Mo Farah & Bernard Lagat Set Records In Monaco

Mo Farah celebrates his new British record in the 5000m on Friday night in Monaco. Photo: Action Images

There were numerous world-class performances on the track Friday.

Written by: David Monti

(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

The track at the Stade Louis II in Monaco was set ablaze Friday night by some of the world’s best middle and long distance runners, led by World Championships medal favorites David Rudisha, Mo Farah and Brimin Kipruto.  The Herculis Meeting was the tenth stop of the 2011 Samsung Diamond League.

Rudisha, 22, the reigning African champion and world-record holder for 800 meters, stretched his winning streak for his two-lap specialty to 28 races, prevailing easily tonight in a world-leading 1:42.61.  Rudisha, wearing a red-checked adidas uniform and white spikes, settled-in two strides behind pacemaker Sammy Tangui who took the field through 400 meters in 49.61.  When Tangui stepped off the track about 100 meters later, Rudisha already had a commanding lead, and held it through the finish without apparent strain.

“I felt great,” the Kenyan World Championships Trials champion said.  “I knew my shape was coming along nicely and it’s nice to see such a fast time.  Training has been going well so I was looking forward to a nice race.”

Behind Rudisha, Olympic 1500m gold medalist Asbel Kiprop made up some ground in the final 300 meters to run a personal best 1:43.15 and finish second.  Four-time USA champion Nick Symmonds came from seventh place out of the final turn to finish third in a season’s best 1:43.83.

Mo Farah won his eighth race of the year in a thrilling men’s 5000m.  Leading at the bell with American Bernard Lagat, Kenyan teenager Isaiah Koech, and Ethiopia’s Imane Merga all close on his heels, Farah accelerated down the backstretch shaking everyone but Lagat as he came out of the penultimate turn.  In the final push for home, Farah showed the excellent finishing speed he has developed under coach Alberto Salazar, holding off Lagat to stop the clock at a world-leading 12:53.11, which was also a meeting and British record.

“I always go out to do my best on a race and today I’ve done a national record and world lead,” said Farah who has only been defeated in one race this year.  “I’m more than happy about it and looking forward to competing at the World Championships.”

Lagat broke his own USA and North American record in second (12:53.60), and Koech finished in a world youth best of 12:54.18.  Seven men broke 13 minutes.  Farah’s American training partner Galen Rupp dropped out, as did Rupp’s world championships teammate, Chris Solinsky.

In the men’s 3000m steeplechase, the last event on the track in Monaco tonight, Kenyans Paul Kipsiele Koech, Ezekiel Kemboi and Brimin Kipruto put on a spectacular display.  Behind the skillful pacemaking of Haron Lagat, the trio were clear of the field with two laps to go and were on a very fast pace.

“The race was so fast for everyone I didn’t even know it was a world record race,” Kipruto, the Kenyan World Championships Trials champion, said after the race.

Koech was leading before the bell, trying to impress Kenyan selectors that he should be placed on their world championships team despite his seventh place finish at their Trials last week.  But Kipruto, the 2008 Olympic champion, pulled away from Koech and then Kemboi to win in an African record 7:53.64, just 1/100th of a second short of Saif Saeed Shaheen’s world record.

“When I saw the clock I was just so grateful,” Kipruto continued. “Next time at the world championships I will try and break the world record.”

Kemboi ran 7:55.76 to become the fifth-fastest steepler of all time, and Koech clocked 7:57.32.  American Olympian Billy Nelson clocked a career best 8:17.27 in 11th place.

The men's 1,500m was marred by post-race fisticuffs between Frenchmen Mehdi Baala and Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Excellent marks were also achieved in the 1500m races.  In the women’s contest, the top athletes shook off the overly exuberant pacemaking of American Molly Beckwith who flew through the first 400 meters in 60.84.  She slowed in the second lap to hit 800m in 2:07.65, but the race contenders stayed well back.  In the end, two-time world 1500m champion Maryam Jamal found her best form, holding off Morocco’s Ibtissam Lakhouad and America’s Morgan Uceny in the final 200m to win in 4:00.59.  Lakhouad finished second in 4:01.09 and Uceny got a personal best in third (4:01.51).

The men’s 1500m –which was not a Diamond League event– was marred by a brief fist fight which broke out after Kenya’s Silas Kiplagat ran a world-leading 3:30.47 ahead of compatriot Nixon Chepseba (3:31.74) and Sudan’s Abubaker Kaki (3:31.76 NR).  In the video replay, France’s Mehdi Baala was seen head-butting compatriot Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad after a brief argument.  The much taller Mekhissi-Benabbad reacted with a swift punch to the ducking Baala’s head.  Several punches were thrown before officials rushed to separate them.

Photo Gallery: Track Wars: Baala vs. Benabbad

“I didn’t understand,” Baala said after the altercation.  “I went to see him to say him and he said, ‘I have a reason for not talking to you,’ and after that, I felt his head against mine.  Honestly, I didn’t understand.”

The Samsung Diamond League continues in Stockholm on Friday, July 29, then London on August 5.

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