A meet already lacking in premier talent, didn’t get any favors in terms of producing exciting performances with rainy, mid-50's weather in Stockholm Thursday evening. If you can set aside the window dressing of fast times, there was plenty to enjoy here with tactical races in the men’s 5000m, 800m, and women’s 1500m that came down to kicks in the final 100m.
Men's 400m Hurdles
With a wet track and rainy conditions, this field was never going to be able to run fast times. To make matters worse, the race got even less exciting before it started when Bershawn Jackson was disqualified for false starting. It got even less exciting when, 250 meters in, Michael Tinsley pulled up and DNF’d. At the time, it looked like he was leading, so that opened the race up for Javier Coulson to win in 49.43 while Kerron Clement out-leaned Patryk Dobek for second. Definitely a buzz killing race with two of the top runners in the field combining to run only 250 meters.
In our preview, we didn’t even touch on the presence of 2011 World 10000m champion Ibrahim Jeilan in this field and, we maintain, for good reason. He’s never run under 13:09 for 5000m in his career and didn’t seem particularly relevant in a field that featured plenty of other guys who have run well recently. But, Jeilan took advantage of a slow pace set by the rabbits to hang around and shape the race to his liking.
For 4600 meters, the race went at a consistent 62-63 second per lap pace, which did little to separate the field. Yet, Muktar Edris never really looked super competitive in the race. He never led and mostly sat in 2nd or 3rd during the slower initial laps. When the pace picked up over the last 500m or so (the last lap was in 55), Edris didn't have another gear to respond as Yomif Kejelcha and Jeilan ran away from him. Coming off the final turn, Kejelcha held a narrow lead over Jeilan, but a surprisingly strong kick gave Jeilan a convincing win.
Apparently the Ethiopian selection committee will pick Rio teams in part based on results here and last week in Oslo. Presumably, then, Kejelcha has a spot, and we would hope Edris would also claim a place on the strength of his season to this point, but, we know Ethiopia will do something we don't expect.
Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
The first really transcendent performance of the evening came from Ruth Jebet in the steeplechase. With the rabbits instructed to pace the first kilometer in 3:00, Jebet was clearly looking for another sub-9:00 performance and perhaps a shot at the world record of 8:58.81. After coming through 1000m in 2:58, that looked like a real possibility, but, in the subsequent absence of a rabbit, Jebet fell off the pace a bit, coming through 2000m in 6:01. By this point, though, the race was pretty much decided as she had close to a 100m lead over Beatrice Chepkoech. She faded even more in the last 1000m, but it didn’t affect the lead or the outcome. Jebet won in 9:08.37, beating Habiba Ghribi’s previous Stockholm meet record by two seconds.
Laura Muir wasn’t able to replicate the magic she tapped into for 1400m or so in the mile in Olso where she stuck with Faith Kipyegon's world record attempt far longer than anyone expected. As a result of that and a slow early pace, this race was truly a toss-up between about five or seven runners with 150 meters to go. Angelika Cichocka was the strongest of them, with a very impressive last 50 meters to win convincingly. The headliners of the race didn’t fare as well with Muir coming in 4th, Obiri in 6th, and Seyaum in 8th. Outside of Genzebe Dibaba, the 1500m field in Rio looks wide open and today did little to lend any clarity to that.
The Stockholm race organizers saved the best race for last with David Rudisha, Ferguson Rotich, Mo Aman, and Pierre-Ambroise Bosse facing off in the 800m. It played out as the sort of battle we hoped. No one went with the rabbit, who came through 400m in 50 seconds, with the pack about a second behind him. At the start of the final lap, Rudisha started to make a move, probably hoping to put away the field a bit and avoid a big kick at the end, but coming off the turn, Bosse took the lead back from Rudisha and held it through the final turn. In the final straight, he faced challenges for Adam Kszczot and David Rudisha, but held them off until Ferguson Rotich, kicking from about fourth place, overtook those three with about 30 meters to go to take the win.
With Bosse finishing second, I had to scrap my “Meet the New Bosse” headline, which was a huge disappointment. Rudisha finished fourth, continuing a relatively disappointing 2016 season. He’s looked fine and is still very much a threat to win gold in August, but he hasn’t looked like we’ve come to expect Rudisha to look.
The next Diamond League race isn't until July 15th in Monaco, but it’s Monaco, so it should be well worth the wait.