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Joshua Cheptegei won the men’s 5000m title at Zurich Diamond League after the race turned into a football match

August 30, 2019
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Joshua Cheptegei at the Zurich Diamond League meeting. Photo by organizers

Having shown great form in the 5,000m and 3000m races leading up to the diamond league final in Zurich, the 5000m title was expected by many fans to go to one of the Ethiopian runners; Selemon Barega, Telahun Bekele, Yomif Kejelcha and Hagos Gebrhiwet.

However, no sooner had the race started than some of the protagonists started to trail the rest of the field from behind. Barega was holding the tail of the whole pack. Slightly ahead of him was Kejelcha.

It appeared as though Barega was so comfortable seeing Kejelcha at a striking distance while the latter was not worried about anyone else as long as Barega was still behind him. Joshua Cheptegei began to open up a gap ahead of the field as soon as the pacesetters dropped out, but no one in the chasing pack took him seriously.

It reminded me of a football match. Opponents would only focus on chasing a player who is having the ball. If you ran towards the goal and you didn’t have the ball, then no one would worry about you since you had nothing to score. It was as though they were waiting on the referee to blow the whistle and announce that Cheptegei was off-side!

With about three laps to go, Kejelcha, Barega, and Gebrhiwet began to see the danger and started to quicken the pace. Cheptegei had already built a safe distance between him and them and would only glance on the big screen in the stadium occasionally to confirm how safe he was. With 150m to go, Barega appeared as though he was going to close the gap, but a quick glance and slight acceleration by Cheptegei saw him quickly lose hope in the chase and quickly began to fade as he was soon overtaken by three athletes before he could reach the finish line.

Elated, surprised and sticking out his tongue, Cheptegei crossed the finish line in a personal best time of 12:57.41. Gebrhiwet came second in 12:58.15 while Kenya’s Nicholas Kimeli took 3rd in 12:59.05.

In the women’s 1500m, Sifan Hassan easily won the race in 3:57.08 ahead of Klosterhalfen Konstanze in 3:59.02 and Canada’s Debues-Stafford Gabriela registering a national record and a personal best time of 3:59.59 in third position.

Beatrice Chepkoech showcased her supremacy in the women’s 3000m steeplechase race as she ran alone at the front to win it in 9:01.71 with three other Kenyans followed her to take the first four positions. Hyvin Kiyeng was second in 9:03.83, followed by Norah Jeruto in 9:05.15 to finish third.

Brazier Donavan overtook a bunch of struggling runners in the home straight to win the men’s 800m title in a personal best time of 1:42.70. Amos Nijel who had followed the pacesetter through the first 400m in a crazy 48.23 struggled to finish the race in the last 100m ending up in second place in 1:42.98. McBride Brandon took third in 1:43.51.

The Zurich Diamond League meeting was the first of the IAAF diamond league finals with the second finals still to happen on the 6th of September in Brussels.

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