Almaz Ayana, Brussels DL, September 9, 2016, photo by PhotoRun.net
Justin Lagat wrote this piece on the final Diamond League meeting in Brussels. I enjoy Justin’s columns on athletes from Kenya and his thoughts on the sport. Justin reminds us that, while great athletes may make their efforts look easy, there is huge effort needed in our sport to succeed and that World Records can not always happen. Real fans look for great efforts, close races and heroic efforts.
An exciting conclusion of the 2016 IAAF diamond league season in Brussels:
The Brussels event just concluded this year’s IAAF diamond league season with great and memorable performances. Even though the world records were expected to fall in the women’s 5000m and the men’s 3000m steeplechase, they never did, but the two races were exciting to watch. World records are hard to break and keep getting harder and harder each passing year. It is tantamount to attaining the fastest times that athletes in the past have tried their best to do, in perfect conditions, and have never achieved. It is not just as simple as deciding and doing it. That is why they refer to the intentions to break them as “record attempts.”
In the women’s 5000m, the entire field was already in a single file just after one lap. Tamara Tverdostup, the pace maker, was leading as they crossed the first 1000m in 2:53.19, followed closely by Alice Aprot, the front runner who has often involuntarily ended up being the others’ pace maker, especially to Almaz Ayana who was following her. For the later stages of the race, Hellen Obiri had tried to stick with Ayana, but the gap kept opening between them. Ayana crossed the line in a meeting record of 14:18.89 to win the race as well as the diamond league trophy. Obiri followed in a personal best time of 14:25.78. Four athletes behind the two set their personal best times with Shannon Rowbury setting an American record of 14:38.92 in 5th place.
Conseslus Kipruto and Evan Jager’s battle made the men’s 3000m steeplechase race exciting to watch up to the very end. The pace setter in this race hit the barrier and fell to the ground before he could complete his pacing duties, which left Kipruto on the lead with Jager breathing down his neck and not letting any gap develop between them. The rest of the field was about fifty meters behind them. With 150m to go, Jager was almost shoulder to shoulder with Kipruto and threatening to overtake, but the later held on and managed to create a slight gap with about 50m to go as he crossed the finish in 8:03.74. Jager followed closely in 8:04.01. This was the second time that Jager has come so close to beating Kenyans in this event, the other one being the one he had stumbled on the last barrier after leading Jairus Birech at a diamond league race last year.
The men’s 1500m saw a surprise winner; Timothy Cheruiyot. The favorites and diamond league leaders, Asbel Kiprop and Elijah Manangoi , finished in third and tenth respectively. Kiprop had to beat only one athlete here to win the trophy and by beating Manangoi, he won it with 42 points against Manangoi’s 28.
Also, probably no one would have guessed that Adam Kszczot of Poland was going to win the men’s 800m event; which shows that the level of competition in this event of late has risen and it has always been hard to have a clear favorite to win. It was a close race that saw the first seven athletes all finish within a fraction of a second. In the end, it was Ferguson Rotich who finished in 4th who won the diamond league trophy with a total of 39 points.
South Africa’s Caster Semenya moved to the 400m event and won it in a personal best time of 50.40. This leaves fans wondering whether she will turn to the 400m race next season after dominating the women 800m event this year.
For now, about 237 days remains until the next diamond league race in Doha next year. Meanwhile, interest shifts to the roads, then to the cross country before getting back to another track season.