The Oslo Meeting of the Diamond League offered displays both of dominance--Asbel Kiprop, Dafne Schippers-- thrilling competition--men's 5000m, women's Mile--the, possibly, the end of a career--Kim Collins. Going in, this meet looked a little light on fun outside of the men's mile, but, no exaggeration, this may have been the best meet yet of the Diamond League.
Entering the race, we felt comfortable predicting the top-3 (McPherson, Hastings, Williams-Mills), but not in nailing down a specific order of finish. This race played out in a way that confirmed that that was a prudent approach. Coming around the final turn, all three were pretty even with Natasha Hastings maybe a little bit in front. But, over the last 100m, Stephanie Ann McPherson showed off clearly superior closing speed to pull away from Hastings and the field to win in 51.04 seconds. Hastings held on for second in 51.38 and Williams-Mills was a bit back of her for third in 51.66.
It's rare that a Diamond League race turns tactical because, outside of championship races, distance runners have few opportunities to attack the clock. But, today was a particularly tactical race, even with the presence of two rabbits, one of whom, due to the pedestrian pace, remained in the field for 4200m. None of the first nine laps came in faster than 63.5 seconds, setting up an exciting finish as a mid-13's pace isn't really going to drop anyone.
With 1200m to go, the pace started picking up a bit though. Going into the final two laps, the field dropped a 61 second lap to at least get that pesky rabbit out of the way. After a 59 second penultimate lap, a top four of Gebrhiwet, Edris, Kejelcha, and Iguider gained some separation. They were all together on the final turn, and in the final straight Gebrhiwet managed to hold off the others and maintain the narrow lead he had. Iguider, in his 2016 5000m debut faded a little bit in final stretch to leave the top-3 to Gebrhiwet (13:07.70), Edris (13:08.11) and Kejelcha (13:08.34).
The fast times we've seen this season are easy to gawk at, but in terms of entertainment, I'll take a tactical race any day. It's like watching a 0-0 or 1-0 soccer game play out on the track, with the anticipation and stress building with every lap leading up to a final fury of action. Uncertainty makes sports watchable, and tactical races bring that in spades.
For 60-70m Kim Collins seemed to be defying father time. He had a clear lead over the field after a solid start and no one was making much headway into that. However, he suddenly pulled up with what looked like a hamstring pull, opening up the race to Andre De Grasse to win in 10.07. Ameer Webb ended up in 4th in 10.18, which, following a disappointing performance over the weekend in Birmingham, starts to raise concerns that he peaked too early in his impressive early-circuit performances. Michael Rodgers took a close second to De Grasse in 10.09, followed by Denarius Locke in third.
Men's ExxonMobil Dream Mile
The race of the meet lived up to its billing, but not in the way we likely suspected. Asbel Kiprop showed pretty damn near definitively that he is far and away the best in the world in the 1500m/Mile, opening up something like a 30-40m lead heading into the final lap. He let up a lot in the last 200m, which made the result (winning by less than a second) look closer than this race actually was. This was, unequivocally, Kiprop winning and then everyone else racing for second.
The race for second came down to the expected party minus Robert Biwott. Manangoi, Makhloufi, and Willis took the next three spots and, again, while all finished within a second of Kiprop, they were never in contention for anything better than second after the first lap.
This was supposed to be competitive with Dafne Schippers challenged by World Silver Medalist Elaine Thompson, but it wasn't that at all. Schippers beat Thompson by over 0.7 seconds, which I don't need to tell you, is utter dominance in the 200m. The gap between Schippers' 21.93 and Thompson in second in 22.64 was greater than the gap between Thompson and 6th place Jodie Williams. Schippers has looked good this season, but certainly vulnerable. She looked unbeatable today as, pending a look at reaction times, she seemed to have led wire-to-wire. When you make a reigning Silver Medalist look like an also-ran, you know you've done something special.
Women's ExxonMobil Dream Mile
Faith Kipyegon went into this race looking to take down the World Record of 4:12.56, which, is one of those records from the mid-90s that no one considers too seriously vulnerable to breaking. She had rabbits to take her through 1000m and she came through on pace with an 800m split of 2:06.11. But, it turned out to not only be Kipyegon making a run at history as Laura Muir decided to come along for the ride. Muir was right on Kipyegon's heals for a good 1300m of this race. With a 3rd lap of 67 seconds and a 1200m split of 3:11.39, the World Record attempt was relatively short-lived, but the unexpectedly valiant challenge of Muir made up for the lack of historical climax.
Kipyegon proved to be a bit too much for Muir as she opened up a decent gap with about 150m to go and held off a bit of a late effort from Muir. Kipyegon's time of 4:18.60 (another 67 for the last quarter) stands as a bit of a disappointment after considerable world record hype, but the real takeaway from this was the performance of Laura Muir, who owns precisely zero world medals yet went toe-to-toe with a reigning silver medalist, at an early world record pace no less, to finish in 4:19.12. As we start to move into the final weeks before Rio, this performance should generate some buzz over Muir as a potential medalist, which was mostly unthinkable before this race started.
We have a week off until the Diamond League travels to Stockholm next Thursday.