September 8, 2018
Day one of the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava, the final major track meet of 2018, is in the books, and there were expected wins for Kenyan stars Conseslus Kipruto (8:22.55 steeple) and Emmanuel Korir (1:46.50 800), an upset victory by Winny Chebet over Shelby Houlihan in a tactical women’s 1500 (4:16.01), and a dominant performance by Sifan Hassan in the women’s 3,000 (8:27.50).
The meet is contested in a team format, with athletes divided by continent (each team gets two athletes per event) and after day one, Team Americas leads with 135 points with Europe second with 123, Asia-Pacific in third with 89, and Africa last with 74. There is also big money on the line as the winners of each individual event take home $30,000.
We recap the action below, starting with the distance races. The second and final day of competition begins tomorrow. Full results can be found here.
Women’s 1500: Winny Chebet holds off Shelby Houlihan thanks to stellar 56.2 final lap
Shelby Houlihan’s perfect season at 1500m came to an end last week at the Diamond League final in Brussels where she was beaten by Laura Muir. She tried to end the season with a win at the Continental Cup, but was upset by Kenya’s Winnie Chebet in a kicker’s race.
With a winning time of 4:16.01, this race looked to be set up perfectly for Houlihan, but she met her match today in Chebet (1:58 800 pb), who added the Continental Cup title to the African title that she won last month.
With no rabbits in the field, the first 800 was incredibly slow — 2:29.36 — and the race only got going when Asia-Pacific’s Linden Hall took the lead with 600 to go. Europe’s Simona Vrzalova then made a strong move at the bell but could not maintain it as Chebet moved into the lead on the back straight. Houlihan would respond, and as she pulled up on Chebet’s shoulder entering the home straight, it looked as if it was game over. But Chebet held strong and eventually pulled away to win in 4:16.01 thanks to a 28.5 final 200.
Positioning turned out to be important in this one because the last lap was incredibly fast. We had Chebet in 56.2 for her final 400, and the fact is that it’s very hard for a 1500 runner — even one with Houlihan’s kick — to close much faster than that. Houlihan had roughly the same splits for her final 400 and 200, but Chebet was starting from a better position and that enabled her to earn the victory.
|4||585||P. Unnikrishnan CHITRA||Asia-Pacific||IND||4:18.45||5|
QT: Houlihan picked the wrong time to lose financially, but what a year it’s been
If Houlihan finished second instead of first at two Diamond League races it would cost her $8,000 (a DL winner gets $10,000, 2nd place $6,000). However, at the Diamond League final, first place is $50,000, and second $20,000. At the Continental Cup, first is $30,000 and 2nd $15,000. So Houlihan’s losses cost her $45,000 in prize money.
To be decided is whether she or Laura Muir ends the year world ranked #1.
The fact we’re debating whether she is the world #1 shows how far Houlihan has come this year. Last year Houlihan never broke 4:06 for 1500 and was running the 5k at Worlds, finishing 13th. Now she’s run under 4:00 three times, has wins at Pre and Lausanne, and is arguably the best 1500m runner on the planet. It’s the transformation athletes dream of.
QT: Reminder: kicking off a slow pace is different than kicking off a fast pace
The result today shows kicking in a sub-4 race is very different than kicking in a 4:16 race. All year, Houlihan has been fine with going out in the middle or back of the pack and trusting her kick will be good enough to win. We wonder if she’ll make more of an effort to stick on the leaders next year as she’s been punished for allowing gaps to form in her last two races.
Women’s 3000: Sifan Hassan wins it thanks to a spectacular final kilometer
One week after she was outkicked by Hellen Obiri in the Diamond League 5,000 final, Sifan Hassan gained revenge in a big way with an utterly dominant display in today’s 3,000 meters. Hassan crushed a 2:40 final kilometer (8:00 pace) to pull away for the win in a world-leading 8:27.50, winning by almost five full seconds over Senbere Teferi (8:32.49) as Obiri was third in 8:36.20.
Like the men’s steeple, this was run in an elimination format (starting with 4 laps to go the last place runner is eliminated on each lap so the race finishes with 4 runners), but beyond the very first elimination, which saw the Americas’ Muriel Coneo eliminated with four laps to go, there wasn’t much drama. American Lauren Paquette had drained herself so much trying to survive with four to go that she was well off the back with three to go, and both Nozomi Tanaka and Genevieve LaCaze found themselves dropped with two and one lap to go, respectively, forcing their eliminations.
Up front, Hassan made her move to the front with 900 to go with Teferi on her shoulder. With 600 to go, Obiri moved into second and we looked to be in for a repeat of last week’s epic race in Zurich. But Hassan was way too good today, coasting to the win thanks to a brilliant 60.09 final lap.
|1||606||Sifan HASSAN||Europe||NED||8:27.50 CR||8|
|2||562||Senbere TEFERI||Africa||ETH||8:32.49 PB||7|
|3||600||Hellen OBIRI||Africa||KEN||8:36.20 SB||6|
|4||578||Konstanze KLOSTERHALFEN||Europe||GER||8:38.04 SB||5|
Quick Take: Hassan vs. Obiri should continue to be a great rivalry in 2019
Hassan’s coach Alberto Salazar said last week that he sees Hassan as a 5k/10k runner moving forward, and after a bronze at Worlds in the 5k last year, Hassan has taken more strides in the longer distances in 2018, with PRs in the 5k (14:22) and now the 3k.
With that said, Obiri is the reigning world champ in the 5k and showed last week that she will still be tough to beat in the longer distances. Watching her and Hassan battle it out for the world title in Doha next year should be a treat.
Men’s 800: Emmanuel Korir holds on FTW after strong challenge from Murphy and Amos
Europe’s Andreas Kramer led at the bell (53.18) with Africa’s Emmanuel Korir perfectly positioned to strike off his shoulder in second place. Korir made his move to the front with 200 to go as the Americas’ Clayton Murphy followed into second and African champ Nijel Amos moved into third.
Those men were three-wide down the home straight, with Korir holding a slight lead. Amos was challenging hard on the outside, but about 30 meters from the finish line, Murphy, sandwiched between Korir and Amos, bumped Amos as he tried to find some room to run.
It wasn’t clear whether it was the bumping or fatigue that caused Amos to slow down, but either way, he was not able to catch Korir, who pulled away late to win in 1:46.50 as Murphy edged out Amos for second by three-thousandths of a second as both men were credited with 1:46.77.
|1||187||Emmanuel Kipkurui KORIR||Africa||KEN||1:46.50||8|
Quick Take: What a year for Emmanuel Korir
Korir only lost one 800 race all season, and that was at the African champs where there was a mishap with the starter’s gun and Korir reacted to it late. Other than that, he won his other seven races, including a world-leading 1:44.21 indoors (the fastest indoor time since 2001) and a world-leading 1:42.05 outdoors (the fastest outdoor time since 2012).
Korir has talked about going after David Rudisha’s 1:40.91 world record in 2019, and given how well he ran this year, that’s not out of the question.
Quick Take: Clayton Murphy was inconsistent in 2018, but at his best, he remains a serious medal threat
Murphy took a little while to get up to speed in 2018, but had some great races — his win at USAs and his 1:43.12 in London. He was 10th (Birmingham DL), 5th (DL final), and 6th (Zagreb) in his last three races, but ended his season on a high with an impressive second-place finish here, edging out a stud in Nijel Amos.
Overall, Murphy’s first full year with the Nike Oregon Project had its highs and lows, but he showed that when he’s on his game, he is one of the very best in the world and will be a threat to medal in Doha next year.
Men’s steeple: Conseslus Kipruto wins a very odd men’s steeplechase
This race was already going to be a bit different as it would be run as an elimination race — the last-place athlete would be eliminated at the start of each of the final four laps.
But the event lost some star power before the race when American Evan Jager was announced as a DNS — that meant that no one would be eliminated until three laps to go.
At that point, the pack remained fairly bunched, but it looked as if John Koech would be eliminated. Then tragedy struck for Soufiane El Bakkali, who stepped on the rail just before three laps to go, forcing him to stop and collapse in a heap on the infield. Still, because Koech was technically in last with three laps to go, he too was eliminated, leaving five men in the field.
With El Bakkali gone, no one was eliminated with two laps to go, and the final elimination was not really necessary as Conseslus Kipruto and Matt Hughes were clear of the field by the bell. Kipruto wound up pulling away with ease and was celebrating before he even entered the final turn. Kipruto continued to whoop it up coming down the home straight and won easily in 8:22.55 — a much easier victory than his one-shoed race in Zurich last week.
Quick Take: Jager tried to run with an ankle injury but was forced to scratch
I didn't think hurdling and waterjumping would have been a smart decision. I feel bad for wasting a Team Americas spot and am embarrassed I had to pull out. I hope this means I can be healthier when I start my training for 2019, which will be a long year. Now for some rest. (2/2)
— Evan Jager (@EvanJager) September 8, 2018
Quick Take: This may not be the event to have tried the elimination format
We’re not opposed to trying elimination races in a meet like this, but the men’s steeple may not have been the event to try it in. For starters, this is not a deep event — had everyone been healthy today, Jager, Kipruto, and El Bakkali are so much better than the rest of the field that there wouldn’t have been much drama about who’s going to be eliminated. And even in a closer race, having eight guys kicking not to be eliminated over the final barrier just before the finish line could lead to some dangerous consequences.
With the injuries to Jager and El Bakkali today, it turned out that there were only two real eliminations in this race anyway — and one of them, Asia-Pacific’s Kosei Yamaguchi, was so far back at the bell, that it wasn’t really necessary to eliminate him.
Quick Take: Conseslus Kipruto with his longest celebration yet
Kipruto is famous for celebrating ridiculously early, but we can’t remember him starting to celebrate earlier than he did today — he was trying to pump up the crowd before he’d even entered the final turn.
I love watching Conseslus Kipruto.
Last week, he won the Diamond League steeple final with one shoe.
Today, he started celebrating his win at the Continental Cup before the final water jump. pic.twitter.com/ZYXi2aLuwS
— Jonathan Gault (@jgault13) September 8, 2018
Women’s 400: Salwa Eid Naser wins as Caster Semenya runs 49.62
Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser, the silver medalist at Worlds last year, ran 49.32, her second-fastest time ever, to win as expected. But not that far behind her was Caster Semenya — who is also running the 800 tomorrow — who clocked a very impressive 49.62 to break her South African national record of 49.96. Only three women have run faster in 2018.
|1||538||Salwa Eid NASER||Asia-Pacific||BRN||49.32||8||0.167|
|2||622||Caster SEMENYA||Africa||RSA||49.62 NR||7||0.245|
|3||588||Stephenie Ann MCPHERSON||Americas||JAM||50.82||6||0.160|
|4||605||Lisanne DE WITTE||Europe||NED||51.51||5||0.180|
Men’s 400 hurdles: Abderrahman Samba wins again
Samba has been unbeatable all season and he made it a perfect nine-for-nine in 2018 with another win and another sub-48 in 47.37.
Incredibly, Samba has run sub-48 in all nine of his finals this year. For context, there were just six sub-48s, total, from 2014-2017.
|1||215||Abderrahman SAMBA||Asia-Pacific||QAT||47.37 CR||8||0.219|
|2||181||Annsert WHYTE||Americas||JAM||48.46 SB||7||0.168|
Women’s 100 hurdles
As expected, the athletes from the Americas team went 1-2, but the order was a surprise as 2015 world champ Danielle Williams got the win in 12.49 after running down world record holder Keni Harrison (12.52).
|7||543||Marthe KOALA||Africa||BUR||13.42 SB||2||0.157|
With Noah Lyles running the 100, this looked like Ramil Guliyev’s race to lose, and the world champion led off the turn. But Panama’s Alonso Edward, who beat Guliyev in Zagreb four days ago, ran him down in the home straight to win in 20.19 into a decent headwind (-1.6 m/s).
|7||135||Baboloki THEBE||Africa||BOT||20.79 SB||2||0.187|
Marie-Josee Ta Lou suffered her first defeat over 100 meters in last week’s Diamond League final, but has bounced back in fine fashion, notching three straight victories since then, including a 11.14 victory today to hold off co-world leader Dina Asher-Smith.
|1||502||Marie-Josée TA LOU||Africa||CIV||11.14||8||0.179|
Some of the field events were conducted differently as in the throws and horizontal jumps, the competition came down to a two-man final round with whoever went the farthest in that round earning the title.
On the men’s side, there were wins for the Americas’ Donald Thomas in the high jump (2.30m), Darlan Romani in the shot put (21.68m in the final round), and Fedrick Dacres in the discus (67.97m), as well as Africa’s Ruswahl Samaai in the long jump (8.10m in the final round). For the women, DeAnna Price (Americas) won the hammer with a throw of 75.46, Caterine Ibarguen (Americas) claimed the triple jump (14.54 in the final round), Anzhelika Sidorova (Europe) won the pole vault (4.85m), and Yaime Perez (Americas) took the discus with a final-round throw of 65.30m.
As expected, the Americas swept the 4×100 relays. In the women’s race, Shaunae Miller-Uibo’s big second leg powered the Americas to the win in 42.11 while the squad of Mike Rodgers, Noah Lyles, Yohan Blake, and Tyquendo Tracey cruised to the win in the men’s race in 38.05.