Harsh conditions couldn’t stop the 800m world-record holder on Saturday.
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NEW YORK — Olympic gold medalist and world record holder David Rudisha shook off cold, wet and windy conditions on Saturday and successfully defended his title at the ninth annual adidas Grand Prix, the third stop of the 2013 IAAF Diamond League.
Rain, sometimes heavy, had fallen since morning, and puddles dotted the new blue track at Icahn Stadium by the time Rudisha lined up for the 800m in the mid-afternoon. Wearing a special orange and royal blue adidas uniform, the 24 year-old Kenyan stayed two steps behind pacemaker Matt Scherer who went through the 400m mark in 50.64 seconds, the restrained pace Rudisha had requested because of the gusting winds.
“It was cold,” Rudisha told reporters after the race. “There was strong wind going down the backstretch. You know, wind and cold is hard to handle.”
Scherer peeled off 500 meters into the race, leaving Rudisha at the front alone. Moving with long, fluid strides, he was never seriously challenged and won in 1:45.14, a time which was three and one-half seconds slower than his meet record of 1:41.74 set last year. Rudisha said he wasn’t fully satisfied with his performance –even given the conditions– but said he was mainly focused on the heart of the summer season ahead.
“The main thing I am looking forward to is the World Championships in August,” he said, echoing comments he made earlier in the week. He also said he might try a 1000-meter race this summer.
Behind Rudisha, Britain’s Andrew Osagie finished second in 1:46.44, and Kenya’s Timothy Kitum managed to finish third despite tangling with American Erik Sowinski inside of the final 20 meters. Sowinski, who set a U.S. indoor record at 600m earlier this year, thought he had a clear line to the finish, but ended up tumbling to the track and finishing last after Kitum made contact with him.
“He made contact with me; I don’t know what happened,” a deflated Sowinski said of Kitum. “I had the wheels and thought I was going to take second in that race.”
There was nothing to dispute in the men’s 5,000m as Ethiopian junior sensation Hagos Gebrhiwet dominated the 12 and one-half-lap race, winning in a world-leading 13:10.03. Gebrhiwet moved up behind the pacemakers Gideon Gathimba and David Bett with nine laps to go, and three laps later he and Gathimba were alone in the lead. Gathimba stepped off the track, Gebrhiwet clipped through 3000m in 7:53.53, and ran away from Kenya’s Vincent Chepkok and compatriot Dejen Gebremeskel, who ended up sixth.
“Yeah, it was difficult,” said Gebrhiwet, who speaks little English and who did not have the benefit of a translator.
American Ben True finished a solid fourth in 13:16.94 after a spirited battle with 2011 world 10,000m champion Ibrahim Jeilan for third place. He had held the world-leading time until today.
“I just tried to run my own race and keep moving up,” True told the media after the race. “Probably did a little too much work there ’cause the wind was pretty brutal. I just didn’t have that final little gear in the last 200 meters to come back around for second or third.”
Sweden’s Abeba Aregawi won her second IAAF Diamond League 1,500m contest in as many races. With the sun beginning to peek through the clouds, a field of 19 took off from the gun. Due to the swirling, strong winds, the field seemed content to allow the two designated pace setters to break away before 400 meters, sacrificing any chance of a sub-4:00 clocking.
Shortly after the pacers hit 800 meters in 2:13.84, Canadian Sheila Reid, Aregawi, and Kenyan Hellen Obiri began pulling the field along. Encroaching on the outside was American Brenda Martinez, who has notched wins from 800m to 5000m this year.
While Martinez made her move to get into the top three, it was Aregawi making a move of her own, simply speeding up and running away from the field. Down the homestretch, the 22-year-old Ethiopian-born athlete was all alone in front, timing 4:03.69 ahead of Obiri (4:04.84). But it was Martinez who showed the most promising finish.
“I wanted to gradually pick it up,” said Martinez, who lives and trains in Big Bear Lake, Calif. “With 250 to go I wanted to start picking off girls.”
Martinez held off 2008 Olympic gold medalist Nancy Langat and American Shannon Rowbury in the final meters for third.
“It was very tactical,” said Martinez. “I was sitting in a pack, kind of bouncing around in the back. But I’m happy with how I closed.
The 13 women who started the 3000m steeplechase got a brief break from the rain, but not the wind. None of the contenders — including Kenya’s Lydia Chepkurui, Ethiopia’s Etenesh Diro and Sofia Assefa, or Oregon’s Bridget Franek — followed pacer Mardrea Hyman of Jamaica who went through the first kilometer in a modest 3:15.05. The pack stayed tightly-bunched until about three laps to go when the four contenders broke free. After the bell, Chepkurui surged down the backstretch and could not be caught. She won handily in 9:30.82, her second consecutive win of the 2013 Diamond League season. She said she would now turn her attention to making the Kenyan team for the IAAF World Championships.
“It is not easy to make the Kenyan team,” she said. “But, I am trying to make the Moscow team.”
New York has become high schooler Wesley Frazier’s favorite city away from her North Carolina home. Here, Frazier has won high school titles at two miles and 5000m, setting a national indoor high school record in the latter this past March.
Today, Frazier showed off her racing prowess by sticking behind front-running twins Hannah and Haley Meier through the early laps. At the bell, Frazier had fallen into fourth, but was saving her final gear for the homestretch. That was when she out-kicked both Meier twins for the Dream Mile title in 4:39.17, a meeting record.
“I was hoping to get a PR, and that’s what I did so I’m happy with that,” said Frazier, who will be roommates with Haley Meier at Duke next year. “I was hoping that if I was in good enough position going into the last lap that I’d be feeling strong enough to try and take the lead in the last 200m.”
In the boys high school contest, Ben Saarel took the upset victory. Similar to Frazier minutes before, Saarel let others do the leading duties before exploding for home in the final 250 meters.
“[Coming in] I said I was going to stick in the pack and see how hard I can go with those guys for as long as I can,” said Saarel, who didn’t think he’d have a chance to win coming in. “I’m fortunate enough that it worked out.
Timing a personal best of 4:02.72, Saarel defeated a pair of New Balance Nationals All-Americans in Henry Wynne (4:05.04) and Edward Cheserek (4:05.36).