Athletics
Carlo Jonkerman, KweséESPN 90d

Jebet threatens own world record and Africans shine in Zurich

Ruth Jebet came within a few second of her own world record in the 3000m steeplechase at the Weltklasse Zurich on Thursday, the first of two 2017 IAAF Diamond League finals.

Jebet, Kenya-born but competing for Bahrain, came to Zurich with a point to prove after a disappointing fifth place finish at the World Championships in London 13 days ago, and she sure mde it. For the second half of Thursday's race at a wet Letzigrund Stadium, Jebet duelled with Kenyan Beatrice Chepkoech. It took until the bell for Jebet to break away for good, with the world record she shattered in Paris -- 8:52.78 -- up for grabs.

The 20-year-old looked within touch of eclipsing her own mark but stuttered slightly at the final hurdle before eventually crossing the line in 8:55.29, the second fastest time in history.

"It was a great race," Jebet told IAAF media in a post-race flash interview. "I wanted to run this time in London but I wasn't feeling good. It was three seconds from my personal best but the record is mine. Next year there is a new chance."

For her part, Chepkoech became only the fourth women to ever dip under nine minutes (8.59.84) while third-placed Norah Jeruto (Kenya) also beat her personal best, by 10 seconds.

WORLD CHAMPIONS GET TASTE OF THEIR MEDICINE

Meanwhile, Thursday's 16 IAAF Diamond League finals (there will be 16 more Friday week in Brussels), saw only seven world champions -- four from field events -- add a $50 000 cheque and Diamond Trophy to their 2017 honours.

Ironically, four London 2017 winners finished fourth in their events on Thursday, to get a small taste of the disappointment their wins inflicted on others.

That said, Emma Coburn (USA, 3000m steeplechase), the Netherlands' Dafne Schippers (200m), javelin thrower Johannes Vetter (Germany) controversial 100m world champion Justin Gatlin of the USA would no doubt choose their world titles over the money on offer for winning the Diamond Races.

AFRICANS CLAIM THEIR SHARE

From an African point of view, four athletes from the continent will leave Zurich richer. South Africans Luvo Manyonga (long jump) and Caster Semenya (800m) won their events comfortably, as expected.

Manyonga, who edged countryman Ruswahl Samaai into second, spoke of being overwhelmed by his unbeaten season while Semenya was her usual pragmatic self about a race in which she again got the better of her great rivals Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Kenya's Margaret Wambui -- who put an up and down season behind her to run a personal best. (Fourth-placed Habitam Alemu went one better by setting a new Ethiopian national record of 1.57,05.)

"I think it was a good race again," Semenya said after. "[Despite having a pace maker asked to run a world record-chasing first lap] It was as fast as I wanted to go. And I won. That was my aim."

Meanwhile, Timothy Cheruiyot led a top-six finish for Kenya in the 1500m, holding off Silas Kiplagat and a tiring world champion Elijah Manangoi down the homestretch. A first major win, after a season of near-misses, was just the tonic Cheruiyot needed to end his season.

"The race was hard but I could control what was happening at the front. Now I am going back home. I will try to rest a bit," he said in his winner's interview.

There was also a smile-inducing win for Botswana's Isaac Makwala in the 400m. As if his recent weeks haven't been eventful enough, Makwala's co-favourite Steven Gardiner (thanks to the injury-enforded absence of Wayde van Niekerk) fell to the floor out of the starting blocks allowing him to cruise to one of the easiest wins of the night. Makwala didn't waste the chance to rerun his last few weeks...

"My race was very good. Also the atmosphere and the spectators. In London everything was bad for me. I lost everything there. I didn´t have the chance to run the final there. I was aiming for gold or silver. Today I wanted to win the Diamond League. This aim I have reached. Wonderful. There is one race left in Zagreb. Then I will close my season.

SAME MO-DUS OPERANDI, DIFFERENT OUTCOME

One athlete who hasn't just closed his season, but a chapter too, is Mo Farah.

The Somalia-born Briton ran his final track race of his career on Thursday in the 5000m and, fittingly, it was a humdinger. Any one of five athletes were in the running to win it on the line, keeping the 25 000 capacity crowd on the edge of the seats. Just like at the World Championships the Ethiopians -- led by world champion Muktar Edris -- and Kenya-born American Paul Chelimo ran a smart race to force Farah out of his comfort zone.

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