This is Dave Monti’s piece on the Zurich DL 1,500m, from last Friday, 9 September 2021. We thought you might enjoy this column.
REVERSING SCRIPT, CHERUIYOT DEFEATS INGEBRIGTSEN IN DIAMOND LEAGUE 1500M FINAL
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2021 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission.
(09-Sep) — At tonight’s talent-packed Wanda Diamond League Final at the Letzigrund in ZÃ¼rich, Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot evened the score with Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen by defeating the reigning Olympic 1500m champion by just 8/100ths of a second, reversing their finish places from Tokyo. With his victory tonight, Cheruiyot retained the Diamond League title he had earned in Brussels in 2019 and sent a signal that he’ll be tough to beat at next summer’s World Athletics Championships in Eugene where he will come in as reigning champion.
“That was good but a very tight race,” Cheruiyot said. “I knew the standard was strong here, and I am happy.”
In last month’s Olympic final, Ingebrigtsen cleverly shadowed Cheruiyot throughout the race before overwhelming the Kenyan in the final sprint. Tonight, Cheruiyot took the lead from Australia’s Stewart McSweyn at the bell, and held his lead through the final bend where Ingebrigtsen was still close behind. In the last 100 meters, Cheruiyot kept his signature forward-leaning form as he accelerated to the finish line in 3:31.37. Ingebrigtsen tied up in the final meters and had to settle for second in 3:31.45. McSweyn held on for third in 3:32.14 just ahead of his compatriot Oliver Hoare who ran a personal best 3:32.66.
“It is what it is,” lamented Ingebrigtsen. “I am really happy with what I did in Tokyo. It is tough to go into races afterwards. So I am just happy to be done with this season and looking forward to the World Championships next year.”
Cheruiyot, who nearly missed out on Olympic team selection after he only finished fourth at the Kenyan Olympic Trials, is also looking forward to 2022.
“I was having many challenges in Tokyo, so now I am getting better,” he said referring to a pesky hamstring injury. “My hamstring is getting better and I am prepared for next season. My goal is that I know I need to defend my world title at next year’s championships. That is my target now, but I need to work out (hard) because I know Jakob Ingebrigtsen is going to continue to get better.”
In another epic rematch from Tokyo, Kenyan Faith Kipyegon out-sprinted Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan to win the women’s 1500m in 3:58.33. Like in the men’s race, Kipyegon was able to hold her form and run smoothly through the tape, while an exhausted-looking Hassan thrashed her way to second in 3:58.55. Hassan had defeated Kipyegon in the 2019 World Athletics Championships, but Kipyegon beat Hassan to third place in last month’s Olympics. Their rivalry is sure to continue into next year.
“I was confident that in the last lap I could do better and it worked,” Kipyegon said. “This is my second Diamond League trophy and my first as a mother. My family is watching tonight from home. I started my season well and I finished it well, I won almost all my competitions, especially the Olympic final. I am so grateful.”
Kenyan men also won the 800m and 3000m steeplechase. In the two-lap event, reigning Olympic gold and silver medalists, Emmanuel Korir and Ferguson Rotich, finished in the same order again tonight. Rotich tried to win with a long drive from 250 meters out, but Korir –who was sprinting furiously– passed him in the homestretch to win 1:44.56 to 1:44.96. American Clayton Murphy got third (1:45.21).
“I think it was tough today,” said Korir. “But I managed to follow my strategy, tried to push it in the end and now I have this Trophy and I am very glad.”
Benjamin Kigen upset Olympic champion Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco in the steeplechase by running away from the field on the backstretch of the final lap, hurdling the final water jump, then holding on in the homestretch before El Bakkali could catch him. Kigen clocked 8:17.45 to El Bakkali’s 8:17.70.
“It was my wish to win today,” said Kigen. “I am very happy now. Today was not a matter of time, but it was a matter of winning.”
A Kenyan also won the women’s steeplechase. Norah Jeruto, who did not compete in Tokyo despite being the fastest steeplechaser of the year (8:53.65), won a two-way battle over compatriot Hyvin Kiyeng on the final lap. The two women were even going into the last water jump, but Kiyeng landed flat-footed, lost her momentum, and Jeruto scampered away. Jeruto was clocked in 9:07.33 to Kiyeng’s 9:08.55. Olympic silver medalist Courtney Frerichs finished third in 9:08.74; her strong sprint got her past Ethiopia’s Mekides Abebe and Kenya’s Celliphine Chespol.
British teen Keely Hodgkinson, the Olympic 800m silver medalist, added “Diamond League Champion” to her rÃ©sumÃ© tonight when she pulled away from Jamaica’s Natoya Goule in the homestretch to win in 1:57.98. Gould looked safe for second, but a charging Kate Grace just edged her at the line (both women were timed in 1:58.34). Jemma Reekie, Hodgkinson’s Olympic teammate, finished fourth in 1:58.61, the same position as the Tokyo Olympics.
All the event winners tonight earned provisional starting starting spots at next summer’s World Athletics Championships (conditions apply) and earned USD 30,000.