NAIROBI, May 17- Kenyans turned on the style at the second IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai on Sunday to a lay a marker for the forthcoming World Championships that will be held at the Chinese capital on August.
World champion Eunice Sum, Worlds silver winner, Silas Kiplagat and Diamond League winner, Jairus Kipchoge launched their international track season with victories whilst former World Junior champion, Viola Kibiwott was only beaten to second by a stunning solo effort from Ethiopia’s sensation Almaz Ayana.
Kiplagat, who did not defend his Commonwealth title last year in Scotland after an injury plagued season started the Kenyan charge for honours when he led a podium sweep in the men 1500m race.
A controlled kick over the last lap gave Kiplagat victory in a world leading time of 3:35.29 as eight men fought for the line down the home straight.
The Kenyan kicked off his Diamond Race defence by coming from behind to defeat compatriot Hilary Ngetich whose ran a PB of 3:35.40 in second with Collins Cheboi third.
“I’m very happy to win here. To compete in China is amazing. The crowds here are very good. I did not expect to win here because I have a small injury on my Achilles three weeks ago.
“It is my fastest race of the season. My main goal is Beijing. I’m looking forward to compete in China. I gave my best and it goes very well,” Kiplagat said after the race.
A late run from US newcomer Ben Blankenship was enough for fourth in 3:35.48, a PB by more than a second, as the first eight finishers moved to the top of this year’s world list.
-Birech warns Kemboi-
Birech, who was surprisingly beaten to silver Jonathan Muia Ndiku in the Commonwealth final having won all honours before and after; re-established his reputation as the man to beat in the run-up to the Worlds by completing his second successive crushing victory in Shanghai.
A bold piece of front-running from Birech brought the defending Diamond Race champion an impressive victory over a raft of fellow Kenyans in a world leading time of 8:05.36.
Birech picked up where he left off in 2014 as he broke clear after 2km and strode away from Beijing Olympic bronze medallist Paul Koech and Conseslus Kipruto, the 2013 world silver medallist, to win by more than six seconds.
Koech fought hard to stay in touch but had to be satisfied with second in 8:11.39 while Kipruto was another three seconds back in 8:14.59 as Kenyans filled the top eight spots.
The winner then confirmed his sights are firmly set on toppling three-time champion, Ezekiel Kemboi from his crown at the summer Worlds in Beijing.
“What a fantastic race! It was tough and I felt a lot of wind especially from the 300-200m point. I trained to pass steeples and it went well.
“I already have a good feeling and I want to train harder for the season. I am confident of running a new PB and get gold in Beijing,” the 22 year-old sounded out as warning to the two-time Olympics champion on his intent to dethrone him from the crown.
Commonwealth and African champion Sum sealed her first win of 2015 in 2:00.28 to put her on track to defend the Diamond Race trophy she clinched by 13 points in 2014.
Chased hard by compatriot Janeth Jepkosgei, the Kenyan who won 14 800m races last year strode away from a field of sub-2 minute runners to win by almost half a second.
Morocco’s fast-finishing Malika Akkaoui stole through on the inside for second in 2:00.73 while her mother in athletics and former champion, Jepkosgei held on for third, the 2007 world champion clocking 2:01.14 ahead of USA’s World Relay gold medallist Molly Ludlow.
“I didn’t expect to win here. It was a bit windy. Next race, I hope to win below two minutes. The crowd was screaming and it was a great feeling,” the Moscow Worlds titleholder said.
The World bronze medallist produced a brilliant front-running victory to smash the Shanghai meeting and Diamond League records.
The 23-year-old Ethiopian took the lead at half way and gradually pulled away from a field of east African rivals to win in 14:14.32, a time only her legendary compatriots Tirunesh Dibaba and Meseret Defar have ever bettered.
It was a bravura display from the African champion who left Kenya’s Viola Kibiwot adrift over the final 1000m as she powered towards victory.
She was some 30m clear by the time she took the bell in 13:08, with Dibaba’s world record of 14:11.15 very much within sight. But despite a great effort over the last lap, she fell just three seconds short. Kibiwot was second in 14:40.32 while world cross country silver medallist Senbere Teferi took a surprise third for Ethiopia in 14:41.98, the 20-year-old beating her previous best by more than a minute and 20 seconds.
There were PBs right through the field – nine in all – as the first seven women beat 15 minutes.
“Second place is good. It’s the opening of the season, it’s a good beginning. I was trying to catch up with Ayana but she was too fast. I will try my best to join the national team in Kenya and win a medal in Beijing.
“I like the atmosphere here and I think it will be wonderful too in Beijing,” the beaten Kibiwott who was thrilled by following the untouchable winner across the line said.