Kipyegon, Obiri, McSweyn Star At Doha Diamond League

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(c) 2020 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

(25-Sep) -- The pandemic-shortened Wanda Diamond League season came to an end today at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. Despite sweltering conditions (34C/93F with 55% humidity) Faith Kipyegon and Helen Obiri of Kenya and Stuart McSweyn of Australia put up excellent marks in winning the 800m, 3000m and 1500m, respectively. All three athletes represent Nike.

Kipyegon, the 2016 Olympic 1500m champion who took maternity leave in 2018, stepped down in distance to run the less-familiar 800m. Lining up against one of the best fields assembled this season, which included nine women with sub-2:00 personal bests, she kept a cool head, timing her move for victory perfectly.

Pacemaker Emily Cherotich Tuei burst away from the field in the first 200 meters, and despite slowing slightly had a four-meter lead on the field at the bell (57.8 seconds).  After Tuei dropped out, Spain's Esther Guerrero took the lead and tried to pull away from the field.  Kipyegon responded to the Spaniard's move, trailing her closely down the backstretch before passing her near the 600-meter mark. From there, Kipyegon opened up her lead and sprinted to a world leading 1:57.68 at the tape, a personal best.

"I am happy to win here in Doha considering this is my second 800m race after about three years break from it," Kipyegon said in her post-race interview.  "I wasn't really expecting to win and that's why I am very surprised not only with the win but with my record here tonight. It's a great feeling and I am happy to be here in Doha."

Guerrero, although tying up in the final 50 meters, managed to hold on to second place in 1:59.22, a personal best and the first sub-2:00 of her career. Britain's Adelle Tracey went from fifth to third in the final 20 meters to take third in 1:59.87, a season's best.

The versatile Obiri --who has won world titles indoors, outdoors and in cross country-- had to dig deep to get her win in Doha tonight. Staying with the main pack through 1000m (2:48.5), Obiri knew that the race would eventually become tactical and that she could depend on her excellent closing speed. She felt good coming into the race.

"I've had the opportunity of training in Doha for about a month in preparation for this event and I believe it has helped me to get in shape and acclimatized quite well," said Obiri.

The pacemaker, Winny Chebet, was keeping the pace in the 68-second per lap range before dropping out, and Obiri was happy to take over at the front. Through two kilometers (5:39.7) there were still ten women in contention, including steeplechase world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya, and the two-time World Athletics Championships 10,000m bronze medalist Agnes Tirop, also of Kenya. Chepkoech took the lead from Obiri in the penultimate lap, bringing the pace down to 66.2 seconds, but Obiri took the lead just past the bell and began her long sprint. Her body began to rock from side to side as she strained in the final 200 meters, but Obiri held off her challengers to get the win in a world-leading 8:22.54.  She ran her last lap in 62-flat.

"Doha has become more like a second home to me as I've won so many races here including the World Championship last year," said Obiri. "I love coming back to Doha again and again."

There was a pitched battle for second place. Tirop managed to nip the taller Chepkoech at the line, and was awarded second place by 4/1000ths of a second. Both women were officially timed in 8:22.92, both personal bests.  Seven women broke 8:30, and Jessica Hull set a new Australian record of 8:36.03 in tenth place.

There was more to cheer about for Australian fans when the versatile McSweyn dominated the men's 1500m to win going away in a new national record of 3:30.51. He beat two global medalists, Selemon Barega of Ethiopia (3:32.97 PB) and Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco (3:33.45 PB), although those athletes specialize in the 5000m and 3000m steeplechase, respectively.  McSweyn now holds the Australian records at 1500m, 3000m (7:28.02), and 10,000m (27:23.80).

"I wasn't in the best of shape coming into this race but to win tonight is something I am very delighted about," McSweyn said.  "I just wanted to race again considering how this season has been. It was a very competitive race but I executed my plan quite well and I maintained the pace."

The other distance winner tonight was Ferguson Rotich of Kenya in the 800m who held off Britain's Elliot Giles 1:44.16 to 1:44.56. Rotich has five of his seven 800m races this outdoor season.  American Erik Sowinski finished ninth in 1:46.81, the 90th sub-1:47.00 of his career.

Although the Wanda Diamond League has concluded for 2020, the global track season isn't over. The Kip Keino Classic, part of the World Athletics Continental Tour, will take place on Oct. 3 in Nairobi.

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(c) 2020 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

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