ROME, Italy, Sporting Alert – Almaz Ayana just missed breaking the women’s world 5000m record, while Elaine Thompson, Conseslus Kipruto, Caster Semenya, Wayde Van Niekerk and Janeive Russell were all impressive at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome on Thursday (2).
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Ayana came within seconds of breaking Tirunesh Dibaba’s women’s 5000m, after the Ethiopian clocked a time of 14:12.59 – the second fastest time ever for the event, but fell short of the targeted mark of 14:11.15.
The world champion started strongly and at one point was over eight-seconds ahead of the world record pace, after covering the 3000m in 8:30.43.
However, she struggled to maintain the same tempo in the last few laps and fell 1.44 seconds off the world mark, which was set by fellow Ethiopian former world and Olympic champion Dibaba in Oslo, eight-years-ago.
Despite falling short of the world record, Ayana left Rome with a new personal best, world-leading mark and meeting and Diamond League record.
Mercy Cherono set a personal best of 14:33.95 for a distant second, while third place went to another Kenyan, Viola Kibiwot in 14:34.39.
Another dominating performance at the Rome Diamond League meeting came from a South Africa’s powerful half lap star Caster Semenya, who destroyed maybe her closest challenger for the Olympic 800m crown.
The 2009 world champion fended off the early challenge from world indoor champion Francine Niyonsaba before powering away from the Burundian to match her own world-leading time of 1:56.64.
“I need to be consistent, to maintain this shape until the Olympics,” said Semenya in looking ahead to racing in Rio. “My dream, my main goal is of course Olympic gold.
“I am very pleased with the time.”
Niyonsaba collected second in 1:58.20, with third place going to Great Britain’s Lynsey Sharp in 1:59.03.
Seven of the eleven finishers were faster than two-minutes.
Impressive Thompson Catches Gardner
Meanwhile, Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson ran an impressive 10.87 seconds in chilly conditions for sprinters to win the women’s 100m.
Thompson, the IAAF World Championships 200m silver medalist at Beijing 2015, used that strength to chased down American English Gardner in the closing metres and clocked a new seasonal best and her second fastest time ever.
Gardner, who ran 10.81 to win at the PreClassic on Saturday, finished second in 10.92, while World Indoor champion Barbara Pierre of USA was third in 11.13. Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago finished a disappointing fifth in 11.23.
The men’s 100m, which was not a Diamond League scoring event in Rome, was won by American Justin Gatlin in 9.93 seconds, but the double world silver medallist had to hold off fellow countryman Ameer Webb, who ran a personal best of 9.94 seconds for second place.
Like he did when winning the men’s 200m earlier in the day, Webb finished very strongly in the last 40m and almost caught Gatlin, who had gotten off to a blistering start.
Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut also broke 10-seconds when finishing third with 9.99.
Dominating Performance From Kipruto
The men’s 3000m steeplechase went to two-time world silver medallist Conseslus Kipruto, who ran a world-leading 8:01.41 to dominate the event and lead a Kenyan sweep of the top three.
The 21-year-old breezed away from Jairus Birech of Kenya who ran 8:11.39 for second place, with third going to another Kenyan, Paul Kipsiele Koech, 8:14.46.
Also laying down marks in Rome on Thursday were South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk and Janeive Russell of Jamaica.
Van Niekerk, the IAAF World Championship gold medallist in Beijing, last year, ran away with the men’s 400m title after clocking 44.19 seconds.
Grenadian Bralon Taplin was second in 44.43, while Isaac Makwala of Botswana took third in 44.85.
However, it was another disappointing run by Jamaica’s national record holder Rusheen McDonald, who finished second-to-last in a pedestrian 46.06, and nowhere near the 43.93, he ran in Beijing last year.
On the other hand, though, Janeive Russell was in fine form, after the Stephen Francis-coached hurdler sped to victory in the women’s 400m hurdles.
Russell, who said she wants to follow in the footsteps of Melaine Walker and become an Olympic champion in the event, ran a world-leading time of 53.96 en route to setting her third personal best this season.
Her compatriot Kaliese Spencer was sixth in 55.51, while American Georganne Moline, the world-leader at the start of the meeting, jog home last in 57.64.
In other results, Caterine Ibarguen of Colombia won the women’s triple jump with a mark of 14.78m, Valerie Adams threw 19.69m for first place in the women’s shot put and Greece’s Ekateríni Stefanídi upset the favourites to win the women’s pole vault with a clearance of 4.75m.
“This year I am more motivated than ever, 2016 is an Olympic year,” Adams said. “It is a great challenge, a great year.
“Last year was really tough for me. I am a lot more consistent than I have been in the past.”
On the men’s side, Olympic champion Greg Rutherford of Great Britain leapt 8.31m to take the men’s long jump, Spain’s Orlando Ortega ran 13.22 to land the 110m hurdles title, while Bogdan Bondarenko cleared 2.33m for first place in the men’s high jump.