Local star Soufiane El Bakkali wins epic 3000m steeplechase battle with Lamecha Girma, while British duo Jake WIghtmand and Heyward dominate 1500m
Soufiane El Bakkali, the Olympic 3000m steeplechase champion from Morocco, held off Ethiopian Lamecha Girma in a thrilling race in front of his home crowd at the Diamond League in Rabat on Sunday (June 5).
The 26-year-old had the pressure of performing in front of the partisan crowd in the final event of the night and was trailing Girma through the bell.
But he hit the front down the back straight and during a pulsating final lap he held off the Ethiopian to clock 7:58.28 as Girma also broke eight minutes with 7:59.24.
An enthusiastic crowd rose to its feet as Rabat celebrated the return of Diamond League athletics. The planned meetings in the city were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid pandemic so this signalled a return after a three-year hiatus.
There was a brilliant British one-two in the men’s 1500m with Jake Wightman out-kicking Jake Heyward as the duo clocked 3:32.62 and 3:33.54 respectively.
After pacemaker Alberto Guerrero passed 800m in 1:53.40, Heyward found himself in pole position when Guerrero dropped out at 1000m. As he led down the back straight Heyward found his rivals bunching up a little behind him but Wightman surged into the lead at 200m and held a small lead from Heyward coming into the home straight before kicking clear to win convincingly.
“I am super happy for this win,” said Wightman. “This is my first time here both the crowd and the weather are amazing. I really enjoyed it. My goal now is to achieve one of the top three national positions to qualify to the World Championship in Oregon.”
Abdelatif Sadiki of Morocco was third in 3:33.93 with one of the main contenders, Mohamed Katir of Spain, fading to seventh in 3:34.95.
The women’s 1500m saw similar domination but this time from Ethiopia as Hirut Meshesha won in 3:57.30 with Freweyni Hailu second with 3:58.18 and Axumawit Embaye third in 3:58.80. In 10th, Britain’s Melissa Courtney-Bryant ran 4:04.40.
Amy-Eloise Markovc was in inspired form as she nearly won the women’s 3000m in a PB of 8:40.32. Leading for much of the last lap, the British distance runner almost held on for victory but lost out to Mercy Cherono – the 2014 Commonwealth champion from Kenya – by a mere three hundredths of a second. It lifts Markovc from 16th to 13th on the UK all-time rankings.
In the sprints, Elaine Thompson-Herah continued her fantastic form as she cruised to an emphatic 100m victory in a meeting record of 10.83 (0.3) as Marie-Josée Ta Lou of Ivory Coast finished second with 11.04.
“This is my third time in Rabat and I’m super excited about the new meeting record of 10.83,” said Thompson-Herah. “For the next event in Rome, I’m following the same process and keeping up the same pace.”
In his season’s opener, American 200m runner Kenny Bednarek won comfortably in 20.21 (2.0).
Karsten Warholm was also making his season’s opener but the Olympic champion did not make it to the second barrier in his 400m hurdles race as he pulled up with injury.
The Norwegian world record-holder blasted away in usual style and, as he led with his left leg over the first hurdle, his right leg clipped the barrier and he pulled up a few metres later.
As Khallifah Rosser of the United States went on to win in 48.25, Warholm walked back to the start clutching an ice bag on his right hamstring as a Norwegian official and medic approached to help.
“I am very disappointed for this injury,” said Warholm. “I think it’s a hamstring tear, I will focus on treating it and come back stronger. I also feel sorry for the crowd.”
Woah. Olympic 400m hurdles champion and world record holder @kwarholm pulls up injured, holding his hamstring, at the Rabat Diamond League 🇳🇴
This was his season opener and we are six weeks away from @WCHoregon22. pic.twitter.com/Nu7qOg5KDI
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) June 5, 2022
An intriguing long jump featuring Olympic champion Miltiadis Tentoglou of Greece and decathlete Simon Ehammer was won by Tentoglou with 8.27m (1.4) with Ehammer unable to replicate his 8.45m from the previous weekend’s Götzis meeting as he settled for second with 8.13 (-0.9).
On a night of disappointment for Ukraine as the nation’s football team lost 1-0 to Wales in the FIFA World Cup play-off, there was a one-two in Rabat for Ukrainian high jumpers Yaroslava Mahuchikh and Iryna Gerashchenko.
Mahuchikh cleared 1.96m with Gerashchenko clinching second with 1.93m. In fifth, Britain’s Morgan Lake jumped 1.90m.
Yaroslava Mahuchikh – Olympic high jump bronze medallist and world indoor champion – wins the high jump at Rabat Diamond League 🇺🇦
The 20-year-old Ukrainian clears 1.96m while @morgan_a_lake finished fifth with 1.90m.
#RabatDL 🇲🇦 pic.twitter.com/yml6xI3aQp
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) June 5, 2022
Elsewhere, Emmanuel Wanyonyi continued his impressive form with victory in the men’s 800m. Only 17, the Kenyan saw off the challenge of Nijel Amos with 1:45.47.
The women’s 800m also saw a Kenyan victory with Mary Moraa clocking 1:58.93 as Britain’s Alex Bell was sixth in 2:01.50.
Kristjan Čeh continued his fine form in the men’s discus as well as the Slovenian threw 69.68m to beat Daniel Stahl’s 67.16m as Britain’s Lawrence Okoye threw 63.42m in seventh.
Sandi Morris of the United States and Nina Kennedy of Australia both cleared 4.65m in the pole vault with Morris winning on countback as Britain’s Holly Bradshaw cleared 4.55m in fourth.
In a close women’s triple jump, Thea Lefond of Dominica jumped 14.46m to narrowly beat Shanieka Ricketts (14.43m) and Neja Filipic (14.42m).
» To subscribe to AW magazine, CLICK HERE