RABAT, May 23, (AFP): Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana came close to beating Tirunesh Dibaba’s 5000m world record and world best times of the year were set as Morocco hosted its first Diamond League meeting on Sunday at a windy Rabat.
Also at the meeting, seven-time world champion American LaShawn Merritt never looked in any danger as he tore round the track in 44.66sec in the 400m.
But in the very last race of the inaugural night, world 5000m champion Ayana blamed the wind after she came over five seconds short of Dibaba’s 2008 record of 14min 11.15sec set in in Oslo with a pace setter.
Other highlights of the night came as Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto, his face twisted in a grimace over the home straight, won the 3000m steeplechase ahead of three compatriots.
Another Kenyan victory came in the 1500m with Timothy Cheruiyot winning in 3min 33.61sec ahead of compatriot Silas Kiplagat and Australian Ryan Gregson.
Ukrainian Bogdan Bondarenko boosted his Diamond Race hopes in the high jump, beating leader Erik Kynard with a jump of 2.31m to cut the gap to just six points.
Caster Semenya was on flying form, also setting a world best time for 2016 of 1min 56.84sec in the 800m as she eased ahead of Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba and the up-and-coming Frenchwoman Renelle Lamote.
In the men’s 800m France’s 24-year-old Pierre-Ambroise Bosse booked himself a date at the Rio Games when he clinched victory in 1min 44.51sec, narrowly edging reigning 1500m Olympic champion, Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi (1:44.91). Bosnia’s Amel Tuka was third.
Another South African, Rushwai Samaai, won the men’s long jump with a personal best effort of 8.38 metres, albeit with a favourable wind, beating world indoor champion Australian Fabrice Lapierre into second by 2cm.
Poland were all smiles in the discus after world champion Piotr Malachowski won the event with an effort of 67.45m to fend off compatriot Robert Urbanek, who was second with 65.04.
Jamaican sprinter Elaine Thompson ran into a 1.3sec headwind to register a 100m victory in 11.02sec.
There was some home cheer as world and Olympic 1500m bronze medallist Abdelaati Iguider won the 3000m with a world best time for the year of 7:38.85 over the non-Olympic distance.
Elsewhere at the meeting, Panama’s Alonso Edward won the men’s 200m in 20.07sec ahead of Ivory Coast sprinter Wilfried Koffi.
World champion Dafne Schippers set a world-leading time in the 200 meters at the FBK Games Sunday in her third sprint race in as many days to show her early form in the Olympic season.
If not for a headwind and constant rain that left the track slippery, the Dutchwoman would have been the first to dip under 22 seconds this year. Instead, she had to settle for 22.02 seconds, shaving .23 off her previous season’s best at her home meeting in eastern Netherlands.
“It was typical Dutch weather,” Schippers said. “You have to be able to run in all conditions.”
She beat Jodie Williams of Britain, who finished with 23.06. Tiffany Townsend of the United States was third in 23.12.
“I hadn’t expected a time like this already now,” said Schippers, the third best performer of all time with a time of 21.63. No one has run faster in the 21st century.