Best of 2018: Kenyan Stars Shone Bright In IAAF Diamond League

Dec 21 - by Mutwiri Mutuota for SportPesa News

Steeplechase aces Kipruto, Chepkoech stood out in five-star performance at the annual elite global track and field circuit competition spanning 14 meetings

Beatrice Chepkoech poses next to the clock displaying her new world record in the 3000m steeplechase women at the 2018 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco. PHOTO/File

  • Since 2010, the IAAF Diamond League (DL) has been the official global circuit competition where the best in track and field gather across 14 leading meetings scattered across Asia, Africa, Europe and America to vie for honours
  • Kenyans hold the second highest meet records in the history of the competition with six, tied with bitter northern arch rivals Ethiopia only trailing US on nine if anyone needed proof of their stature as a top draw in any of the 14 meetings
  • In the men’s 1500m, Cheruiyot who followed Rongai Athletics Club teammate, Elijah Manangoi home to silver at the 2017 Worlds and 2018 Commonwealth Games romped to a second successive Diamond Trophy in another stellar season
  • Victory at the season opener in Doha saw Korir lay an early claim to the favourite’s tag in the men 800m, though Commonwealth winner Wycliffe Kinyamal would soon become the man to beat as he soared around two laps to victories in both Shanghai and Rome

NAIROBI, Kenya- The measure of any professional sportsperson is to test their talent against the best in the world.

Since 2010, the IAAF Diamond League (DL) has been the official global circuit competition where the best in track and field gather across 14 leading meetings scattered across Asia, Africa, Europe and America to vie for honours.

Kenyan athletes once again illuminated the competition that replaced the six-meet IAAF Golden League that ran from 1998 in 2018, shining bright as their rich cream rose to the top of the charts.

To the uninitiated in the sport, the DL can be equated to the UEFA Champions League for European football clubs, Super Rugby for the northern and southern hemisphere giants of that sport or Formula 1 in motor sport.

In fact, since the inception of the DL, Kenya is the second-most decorated nation at the annual series behind global superpower United States with 42 individual victories to 64.

Kenyans hold the second highest meet records in the history of the competition with six, tied with bitter northern arch rivals Ethiopia only trailing US on nine if anyone needed proof of their stature as a top draw in any of the 14 meetings.

In 2018, the big cities of Qatar (UAE), Shanghai (China), Eugene (US), Rome (Italy), Oslo (Norway), Stockholm (Sweden), Paris (France), Lausanne (Switzerland), Rabat (Morocco), Monaco (Principality of Monaco), London and Birmingham (United Kingdom) were approved to host DL meetings.

With athletes vying for the Diamond Trophy in 32 disciplines, the 2018 DL season climaxed at the finals in Zurich (Switzerland) and Brussels (Belgium).

Each winner at the regular DL meetings took home USD10,000 (slightly over KSh1m) with those carrying the day at the Zurich and Brussels finals collecting USD50,000 (over KSh5) and a special diamond encrusted trophy.

With two finals, each staging 16 Diamond Disciplines, the total prize money awarded in 2018 amounted to USD 1.6m (KSh162.24m).

At each of the Qualification Meetings, USD30,000 (KSh3.02m) of prize money was awarded per discipline.

Dramatic conclusion

This was the first year where points accrued across the first 12 meetings on the calendar were reset to zero for the finalists, with the winner-take-all format providing a dramatic conclusion to the season in Zurich and Brussels.

However, the importance of the previous events was not diminished since points collected were used to qualify athletes to the grand showdown as athletics sought to borrow from other popular sports such as football and Formula 1 where every score counts.

In 2018, Kenya produced five DL winners tied with US with the two nations heads and shoulders above the rest who shared out the remaining 22 champions.

It is only in the inaugural season (seven) and the Olympic year of 2012 (six) that the East African powerhouse minted more Diamond Trophy titleholders.

World champions, Conseslus Kipruto (men 3000m steeplechase) and Hellen Obiri (women 5000m) as well as Timothy Cheruiyot (men 1500m) held on to their DL crowns as Emmanuel Korir (men 800m) and Beatrice Chepkoech (women 3000m) rounded off the Kenyan quintet that took the Diamond Trophy home in 2018.

Each of the champions carried the day by putting together imperious or in some cases races of pure grit in their finals to prevail but Chepkoech stood out as one of the biggest stories of the 2018 DL season.

Beijing 2015 world champion, Hyvin Kiyeng took pole position in the standings with two early wins in Rome and Oslo, but she would soon have to make do with a place in the shadow of compatriot Chepkoech, whose exploits in the second half of the summer cemented her as one of the superstars of the summer.

A win in Paris started her off, but it was Monaco where Chepkoech truly shined. On a remarkable evening, Chepkoech obliterated the world record with an astonishing 8:44.32.

She would later go on to take a comfortable victory in the Final in Brussels, setting a meeting record of 8:55.10 to crown an amazing year that saw her- for the first time- make the final shortlist of five for the prestigious 2018 IAAF Female Athlete of the Year at the December 4 World Gala in Monaco.

Yet nothing this season can compare to the achievement of Kipruto in the men’s 3000m steeplechase.

The Diamond Trophy holder, Kipruto had not enjoyed the dominance that he had done in recent years, finishing second in Eugene, third in Monaco and not taking a victory until Birmingham.

What he did in the Final, however, made the rest of the season an irrelevance. Having accidentally kicked off his shoe early in the race Kipruto ran on regardless. As the final lap developed, it became clearer and clearer that the impossible was on the cards.

Hunting down Soufiane El Bakkali on the home straight, Kipruto just edged the Moroccan on the line to pull off a most spectacular victory.

One-shoed wonder

A World Champion, Olympic Champion and now three-time Diamond Trophy winner, the Kenyan will now also forever be the one-shoed wonder of Zurich.

The women’s 5000m proved to be equally hard-fought. Caroline Kipkirui, Genzebe Dibaba, Obiri and Agnes Tirop had taken a win each from the four meetings on the Road To The Final, while an in form Sifan Hassan was also snapping at their heels in the standings.

In the end, it was Hassan and Obiri who battled it out in the Final, the Kenyan holding off the Dutch super star brilliantly in a thrilling duel on the final straight and retaining her DL crown.

In the men’s 1500m, Cheruiyot who followed Rongai Athletics Club teammate, Elijah Manangoi home to silver at the 2017 Worlds and 2018 Commonwealth Games romped to a second successive Diamond Trophy in another stellar season.

With wins in Shanghai, Rome, Paris and Monaco, Cheruiyot was the undisputed frontrunner on the Road To The Final, and consolidated his success by beating Manangoi to the line in Zurich.

Victory at the season opener in Doha saw Korir lay an early claim to the favourite’s tag in the men 800m, though Commonwealth winner Wycliffe Kinyamal would soon become the man to beat as he soared around two laps to victories in both Shanghai and Rome.

By the time London came around, though, Korir was back in business, and ran a world leading 1:42.05 to beat both Kinyamal and two-time Diamond Trophy Nijel Amos of Botswana.

From then on, there was no stopping Korir as he followed up with victory in Birmingham before winning the final in Brussels.

The 2018 DL Kenyan performance went some way to erase the disappointment of the rather lukewarm return from the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games that can be recapped here in the Best of 2018 series on SportPesa News.

-Material from the IAAF used to compile this report

2018 IAAF DIAMOND LEAGUE WINNERS (Men, women/Kenyans in bold)

100m: Christian Coleman (USA), Murielle Ahoure (CIV)

200m: Noah Lyles (USA), Shaunae Miller-Uibo (BAH)

400m: Fred Kerley (USA), Salwa Eid Naser (BRN)

800m: Emmanuel Korir (KEN), Caster Semenya (RSA)

1500m: Timothy Cheruiyot (KEN), Laura Muir (GBR)

5000m: Selemon Barega (ETH), Hellen Obiri (KEN)

3000m steeplechase: Conseslus Kipruto (KEN), Beatrice Chepkoech (KEN)

110m/100m hurdles: Sergey Shubenkov (ANA), Brianna McNeal (USA)

400m hurdles: Kyron McMaster (IVB), Dalilah Muhammad (USA)

High jump: Brandon Starc (AUS), Maria Lasitskene (ANA)

Pole vault: Timur Morgunov (ANA), Katerina Stefanidi (GRE)

Long jump: Luvo Manyonga (RSA), Caterine Ibarguen (COL)

Triple jump: Pedro Pablo Pichardo (CUB), Caterine Ibarguen (COL)

Shot put: Tom Walsh (NZL), Gong Lijiao (CHN)

Discus: Fedrick Dacres (JAM), Yaime Perez (CUB)

Javelin: Andreas Hofmann (GER), Tatsiana Khaladovich (BLR)

Key: ANA- Athletes from Russia competing under the neutral flag due to the country’s international ban for doping