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Golden League Oslo - Bislett Games - Recaps

July 3, 2009

Meet Results

Premier Event: Dream Mile Upset And Ethiopian Record Overshadowed By World Junior Mile Record!
Reigning world indoor 1,500m champion Deresse Mekonnen set an Ethiopian mile record of 3:48.95 as he outran form chart favorite Kenyan Augustine Choge. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the race, though, was a world junior record set by Kenyan William Biwott Tanui, who - in his first attempt at the distance (!) - came up to also defeat 3:29 man Choge in the last 100m with a 3:49.29. Choge finished beaten, but with 180m to go, he made what looked like a major surge to surpass Mekonnen, who had taken the lead just 250m earlier heading in to the bell lap. Choge steamed by Mekonnen on the outside before Mekonnen turned on the jets to hold his inside ground and pull away with 120m to go.

Cheered on by celebratory pockets of colorfully-dressed Ethiopian fans, Mekonnen was overjoyed after his major victory over one of the world's best milers.

Australian Jeff Riseley ran great for a 5th-place personal best of 3:51.25, while Canadian Nate Brannen was next in 3:53.18. And, despite the loss, Choge still set a mile personal best of 3:50.22.

Despite the announcer's comments to the contrary, the pacing was perfect and the race was a very good one. The first lap was rabbited in 57.0, the second circuit in 57-mid and the third was about 58 before a 56-second close for the race winner. In fact, LetsRun.com's John Kellogg points out that 3:48.95 is exactly the time run by Sebastian Coe on July 17, 1979 at the Bislett Games to set a new world record at the time, a performance that no doubt produced astronomically more attention than Mekonnen's now "mundane" performance.

Looking some more at the fastest-ever junior miler, we see that William Biwott Tanui was a 3:42 guy heading into this season, running that time at altitude in Kenya when he was 18 years old. This year, he had already run 3:32.34 at the first Golden League meet in Berlin, roughly equivalent to his mile time today in Oslo. He is only 19 years and 120 days old as of July 3, 2009. Tanui's time of 3:49.29 is almost a second faster than the old record held by Kenya's Alex Kipchirchir, who ran 3:50.25 while only 18 years of age in 2003.

Interestingly, Kipchirchir won both the Pre Classic Mile and the Dream Mile in 2005 and 2006, but never ran faster than his world junior record. His mile time slowly deteriorated over his career and he has not competed in 2009.

Men's 800m - Kaki Trips Himself And Injures Hamstring! Borzakovskiy Wins
The men's 800m was a fascinating affair as the star of the show, young Abubaker Kaki of Sudan, appeared to trip himself by catching a spike at the end of the first turn, falling awkwardly, twistingly to the track and injuring his hamstring. The crowd was disappointed as Kaki remained on the track face-down for the entire race plus another 5 to 10 minutes.

But up front, the pacemaker delivered the pace of 49-mid through 400m and 1:16-high through 600m as only Saudi Mohammed Al-Salhi clung to his shoulder. Determined to stay on the pace after the pacemaker exited with 350m to go, Al-Salhi was well clear of the field. But in the final 150m, it was clear he would have company at the front as he started to fade off of the 26-second pace he would need to hang on. First came Thomas Chamney of Ireland, but around wide soon came the at-times powerful Yuriy Borzakovskiy. This was one of his powerful times, as he rallied from way back in the pack to negative split a 1:44 800m to win 1:44.42 to 1:44.96 over Al-Salhi.

This race proves a turning point for the Russian half miler, who was badly beaten at Pre just a few weeks ago. But if Kaki were in the race, likely Borzakovskiy would have been kicking for second place by at least a second.

The race finished and competitors departed, but Kaki remained on the track in lane 8, face down and looking completely miserable. We hope his entire season is not derailed, but from the looks of things his training will suffer significantly after a legitimate injury.

Women's 5,000m - No World Record, Not Even A Fast Pace, But Defar Wins In Typical Fashion
After talk of world record attempt, the race went out quickly and slowed just as suddenly, as all pre-race talk went out the window. Ethiopian Meseret Defar was at or near the front of the race for the duration, dictating pace and at times her opponent's strategy. After leading a few laps, Defar simply looked around and one of her countrywomen would take the pace. Once it was 29:53 (#2 all-time) 10,000m runner Meselech Melkamu, once it was Wude Ayalew. But in the end, the pace was slow and Defar, unsurprisingly, had the best kick of the bunch.

Oddly enough, with 200m remaining, the three heavily-favored women were in a line kicking for the finish: Defar, Melkamu and Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot. All three had blistering finishes but Defar, despite buckling over in discomfort after the finish, was noticeably in control as Cheruiyot just managed second. The world record outdoors belongs to Defar's compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba at 14:11.15, and that pace was barely touched aside from the first and final 200m segments of the race. Defar won in 14:36 and the rest were strung out behind her after many of the interior laps were between 70 and 73 seconds. Strangely enough, even with the pace lingering around 72 seconds, nobody really started to kick until less than 300m to go when Melkamu sprinted around Defar. That prompted an immediate response from the great Ethiopian track runner, and she kicked up to her highest gear to maintain her lead.

The opening 200m was blazing fast in under 33 seconds, but from there on out it was 34s and 35s at the fastest.

Men's 5,000m - Kenenisa Bekele Controls, Stays Alive In Jackpot
This highly-anticipated men's 5,000m ended up being a great example of how rabbits can easily ruin a race. Kenenisa Bekele, going for a share of the Golden League jackpot by winning the 3,000m or 5,000m at every Golden League meet, got the win in the end thanks to a dominant final 400m of 53.38. But in a race run under good conditions - a bit warm but not windy - Bekele and this stacked field ended up running neither very fast nor a very tactical race. The culprits were the two rabbits, mainly Cornelius Ndiwa, who decided to take the pace out in 27.8 seconds for the first 200m and 2:00 through 800m before slowing to laps of 64 and 65. Their proposed task was to run even 62s for a 12:55-type pace.

Almost comically, the rabbits tired themselves out after about 5 laps thanks to the ridiculous opening sprint, and the field passed them running 64-second pace. The first 1,600m ended up being about 4:09 for the field leaders (the rabbit got himself out ahead and was of no use) while the second 1,600m was closer to 4:20.

Kenenisa Bekele had no interest in pushing the pace because his mission was to win the race as easily as possible and continue on in the jackpot hunt. As runners shuffled around after the initial burning pace, Bekele kept himself in ideal position. As the remaining race distance dwindled, Bekele sifted his way to the front, joined noticeably by Ali Abdosh, Sileshi Sihine, Abreham Chebii and Britain's Mo Farah, who decided to lead a few laps around the 3,200m mark. Farah, disappointingly, faded pretty badly in the final laps and finished way back after talk of a sub-13:00 performance.

The race did get exciting in the final 2 laps as Bekele took the lead, running 62 for the penultimate lap. But nobody jumped him until well after the bell, then the sprint was on. With 200m to go, James C'Kurui (Qatar) made it clear he would be the only one to challenge Bekele, but his challenge was certainly a game one. Bekele had to ramp up the velocity to maximum to win the race in 13:04 while C'Kurui was right behind. The rest were left behind, as their final laps simply could not match that of the two leaders.

Australia's Collis Birmingham, the only white guy in the race, was dropped at the mile (he was the only one off the back of the pack) but as the pace slowed up, he caught the pack and ended up sticking in there to record a personal best of 13:14. One has to think he can get down to Matt Tegenkamp (13:04-13:06) range on a cooler day in a more evenly-paced race. In fact, with the crazy pacemaking, one could make the argument that Birmingham could challenge 13:00 and get near Craig Mottram range on the perfect day.

To get an idea of the terrible pacemaking, the kilometers were 2:33 (with a 57.9 first lap), 2:39, 2:42, 2:41 and 2:28 (for Bekele, more like 2:32 last 1k for most). The rabbits clearly exhausted themselves and left the race in a position where nobody would take the lead in a decent pace. Every lap after the first 1,800m was over 64 before Bekele ramped the pace down.

Women's Steeplechase - Ruth Bisibori Nyangau Wins As Expected
She basically took it wire-to-wire in 9:18.65. Distance race times aside from the Dream Mile were simply not that fast on the day, possibly owing to the hot temperatures and erratic pacemaking. The steeple was run at the end of the meet after thunderstorms interrupted the meet at the planned time of the steeple.

Men's 1,500m - Essentially A JV Race Made Relevant Thanks To Australian Junior Ryan Gregson
Ryan Gregson
came through with a nice performance to finish 6th in 3:37.76. Six-tenths of a second out of third was Gregson, and also about 6-tenths away from his personal best of 3:37.24 run on home soil in February for the Australian Junior Record. Though beaten in a kick, Gregson did outplace Irish standout Alistair Craig, who could only muster 3:38 in one of his shortest distances.


Premier Event: Women's 400m
Sanya Richards made a top international women's 400m field look average as she pulled away from Jamaica's Shericka Williams in the closing 100m to win in a new world-leading and meet record 49.23. Richards, 24, dipped under 50 seconds for the 35th time in her career, while Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu was nowhere to be seen and finished in a well-beaten 51.19 for 6th place.

The women's 400m started immediately after a hugely intense thunderstorm. The fans were wringing out their shirts in the stands and in good spirits. Richards got a huge ovation for her world's best performance.

Men's 100m
Asafa Powell ran 10.07 for the photo finish win over Daniel Bailey 10.07 and Michael Frater 10.08. It was an extremely close finish but Powell got the timekeeper's nod. What's obvious after this race is that Usain Bolt and the USA's Mike Rodgers and Tyson Gay have stamped themselves as this year's top 100m runners until Powell runs better compared with the best of the rest.

Churandy Martina only ran 10.24 for 7th in a -0.4 wind.

Women's 100m
10.99 for Kerron Stewart of Jamaica, a fantastic time on a track that wasn't running very fast for the sprint events on the day. Asafa Powell couldn't break 10 but Stewart cracked 11 with essentially no help from a tail wind (+0.1 m/s) or close rivals.

U. Texas' and USA's Alexandria Anderson was a "Did Not Start" after winning NCAAs 3 weeks ago.

Men's 110m Hurdles
The US's Antwon Hicks won the race over Britain's Andrew Turner after the final hurdle, but the most interesting thing about the race happened post-finish. Turner was erroneously handed the victor's bouquet and started the victory lap, in fact he made it pretty far around, despite the results showing on the scoreboard that Hicks had won in 13.41.

Hicks started signing autographs looking like nothing really happened, then Turner realized the mistake and went to give the flowers to Hicks. And the best part is that Hicks ignored him and wouldn't take the flowers. In a women's race, they would have hugged and laughed and jumped around, but Hicks just nonchalantly kept signing autographs, looking nonplussed about the whole event. I guess if they screw up the flower ceremony, I wouldn't really want the flowers either.

Women's 100m Hurdles
America's Damu Cherry, only third at the USATFs, deserves mention for beating a very tough field that included two excellent sprinters from Jamaica and Canada plus Lolo Jones. Cherry might start having dreams about golden bars as she is only 4 difficult wins away from cashing in via the Golden League jackpot.

Men's 400m
Renny Quow of Trinidad & Tobago took the race, as expected, over the crowd favorite Johan Wissman, who faded after being far ahead of Quow 200m into the race. Berlin Golden League winner Chris Brown was a no-show in this event.

Quow looked like the only legitimate world class guy in the race as he sandbagged the first half of the race before pouring it on in the final 200m and winning in 45.18.


Field Events

Premier Event: Men's Javelin
Tero Pitkämäki of Finland took rival and hometown favorite Andreas Thorkildsen to javelin school with by far the strongest series of throws. Despite boisterous encouragement from the Bislett Games crowd in Oslo, Thorkildsen started behind Pitkamaki with some very mediocre throws and could never match the Finnish World Champion's rocket arm.

Women's Pole Vault
Yelena Isinbayeva, looking great in her new uniform from her Chinese apparel sponsors Li Ning, didn't look great in the actual competition as she missed badly three times at 4.81 and almost lost the event with a miss at 4.71. Poland's Monica Pyrek also cleared 4.71 but after 2 misses, allowing Isinbayeva to remain alive in the hunt for jackpot earnings. Sanya Richards may have been backstage rooting for a miss that would have taken the huge jackpot favorite Isinbayeva out of the running. As well as Richards is running, she looks very likely to win every event. Bekele looks very strong as well, but his competition is very tough and many races may prove too grueling. If one of those two runners can make it through 6 meets, they may get a bigger chunk of the pie if Isinbayeva falters.

Women's High Jump
American Chaunté Howard jumped a seasonal best on her second attempt at 1.98m, matched immediately afterwards by Croatian Blanka Vlašic with a clearance of the same height. Howard and Vlašic both benefited from a vociferous crowd, as Vlašic bested her counterpart on her next attempt, clearing 2.00m as she has done in competition literally dozens of times in a row. Vlašic asked for the bar at 2.05m but could not clear the next height. Always energetic and playing to the crowd after her makes, Vlašic was noticeably more subdued in this competition as some of her invincibility has been chipped away thanks to some heartbreaking defeats in the biggest of competitions. Her attempts at 2.05m were terrible.


Still Alive For $1mil Golden League Jackpot With 4 Meets Remaining (6, 4 women and 2 men)

Yelena Isinbayeva PV
Kenenisa Bekele 5k/3k
Sanya Richards 400
Tero Pitkamaken Jav
Kerron Stewart 100m
Damu Cherry 100h



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