By David Monti
(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
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(20-Jul) -- The serene look on his face interrupted only be a few glances up to the video display in the Stade Louis II in Monaco, Asbel Kiprop strode effortlessly to victory and a world-leading time of 3:28.88 at the Herculis Meeting today, the last stop of the 2012 Samsung Diamond League before the Olympic Games.
"That's the most comfortable 3:28 I've ever seen," said 1983 world 1500m champion Steve Cram in his television commentary immediately following the race.
Kiprop, the 23 year-old Kenyan who will go into the London Olympics as defending champion, ran a brilliant race, staying just far enough back as the first of two pacemakers, Andrew Rotich, hit the 400m mark in a very fast 53.69. The second circuit went more slowly (58.54), and Kiprop and compatriot Nixon Chepseba along with Moroccan Amine Laalou stayed close behind the second pacer, James Magut.
Kiprop left little to chance, moving to the front at the bell, then scorched zipped thorough the final 400 meters in 53:43. Chepseba chased him mightily, but had to settle for a personal best 3:29.77. Reigning Olympic silver medalist Nick Willis of New Zealand came from sixth position to third in the final 80 meters to lock in an Oceania record of 3:30.35.
"I am ready and in shape for London," Kiprop told meet organizers. "I look forward to winning the gold medal at the Olympics I am going back home tomorrow for enthusiastic training."
Kenyans also went 1-2 in the men's 800m where junior athletes Abraham Kipchirchir Rotich and Leonard Kirwa Kosencha ran shoulder to shoulder down the homestretch with Rotich getting the win in 1:43.13 to Kosencha's 1:43.40. American Duane Solomon, who will be running in the Olympic Games, held his form nicely out of the final turn and set a career best 1:43.44. Spain's Kevin López passed Nick Symmonds to finish fourth. Abubaker Kaki was never a factor in the race, finishing ninth in 1:44.89.
"I did not expect to win this race because I was fearing Kaki," Said Rotich. "And also I didn't expect to win because I wasn't feeling well before the race. I have a cold."
The women's two-lap contest saw the very talented --but very inexperienced-- Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, 19, show that she'll be a force to contend with in the future, once she becomes comfortable running in tight pack. During the race Niyonsaba made several sudden moves, weaving and darting across the track, nearly tripping her rivals. Nonetheless, she showed her brute power rounding the final bend, moving from sixth position to second in the homestretch, beaten only by Russia's Elena Kofanova, 1:58.41 to 1:58.68. American Alysia Montano, who spent most of the race near the front, held on for third.
In the men's 3000m steeplechase, newly-crowned world junior champion Conseslus Kipruto was an upset winner over Paul Kipsiele Koech in a race his manager Michel Boeting described via Twitter as "the biggest win of his career in the worst race I have seen him run." Behind sketchy pacemaking by John Koech and Hillary Kipsang Yego, the 17 year-old Kipruto ran a personal best 8:03.49 to Koech's 8:03.90, despite leaning early at the finish. American Evan Jager followed with a surprising North American record of 8:06.81 in third.
"There has been no rest for me," Kipruto said. "I have won in Barcelona the World Junior title and came here." He added: "We were sprinting for the line with Koech and we both dipped at the wrong line. It was a little mistake, nothing important. What mattered was that I managed to win the race."
The women's 3000m quickly turned tactical when the contenders didn't immediately follow the early pacemaking of Kenya's Lydia Wafula and Serbia's Marina Muncan. But, as world 1500m champion Jenny Simpson predicted yesterday, the race eventually got rolling, but not until the final lap. Simpson was leading the penultimate lap which went by in a pedestrian 70.99 seconds, but was overhauled at the bell by a group of five Africans, led by Kenya's Mercy Cherono and Sylvia Kibet. They would finish in that order, 8:38.51 to 8:39.14, with third place going to young Ethiopian Buze Diriba (8:39.65). American Shannon Rowbury kicked from sixth to fourth place in 8:39.38. Simpson finished 11th.
The Samsung Diamond League now takes a break for the Olympic Games until the series resumes with the DN Galan Meeting in Stockholm on August 17.