This is Justin Lagat’s piece on the Van Damme Memorial, and the exciting middle and long distances in Brussels.
It was an exciting evening of athletic action in Brussels.
In her new race distance, the women’s 5000m, Francine Niyonsaba calculated her run well to win it in a new national record and a personal best time of 14:25.34. She controlled the first half of the race before Hellen Obiri took over the pacing duties momentarily from her when the pace appeared to have slowed down a bit. With around four laps to go, she went back to the front and increased the pace, then relaxed into the pack again.
The last 1000m appeared to be a battle for the win amongst Kenya’s Obiri, Margaret Kipkemboi, and Ethiopia’s Ejgayehu Taye as Niyonsaba ran just behind the three. But she apparently had some energy reserved in her as she would produce a great finishing kick to overtake the three runners in the last 100m to win it.
With the new rules that barred her from running in the women’s 800m event, Niyonsaba had taken some determined efforts to move up to the 5000m event, including moving to Kenya to train at the high altitudes with some of the world’s best long distance runners, and even participated in some local cross country races to build her endurance. Here, she appears to have perfected her skills for this event and is slowly building some confidence that will enable her to dominate the distance and become one of the stars to reckon with.
Australia’s Stewart McSwyn who has been dominating the men’s 1500m diamond league races this season by going with the pacemakers and opening up a huge gap that the rest of the competitors would find it too late to close at the end of the race changed his tactics tonight. He won the race in a different version after staying in the pack up to the last 100m when he produced the strongest kick amongst his competitors to win it in 3:33.20.
Within the first 200m in the women’s mile, Sifan Hassan had already made her way to the front, behind the two pacemakers. Lemiesz Aneta took her through the first 400m in a fast 1:02.03 before Eglay Nalyanya took her through the second lap in 1:02.94. With two laps to go, Hassan was way ahead of the rest of her competitors, but then she slowed a bit as she crossed the third lap alone in 64.24 seconds.
In a thrilling women’s 800m race where all the runners ran under two minutes, Natoya Goule held off the rest to win it in 1:58.09 edging Keely Hodgkinson by seven micro-seconds.