Although Usain Bolt's incredible 19.59 200m into a driving rain will rightly get all of tomorrow's headlines, there was also great action in the middle and long distance races at today's Athletissima meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, an IAAF Super Grand Prix event.
The men's 1500m was a fascinating race. Throwing up a stream of water behind him, pacemaker Samson Surum of Kenya blazed through the first 400m in an improbable 54.11 seconds, gapping the field. But as if the race were being run uphill, each successive lap was slower: 59.61 for the second circuit and 61.62 for the third with second pacer Vickson Polonet of Kenya on the lead. That set up a mad dash on the final lap, with the surprising winner, Antar Zerguelaine of Algeria, emerging from a pack of four off of the final turn. Zerguelaine clocked a relatively modest 3:37.15, but turned a sub-56 second final lap to get his win over South Africa's Johan Cronje (3:37.50) and Bahrain's Belal Mansoor Ali (3:37.75).
There was a similar plotline in the men's 3000m. The early laps looked promising, with pacer Benson Marrianyi Esho of Kenya getting the field through the first kilometer in 2:30.67, on pace for a 7:32 finish. But Esho stopped just after the first kilo, and the pace quickly slowed: 60 to 61 second laps became 63 and 64 second circuits. The pack bunched up, and it wasn't until the penultimate lap that a serious pace returned. Ethiopia's Deresse Mekonnen, who won last Friday's Dream Mile in Oslo in 3:48.95, broke open the race with Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge, this year's 3000m and 5000m world leader. The pair dropped Kenyans Thomas Longosiwa and Edwin Soi, and Mekonnen outkicked Kipchoge in the final 150 meters to win by 33/100ths in 7:37.62.
The women's 1500m also featured a great head-to-head sprint finish. Breaking away from the pack at the 1200m mark and quickly exchanging a few elbows, Ethiopia's Gelete Burka, the reigning world indoor 1500m champion, and Bahrain's Maryam Jamal, the reigning world 1500m champion, duked it out all the way to the homestretch. Burka had the advantage coming out of the final turn, and managed to hold it to the line, winning in 4:00.67 to Jamal's 4:01.99. American Christian Wurth-Thomas got third in 4:05.09.
Of the two 800m race held, the men's was more compelling. Sudan's Ismail Ahmed Ismail got his second win of the outdoor season with a great stretch run over South Africa's Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, 1:44.80 to 1:44.97. The women's contest went to Russia's Oksana Zbrozhek in a modest 2:01.24, beating American Hazel Clark by more than a full second.
Bolt's performance put a huge smile on the face of long-time meeting director Jacky Delapierre who hugged the tall Jamaican after his race. The 19.59 mark was the fourth fastest of all-time, incredibly quick given the heavy rain and 0.9 m/s headwind. Commenting on the race for Universal Sports' television coverage, former world 200m champion Ato Boldon said: "You have to be kidding me."