Saturday, September 7, 2019

Brussels Diamond League Finals

Toe to Toe in Stade Baudouin

copyright Mark Cullen/trackerati.com. All rights reserved.

The men’s shot put inaugurated the Finals festivities on Thursday night at downtown Brussels’ Place de Brouckere. New Zealand’s Tom Walsh opened with what turned out to be the winning throw, a 22.30 (73-2) that proved uncatchable by one of the deepest fields ever assembled. It took over 22.00m (72-2¼) to get on the podium; Darlan Romani (Bra) and Ryan Crouser (US) joined Walsh in 2nd and 3rd at 22.15 (72-8) and 22.08 (72-5 ¼).

Good news for discus queen Sandra Perkovic, who seems back in form with her 66.00 (216-6). Not such good news for her? Jaime Perez’ (Cub) 68.27 (223-11) last-throw capper on a night which saw her lead from start to finish. “In the past I was always very nervous at important competitions and now I have this much more under control,” understated Perez.

Akeem Bloomfield and Michael Norman
go toe to toe in the 400m


Photo by Jiro Mochizuki
The leader off the final turn of the men’s 400m was Michael Norman – no? OK, Fred Kerley then. Still no? Akeem Bloomfield (Jam) has three weeks to nail his finish as he pressed Michael Norman to a 44.26 win over Kerley’s 44.46; Bloomfield was third at 44.67. Norman and Kerley will be looking for each other in Doha; they’d be wise to keep Bloomfield in their sights as well.

Dina Asher-Smith’s stated goal is to win a major championship medal, a fact she underscored last summer when she said that her triple European gold performance was deeply satisfying but not the standard by which she wants her career to be judged. She has done much to put herself into the mix for 2019 World medals with her 100m gold today and 200m silver in the Zurich DL final.
Marie-Josee Ta Lou, Shelly-Anne Fraser Pryce, and Dina Asher-Smith
 go toe to toe in the 100m

Photo by Jiro Mochizuki
Asher-Smith turned back Jamaica’s double Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, 10.88-10.95, after SAFP took the lead at 60m. Not many can say they’ve come back on SAFP at that stage of a 100m and won. Dafne Schippers (Ned) continued her perplexing year with a 4th place finish at 11.22.

Sifan Hassan (Ned) is entering Athlete of the Year territory. Her finish is a weapon deployable to withering effect at any distance, and right now it looks as though she could win World titles over a remarkable range: 1500 – 5k – 10k. In the Brussels 5,000, her main competitor, World 5,000m and World XC champion Hellen Obiri looked tired, with arm movements almost self-conscious as she tried to stave off what is becoming the inevitable. Hassan closed with a withering 59.70 to win in 14:26.26.

During steeplechase introductions, a cold night turned wet, and once the gun went off, the pacers didn’t help. They were notably a hindrance in the women’s 5,000m and men’s 1500m as well. Having pacers in major title championships seems unthinkable – it puts the races at cross purposes to themselves. I am all for a well-coordinated assault on a world record, pacers and all. But the women’s 5,000m looked ridiculous: the pacers were running for time. The rest of the field was running for what they came for: the title and yes, the cash that comes with it.

Guess what happened when the pacers dropped off? The field slowed and bunched, and the real racing began with 600m to go - a classic, strategic championship race. The day I can run more helpful splits than the pacers is the day they need to be banned from championship competition. I’m 67. ‘Nuff said.

Timothy Cheruiyot continued his dominance of the men’s 1500m with a controlled 3:30.22 - yes, controlled - as he won by 1.4 seconds over 18 year old Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s stellar 3:31.62.

Ingebrigtsen and his brother, Filip, ran a textbook-worthy race. They let the pacers go too fast on the first lap and hung in the middle of the chase pack in 7th and 8th, with Filip ahead of his younger brother. They trusted their own pacing and moved up throughout the race, then 5th and 6th, then 3rd and 4th, and on the final lap, Jakob passed Filip to give the brothers an impressive 2-3 finish.

Cheruiyot was undefeated in Diamond League races last year and is 5/6 this year for a remarkable 11/12 two-year DL record. “I prepare to win in Doha,” said the gentlest man on tour, ominously.

Jamaica’s Danielle Williams is looking ever more the Doha favorite as she came as close as is currently possible to dominating one of the deepest events in the sport, the women’s 100m hurdles. She turned back world record holder Keni Harrison by a substantial margin, 12.46-12.73; Harrison’s WR is 12.20.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s discus king Daniel Stahl finished 1-2-3-4-5. Well, actually, he merely won, but he did have the competition’s five longest throws.

Noah Lyles ran a leisurely 19.74 200m to become the first to win 100m and 200m Diamond League titles in same year. However, Ramil Gulieyv (Tur) and Andre de Grasse (Can) served late-season notice that they are major medal contenders once again with fast 2nd (19.86) and 3rd (19.87) place finishes after heretofore lackluster seasons.

There was considerable controversy at the finish of the men’s steeplechase as 19-year-old Getnet Wale (Eth) drifted into Soufiane El Bakkali’s (Mor) path. No foul was called and the results stand, with Wale the winner by .16 in 8:06.92. Wale has finished in the top 3 of all 6 of his steeples this year, for those of you considering your medal picks for Doha. Lamecha Girma (Eth) recorded a notable PB of 8:07.66 to claim bronze; he’s 18.

El Bakkali, 23, now has three consecutive Diamond League Finals silvers to his credit. I trust you can guess where he finished in 2017 Worlds. If not, let the Moroccan World News assist you. It describes El Bakkali as the “3000-meter steeplechase world vice-champion.”

Priceless.

***
The greatest mark in the world this week came not at a Diamond League final but at a low-key meet in Andujar, Spain, where Julimar Rojas (Ven) jumped the #2 triple jump in history. At 15.41 (50-6¾), she’s a mere 9cm behind the long-standing (1995) 15.50 of Ukraine’s Inessa Kravets. This ups the Doha ante between Rojas and TJ legend Caterine Ibarguen (Col) considerably; they have been conducting an intracontinental South American duel ever since Rojas pulled off the unthinkable upset of Ibarguen at 2017 Worlds.  Add Jamaica’s Shanieka Ricketts, who jumped an improbable 14.93 (48-11¾”) PB to win the Diamond League title last week in Zurich, and we have in the offing one of the most fascinating competitions of the entire World Championships. 

Complete Brussels Diamond League results: