The second Samsung Diamond League Athletics season kicked off today in Doha, Qatar. As expected the meet featured many world leading performances. Perhaps none was better, or more appreciated, than the men’s 3000 meters, won by 20 year-old Ethiopian Yenew Alamirew, the new distance sensation from the land of Haile Gebrselassie and Keninisa Bekele. The smiling assassin continued his impressive display of finishing speed with a 7:27.26 win over a major field of former world and Commonwealth Games champions from Kenya. He led the top four men under 7:30, and the top six to PR performances.
Under warm (30C) but dry conditions (humidity 35%), the race was paced perfectly at 2:30.43 and 5:00.66 through kilometers one and two. At the bell, 6:33, the pack aligned behind by former World Champion at 5000 meters Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya with Alamirew fronting two more Kenyans, Augustuine Choge and Edwin Soi, in the prime slots behind the smooth striding Kipchoge. The previous three laps had fallen in 59.73, 60.63, and 60.32, which had discouraged nobody. Eight men on a string remained in position for the one lap shootout.
With Kipchoge still holding forth on the backstretch, the clock ticked through 6:58.5 as Eliud Choge moved onto Alamirew’s shoulder in second. Sensing the electric green vest and the 1500m speed beneath it – Choge finished second in the 2010 DL 1500 standings behind Asbel Kiprop – Alamirew dipped his chin and drove to the front, passing Kipchoge who had no answer for the gear now in play. A gap opened in less than three heart beats. And this was off an already incendiary pace!
The scores of Ethiopians in the sparse Qatar crowd wailed their approval, waving their tri-colored flags and swaying in pride at the latest speed merchant from Addis Ababa. Alamirew’s high shoulders and a upright sewing machine stride hit yet another gear at the top of the stretch! The Kenyans fighting for the lesser places simply were left in the young Ethiopian’s heel flicks.
As the line approached, Alamirew even had time to ease off in the final few strides to smile and cross himself, as Kenya’s Edwin Soi weaved around countryman Choge before dipping inside to pip Kipchoge to take second. Alamirew’s 7:27.26 was produced with a 55-second eased off final lap. Not only the 2011 world-leading 3000 meter time, it represents the ninth best 3000 ever run, and third best ever by an Ethiopian behind legends Geb and Bekele. And the kid is all of 20 years old!
Last year the Diamond League 5000/3000 season didn’t produce a dominant figure. Kenya’s Kipchoge produced the fastest 5000 of the year at 12:51.21 in June in Shanghai – next up on the Diamond League schedule. But Ethiopia’s Imane Merga won the overall Diamond League 5000 title. The seven races in the series were all close, but fireworks weren’t ever displayed.
In Alamirew we see evidence of another special champion. He outsprinted Kipchoge and Choge earlier in the year at the Stuttgart indoor meet, too. Time, as always will tell. Speaking of which, Kenyan Daniel Komen’s 3000m world record of 7:20.67 from Rieti, Italy in 1996 is still the best record of them all. The greatest runners of the era have all taken their shots, but nobody’s come close.
All-time men’s best 3000
1. 7:20.67 Daniel Komen KEN Rieti 01.09.1996
2. 7:23.09 Hicham El Guerrouj MAR Brussels 03.09.1999
3. 7:25.02 Ali Saïdi-Sief ALG Monaco 18.08.2000
4. 7:25.09 Haile Gebrselassie ETH Bruxelles 28.08.1998
5. 7:25.11 Noureddine Morceli ALG Monaco 02.08.1994
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