$1 million ÅF Golden League Jackpot competition down to four athletes.
The ÅF Golden League took to the city of Rome, Italy for the Golden Gala and the participants did not disappoint the rather conservatively sized crowd. Taking center stage on the night was the matchup of sprinting superstars of the United States and Jamaica.
In the men’s 100m it was a duel between former world record holder Asafa Powell of Jamaica and American record holder Tyson Gay. Gay (9.77) used a strong second 50m to outdistance Powell (9.88) by a full meter, leading four men under the 10.00 mark. Not be to outshone were the 100m women, including Jamaican Kerron Stewart, who was looking to continue her quest for the $1 million Jackpot. Stewart, like Gay, put in a huge surge in the second half of the race, winning and becoming the #5 all-time performer with a PR 10.75 clocking.
Continuing his own Jackpot quest, Kenenisa Bekele, the Ethiopian world record holder, used his patented sit-and-kick approach to secure the win and a new world-leading time of 12:56.23 in the men’s 5000m. Bekele led the remainder of the top seven finishers to personal best times, including up-and-coming 19-year-old Kenyan Lucas Rotich, who placed thrid in 12:58.70.
World leader Augustine Choge of Kenya was held out of the meet, which left the window open for someone to take down his world-leading time of 3:29.47 in the men’s 1500m. Prefrontaine Classic champion Asbel Kiprop of Kenya proved he is the favorite for Berlin as he took the lead from the rabbit with 400m to go and held on for the win in 3:31.20. Although he did not dip under 3:30, Kiprop still ran a PR and with better pacing he is sure to break the barrier soon.
The women’s 1500m was also missing a top name from the original start lists, Ethiopian Gelte Burka ,who took the title in Lousanne on Tuesday. This left the race wide open for Maryam Jamal to showcase her talent and she did just that. Jamal took a huge lead into the final 300m, closing in just around 60 seconds and setting a new world-leading time of 3:56.55. In a surprise runner-up showing, Christin Wurth-Thomas became the fifth American woman in history to break the 4:00 barrier, setting a PR of 3:59.98.
Another American surprise came in the women’s 800m, where Maggie Vessey, fourth at the recent US championships, came from behind, as she is known to, and snatched the win from a very respectable field. Vessey’s time of 2:00.13 is still short of the 2:00.00 needed to place her on the US team for the world championships in Berlin. Vessey seems capable of breaking the illusive barrier, and would be wise to try making a move further out than her normal 150m kick in order to achieve the standard.
A total of four Jackpot contenders survived the third meet of the Golden League series. American Sanya Richards (49.46) was able to continue her winning ways in the women’s 400m, despite the presence of defending world 200m champion Allyson Felix. Russian world record holder Elena Isinbaeva had some early issues but overcame them to easily take the win in the pole vault. The previously mentioned Stewart and Bekele join Richards and Isinbaeva as the remaining contenders. Tero Pitkämäki (men’s javelin) of Finland and American Damu Cherry (women’s 100m hurdles) were both eliminated from the Jackpot hunt in Rome.