) were about the absent South African. Sharp pointed out that she had been running against Semanya since 2008 and did not treat her any different from other athletes. Niyonsaba insisted that Semanya, like any other athlete, was beatable as she put it. “Nothing is impossible. I just keep on working hard”.
Birmingham will be Niyonsaba’s last race for a while as she told me she would now return to Oregon, where she is coached by Mark Rowland, for a period of hard training before running again possibly at Monaco.
Elsewhere at sunny Birmingham three things caught my eye. Greg Rutherford has been a stern critic of the new protocol for field events which eliminates all but 4 competitors after 3 jumps/throws. In Rome he announced that in the world class long-jump competition to take place in his garden in September all competitors would have six jumps. Well, in Birmingham Rutherford fell foul of it; he was in fifth place after 3 jumps and was eliminated. Poetic justice?
It seemed appropriate on a sunny summer day that English Gardner won the women’s 100m with Kimberly Hyacinthe also in the field! Gardner ran 11.02 in the prelim and in the final when she was running into a 1.2m/s headwind. Dafne Schippers was second in 11.09.
And finally, if you have ever wondered what the IAAF President actually does – and some certainly have, Seb Coe gave the answer in Birmingham. Interviewed on the track and roadcast to the crowd, Coe said “I am here unashamedly to sell tickets for London 2017 IAAF World Championships”.
Other highlights expressed factually….
Elsewhere, in the women’s 5000, there was a 1,2,3 for Kenya with Vivian Cheruiyot out dipping Mercy Cherono to win in 15:12.79, sixteen hundredths of a second ahead of Cherono with Janet Kisa third.
Mo Farah set a new British 3000m record. David Rudisha delivered a stunning front running performance to take victory in a rarely run 600m, smashing his own stadium record but just missing out on the world record.
Kim Collins took the men’s 100m.
Asbel Kiprop produced one of the performances of the day, bettering the Birmingham Diamond League 1500m meeting record and also revising his own world lead.
There was an America 1,2,3 in the women’s 100H with Kendra Harrison clocking another world class 12.46 (-0.3) followed by Brianna Rollins and Kristi Castlin.
Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto smashed the 3000m steeplechase meeting record, but his 8.00.12 performance was agonisingly short of his first ever sub eight minute performance.
Kirani James won the men’s 400m in 44.23, which was yet another meet record
The women’s triple jump saw the biggest upset of the day as Caterine Ibarguen’s 34 competition unbeaten streak came to an end, with Olga Rypakova hop, stepping and jumping out to 14.61m to win by 5cm. There was a further upset in the shot put as Tia Brooks beat Rome Diamond League winner Valerie Adams by 10cm, thanks to a final round throw of 19.73m.