NAIROBI, Kenya, May 11- World record holder, David Rudisha and Olympics champion, Pamela Jelimo got off their Samsung Diamond League Olympics year season off to explosive starts with world leading and meet record victories as Kenyan distance masters swept the boards in Doha on Friday.
In the truly explosive meet, the biggest shock of the programme was fittingly delivered at the very last event of the day when the 2006 Commonwealth Games 5000m champion, Augustine Choge, left a monster field chocking in his slipstream, including the revered Ethiopian double Olympics gold medallist Kenenisa Bekele who was forced down to seventh in the finishing order, as the winner toasted a 7:30.42 year best!
Doha also saw double world champion, Vivian Cheruiyot one again floor her long time Ethiopian track foe and former World titleholder Meseret Defar in a measured performance in the women 3000m in an 8:46.44 world lead.
And what is shaping up to be the most compelling local rivalry of recent times in the men 1500m was decided in a flying finish that saw Commonwealth champion and Worlds silver medallist Silas Kiplagat score a huge one over Olympics and World titleholder Asbel Kiprop in a blistering world lead and meet best of 3:39.63!
Another gripping finale played out in the men 3000m steeplechase where circuit speedster and two-time Diamond League winner, Paul Kipsiele Koech used every ounce of his strength to hold off the Commonwealth, African and World Cup titleholder, Richard Mateelong in the frenetic dash for the line, as Olympic gold medallist paled to a shock 12th finish.
In the men 800m that was not a Diamond Race event, headliner Rudisha stormed to a seamless 1:43.10 win minutes after Jelimo had to come from behind to edge out battling Ethiopia’s 19-year-old challenger Fantu Manedo Megiso in her fastest time in three years of 1:56.94 as both threw down the gauntlet to their rivals in the build-up to the London summer Games in emphatic fashion.
Jelimo, who announced her return to her fearsome best by winning the World Indoor title in Istanbul in March was the first Kenyan signature athlete in action and after Russia’s Yekaterina Kupina took the field through the opening lap in 57.63, Jelimo edged ahead at the bell.
However, Megiso the All Africa Games silver medallist who is keen to forge a reputation as one to watch out for in the women 800m circuit charged in front and went through 600m in 1:26.37 before powering away from the hard chasing Beijing winner at the back straight and maintained the lead heading to the final curve.
But Jelimo caught up, moved besides at the homestretch and with 60m to go, she extended the powerful legs that carried her to Olympic gold and unbeaten campaign in 2008 to cross the line with a luminous smile as South Africa’s Caster Semenya 1:59.58 previous world lead disappeared in the red Doha track.
“I’m so excited about her victory, it has taken us a lot of work to get her back in shape after three years of personal hurt and our mission is to ensure she retains the same shape for the Olympics,” her management team, Golazo Sports country manager, Barnabas Korir told Capital Sport moments after the race as Jelimo took early charge of this season’s Diamond Race in the event by bagging the four points on offer for the winner.
As Jelimo and Megiso who finished in a proud national record of 1:57.90 tore away from the field, the Olympics silver winner and 2007 Worlds titleholder Janeth ‘Eldoret Express’ Jepkosgei gallantly led the fight for the challengers and took the bronze in 1:58.50.
Besides defending her Olympics title in London, Jelimo is keen on winning her second international circuit series jackpot after her epic victory in the 2008 IAAF Golden League that has since been discontinued for the current format.
Rudisha on the other hand easily sewed up the race made for him when he took over from the rabbit Silas Kosgei who was timed at 50.39 at 400m and in a measured strop, kept youngster Job Kinyor who was in hot pursuit in the homestretch.
Kinyor was rewarded with a lifetime best of 1:43.76 in second as Britain’s Andrew Osagie came in for third in 1:44.64, also a personal best.
The men Metric Mile served up a thriller as sworn rivals Kiplagat Kiprop and compatriot Kiplagat clashed to leave the crowd mesmerised at the end of another chapter of what is turning out to be the fiercest internal competition their country has ever known.
The expected barriers to the charged pair in the shape of countryman and Diamond League holder, Nixon Chepseba as well as twice World Indoor 800m champion Abubaker Kaki who was stepping up the distance simply had no answer to the top two from last year’s Worlds.
Kiplagat laid the hammer down when he nosed in front as he crossed the 1200m mark in 2:50.40 as the meet best of 3:30.77 set by Daniel Kipchirchir Komen in 2005 who at that point had ceased being a factor looked under serious threat.
The Olympics champion then took the lead with 200m to go and locked the inside lane but at the final curve, Kiplagat who was striding to outpace the taller rival appeared to elbow Kiprop, who lost a stride as he stumbled to the inner lane.
Now in front, Kiplagat brushed off the despairing finishing burst of Kiprop who realised his dream of dipping under 3:30 when he stopped the clock in a personal best of 3:39.78 but as the Commonwealth winner came to offer his greetings after the race, the Daegu champion who was visibly angry rebutted the offer as yet another touch paper to their simmering battle was lit.
In the men’s water and barrier race, Kipsiele did what he has mastered on the international circuit by hitting the front just before the 2000m mark (crossed 5:19.72) with a recovered Mateelong, who saw his 2011 campaign blighted by knee injury, kept close tabs.
Former World Junior champion, Jonathan Muia Ndiku and fast rising fourth finisher at the All Africa Games, Jairus Kipchoge were still in the frame as surprisingly, the reigning Olympics titleholder, Kipruto faded from the race early on.
At the bell, Kipsiele and Mateloong were separated by a pace as the rest of the field were forced to watch the frontrunners charge for the win and at the last water jump, the Delhi and Split winner made his first move to topple the speedster.
Kipsiele neutered that and as they came to the final hurdle, the taller Mateelong was still in it but as the winner looked to be running out of steam but in a desperate conclusion, he staggered home with the clocks returning 7:56.58 against a career best of 7:56.81 to the bridesmaid who got just reward.
Way further back, Ethiopia’s Gary Roba prevented the Kenyan podium shut out when he swallowed Kipchoge for third in a national record of 8:06.16 as the All Africa Games fourth placer replicated his Maputo performance in a lifetime best of 8:06.72. Kipruto limped home 12th in 8:26.59 in his worst showing on the international scene since he came to the fore with 2004 Olympics silver in Athens.
In the women 3000m, Cheruiyot, who is yet to decide whether she will go for the double in London after her Daegu success in the 5000m/10000m and her established rival Defar once again made the contest their own at the bell before the Kenyan nailed her fifth successive triumph over her rival with a calculated but not fiery sprint for the line as the clocks returned 8:46.44 against 8:46.49.
Defar who still holds the overall advantage in their all time head-to-head contest that now leads 18-7 to the Ethiopian was followed home by twice Worlds 5000m silver winner, Silver Kibet (8:47.49) as her compatriot, Gelete Burka the 2008 African 1500m champion came fourth in 8:49.82 ahead of Worlds 10000m bronze winner, Priscah Jepleting who claimed fifth 8:50.04 in the star-studded field.
The corresponding men’s race was duly touted as the stage where distance running king Kenenisa would sign off a great night of action by serving notice of his intention to hold on to the 5000m and 10000m crowns he picked up in Beijing.
After missing most of the last two seasons through serious injury, his name at the starting line-up is enough to make even the most potent distance runner recoil in apprehension but the watching crowd that consisted vocal Ethiopian supporters looked on in horror as the doyen of distance track running for the last decade struggled to make even the slightest impression.
It was left to Choge, a polished circuit performer and Berlin Worlds finalist to duke it out for top honours with the evergreen Olympics 5000m silver medallist, Eliud Kipchoge at the homestretch.
The 2006 Melbourne 5000m Commonwealth had far the more superior finish as he tore away from the 2003 Paris World Champion to seal the race in 7:30.42 against 7:31.40 as the equally fast finishing Ugandan double Club Games gold medallist, Moses Kipsiro, who has been training in Iten completed the podium in 7:31.88.
World Junior champion at the distance, Isaiah ‘Chairman’ Kiplangat ran his personal best of 7:32.43 for fourth as Daegu 5000m finalist Thomas Longosiwa (7:33.68) and African champion at the same event Edwin Soi (7:38.45) trooped home in that subsequent order ahead of Kenenisa who was seventh in 7:40.00.
As the starting gun formally went off to another Olympics season, the Kenyan charge has given themselves and their international challengers a lot to ponder as the country prepares to better their best ever return achieved in Beijing four years ago where six gold medals were won but its still early doors.
Shanghai hosts the next stop of the 14-meet Diamond League next Friday.
For all results, follow this link, http://www.diamondleague-doha.com/Live-StartlistsResults/Overview1/