NAIROBI, Kenya, May 31- Circuit king Paul Kipsiele Koech torched the Rome Golden Gala as Ethiopia’s fast rising Fantu Megiso stunned Olympics champion, Pamela Jelimo during the third leg of the Samsung Diamond League that unfolded in Italy.
In the women 5000m race, double world champion, Vivian Cheruiyot and her Ethiopian arch rival, Meseret Defar sketched a template in finishing, treating the crowd to the most gripping, enthralling and ultimately dramatic of conclusions that was closer than even the show stopping men 100m!.
However, Kipsiele justifiably stole the headlines on the distance programme when racing in near perfect conditions on Thursday, two-time Diamond League winner detached from a loaded field with three-laps to go to motor unchallenged for the world record of 7:53.63 set by Kenyan turned Qatari, Saif Shaheen Saeed in 2004 in Brussels.
With the crowd right behind him as he powered on solo after the bell, Kipsiele who crossed 2000m in 5:17.49 ran out of some momentum at the final water jump and with no one to push him, he crossed the line in a meet record/world lead/personal best of 7:54.31, less than a second off Shaheen’s standard.
The circuit speedster was thus elevated to the number three on the all time list behind the Qatari twice world champion and Olympics gold medallist, Brimin Kipruto who stormed to 7:53.64 in Paris last year, one hundredths of a second shy of the top mark.
Former world junior champion, Abel Mutai, finally hit the right notes when he trailed Kipsiele to the line in a massive 8:01.67 career best with another youngster Jairus Kipchoge (8:08.79) completing podium.
Berlin and Daegu world titleholder, Ezekiel Kemboi, who had forecast an assault on the world record pre-race was scorched by the furious pace set by Kipsiele and could only return 8:10.55 to give Kenya a 1-2-3-4 finish ahead of French Olympics silver medallist, Mekhissi-Benabbad (8:10.96) who was returning from a ten month ban for fighting compatriot Mehdi Baala.
The 19th instalment of arguably the fiercest of women distance rivalries pitting Cheruiyot in the Kenyan corner and Defar for Ethiopia was decided at the line in a dead climax.
Cheruiyot, who has gained the edge in recent seasons and Defar shadow boxed with the field until the bell when they dumped the rest and went for glory. At the final curve, the pair were running vest-to-vest with the Kenyan on the inside lane.
Defar tried to force her adversary to cede the lane but the Daegu 5000m and 10000m champion, refused to budge and at the end, the naked eye could not decide the winner, as Defar initially accepted the champion’s bouquet as Cheruiyot whispered a short prayer.
When the clocks returned their verdict, the victory was clearly belonged to the Laureus Sports Person of the Year in a world leading 14:35.62 as Defar was given 14:35.65- so much for the flowers!
Former world junior champion, Viola Kibiwott did her reputation no harm by racing 14:39.63 for third ahead of Ethiopia’s Gelete Burka (14:41.43) in fourth.
In the women two-lap race, Jelimo who had strung a sequence of three unbeaten races to install her as a favourite for the Olympics crown this summer paid for a costly switch of tactics as Ethiopian rising sensation, Fantu Megiso claimed her prized scalp.
The event featured all the five athletes who have won the major titles in the past five years, Janeth Jepkosgei (Osaka 2007), Jelimo (Beijing 2008), South Africa’s Caster Semenya (Berlin 2009) and Russia’s Mariya Savinova (Daegu 2011).
Having asked for a 50 second opening 400m, Jelimo opted to stick behind with the group Russian rabbit Tatyana Andrianova crossed the lap mark in 55.86.
Jepkosgei then took over, leading past 600m in 1:28.59 before the Olympic champion stepped up to the front as they came to the last 200m.
Jelimo went through the final bend but Megiso attacked from behind, pulled level at the homestretch and blasted away for the finish arriving at the line in a national record/career best of 1:57.56.
The Istanbul World Indoor champion held off Saminova for silver with 1:58.33 against 1:58.56 as the arithmetic for the London Olympics gold was turned on its head. Jepkosgei, who won in Ostrava midweek, was fifth (1:59.2) as Semenya paled to eighth (2:00.7).
In the women 1500m, World Indoor 3000m champion, Helen Obiri attacked from behind to overtake fellow Istanbul titleholder, Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba in a thrilling tussle for the bridesmaid position.
Another Ethiopian, Abeba Aregawi had already deployed the afterburners for the victory, notching it in a meet record/national record/world lead of 3:56.54 before the Kenyan caught up with Dibaba (4:00.85) and charged away from her to clock 3:59.68, a career best for second.
In case you are wondering what happened in the men 100m, triple Olympic champion and record holder, Usain Bolt of Jamaica banished the nightmare of Ostrava by rocketing to a world leading 9.76!
For those who put him under pressure for the 10.04 in the Czech Republic last week, the dance hall loving fastest man on the planet gave the watching world the big “I’m back!” shout.