By Bob Ramsak
ZÜRICH (28-Aug) -- Kenenisa Bekele collected a commanding win in the 5000m to remain alive in the $1 million ÅF Golden League at the Weltklasse meeting here tonight.
Just five days after completing the first-ever 5000/10,000m double victory at a world championships, the Ethiopian clocked a world-leading 12:52.32, improving on his own world leader by nearly four seconds.
"It was a good race and it's good to stay in the jackpot race," said Bekele, who won a lesser share of the jackpot pie in 2006 after winning five of the six races in the series. "But I wanted to run faster today. But it was okay, and I was able to control the race as I planned."
Kenyan Edwin Soi was second with a season's best 12:55:03, but perhaps the biggest performance of the race before another sell-out crowd at Letzigrund stadium was produced by American Dathan Ritzenhein, who finished third in 12:56.27 to break the American record set by Bob Kennedy at this meet 14 years ago.
"I just can't believe that I did that!" said Ritzenhein, who knocked more than two and one-half seconds from Kennedy's 12:58.81, and nearly 20 seconds from his previous best of 13:16.06 set in 2007.
"I knew I was in great shape and I just tried to hang on," said Ritzenhein, whose performance was all the more surprising given that he's focused more on the 10,000m, half-marathon and marathon over the past few seasons.
After Natalia Rodríguez's disqualification took some of the glory out of Maryam Jamal's world title defense in Berlin, the Ethiopian-born Bahraini was looking for a bit of redemption in the 1500m here, and she got it.
With two laps to go, the race had already built itself into a battle between Jamal and Anna Alminova, with the petite Russian keeping closest to the pacesetters. But over the final 200 meters, the order changed dramatically, with the Alminova fading, and Briton Lisa Dobriskey and Americans Shannon Rowbury and Anna Willard gaining. The latter trailed the field at the midway point, but over the final 50 meters came back and nearly stole the win from Jamal.
But the Bahraini, who is by far the strongest finisher in the world at the moment, prevailed in 3:59.15 for her second Zürich victory, with Willard just a step and-a-half behind in 3:59.38, a career best. Willard's performance moved her up to the No. 4 on the season's list, and more significantly, to No. 3 all-time among Americans.
Dobriskey, who raced to silver in Berlin, was third in 3:59.38, just ahead of Berlin bronze medalist, Shannon Rowbury, who was fourth here with a 4:00.81 season's best. Christin Wurth-Thomas passed the fading Alminova to finish fifth.
The men's 1500m, won by world leader Augustine Choge, didn't quite live up to its pre-race promise, but the Kenyan did nonetheless take home a well-deserved victory. The field chose to ignore the pace set by the rabbits, with the main pack led by Belal Mansour Ali, world champion Yusuf Saad Kamel and Kenyan Asbel Kiprop for the first half. Choge, who won here in 2006, took the lead with about 600 meters to go and came home unchallenged in 3:33.38, ahead of Ali (3:33.74) and Kiprop (3:34.09), with Kamel a distant fourth.
After a sub-50 second opening 400, the men's 800 promised to be quick, and it was, considering that the chief protagonists arrived on the heels of three difficult rounds in Berlin. Dutchman Bram Som, Kenyan David Rudisha, Russian Yuriy Borzakovskiy and world champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi led the field through the bell, with the order staying the same until they came off the final turn. Rudisha fought his way to the front and to a 1:43.52 win over the final 15 meters, with Alfred Kirwa Yego, the runner-up in Berlin, in his now trademark fashion closing hard on the outside to take second in 1:43.66, career bests for both. Mulaudzi snagged third in 1:44.03 while Som hung on to finish fourth in 1:44.10.
World champion Ezekiel Kemboi was alone with pacesetter Tareq Mubarek Taher, and remained alone for the final 1000m to take a commanding 8:04.44 win in the 3000m steeplechase. European record holder and Berlin silver medalist Bob Tahri closed the best of the pursuers and finished second in 8:05.29, with Paul Kipsiele Koech third.
The big news of the meet was delivered by Yelena Isinbayeva, who followed up her Berlin meltdown with a first-attempt clearance at 5.06m to break her own world record in the pole bault, the 27th of the 27-year-old's career. American Sanya Richards dominated the 400m with a 48.94 victory, her fastest in three years. Along with Bekele, the two move on in the jackpot chase. Jamaican Kerron Stewart, who finished second in the women's 100m, was the sole jackpot contender to be eliminated.
The six-meet series concludes next Friday at the Memorial Van Damme in Brussels, where another sell-out crowd is expected.