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IAAF Golden League Paris 2009 - Bolt, Bekele, Willard, Richards Shine In Rain
Meeting Areva Paris Results
Previous 2009 LRC IAAF Grand Prix Recaps
The fourth Golden League meet delighted, as it featured a classic performance from Kenenisa Bekele against Bernard Lagat, a big win for Anna Willard in the 800m in 1:58.80, an unbelievable career record for 24-year-old Sanya Richards, continued dominance from the four $1 million Jackpot contenders and another superhuman run from the one man show Usain Bolt. See our commentary of all the events below along with video of Bolt and Willard.
Men's 3k: Bekele Wins A Classic Over Lagat
With Lagat in the field, it was no surprise that Bekele wanted the pace to be extremely hot. The goal for the rabbits was 2:27 for the first 1k and 4:54 for the first 2,000. An impossible pace given the conditions, as the wind was as high as 20mpw at times on Friday in Paris. However, it was essential for Bekele that the pace be hot.
The rabbits went out extremely fast, 57+ for the opening lap and 2:28.85 for 1k. Bekele was right on the rabbits' shoulders but Lagat wasn't too far behind - two to three meters in arrears. By 1,800 meters, it was clear the pace was taxing as the rabbit was having a hard time holding off Bekele. Moreover, Bekele was already looking over his shoulder to see if any damage was being done to Lagat. Yes, damage was being done as by 2k (4:58.40), Bekele had two seconds up on Lagat. But to his credit, Lagat never gave up. Over the final 1k, the two great champions kept the grind on.
Bekele had a sizeable lead (see left) but he knew he was basically maxed out and fearful Lagat would be coming. At least three times (probably 4 or 5 times), Bekele looked over his shoulder to make sure Lagat wasn't right there. With 500 to, 250 to go, and yet again as he rounded the final turn, Bekele wanted to see where he stood.
In the end, Bekele got the win in a seasonal best of 7:28.64 to Lagat's new PR of 7:33.15.
However, if one just looked at the results and saw a 4.71 margin of victory and figured this was yet another ho-hum victory by Bekele, they would be wrong as the gap was still under 3 seconds heading into the last 400. To see such a great champion as Bekele pushed to the max and running scared and appearing human with the constant looks over his shoulder was a real treat. Both he and Lagat deserve praise for keeping the pedal to the metal. Over the final 1k, both men kept the pressure on and the fans entertained. The 1,600 was probably passed in roughly 3:58 as 2k was hit in 4:58.40.
Also deserving praise was American 5k runner-up Chris Solinsky, who finished 4th in 7:37.72.
Men's 100m: "The Showman" Bolt Delivers Even In The Rain
Prior to the start of this race, the announcer on the IAAF feed summed up things perfectly as Usain Bolt was being introduced. "This is a showman. This is a man at the top of this game, a man who loves to run." (Just watch the start of the Youtube video of the race below if you don't believe us. The video is of amazing quality).
The showman certainly delivered as he got his 2nd straight victory in the pouring rain. After doing a fake windshield wiper motion during his introduction, Bolt was all business. He overcame a poor start (his reaction of .174 was 2nd worst in the field) and grabbed the lead roughly halfway into the race and pulled away to victory in 9.79, run in the drenching rain and into a headwind of -0.2 meters per second.
Coming in second was Antigua's Daniel Bailey in a new national record of 9.91 and 19-year-old Yohan Blake in a new PR of 9.93. If you need proof that everyone besides Tyson Gay knows they have no chance of beating Bolt, all you had to was watch the post-race celebrations. It was a bit weird of a scene as after the race was over, it almost looked as if there were three winners as Bailey and Blake were ecstatic about their performances. They had both set PRs and not been embarrassed by Bolt.
All three men did a victory lap.
Women's 800: Strength Kills!!! Anna Willard Wins As America Gets 2nd Straight Shock Golden League 800 Win
A week ago, American mid-d and distance fans got to enjoy a fantastic shock victory by Maggie Vessey in Rome. Anticipation had been building all week to see if she could do it again and break 2:00 in the process in Paris. For those that were watching live, there was a huge sense of disappointment when lane 4, which was supposed to have Maggie Vessey in it, was empty.
After the race however, American fans were likely thinking, "Maggie who?" as there was another American victor in the Golden League women's 800 for the second straight victory. Yes, that's right. Former American steeplechase record holder Anna Willard had pulled off an even bigger shocker than Vessey and won in Paris in 1:58.80.
The women' s 800 started off very quickly as the first 400 was passed in 56.78 by the rabbit, with noted frontrunner Marilyn Okoro of Great Britain right behind. Despite the hot pace, it was clear that Willard had come to run as she was up front from the start. At 400, she was in 4th (3rd if you don't count the rabbit). Russia's Oksana Zbrozhek made a big move to the lead at the 500 meter mark and would keep it until almost the finish line.
As the runners turned for home, a victory for Willard seemed to be almost unfathomable as she was only 5th. Zbrozhek still had the lead. In the last thirty meters, Italy's Elisa Piccione started to move up on the inside in lane one and looked like she would be able to steal the win in lane 1. But suddenly almost out of nowhere, way out in lane 3, Anna Willard came on strong, like "a train" as one message board poster described it.
Her last 20 meters were incredible. She looked like Andrew Wheating in a college race, but this was the Golden League. The announcers were stunned. They had no idea who the winner was. But we knew - Anna Willard in a new PR of 1:58.80! Behind Willard, the next six finishers all set seasonal bests and broke 2:00. In 8th, American 1,500 meter champion Shannon Rowbury grabbed a new personal best of 2:00.94. The only person in the field who left disappointed was American Hazel Clark who ran a disasterous last-placed 2:03.13 showing.
How did that happen? Well, Willard, given her steeple background, was just stronger than everyone else. Everyone else just ran out of steam and Willard got the win. The spltis for the leaders had been 56.78 and 1:28.24.
Blustery conditions in Paris can't be entirely blamed for the slow time of Wariner, though the meet announcers were looking to blame something other than Wariner's fitness for his stunningly average performance. After his 45.74 on Sunday, we were getting emails saying that Wariner got in late as a result of bad travel. This performance, despite the win, certainly provides further evidence that Wariner is not yet fit enough to challenge LaShawn Merritt.
Wariner got off smoothly, but not quickly. He picked it up in the 3rd 100m to come off the turn just ahead of the field. The final 100m could have been a time for Wariner to really excel, but instead he lost ground to Chris Brown of the Bahamas and Leslie Djhone of France.
Was Wariner's performance a complete disaster? Probably not, judging by his defeat of Brown, who won the 400m in Rome in 44.81 just a week ago. Brown ran 45.44, 0.63 seconds slower than Rome. If Wariner's time is adjusted by 0.63, then he would have run 44.65 in Rome, certainly a much more standard performance for the seldom-raced Wariner.
Women's 400h: Poland's Olichwierc Wins As Olympic Champ Walker Starts To Find Her Form
Despite the loss, the Olympic champ Walker had to be pleased with her peformance, as it was a huge step in the right direction for her. She ran only 55.24 in Lausanne last week but got a big seaonsal best of 54.47 tonight. Her previous SB was the 54.70 she ran to win the Jamaican champs. Interestingly enough, Walker actually ran faster around the oval than Olichwierc did, as her reaction time was .19 slower and she only lost by .10. No one worries too much about working on the start in the 400h but maybe they should!
Women's 400: Sanya Richards Dominates To Become Most Prolific Sub-50 Runner Ever
Richards ran very strong for the first 50 or so meters, almost making up the entire stagger on the runner on her outside, but then seemed to back off and cruised the next 200 or so before just crushing the field over the last 125-150 meters, the lead widening with each step. In the end, she won by more than a second over Jamaica's Novlene Williams Mills, who ran 50.39.
On a day that up until Richards' race was producing very slow winning times due to the blustery conditions, it was impressive that Richards just missed her own world-leading time of 49.23 that she ran in Oslo.
Men's Steeplechase: A Frenchman Embarrasses Himself
This race was the perfect example of that as it was won in disgusting fashion by France's Olympic silver medallist Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad.
The race was hyped as a sub-8:00 attempt but after the opening km was run in only 2:42.50, it was clear that the driving rain and puddles in lane one had made that goal impossible. It was all about the victory.
With 800 to go, Sweden's Mustafa Mohamed had the lead. He was being followed closely by Kenya's 2004 Olympic champ and 2009 world leader Ezekiel Kemboi, who had run 7:58 way back in early May. With 300 to go, Kemboi went to the lead but he didn't maintain it for long as Mekhissi-Benabbad powered to the lead and by the water jump it was clear he was going tobe the winner. Coming off the final turn, he looked over his shoulder to make sure he was clear of the field and then started to celebrate. Both arms outstretched, he flapped his arms and looked at the crowd. He then looked down at his chest and ripped off his number before sticking his tongue out at the finish line, before kissing the camera after the finish. The entire last 80 meters was an embarrassing display. It didn't look authentic; it looked forced and crass.
Kemboi ended up 2nd in 8:15.27.
Men's 800m - Ismail Runs Like Class Of The field
All the talk of the day was about the wind in the stadium. It seemed like the wind was bringing the fields closer together, as it was harder for the guys in front to get away. Khadevis ran 1:44.47 on his own a few days ago in America, so his 1:46 today shows that the blustery conditions must have played a part.
French drug cheat Florent Lacasse continues his return from a doping suspension and was 5th in a seasonal best 1:47.39. Paris, the only major international meet rumored to be willing to invite Dwain Chambers to run, back-tracked on their promise, but still allow the hometown drug cheat to toe the line.
Splits: 25 low (200m), 51.61 (400m), 1:19.45 (600m), 1:45.74 (54.24 final lap for Ismail)
Men's 110m Hurdles - Fantastic Race For American Dexter Faulk
In Eugene, Faulk failed to make the American team after running 13.16 and 13.17 in the preliminary and semifinal rounds. His stumble in the final meant he was off the American team. But he'll take the Golden League win, as he'll make way more money and turn way more heads with that one win than he would with a third place at USAs.
Veteran American hurdler and LetsRun.com favorite Allen Johnson set a seasonal best running 13.67 out of lane 9. Next to Faulk, Johnson had the best start in the race.
Women's 100m Hurdles - Another Big Win For Harper As Cherry Returns To Action
Damu Cherry returned to Golden League action after being shut out of the Rome meet despite being in contention for the jackpot. But any controversy (Cherry has a drug suspension in her past) can be put to rest, as Cherry was not a player in this race, finishing 6th just behind Lolo Jones in 5th.
Women's 100m - Kerron Stewart Stays In Jackpot Contention
Only one of her rivals looks capable of beating her, and that rival is compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser, who did not run in Paris. Fraser and Stewart went 1-2 in Beijing and this year stand 1-2 in the world rankings. Stewart's 10.75 in the Rome final raised her to the #5 performer of all time in the event. Fraser ran 10.88 in that race but has the mental edge, having defeated Stewart in the rounds of Beijing.
Men's Javelin - Olympic Champ Shines Again
It seems now that Thorkildsen has more firepower in his arm; it's just a matter of harnessing the power at the right moment. On the other hand, Pitkämäki is lacking in the absolute distance capability of Thorkildsen, though his consistency is remarkable.
American Chris Hill's struggles in Europe continued, as he finished last in 77m, which he threw on his first attempt.
Womens' Pole Vault - Isinbayeva Wins On Her Opening Height
Where is American Jenn Stuczynski and why is she not competing against Isinbayeva? Isinbayeva looks very good, but she is not at her dominant best. We hope Jenn S., the Olympic runner-up, can get herself to one of the final two Golden League meets to give Isinbayeva a competent challenge.
Women's High Jump - Vlašic Extends A New Streak
Men's Triple Jump - Idowu Takes Down Cuban Trio In Berlin WC Preview
Billed as a battle between Idowu and Frenchman Teddy Tamgho, in fact the Cuban trio should have headed the bill, as all three have jumped wind-legal 17.62m or better this season. Idowu's best is 17.60m this season, but his performance in Paris eclipsed all of the rest as he came through in the late rounds to take the lead.
Men's Pole Vault - Precocious Renaud Lavillenie Thrills Home Crowd
The next IAAF Golden League Meet is not until August 28th (Weltklasse in Zürich), followed by the Memorial Van Damme in Brussels on September 4.