NOTE: This story was written remotely --Ed.
(08-Sep) -- Running on tired legs after an unprecedented season which included three major championships, six more distance athletes were crowned 2022 Wanda Diamond League champions tonight in Zürich after the two 5000m champions were crowned last night. Kenyans took half of those titles --Mary Moraa and Emmanuel Korir in the 800m and Faith Kipyegon in the 1500m-- while Norway's Jakob Ingebrigtsen (men's 1500m), Morocco's Soufiane El Bakkali (men's 3000m steeplechase), and Ethiopia's Werkuha Getachew (women's steeplechase) took the other three. All six won $30,000 in prize money and Moraa, Ingebrigtsen and Getachew all earned byes* into the 2023 World Athletics Championships.
PHOTO: Emmanuel Korir winning the 2022 Wanda Diamond League Final 800m (photo courtesy of Diamond League AG)
Without question, Kipyegon was the most convincing winner. Ignoring the pacemaker, Allie Wilson of the USA, who went through 400m in 64.3 seconds and 800m in 2:11.4, Kipyegon decided to run a good 10 meters back and was unbothered that the other nine women were bunched close behind her. She wanted to leave it late, and her finish time was unimportant.
With a lap to go, Kipyegon led Britain's Laura Muir; Ireland's Ciara Mageean; and Ethiopia's Hirut Meshesha, Freweyni Hailu, Gudaf Tsegay, and Diribe Welteji. At first she held her pace steady, but then rapidly ramped up her speed down the backstretch. Nobody could go with the two-time Olympic champion and she won her third Diamond League title going away in 4:00.44 on the strength of a 57.8-second final lap. Mageean, the silver medalist at both the Commonwealth Games and European Championships, just managed to get by Hailu before the finish to take second in 4:01.68. Hailu got third in 4:01.73 and Welteji fourth in 4:01.79. Muir, who won the bronze medal at this year's World Athletics Championships then gold at both the Commonwealth Games and European championships, finished fifth.
"This was a really strong field, but then I kept thinking this was the last race of the season, and I took the opportunity to end it in a nice way," Kipyegon told the event's flash quote interviewers. "It has been a long season and, indeed, my legs are tired, but I think I still managed to run a good time all things considered."
In the 800m races, both Moraa and Korir won in close contests. Moraa, this summer's world bronze medalist and the Commonwealth gold medalist, let pacemaker Olivia Baker of the USA go and concentrated on racing her key rivals, instead: Jamaica's Natoya Goule, Britain's Keely Hodgkinson, and France's Renelle Lamote. Moraa led at the bell, held on to that lead through 800m, and just managed to hold off Goule in the homestretch, 1:57.63 to 1:57.85. American Sage Hurta was a surprising third in 1:58.47 in only her second professional track season.
"I am happy for my first Diamond Trophy, I am happy for my country, I am happy for my fans all over the world," said Moraa, who is the Kenyan record holder for 400m (50.67). "Now the season is over for me and I will have, like, three to four weeks off. Then I start my program for the next season and I will continue with the 800."
Korir literally muscled his way to victory tonight. About 500 meters into the race, Canada's Marco Arop launched an attack on the backstretch and tried to run away from the field. Arop was chased by Kenya's Wycliffe Kinyamal, Britain's Jake Wightman, and Korir. The Canadian for nearly the entire homestretch, but was passed by Korir --his form completely broken-- in just the last five meters. Korir ran a world-leading time of 1:43.26 and Arop got a season's best 1:43.38. Wightman, the reigning world 1500m champion, got third in 1:44.10.
"The last few meters were very tough," Korir admitted. "I never expected it to be this tough, but I did it. I was still behind in the last 200 meters. Maybe the first 600 were a bit too slow, so I had to push it hoping I could finish second or third. I managed to come first in the end, though."
In the other distance events, both Ingebrigtsen and El Bakkali won convincingly, while Getachew had to scrap for her win. Ingebrigtsen, who was coming off double gold medals at the European Championships in the 1500m and 5000m, was never seriously challenged tonight despite facing a top-notch field. The tall Norwegian went with the fast pace set by Australia's Matthew Ramsden (54.2 through the first 400m), and when Ramsden retired at about 900m Ingebrigtsen took over the lead. Kenya's Timothy Cheruiyot and Abel Kipsang and Britain's Josh Kerr were still close to Ingebrigtsen at the bell.
But over the last lap, Ingebrigtsen was just too strong for his rivals. He ran a fast 54.9 seconds to close and won by more than a second in 3:29.02, improving slightly on his own world leader for 2022. Cheruiyot got second in 3:30.27 and Australia's Oliver Hoare, the 2022 Commonwealth champion, came from behind to pip Kipsang just before the line and take third. Kerr, the 2021 Olympic bronze medalist, faded to sixth.
"This has been a good Diamond League final," said Ingebrigtsen. He continued: "It was amazing to run in a sold-out stadium; so many people here feels awesome. Of course, I am happy with tonight, and also with the season overall."
El Bakkali, the reigning world and Olympic champion, was so confident tonight that he spent the first half of the race running in last place. With three laps to go in the seven and one-half lap race he moved up to fourth place, then shared the lead with Kenya's Amos Serem with two laps to go. The pace was solid (5:27.9 through 2000m), but not overly fast.
At the bell El Bakkali had a two-meter lead over Kenya's Abraham Kibiwot and Ethiopia's Getnet Wale. He surged down the backstretch and entered the final water jump with a solid lead, perhaps five meters. He was never seriously challenged in the homestretch, winning his first Diamond League title in 8:07.67. He ran his final kilometer in a snappy 2:39.8.
"This is the first Diamond Race Trophy for me; I missed it four times," El Bakkali said. "So now I am very satisfied that I finally got it. This year was amazing for me winning the World Championships and now the Diamond Race. What a wonderful season."
Getachew, the silver medalist from the 2022 World Athletics Championships, won her first Diamond Trophy only in the last 50 meters. She trailed Bahrain's Winfred Yavi coming out of the final water jump, and Yavi still led over the last barrier in the homestretch. But after Yavi landed her last barrier clearance, she stumbled, her legs weakened from exhaustion. That little slowdown was enough for Getachew to motor past and get the win in 9:03.57. Yavi finished second in 9:04.47, and Kenya's Faith Cherotich was third in 9:06.14. American Emma Coburn, the 2017 world champion who led the middle laps of the race, got seventh in 9:20.00.
"I am happy," said Getachew. "My feeling right now is so good. I am very excited. Twenty twenty-two has been a wonderful year for me."
The 2023 Wanda Diamond League is scheduled to begin on April 29, at a to-be-determined location in China. Fourteen stops are planned for next year with the Final taking place at Hayward Field in Eugene on September 15, hosted by the Prefontaine Classic.
*Korir, Kipyegon and El Bakkali already have byes by virtue of winning the 2022 world titles; Ingebrigtsen has a bye into the 5000m as world champion