Obiri shines in Rome: Athletics Fireworks in Italy as new leading times are set

Ezekiel Kemboi made a disappointing return, trailing home 17th

Athletics - IAAF Athletics Diamond League meeting - Women's 5000m - Shanghai Stadium, Shanghai, China - 13/5/17 - Hellen Obiri of Kenya celebrates. REUTERS/Aly Song

Hellen Obiri of Kenya and Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands lit up the middle distance events at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome on Thursday night, turning in a pair of stunning performances to set world-leading times in their respective events at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea.

In the end, they turned what looked like competitive races into absolute routs on a warm, dry evening in the Olympic Stadium, with Hassan blasting to victory over 1500m in 3:56.22 and Obiri setting a Kenyan record of 14:18.37 to come home alone in the 5000m.

After a steady opening half of the women’s 1500m – where 800m was reached in a conservative 2:07 – Hassan moved towards the front and when she dropped the hammer on the final lap, her rivals simply had no response. She clocked a 60.7-second final lap to come home well clear of Winny Chebet (3:59.16) and Konstanze Klosterhalfen (3:59.30), who both set lifetime bests. “I am very surprised, such a fast time!” said Hassan. “I felt strong, but did not push too early or start too fast. It was not so hard for me.”

In the 5000m, the talk beforehand had been all about Genzebe Dibaba’s attempt at her older sister Tirunesh’s world record, and confidence seemed high in the Ethiopian’s camp, with a sub-14-minute pace requested at the technical meeting two days before.

However, it was eventually decided that a 14:10 pace would suffice, and Dibaba duly assumed pole position behind the pacemakers and passed 1000m in 2:51. However, at 3000m, reached in 8:38, the first cracks were beginning to show for the 1500m world record holder.

Obiri, who had finished second in the Olympic 5000m, soon put Dibaba’s endurance to the test, charging ahead at the front of the race. It was a surge no one, not even Dibaba, could handle, and the Kenyan reeled off a 65-second lap to bring her clear of her rivals.

From there, she kept pouring coal on the fire, eventually crossing the line and falling to the track with a world lead and national record in hand. Agnes Tiprop came through strongly for second in 14:33.09, with young Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey third in 14:33.32. Dibaba faded to sixth in 14:41.55. “When I came to this race, I told myself that nobody can beat me,” Obiri said.

Superiority 

Elsewhere Conseslus Kipruto confirmed his superiority over the world of steeplechase with a classy, almost cocky display to win in 8:04.63. In a race that set out a swift pace – they passed 1000m in 2:37 – Kipruto nestled behind the pacemakers, biding his time. The pace inevitably slowed in the second kilometre, and when the field hit 2000m in 5:23, Kipruto swept to the front.

He pulled with him Amos Kirui, Jairus Birech and Moroccan newcomer Soufiane El Bakkali. Kipruto, just as he did in Rio, then refused to surrender the lead throughout the final lap.

Just when it seemed he was coming under threat, as El Bakkali ranged up alongside with 100 metres to run, the Olympic champion shifted gears impressively, cruising clear and crossing the line almost nonchalantly with the night’s first world lead. El Bakkali took nine seconds off his PB to finish second in 8:05.17, with Birech third in 8:07.84. Two-time Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi made a disappointing return, trailing home 17th in 8:33.07.

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