Long and Middle Distance: How the Diamond Trophy Was Won
Victory at the season opener in Doha saw Emmanuel Korir lay an early claim to the favourite’s tag in the 800m, though 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. From then on, there was no stopping him, as he followed up with victory in Birmingham before winning the final in Brussels.
Caster Semenya has been completely dominant in the 800m in recent years, and this season was no exception, despite also competing regularly in the 1500m. With four wins on the Road To The Final, the South African Olympic champion won in every one of her appearances in the 800m, and capped it with a characteristically dominant performance in the Final to take her third Diamond Trophy in as many years.
Semenya also opened her 1500m campaign with a win, before surrendering her lead in the standings to others. Wins for Gudaf Tsegay and Shelby Houlihan made it a finely balanced affair on the Road To The Final, while Sifan Hassan also got in on the act with consecutive wins in London and Birmingham. Yet it was Laura Muir who had the last laugh. The Brit, who had notched up three successive second place finishes in Eugene, Stockholm and Lausanne before springing a minor surprise in Zürich, once again delivered when it mattered, and reclaimed the Diamond Trophy she had previously won in 2016.
It was a much more straightforward matter in the men’s event, as Timothy Cheruiyot 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 Elijah Motonei Manangoi to the line in Zürich.
It was Birhanu Balew who led the field on the Road To The Final, heading into Brussels a full 12 points ahead of the rest. Beaten by Selemon Barega in Stockholm, Balew took advantage of a mix-up between Barega and Yomif Kejelcha to take victory in Lausanne, before finishing second to Kejelcha in Rabat. Yet it was Barega who ultimately took the Diamond Trophy, delivering an incredible performance in Brussels, running a Diamond League record of 12:43.02 to bag the Diamond Trophy.
The women’s 5000m proved to be equally hard-fought. Caroline Kipkirui, Genzebe Dibaba, Hellen 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 Hassan brilliantly in a thrilling duel on the final straight and retaining her crown as IAAF Diamond League 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 Beatrice 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.
Yet nothing but nothing this season can compare to the achievement of Conseslus 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. A World Champion, Olympic Champion and now three-time Diamond Trophy winner, the Kenyan will now also forever be the one-shoed wonder of Zürich.