By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
LAUSANNE, SUI (25-Aug) -- In the rarely contested one kilometer, Djibouti's Ayanleh Souleiman ran away with a commanding win here at the Athletissima Lausanne IAAF Diamond League meeting, defeating both Olympic 1500m champion Matthew Centrowitz and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Asbel Kiprop. Souleiman didn't just beat Centrowitz and Kiprop; he sped away with fury to win in 2:13.49, a world lead, Diamond League record, meet record, and the #7 performance of all time. Fair to say the 23-year-old had a memorable day at the track.
PHOTO: Djibouti's Ayanleh Souleiman winning the 1000m at the 2016 Athletissima meeting in Lausanne in 2:13.49 (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)
"I'm good today," said Souleiman. "The Olympics I under-performed because of the tactics and slow race... This is different. This is a hard race with a pacemaker. That's why I am happy today."
Though the 1000m may be more in Souleiman's wheelhouse than for 1500m specialists Centrowitz and Kiprop, Souleiman's command and decision-making was by far supreme today. Hitting 400 meters (52.80) behind the pacers, Souleiman extended his stride among the top three while Centrowitz sat mid-pack around sixth and Kiprop two steps farther behind.
At the bell, Centrowitz and Kiprop still had a lot of work to do if they wanted to catch Souleiman, some ten meters ahead.
Souleiman would split 800m leading in 1:45.95 after a 54.15 second lap and wouldn't slow down. He'd face a slight challenge from Kenyan Robert Biwott, though the final 27.54 200m took care of him with relative ease to win 2:13.49 to 2:13.89. Souleiman had enough in the tank to celebrate the last 20 meters. Jonathan Kiprotich Kitilit was third in 2:13.95.
"I win. That's why I know I'm ready. The Olympics, no," said Souleiman, telling Race Results Weekly that last week's Olympic 1500m final was both on his mind and in his legs (he finished fourth in the Olympic 1500m and failed to advance to the Olympic 800m final. Souleiman absolutely did not want the pace to linger in the slightest. He knew doing such would allow Centrowitz and company back in the mix.
"After Olympics I shake my head and decide to close the season [fast], that's why today I check myself. I say 'how do you run without tactics, in different strong races.' That's why I am happy. I am going to Paris in 800m. I am good now."
Kiprop wound up fourth in 2:14.23, while Centrowitz clocked 2:16.67 for sixth; both times are personal bests.
Centrowitz was OK with the result considering what the last week has been like. He said he's barely slept and the travel from Rio de Janeiro had taken its toll. He still thinks he can run a fast 1500m this season.
"I wanted to come in and get after it a little bit. I felt I did, at least the first 200 I got out well. It's tough, from an emotional high at the Olympics and not getting much sleep, had to travel and I don't do good with time zones," he began. "Honestly, I'm alright with it. It wasn't about time today... Hopefully this will help get my legs back under me for my next two races."
"I think I could really pop a good [1000m] when things are going well. Right now I'm not firing on all cylinders because of all those things I said," he added.
A surprising result to come from the 1000m was Kenyan Silas Kiplagat placing 12th and last in 2:19.80.
Pair Of Silver Medalists In Dibaba, Niyonsaba Rebound With Wins
Genzebe Dibaba and Francine Niyonsaba looked smooth in their bounce-back efforts after claiming silver medals in the Olympic 1500m and 800m, respectively. Dibaba faced off against 5000m Olympic silver medalist Hellen Obiri and fourth placer Mercy Cherono, though was too much for the Kenyans to handle.
Sitting back through 1000m in 2:55.06 and 2000m in 5:52.31, Dibaba clearly had a specific race plan in mind: take it easy and don't press too early. She'd share the lead with Obiri for the penultimate lap before going to a whole other gear at the bell. Dibaba took off, Obiri chased, and the top two spots were settled in an instant: Dibaba won going away in a meet record 8:31.84 off of a 57.47-second last lap, to Obiri's 8:33.96. Cherono was third in 8:34.49.
"The competition is not that easy and I wanted to only winning," Dibaba told RRW. Interestingly, only two media outlets opted to talk with the 1500m world record holder: Race Results Weekly and a local publication. "I am confidence. I don't care about two, three, or anything. I said go easy and win."
Dibaba was questioned about the ongoing investigation into her coach Jama Aden, and was upfront with her answer.
"I don't know anything or comment on my coach. I go for job, I don't go for nothing. I don't have training. I go there because I train for championships. I don't think of what's happening," she said. Dibaba was set to meet members of the media yesterday at a press conference, though canceled at the last minute.
In the women's 800m, Niyonsaba took the track wearing bright green arm sleeves on a seasonably warm night (29C) to match her Nike Oregon Project top. With Caster Semenya and Margaret Wambui both out of the meet, Niyonsaba seized the opportunity to go with the rabbit through 400m (57.95) then press on. She'd hit 600m in 1:28.65 after pacer Nelly Jepkosgei stepped away in dramatic fashion.
Jepkosgei began slowing in lane one, and got in the way of both Melissa Bishop and Lynsey Sharp. The latter two had to dodge away from Jepkosgei, losing a step that would prove valuable in the end.
Niyonsaba was the only woman to crack 1:58, finishing first in 1:57.71 in front of Eunice Sum (1:58.41) and Sharp (1:58.52). Bishop was fourth in 1:58.71. Hometown favorite Selina Büchel ran a season best for fifth in 1:58.77.
"I'm very happy," said Niyonsaba. "I'm happy knowing at the end I was so fantastic. Everyone is so fast, I did my best to win and I feel happy. I'm happy to win here in my first time to come here."
Laughing about the pacing incident, both Sharp and Bishop said they simply couldn't catch another gear in the end. After three rounds in Rio de Janeiro, both had dead legs down the stretch.
"That was interesting. She was thinking about stopping and then..." Sharp said, her voice tailing off. "I just didn't have it in the end though."
Kenyan Abraham Kibiwott Wins Steeple Sprint With Nicholas Bett
With none of the Olympic steeplechase medalists entered, the men's race was up for grabs with pre-race favorites Jairus Birech and Paul Kipsiele Koech sitting second and fourth on the world list. Neither, however, would be involved in the sprint for victory.
Abraham Kibiwott and Nicholas Bett would be the two leading with 400 meters left, having survived the hot pace from the gun and held on as one by one competitors dropped. When the pacers stepped off late, both were far ahead of the field.
Bett hit the bell five meters up on Kibiwott, though the 19-year-old would not give in. Down the stretch and into the final water jump Kibiwott drew even, then surged approaching the last obstacle. Kibiwott would win 8:09.58 to 8:10.07 in a race that could indicate two young stars on the rise in the discipline (Bett is 19; Kibiwott's 20).
"[I'm] happy with the finish. It was not difficult today. I was taking my time as I knew I can win it in the last lap," said Kibiwott. "I want to continue winning in Brussels, which will be my last race of the season."
Americans Donn Cabral and Andy Bayer were sixth and eighth in 8:20.77 and 8:23.88.
"I felt pretty good. I was pretty happy with the race the whole time. It got pretty heavy at the end," said Cabral. "This kind of rubbed the really bad taste off the Olympic final."
The next stop of the IAAF Diamond League tour is in Paris on Saturday.