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There were plenty of reasons to doubt Christian Coleman entering Friday’s Rabat Diamond League 100m. This was his first race in six weeks--the missed meets attributed to a hamstring issue that turned him from unbeatable in the winter to mortal in the spring.
And then there was his competition. It was stout in Rabat, with the three fastest men in the world, all Americans, waiting for him at the start line.
But Coleman re-established himself atop the men’s 100m and quelled any questions about his health with a narrow victory over Ronnie Baker, Noah Lyles and Mike Rodgers. The three men were separated by .03 seconds with Coleman and Baker both timed at 9.98, Lyles in 9.99 and Rodgers in 10.01.
Coleman began the race with his patented fast start (he actually got two good starts, the first one was called back by the starter) as he jumped out to a big lead in the first half. Baker came on strong in the second half, but the margin was too great. Lyles, who has made a habit of late-race comebacks made up serious ground in the final 50 meters, but ran out of track.
9.98 isn’t where Coleman was this winter when he was breaking the 60m world record with regularity, nor is what he did last summer when he doubled up at the NCAA Championships and went on finish second at the World Championships. It was, however, his best race of the outdoor season and one that asserts himself as the man to beat in the increasingly crowded event.
Semenya, Obiri Shine
As expected, Caster Semenya dominated the women’s 1000m. Semenya followed the pacing of Chrishuna Williams but didn’t get much help after 500m. She hit the first 400m in 59.55, but slipped off the world record pace when she crossed 800m in 2:01.84. With the record off the table and no competition, the final 200m was free of drama. Semenya finished in 2:31.01, good enough for sixth fastest all-time in the event.
Hellen Obiri prevailed in the women’s 5000m--a race that featured all of the event’s key players. Pre-race, there were the typical hints that Genzebe Dibaba was targeting the world record. Early on in the race, that didn’t seem to be the plan as Dibaba settled into the pack.
The field was whittled down to six women just past the halfway mark--Dibaba, Obiri, Senbere Teferi, Agnes Tirop, Sifan Hassan and Letesenbet Gidey. Those six marched in a straight line procession until Dibaba surprisingly fell off the back with three laps remaining, appearing to clutch her leg.
With 700 meters remaining Teferi went to the front. The race was down to five women and the tempo was gradually increasing. At the bell, Hassan moved up into the third place and looked poised to strike. On the backstretch, she fought for the lead with Teferi and Obiri. Obiri moved to the inside with 200 meters left. The Kenyan pumped her arms--throwing uppercuts to the air in an attempt to shake Hassan.
In the final 100 meters, Obiri kept Hassan at bay, crossing the line in 14:21.75. Hassan took second in a European record of 14:22.75. Those marks were the 13th and 15th fastest marks of all-time as places two through five all set personal bests.
Dibaba struggled over the final laps to take sixth in 14:42.98. American Molly Huddle was tenth in 15:21.24.
Kejelcha Gets Revenge, Lasistkene’s Streak Snapped
The men’s distance races featured two world leads and a victory for the host nation.
Yomif Kejelcha took the men’s 3000m, using an explosive move at the bell to put the race away. Kejelcha, who stayed off the fast pace early, opened up a twenty-meter lead by the backstretch of the final lap. Paul Chelimo tried to give chase, but appeared worn down from the leading he had down over the final three laps.
Kejelcha crossed the line in 7:32.92, his first race after being disqualified for grabbing the shorts of Selemon Barega in Lausanne. Birhanu Balew was second in 7:34.26, Stewart McSweyn was third and Chelimo took fourth in 7:34.79.
Ryan Hill of the United States took seventh in 7:36.81, while Eric Jenkins ran a personal best of 7:38.19 for eighth.
In the men’s steeplechase, Benjamin Kigen ran a world lead of 8:06.19 defeating Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali to the dismay of those assembled in Rabat.
But the crowd in Rabat did have something to cheer for.
Brahim Kaazouzi ran 3:33.22 to outkick Filip Ingebrigtsen and Ayanleh Souleiman to pull an upset victory in the men’s 1500m. That time is a personal best by more than two seconds for Kaazouzi. Matthew Centrowitz positioned himself up near the front in the early stages of the race and was sixth at the bell before finishing 10th in 3:35.17, a season-best.
The biggest upset of the meet came in the women’s high jump where Mariya Lasistkene’s lost for the first time since June 2016. It was a win streak that lasted 45 competitions.
On Friday, the Russian, who is competing as an “Authorized Neutral Athlete,” could not clear 1.94m. Mirela Demireva and Yuliya Levchenko finished first and second, both with a mark of 1.94m.
Shock in Rabat as Mariya Lasitskene's winning streak of 45 finals that stretches back to June 2016 ends as she bows out at 1.94m with 1.90m to her name.— IAAF (@iaaforg) July 13, 2018
Only Demireva and Levchenko remain as the bar moves up to 1.97m.#RabatDL
Back on the track Francine Niyonsaba scored her second consecutive win in the 800m. This race followed a similar script to Lausanne except it was Natoya Goule, and not Ajee Wilson, giving chase over the final 200 meters. But just like with Wilson in Lausanne, Goule couldn’t quite pull even with Niyonsaba and had to settle for second. Niyonsaba finished in 1:57.90 to Goule’s 1:58.33
Shaunae Miller-Uibo passed Jenna Prandini and Dina Asher-Smith in final 30 meters to take the women’s 200m in 22.29. Asher-Smith took second in 22.40, while Prandini was third in 22.60. Gabrielle Thomas of Harvard took fourth in 22.70.
In the women's 100m hurdles, Brianna McNeal was in sync with Sharika Nelvis until the final two hurdles when McNeal finally opened up the slightest margin over Nelvis. McNeal went on to win the race in 12.51 to Nelvis’ 12.58.
Christina Manning and Dawn Harper-Nelson completed the U.S. sweep of the top four places.
Akeem Bloomfield got first Diamond League victory of his young career, running 44.33 to comfortably take the men’s 400m. Bloomfield former teammate at Auburn Nathon Allen scratched from the race.