September 5, 2014
Brenda Martinez is back.
After taking a two-month break from racing following a disappointing 5th-place finish at USAs in the 800, Martinez displayed the form that earned her bronze in the 800 at Worlds last year as she ran 1:58.84 to hold off Lynsey Sharp and Eunice Sum to win the Diamond League Final in Brussels on Friday. The time was a season’s best for Martinez and her fastest clocking since running 1:57.91 at Worlds. Sharp, who won the last DL event in Birmingham, was second in 1:58.94, while Sum, who had clinched the DL title prior to the race, was third in an identical time. American Ajee Wilson struggled again and was 9th in 2:02.89, her slowest time in a final since her second race of the season in Princeton, N.J., in April. Recap, video, results and quick thoughts below.
No one went with rabbit Yekaterina Kupina and she had a six-meter lead on the field as she passed 400 in 57.66 (the pack came through at approximately 58.5). Sum and European champ Marina Arzamasova of Belarus were first and second at the bell, followed by Sharp, Wilson, 2007 World champ Janeth Jepkosgei and Martinez. With 200 to go, it was still anyone’s race and Martinez decided to make her move, storming to the front and breaking up the field. She opened up a gap on Sum, Arzamasova and Sharp while Wilson began to fade badly.
Martinez still had a gap in the home stretch, but Sum and Sharp were closing hard on her over the final 50 meters. In the end, they ran out of room, as Martinez won by .10 seconds to claim her second career Diamond League victory (her first came in London last year). We timed Martinez at a quick 29.2 seconds for her last 200.
Video for USA Visitors:
|RANK||ATHLETE||NATION||RESULT||DIAMOND POINTS||DIAMOND RANKING|
Quick Take #1: It’s been a crazy year for Brenda Martinez.
Martinez looked like the world’s best 800 runner in May when she posted the fastest split of the night in anchoring the U.S. to 4×800 gold over Kenya at the World Relays (she also anchored the U.S. to silver in the 4×1500 the previous night). But Martinez failed to finish higher than fifth in her next four DL races (two 800s, two 1500s) and looked sluggish at USAs as she was only fifth there.
Martinez took an extended break from racing and resumed her season in Stockholm, where she still ran like her pre-break self, with a 4:07 eighth-place finish. She steadily improved, however, running 1:59.26 for third in Birmingham, 4:01 in Zurich and winning the 1500 in Zagreb on Tuesday. With her win today, Martinez confirmed that she is once again among the world’s elite middle distance runners.
Self-promotion alert: if you read our Brussels preview, you would have known to expect something special from Martinez as we talked her up and picked her for the win.
Quick Thought #2: This event will be wide open at Worlds next year.
Sum looked unbeatable early in the season, but once her 12-race winning streak came to an end in Monaco, no one has been able to stay on top in the event for long. The last four DL points races (Lausanne, Monaco, Birmingham and Brussels) have seen four different winners in Sum, Wilson, Sharp and Martinez. Plus there’s world indoor champ Chanelle Price (who hasn’t raced since USAs), Arzamasova (who ran 1:58.15 to beat Sharp at Euros) and promising juniors Sahily Diago Mesa of Cuba(#2 on the year at 1:57.74) and World Junior champ Margaret Wambui of Kenya (who can definitely run well under 2:00 based on her performance in the World Junior final). The 800 is already an unpredictable event and with no dominant woman right now, it should be fun to watch in 2015.
Quick Thought #3: Time for a Great 2014 to End for Ajee Wilson
Not sure if Ajee Wilson is running next weekend’s Continental Cup in Morocco, but Wilson should be happy to get some rest. While 2014 ended on a sour note, with a 6th in Birmingham and 9th in Brussels, Wilson should be proud of her season as she won her first DL race and will finish the year as the world leader.
Wilson raced a lot this year (25 races, including heats), which is fine for an 800 runner, but she hasn’t had much time off at all. Her first race was on January 10 and since then, she’s only taken an extended break once — she went 29 days without a race between World Indoors on March 7 and her outdoor opener at Princeton on April 5. Other than that, Wilson never went more than 15 days without a race since the start of the year.
It’s hard to argue that Wilson should have taken time off in the middle of the DL season as Martinez did — Wilson was running great through the middle of August — but it’s hard to sustain a high level of performance for eight months, as Wilson found out in the last two DL races.