2021 Brussels DL Recap: DSD Athletes Francine Niyonsaba & Christine Mboma Earn Big Wins & Sifan Hassan Scares the Mile World Record

By LetsRun.com
September 3, 2021

The Diamond League’s regular season wrapped up on Friday with the Memorial Van Damme meet in Brussels, the final action before next week’s Diamond League final in Zurich.

The biggest storyline, from a big-picture perspective, was the fact that two of the five women’s running events were won by DSD athletes — Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba in the 5,000 meters (14:25.34, prevailing thanks to a late kick in the final meters) and Namibia’s Christine Mboma in the 200 (21.84). Both Niyonsaba and Mboma are banned from competing in events from 400 through the mile as they are biologically what most people would consider to be intersex, but they have moved to other events and are now finding major success.

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Elsewhere, Sifan Hassan gave the mile world record a scare by running 4:14.74, Stewart McSweyn led an Aussie 1-2 by winning the men’s 1500 in 3:33.20, Ferguson Rotich ran a quick 1:43.81 in the men’s 800 and and Natoya Goule went wire-to-wire in winning the women’s 800 in 1:58.09. Full recap and analysis of every event below, starting with the distance races. *Full results

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Women’s 5000: Francine Niyonsaba’s victory tour keeps on going

Francine Niyonsaba made it a perfect three for three in post-Olympic races as she won a four-way kick over the final 100m to get the win in 14:25.34.

Niyonsaba, the former 800m star who is banned from running the women’s 800 and 1500m races because of the DSD regulations, has moved up to the longer distances this year and the results have been phenomenal. At the Olympics she was 5th in the 10,000m after she was disqualified in the 5000m. After the Olympics, she won the two-mile at Pre and the 3,000 in a very quick 8:19 in Lausanne.

Tonight was a real test as she faced the Olympic silver medallist Hellen Obiri at Obiri’s preferred distance. After a quick opening 2km (5:43), the pace slowed drastically the next 2 kilometers (11:41) and came down to a kick. Ten women, including American Alicia Monson, were together with a kilometer to go and at the bell, eight were still together. Soon it was a four-woman race as Obiri took the lead at the bell and pushed the pace and only Ejgayehu Taye (14:14 5k PB), Margaret Kipkemboi (4th at Kenyan trials), and Niyonsaba could stay with her. Coming off the final turn Obiri still led, and Niyonsaba looked to be struggling as she was in 4th and had let a gap open up. Taye went by Obiri down the homestretch but Niyonsaba refused to give up and found another gear and got the win.

5000 Metres – Women  – Diamond Discipline
1 NIYONSABA Francine               BDI  14:25.34        8.00
2 TAYE Ejgayehu                    ETH  14:25.63        7.00
3 OBIRI Hellen                     KEN  14:26.23        6.00
4 KIPKEMBOI Margaret Chelimo       KEN  14:27.12        5.00
5 RENGERUK Lilian Kasait           KEN  14:30.32        4.00
6 CHERONO Eva                      KEN  14:30.77        3.00
7 MCCOLGAN Eilish                  GBR  14:31.26        2.00
8 KLOSTERHALFEN Konstanze          GER  14:35.88        1.00
9 MONSON Alicia                    USA  14:42.56
10 GRØVDAL Karoline Bjerkeli        NOR  14:43.26
11 CHEBET Beatrice                  KEN  14:47.31
12 MINSEWO Abersh                   ETH  14:50.88
13 MULATE Bosena                    ETH  14:55.18
14 CHEROTICH Daisy                  KEN  14:56.46
15 SCOTT Dominique                  RSA  15:01.66
FINN Michelle                    IRL       DNF
VAN BUSKIRK Kate                 CAN       DNF

Quick Take: Niyonsaba might be the best women’s distance runner not named Sifan Hassan right now

Niyonsaba’s winning time today wasn’t super fast but it was a PB and she showed she can beat almost anyone right now not named Sifan Hassan. We think Letsenebet Gidey would still beat her at 5,000m but there aren’t many women who could beat her in a 3000 or 5000.

QT: Another PB for Alicia Monson

Monson’s first year as a pro continues to be a good one. Coach Dathan Ritzenehin told LetsRun.com earlier in the year he thought Monson was in 14:40 shape and she nearly proved it tonight. After her 14:48 PR at Pre, she lowered her PR to 14:42 and was in contention until the final km.

Monson’s time would have stood as the American record as recently as five years ago. As it stands, she is now 4th on the all-time US list, behind Shelby Houlihan (14:23.92), Karissa Schweizer (14:26.34), and Shannon Rowbury (14:38.92). Which means Monson is now faster than Molly Huddle (14:42.64) and Shalane Flanagan (14:44.80). Not bad company.

Women’s mile: Hassan dazzles again with 4:14 meet record

Today’s women’s mile was all about Sifan Hassan, as the pacing lights were set to go after her world record of 4:12.33 and she was the only one to go with them.

When Hassan set the world record two years ago in Monaco, she ran a massive negative split, coming through 800 in 2:08.5 but running her last 800 in 2:01.9. Tonight, with the pacing lights, Hassan was more aggressive as she was right with the pacers at 400 (62.03). By 800 (2:04.97, 2:05-high for Hassan), Hassan was clear of the field and the only question was whether she could break the WR again.

With the pacemakers gone, however, Hassan couldn’t quite hold on, hitting 1200 in 3:09.21, needing a 61.6 last lap for the record. She couldn’t quite manage that, running a 63, but she still delighted the crowd by delivering a meet-record 4:14.74 — the fifth-fastest outdoor mile in history (sixth-fastest overall).

Behind Hassan, Ethiopia’s Axumawit Embaye, who hadn’t run faster than 4:08 in three 1500’s this year, finished a surprising second in 4:21.08. Australian Linden Hall continued her fine 2021 campaign with her third national record of the year, running 4:21.38 for third, while Americans Elise Cranny (4:21.90) and Josette Norris (4:22.71) ran pbs to finish fifth and sixth, respectively.

One Mile – Women  – Diamond Discipline
1 HASSAN Sifan                     NED   4:14.74        8.00
2 EMBAYE Axumawit                  ETH   4:21.08        7.00
3 HALL Linden                      AUS   4:21.38        6.00
4 PÉREZ Marta                      ESP   4:21.58        5.00
5 CRANNY Elise                     USA   4:21.90        4.00
6 NORRIS Josette                   USA   4:22.71        3.00
7 GUERRERO Esther                  ESP   4:22.81        2.00
8 NANYONDO Winnie                  UGA   4:23.09        1.00
9 MÄKI Kristiina                   CZE   4:23.38
10 JEBITOK Edinah                   KEN   4:25.11
11 MEKONEN Mebriht                  ETH   4:28.39
12 VANDERELST Elise                 BEL   4:32.44
LEMIESZ Aneta                    POL       DNF
NALYANYA Eglay Nafuna            KEN       DNF

Quick Take: There is a large gap in the women’s 1500/mile right now

The Olympic 1500 final showed just how wide the margin is between the best of the best in the women’s 1500 at the moment and the rest of the world as the three medalists were almost two seconds clear of everyone else. Now to be fair, Laura Muir (silver in Tokyo) was awful in her first meet after the Olympics at Pre (12th), but it’s possible she wasn’t totally recovered.

Tonight, Hassan, who had two weeks since her 5k WR attempt at Pre, looked much better-rested and summoned a vintage performance to dominate the field. This may have been the fifth-fastest outdoor mile in history, but it was only the third-fastest of Hassan’s career. She has earned the title Queen of the Mile.

Fastest women’s outdoor miles

4:12.33 Sifan Hassan, Monaco 2019
4:12.56 Svetlana Masterkova, Zurich 1996
4:14.30 Genzebe Dibaba, Rovereto 2016
4:14.71 Sifan Hassan, London 2018
4:14.74 Sifan Hassan, Brussels 2021

Quick Take: Hassan will stick with the short stuff for the rest of 2021

Hassan was supposed to go after the 10,000m WR tonight but switched to the mile as she felt tired after Tokyo and Pre. 

“After Tokyo I was so tired so I just wanted to run the short distance,” Hassan told meet organizers. “My goal was to run fast here tonight and that is what I did. It is a beautiful time.
“No, I was not thinking about the world record, although I knew I was on world record pace in the beginning. But in the middle, it slowed down a bit. It does not matter. Like I said, I am happy with the time and meeting record,

“I am not running any long distances anymore this year. In Zurich I will run the 1500m.”

Quick Take: Solid showings from the Americans

Though Elise Cranny and Josette Norris finished well back of Hassan, in 5th and 6th, they were in the thick of the battle for second and acquitted themselves well, as three of the four women in front of them were in the Olympic final, as was 8th placer Winnie Nanyondo.

The outdoor mile isn’t run much on the women’s side, but for what it’s worth, Cranny and Norris are now 8th and 9th on the all-time US outdoor list. (#9 and #10 when you include indoor times)

That shows some impressive depth from the United States. Remember, neither Cranny nor Norris even ran the 1500 at the Olympic Trials yet they’re running with a bunch of Olympic finalists. Cranny, of course, was the US champion at 5,000 meters. But considering how well Norris has run in the 1500/mile since the Trials, (3rd, 3rd, 6th in Diamond Leagues, plus a 3:59 1500 pb), we wonder if she’ll opt to focus on the 1500 instead in 2022

Men’s 1500: McSweyn wins

The battle between the Spanish and Australian record holders in the 1500 had a twist. While Aussie Stewart McSweyn is known for always pushing the pace and Spain’s Mohamed Katir is known for coming off of it, in this one, Katir took the lead from McSweyn at the bell and led into the final turn. However, McSweyn passed him near the end of the turn and held on for the win in 3:33.20 after a 57.5 last lap, as his compatrior Ollie Hoare ended up second in 3:33.79. Katir faded from 2nd to 7th (3:34.50 over the final 100) as he could only manage a 58.7 final 400.

1500 Metres – Men  – Diamond Discipline
1 MCSWEYN Stewart                  AUS   3:33.20        8.00
2 HOARE Oliver                     AUS   3:33.79        7.00
3 ROZMYS Michał                    POL   3:33.96        6.00
4 KIPSANG Abel                     KEN   3:34.08        5.00
5 SIMOTWO Charles Cheboi           KEN   3:34.37        4.00
6 DENISSEL Simon                   FRA   3:34.43        3.00
7 KATIR Mohamed                    ESP   3:34.50        2.00
8 GRETHEN Charles                  LUX   3:34.59        1.00
9 MECHAAL Adel                     ESP   3:35.37
10 TEFERA Samuel                    ETH   3:36.20
11 DEBJANI Ismael                   BEL   3:43.08
12 VERMEULEN Jochem                 BEL   3:53.36
KIPRUGUT Boaz                    KEN       DNF
SOWINSKI Erik                    USA       DNF

Quick Take: McSweyn gets a deserved win

McSweyn races a lot on the circuit in a variety of distances (and even rabbits at times), but when he runs you know what you’re going to get: a great effort. More times than not, he doesn’t get the win but tonight he did and in part it may be due to the time of the year. His last lap was far from super impressive but it was still better than everyone else’s as many are suffering from post-Olympic fatigue (Olympic champ Jakob Ingebrigtsen was supposed to run but scratched a few days ago).

It makes sense that September is a good month for McSweyn as two of his three career DL 1500/mile wins have come in September. In a month, when others may be a little past their peak, McSweyn is always game and giving it 100%. Last year, he won and ran a then of PR 3:30.51 in Doha in September.

“I think I ran a pretty good race. Unfortunately the pace dropped a little during the race and that changed my tactics. I was kind of sitting there and waiting for the last 150 meters to attack. I had a great finish and that gives me a lot of confidence. To take the win here in Brussels is special to me as it is one of my favorite races,” said McSweyn.

Women’s 800: Goule goes wire-to-wire

The early pace was quick (56.99 at 400 for the pacer, 57.5 for the first racer Goule), but things slowed down at the bell and by 600 the entire field was bunched within 0.6 of a second. At that point (1:28.2), Goule still led with Kenya’s Mary Moraa on her outside. Moraa would fade to last, however, and entering the final turn, one clear threat to Goule emerged in the form of Olympic silver medalist Keely Hodgkinson of Great Britain. Hodgkinson could never quite get there, however, and Goule held on to win in 1:58.09 to Hodgkinson’s 1:58.16.

American Kate Grace, who had run 1:57 in each of her last four 800’s coming in, was off her game and could only manage 5th in 1:59.22.

1 GOULE Natoya                     JAM   1:58.09        8.00
2 HODGKINSON Keely                 GBR   1:58.16        7.00
3 REEKIE Jemma                     GBR   1:58.77        6.00
4 ALEMU Habitam                    ETH   1:59.01        5.00
5 GRACE Kate                       USA   1:59.22        4.00
6 LINDH Lovisa                     SWE   1:59.49        3.00
7 NAKAAYI Halimah                  UGA   1:59.55        2.00
8 MORAA Mary                       KEN   1:59.79        1.00
YARIGO Noélie                    BEN       DNF

Quick Take: Hodgkinson cost herself this race with her positioning

She may be the Olympic silver medalist, but Hodgkinson is still only 19 years old and perhaps hasn’t learned some of the finer arts of 800m racing that could have helped her earn the win tonight. Over the final turn, she ran extra distance compared to Goule, running on the outside of lane 1 and into lane 2. Sometimes, that is unavoidable in a tight 800, but it didn’t help her tonight in a race decided by just .07.

What was avoidable: Hodgkinson drifted all the way out to lane 3 on the home straight before drifting back in to finish in lane 2. At no point in the home straight did Hodgkinson have anyone in front of her. When that is the case, just run forward in a straight line. Any extra distance to the right or left is going to cost you on the clock.

Men’s 800: Rotich dominates

Olympic silver medalist Ferguson Rotich of Kenya easily handled the field in this non-Diamond League event, which took place before the TV window. He ran 1:43.81 to win comfortably by 1.43 seconds over Eliott Crestan of Belgium, who ran 1:45.24 for second. Rotich has now broken 1:44 four times this year — no one else has done it more than twice — and finished in the top three in his last five meets, though this was just his third victory in 13 starts.

“I´m very happy with the race. It wasn´t easy to maintain the form after the Olympics but to be able to participate in the Diamond League kept me motivated. Today I just wanted to win and to run 1:43, which I did,” said Rotich. *Results here


Men’s 100: Fred Kerley wins in 9.94

Olympic silver medallist Fred Kerley came on late to edge US champ Trayon Bromell in the men’s 100, 9.94 to 9.97. 400 Olympian Michael Norman was third in 9.98. Kerley is now the first man to win a Diamond League race at 100, 200, and 400 meters.

Kenyan record holder Ferdinand Omurwa was 4th in 10.02 — his first loss since Tokyo. Even though he took a step back in form from the 9.86 he ran two weeks ago, he still made history as the first Kenyan in a Diamond League 100.

100 Metres – Men  – Diamond Discipline           Wind: +0.1 m/s
1 KERLEY Fred                      USA      9.94        8.00
2 BROMELL Trayvon                  USA      9.97        7.00
3 NORMAN Michael                   USA      9.98        6.00
4 OMURWA Ferdinand                 KEN     10.02        5.00
5 BROWNING Rohan                   AUS     10.14        4.00
6 SIMBINE Akani                    RSA     10.18        3.00
7 FALL Mouhamadou                  FRA     10.19        2.00
8 CISSÉ Arthur                     CIV     10.34        1.00

Women’s 200: Christine Mboma comes on strong to win in 21.84

Olympic silver medalist and world U20 champion Christine Mboma’s fine 2021 season continued on Friday as she won her first Diamond League meet in 21.84. Mboma, as usual, got a poor start but her final 100 was flying and she sprinted past Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson and world champion Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain to earn the victory. American Sha’Carri Richardson got out well and was competitive early but faded late and finished a well-beaten fourth in 22.45.

Mboma, still only 18 years old, has now broken 22 seconds four times in 2021, with a best of 21.81. No other U20 athlete in history has run faster than 22.11. And Mboma may extend that dominance as she doesn’t turn 20 until May 2023.

Men’s 400: Michael Cherry runs a pb, breaks MJ’s meet record

American Michael Cherry, the Olympic 4th placer in Tokyo, started the TV window with a bang by blitzing a personal best of 44.03 to win the men’s 400 and break Michael Johnson’s meet record of 44.06, which dated to 1998. Cherry has enjoyed a breakout 2021 campaign, PRing four times (including at the Olympic Trials and Olympics) and dropping his pb from 44.66 to 44.03.

400 Metres – Men  – Diamond Discipline
1 CHERRY Michael                   USA     44.03        8.00
2 JAMES Kirani                     GRN     44.51        7.00
3 MAKWALA Isaac                    BOT     44.83        6.00
4 BONEVACIA Liemarvin              NED     45.00        5.00
5 LENDORE Deon                     TTO     45.06        4.00
6 DOOM Alexander                   BEL     45.84        3.00
7 TAYLOR Christopher               JAM     45.88        2.00
8 SACOOR Jonathan                  BEL     46.66        1.00

Women’s 100 hurdles: Visser wins a tight one

Olympic bronze medalist Megan Tapper of Jamaica got out best in this one, but this one would come down to two hard closers, Nadine Visser of the Netherlands in lane 7 and Nigerian Tobi Amusan, the 2017 NCAA champion, in lane 5. The two crossed nearly simultaneously, with Visser being awarded the win by just eight thousandths of a second as both women were credited with a time of 12.69.

100 Metres Hurdles – Women  – Diamond Discipline Wind: +0.7 m/s
1 VISSER Nadine                    NED     12.69        8.00
2 AMUSAN Tobi                      NGR     12.69        7.00
3 TAPPER Megan                     JAM     12.77        6.00
4 SEMBER Cindy                     GBR     12.79        5.00
5 CUNNINGHAM Gabriele              USA     12.89        4.00
6 ZAGRÉ Anne                       BEL     12.96        3.00
7 VIDTS Noor                       BEL     13.55        2.00
WILLIAMS Danielle                JAM        DQ

Men’s 400 hurdles: dos Santos wins a close one

There was no Karsten Warholm and no Rai Benjamin in this one but the positive aspect to that is it gave the Olympic third and fourth placers a little attention, which they deserve as Brazil’s Alison dos Santos (46.72 in Brazil) and the British Virgin Islands’ Kyron McMaster (47.08) are quite good and third and eighth fastest men in history. In this one, dos Santos came on late to win 48.23 as McMaster was second  in 48.31 and Yasmani Coppelo third in 48.45.

400 Metres Hurdles – Men  – Diamond Discipline
1 DOS SANTOS Alison                BRA     48.23        8.00
2 MCMASTER Kyron                   IVB     48.31        7.00
3 COPELLO Yasmani                  TUR     48.45        6.00
4 HYDE Jaheel                      JAM     48.91        5.00
5 MÄGI Rasmus                      EST     49.13        4.00
6 ANGELA Ramsey                    NED     49.53        3.00
7 MCALISTER Chris                  GBR     50.09        2.00
8 PREIS Constantin                 GER     50.12        1.00

Women’s 400: Laus wins for Belgium 

The women’s 400 was a non-DL event and was billed as a battle of the Netherlands vs Belgium: four Dutch runners against four Belgians. It was a tight finish, but ultimately Belgium got the victory as Camille Laus edged the Netherlands’ Eveline Saalberg, 52.34 to 52.38. Laus is the partner of Kevin Borlee, proving that every Belgian 400 runner has to be related to the Borlees in some way. *Results

Field Events

Men’s pole vault: Mondo keeps winning

Last week, Olympic champ Mondo Duplantis was beaten in his first meet after Tokyo, finishing just fourth in Lausanne. But since then, it has been business as usual for Duplantis, as he cleared 6.01m to win in Paris and 6.05m today — the #2 jump in the world this year — to win in Brussels.

How dominant has Duplantis been in 2021? Outside of Duplantis, no one else has cleared six meters this year. Duplantis has done it seven times.

Pole Vault – Men  – Diamond Discipline
1 DUPLANTIS Armand                 SWE      6.05        8.00
2 NILSEN Christopher               USA      5.85        7.00
3 LIGHTFOOT KC                     USA      5.85        6.00
4 BROEDERS Ben                     BEL      5.75        5.00
4 MORGUNOV Timur                   ANA      5.75        5.00
6 KOPPELAAR Rutger                 NED      5.65        3.00
7 LISEK Piotr                      POL      5.65        2.00
8 VLOON Menno                      NED      5.65        1.00
9 LITA BAEHRE Bo Kanda             GER      5.65
10 OBIENA Ernest John               PHI      5.65
11 LAVILLENIE Valentin              FRA      5.50
12 COPPELL Harry                    GBR      5.50

Men’s long jump: American Steffin McCarter earns first DL win

With none of the Tokyo medalists in the men’s LJ field, the win was up for grabs in Brussels, and it went to Steffin McCarter, the third placer at the US Olympic Trials who did not even make the final at the Olympics. McCarter saved his best for last, jumping 7.99 meters in the all-important sixth round to take the win over 2017 Worlds bronze medalist Ruswahl Samaai of South Africa.

Statistically, this was the worst Diamond League men’s long jump ever — for the first time in the 12-year history of the DL, no one jumped 8.00m in the entire competition.

Long Jump – Men  – Diamond Discipline
Pts    Wind
1 MCCARTER Steffin                 USA      7.99        8.00    +0.6
2 SAMAAI Ruswahl                   RSA      7.95        7.00    +0.6
3 RANDAZZO Filippo                 ITA      7.89        6.00    +0.7
4 GFÖHLER Benjamin                 SUI      7.77        5.00    +0.8
5 PRIMAK Artyom                    ANA      7.71        4.00    +0.5
6 KONATE Erwan                     FRA      7.68        3.00    +0.7
7 CÁCERES Eusebio                  ESP      7.55        2.00    +0.8
8 HEINLE Fabian                    GER      7.42        1.00    +0.3
9 HAUTTEKEETE Jente                BEL      7.18                +0.4

Women’s high jump: Mahuchikh takes it

There have been four DL women’s high jumps since the Olympics and four different winners. And tonight was the toughest yet: it took 1.98m to win in Eugene, Lausanne, and Paris, but three women cleared 2.00m in Brussels. Though Mahuchikh needed two attempts at 2.00 and the two women who beat her in Tokyo, Mariya Lasitskene and Nicola McDermott, only needed one tonight, Mahuchikh was the only one to clear 2.02m, which earned her the victory.

High Jump – Women  – Diamond Discipline
1 MAHUCHIKH Yaroslava              UKR      2.02        8.00
2 LASITSKENE Mariya                ANA      2.00        7.00
3 MCDERMOTT Nicola                 AUS      2.00        6.00
4 GERASHCHENKO Iryna               UKR      1.92        5.00
5 DEMIDIK Karyna                   BLR      1.92        4.00
6 PATTERSON Eleanor                AUS      1.92        3.00
6 THIAM Nafissatou                 BEL      1.92        3.00
8 LEVCHENKO Yuliya                 UKR      1.88        1.00
9 TROST Alessia                    ITA      1.80

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