ZÜRICH, SWITZERLAND, September 08 — For the first time since the Diamond League went into operation back in ’10 a single-city format was introduced for the Final. Instead of the traditional Zürich/Brussels combo, each of the meets staging half of the events, the Weltklasse became the site for the whole shebang, to be staged over 2 days.
Zürich has staged out-of-stadium events for years now, but this year’s first-day version was something totally new, featuring running, jumping and throwing — 7 events in all — in the Sechseläutenplatz, the city’s largest town square. A special 560m track with banked curves and a tight turn was shoehorned in for both the 5000s, installed over the square’s “urban parquet” surface.
Both long jumps, both shots and the women’s high jump were staged on the “infield.” The remaining 25 events were staged in the normal Letzigrund Stadium on Thursday. The special regular-season DL protocol which made throws and horizontal jumps competitions dependent on the final round is not in place. Uniquely, though, the LJ and SP competitions were staged concurrently, alternating rounds with the same ring/pit.
Our reports on the 7 Day 1 (Wednesday) events (as always, all the winners are potentially eligible for Wild Cards for next year’s World Championships):
Men’s 5000: Aregawi Takes It Late
The unique track made the race look like a hybrid road/track event; it didn’t matter to Ethiopia’s Berihu Aregawi, who stayed away from the lead until he made his bold winning gambit to triumph in 12:58.65, a PR by some 10 seconds.
Aregawi, the Tokyo 10K 4th-placer, hadn’t run a 5000 all season, though he demonstrated his speed with an indoor 7:29.24 over 3000 and a runner-up finish in the Lausanne 3K two weeks ago.
Rabbit Bethwel Birgen had been instructed to hit 2:39 pace for the first few Ks. He opened with a 2:35.03, leading a tight pack with his fellow Kenyans at the front: Jacob Krop, Olympic 4th-placer Nicholas Kimeli and Michael Kibet. Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha ran close behind while Aregawi stayed on the curb comfortably behind.
After the second kilo passed in 2:38.88, Kimeli went to the front, but the lead switched repeatedly as Kibet and then Krop both fought their way to the fore at various points. Kibet led at 3K in 7:52.85.
Approaching 4K, Aregawi made his first move to the lead; Kimeli immediately passed him. That didn’t last long, as the young Ethiopian shot back to the lead as the clock read 10:40.
It made for a long kick, but Aregawi pulled Kejelcha and Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew with him and sprinted hard, looking over his shoulder frequently. He held on for the win with his 2:25.80 final K as Balew (13:01.27) grabbed 2nd. A tiring Kejelcha faded to 5th on the last stretch.
“I did not expect such a fast time, such a PB,” said Aregawi. “I am very happy. It is the first time I did this and it was wonderful. Yet, the curves were a bit difficult for me.”
1. Berihu Aregawi (Eth) 12:58.65; 2. Birhanu Yemataw (Bhr) 13:01.27; 3. Jacob Krop (Ken) 13:01.81; 4. Nicholas Kimeli (Ken) 13:02.43 (10:32.85); 5. Yomif Kejelcha (Eth) 13:04.29; 6. Michael Kibet (Ken) 13:15.36 (7:52.85); 7. Jonas Raess (Swi) 13:43.47; 8. Andy Butchart (GB) 14:03.13;… rabbit—Bethwel Birgen (Ken) (2:35.03, 5:13.91).
Men’s Long Jump: Montler Foils McCarter Spoiler
For a while, it looked as if Steffin McCarter had scored the breakthrough of his life. The 24-year-old Texas alum, who had failed to make the Olympic final, took the lead with 26-8½ (8.14) in round 3, ahead of the 26-6¼ (8.08) that Swede Thobias Montler leaped the previous round.
Montler, the Tokyo 7th-placer (and highest finisher present here), had the leading mark coming in at 27-1¾ (8.27). His immediate response fell short at 26-4¼ (8.03). In round 4, McCarter produced a 26-7¾ (8.12), which Montler matched.
On the next go-round, the Swede took over, following McCarter’s 26-2¾ (7.99) with a just-enough 26-9 (8.15). On his final attempt for a ticket to next year’s Worlds, McCarter could reach only 26-4½ (8.04).
Montler closed out his day the same way that Ivana Španović had a few minutes earlier, spanning his best effort even though he already had the victory clinched, landing at 26-9¾ (8.17).
“The competition was a bit difficult with the track,” said the winner. “I wanted more, but I jumped 8.17 in my last attempt without special emotion.”
1. Thobias Montler (Swe) 26-9¾ (8.17) (25-4, 26-6¼, 26-4¼, 26-7¾, 26-9, 26-9¾) (7.72, 8.08, 8.03, 8.12, 8.15, 8.17); 2. Steffin McCarter (US) 26-8½ (8.14) (26-1, 26-2¼, 26-8½, 26-7¾, 26-2¾, 26-4½) (7.95, 7.98, 8.14, 8.12, 7.99, 8.04); 3. Ruswahl Samaai (SA) 26-2¾ (7.99); 4. Simon Ehammer (Swi) 26-¾ (7.94); 5. Benjamin Gföhler (Swi) 25-11 (7.90); 6. Radek Juška (CzR) 25-10 (7.87); 7. Filippo Randazzo (Ita) 25-10 (7.87).
Men’s Shot: Predictably Crouser
Unlike the majority of Ryan Crouser’s competitions in recent memory, this one didn’t find him leading all the way. The 2-time Olympic gold medalist did have the first round’s best throw, 72-1½ (21.98), slipping past Joe Kovacs’s 71-4 (21.74). In the second stanza the reigning world champ emitted a mighty roar and took the lead at 73-1¾ (22.29). Crouser had a rare foul.
The WR holder wasn’t out of the lead for long, his third-round response being a formidable 74-4½ (22.67). And that was that, as Kovacs couldn’t improve, while Crouser added 73-footers in rounds 5 and 6 just for good measure. He now has 24 straight wins, his last loss coming in that titanic WC competition of ’19.
The competition was delayed for about 15 minutes near the end of the third round when Tom Walsh (who would end up 4th) gave the toeboard a mighty whack, breaking it loose from its moorings, requiring workmen to effect a quick fix.
Said Crouser, “I had a little bit of a struggle early. I had to get the tone back down. When Tom Walsh broke the ring, it was good for me because I could take a breath and then execute really well.”
1. Ryan Crouser (US) 74-4½ (22.67) (72-1½, f, 74-4½, f, 73-1¾, 73-2) (21.98, f, 22.67, f, 22.29, 22.30); 2. Joe Kovacs (US) 73-1¾ (22.29) (71-4, 73-1¾, 71-9½, 70-4¼, 70-5¼, 70-3½) (21.74, 22.29, 21.88, 21.44, 21.47, 21.42); 3. Armin Sinančević (Ser) 71-8¾ (21.86) (66-5, 69-3¼, f, 69-9½, 71-8¾, 69-8¼) (20.24, 21.11, f, 21.27, 21.86, 21.24); 4. Tom Walsh (NZ) 70-10¾ (21.61) (f, 66-7, 69-6¼, 69-4¼, 70-10¾, 70-10½) (f, 20.29, 21.19, 21.14, 21.61, 21.60); 5. Filip Mihaljević (Cro) 70-10 (21.59); 6. Zane Weir (Ita) 68-5 (20.85).
Women’s 5000: Niyonsaba’s Emergence Continues
Having run her first 5000 just over 3½ months ago and with just 4 races at the distance under her belt, Francine Niyonsaba stamped herself as a force over 12½ laps as she covered just under 9 laps on the novel track.
In a sit-and-kick affair, the Burundian sprinted away from 2-time world champion Hellen Obiri over the last 125m or so for a 14:28.98–14:29.68 win that earned her first DL crown.
Rabbit Kate van Buskirk towed the field out for a K in 2:49.49. That’s a 14:07 tempo but with records not possible on the one-off oversized “oval,” a group of 7 settled into what would have been 70–71 pace on a regulation course. Obiri led past 3000 in 8:45.15 and Tokyo 5th-placer Ejgayehu Taye was up front at 4K (11:44.00).
At the bell (around 13:03) for a loooong last lap, Niyonsaba took the lead. Obiri ran wide about 200m out but couldn’t pass and Niyonsaba jetted away for the win. She had motored over the last go-around at about 61.2 pace.
“I stayed behind most of the race, this was my tactics,” said Niyonsaba, who had won in Brussels 5 days ago with the same approach. “I am still learning after switching from 800m to longer distances. I did what I had to do.”
1. Francine Niyonsaba (Bur) 14:28.98; 2. Hellen Obiri (Ken) 14:29.68 (8:45.15); 3. Ejgayehu Taye (Eth) 14:30.30 (11:44.00); 4. Margaret Kipkemboi (Ken) 14:31.18 (5:46.08); 5. Eva Cherono (Ken) 14:36.88; 6. Fantu Worku (Eth) 14:43.60; 7. Lilian Rengeruk (Ken) 14:50.75; 8. Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal (Nor) 14:59.91; 9. Beatrice Chebet (Ken) 15:11.27; 10. Elise Cranny (US) 15:55.17;… rabbit—Kate van Buskirk (Can) (2:49.49).
Women’s High Jump: No. 5 For Lasitskene
After a third-try make to stay alive four bars before the decisive height, Mariya Lasitskene won her fifth DL crown over the three jumpers who pushed her to her Olympic win a month ago.
To best them again, Lasitskene needed the equal-third highest meet of her life. In her last pair of DL comps, Paris and Brussels, Nicola McDermott and then Yaroslava Mahuchikh had got the best of the HJ’s 28-year-old grande dame, who did not wish to make it three in a row.
Through 6-4 (1.93), the fourth height, Lasitskene kept a clean card, as did fellow medalists McDermott and Mahuchikh, leaving the trio knotted in the lead ahead of Tokyo 4th-placer Iryna Herashchenko and Kamila Lićwinko.
Then trouble struck the Russian at 6-5 (1.96). After a Lićwinko miss, Mahuchikh clipped the bar on first try but it stayed up, McDermott flew over by a good 2 inches. Lasitskene missed and now, tied for 3rd, brushed the bar off with her thigh on her second. Her third go, following Herashchenko’s make on her third, was a good one with lots of bar clearance.
The Tokyo podium trio all bounced over 6-6¼ (1.99) on first, and Herashchenko after 2 misses reserved her final attempt for the next setting, 6-7 (2.01).
When teen Mahuchikh and McDermott, all smiles and arm waving to engage the boisterous fans, each again cleared on first and Herashchenko dragged the bar off with her backside to finish her evening, Lasitskene passed to engage at 6-8 (2.03).
This bar was a centimeter above McDermott’s Aussie Record, and though she missed her one try at it, she scribbled a note in her ever-present notebook — and then when Mahuchikh and Lasitskene went over on first, saved her last two for the next bar.
It was a tall one and a bar never before cleared at Weltklasse, 6-8¾ (2.05). Following a pair of misses each for the non-golden Tokyo two, Lasitskene skimmed nicely over, popped her heels clear and jumped up in the pit with a clenched-fists shout to celebrate.
Saving her last shot at Lasitskene for 6-9½ (2.07) — where only 5 jumpers, all retired, have flown — Mahuchikh soared promisingly high but her timing was off and her lower legs pulled down the bar and the curtain.
Lasitskene tried 6-9½ twice and then left further shots at a PR for another season.
“It is an unbelievable feeling,” said the Russian, notoriously unemotive of visage during competition. “Jumping with spectators is fantastic. The venue here is difficult and fantastic at the same time — difficult because of the track and fantastic because of the spectators. Still, for some attempts I asked them to be quiet because I needed to concentrate.”
1. Mariya Lasitskene (Rus) 6-8¾ (2.05) (out WL) (6-½, 6-1½, 6-2¾, 6-4, 6-5 , 6-6¼, 6-8, 6-8¾ , 6-9½ [xxp]) (1.84, 1.87, 1.90, 1.93, 1.96 , 1.99, 2.03, 2.05 , 2.07 [xxp]);
2. Yaroslava Mahuchikh (Ukr) 6-8 (2.03) (6-1½, 6-4, 6-5, 6-6¼, 6-7, 6-8, 6-8¾ [xxp], 6-9½ [x]) (1.87, 1.93, 1.96, 1.99, 2.01, 2.03, 2.05 [xxp], 2.07 [x]); 3. Nicola McDermott (Aus) 6-7 (2.01) (6-1½, 6-2¾, 6-4, 6-5, 6-6¼, 6-7, 6-8 [xp], 6-8¾ [xx]) (1.87, 1.90, 1.93, 1.96, 1.99, 2.01, 2.03 [xp], 2.05 [xx]); 4. Iryna Herashchenko (Ukr) 6-5 (1.96); 5. Kamila Licwinko (Pol) 6-4 (1.93); 6. Eleanor Patterson (Aus) 6-1½ (1.87).
Women’s Long Jump: Španović Comes On Late
In a season bothered by injury, Ivana Španović missed the Tokyo podium but the 31-year-old Serb veteran capped her campaign with the DL title, coming from behind to catch Khaddi Sagnia.
In the first round the Swede led at 22-5 (6.83). Španović put herself close in 2nd at 22-3¾ (6.80). Olympic champion Malaika Mihambo of Germany, in her first meet since Tokyo, only reached 20-¼ (6.10), a foreshadowing of the struggle she would face.
In round 2, Mihambo moved into the top 3 with her 21-4 (6.50), just ahead of Ukraine’s Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk’s 21-2½ (6.46). Sagnia fouled and Španović edged a centimeter closer to the lead with her second-round 22-4¼ (6.81).
Bekh-Romanchuk moved to 3rd in the next round with her 21-11 (6.68), only to be immediately displaced by Britain’s Jazmin Sawyers’ 22-1½ (6.74). Sagnia hit another good one, 22-4½ (6.82), and Španović couldn’t improve.
But after a round 4 with no changes, Španović finally got the jump she was looking for in the fifth stanza, her 22-7 (6.88) putting her into the lead.
The final round saw Bekh-Romanchuk jump back into 3rd at 22-1¾ (6.75). Sagnia could hit only 21-11 (6.68), making Španović the winner. She put the point on her third DL title by finishing with the day’s best leap of 22-10 (6.96).
“This is pretty amazing,” she said. “I missed this feeling. I hadn’t jumped on this kind of surface for a year and it was difficult for me.”
1. Ivana Španović (Ser) 22-10 (6.96) (22-3¾, 22-4¼, 21-6, 22-¼, 22-7, 22-10) (6.80, 6.81, 6.55, 6.71, 6.88, 6.96); 2. Khaddi Sagnia (Swe) 22-5 (6.83) (22-5, f, 22-4½, 21-11½, f, 21-11) (6.83, f, 6.82, 6.69, f, 6.68); 3. Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk (Ukr) 22-1¾ (6.75) (f, 21-2½, 21-11, 21-10¾, 21-9, 22-1¾) (f, 6.46, 6.68, 6.67, 6.63, 6.75); 4. Jazmin Sawyers (GB) 22-1½ (6.74); 5. Malaika Mihambo (Ger) 21-6¼ (6.56); 6. Nastassia Mironchyk-Ivanova (Blr) 21-5¼ (6.53).
Women’s Shot: Ewen All The Way
With only 3 of the Tokyo finalists — and none of the medalists — in the field, things were wide open in the meet’s kickoff event. As it turned out, American Maggie Ewen quickly removed any element of drama from the proceedings when as the fifth of six throwers she punched one right down the middle, her 63-8¼ (19.41) proving to be the only seasonal-best achieved all day. Overall she had 4 legal throws, all of them good enough to turn back top challenger Auriol Dongmo of Portugal (61-10½/18.86).
Said Ewen, who had been so sorely disappointed with her non-team 4th in the Olympic Trials, “I think I am still in shock. I am super excited. I do not know what to say. It was a crazy and rough year. Before my first throw I was very nervous, but then everything came together so well!”
1. Maggie Ewen (US) 63-8¼ (19.41) (63-8¼, f, f, 61-11, 62-3¼, 62-8½) (19.41, f, f, 18.87, 18.98, 19.11); 2. Auriol Dongmo (Por) 61-10½ (18.86) (59-7, 61-1½, 60-2, 60-6½, 61-10½, f) (18.16, 18.63, 18.34, 18.45, 18.86, f); 3. Fanny Roos (Swe) 61-6¼ (18.75); 4. Chase Ealey (US) 60-8 (18.49); 5. Danniel Thomas-Dodd (Jam) 60-3¾ (18.38); 6. Aliona Dubitskaya (Blr) 60-2 (18.34). ◻︎