ExxonMobil Bislett Games, Oslo
ExxonMobil Bislett Games, Oslo

Many of the past stars of the ExxonMobil Bislett Games glorious first 50 years were in attendance in Oslo yesterday to celebrate the Golden Anniversary.  And the fields were so strong and the hopes so high, but did anyone else feel a little Bleh! with the results?

I texted my pal Jack Waitz whose late wife Grete’s statue stands out front of the historical oval, and even he came back with, “Boring!”

But as steeplechase pacer Haron Lagat posted on his Facebook account, “Oslo windy and humid”. And sometimes when attempting something special that is all it takes to throw off our high expectations.

So, yes, Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba ran the seventh fastest 5000 ever with her 14:21.29.  But the goal had been sister Tirunesh’s 14:11.15 world record from 2008, which, as it turns out, was the last world record set on the track renown for establishing such marks. But when her pacers couldn’t drag her through to even 2K on pace, forget it.

Then with high jump world record holder Javier Sotomayor of Cuba in the stands, there was hope that something close to his 2.45m record – which had come under assault several times last year – might come under fire once again, especially since all the top jumpers of the world were on hand.

But even with Mutaz Essa Barshim and Bogdan Bondarenko, Italy’s Marco Fassinotti (who tied the Italian national record) and America’s Erik Kynard clearing 2.33m — “well into the realm of respectability now,” as per broadcaster Stuart Storey — we had China’s Asian Games silver medalist Guowei Zhang winning at a relatively modest 2.36m.

At one point, according to Storey and partner Steve Cram, officials considered flipping the direction of the long jump runway to take advantage of the wind rather than run into it. In the end they didn’t and England’s Greg Rutherford leaped 8.25m for the win, but every event was a little off in the same way.

England's Laura Muir holds off Kenya's Faith Kipyegon in 1500m
Great Britain’s Laura Muir holds off Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon in 1500m

Scotland’s Laura Muir ran a gutty 4:00.39 to grab the 1500m win, but as had become the evening’s habit, was the only competitor to chase the rabbit. In the end she had to hold form to win, though Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon was closing smartly. Everyone else was two seconds or more behind.

Jairus Birech of Kenya dominated the men’s steeplechase in 8:05.63, some six seconds up on Conseslus Kipruto in second. All the other big names were there, but 22 year-old Birech was again the sole man to latch onto the pace, and by 2K (5:21.83) had gapped the field.

France’s Christoph Lemaitre took the 200m for men with a solid stretch run, but only in 20.21 as the headwind stripped time off all the sprints. Muriellle Ahoure held off Veronica Campbell Brown in the women’s 100m, 11.03 to 11.08. To put that into perspective, Ahoure had posted a PR 10.81 finishing second at Prefontaine, but in Eugene she was pushed by a 1.7 m/sec. tailwind.  Even the mighty Dream Mile which closed the program was lacking oomph.

Djiboudi’s Ayanleh Souleiman touted a meet record attempt (3:44.90, Hicham el Guerrouj 1997) but after going out alone with the pacers in a heady 1:53.48, he was left breathless in the final lap after hitting the bell in 2:53.  When he began to tie up, three hounds ran him down, led by lanky Kenyan Olympic champ Asbel Kiprop in 3:51.45.

As we continue to see, fewer prime contenders are going with the designated pacers in these Diamond League races. Are the paces just too daunting? The last senior men’s world record at Bislett was Haile Gebrselassie’s 26:31.32 in 1997. Yet when there are no pacers and fields just sit until the last lap, there is an audience that feels frustrated with that presentation, too.

SEBASTIAN COE BREAKS THE WORLD 1000 METRES WORLD RECORD IN OSLO The Bislett Stadium in Ofto British runner Seb C
SEBASTIAN COE – 1000m World Record in Oslo’s Bislett Stadium 1981

Lord Sebastian Coe, he who ran two world records of his own in Olso (1:42.33 800m in `79 & 2:12.81 1000m in `81) was another of the past stars in attendance. The candidate for the IAAF presidency released his 100-Day Plan the day before in Oslo, outlining the initial push he would make if elected. Hopefully, he will seek some remedy to the constant sameness of the sport that made him famous.


8 thoughts on “OSLO DIAMOND LEAGUE

  1. One of the issues with track and field (and road racing for that matter) is that the trend is more about expectations of records than victory. Not sure how this developed, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in most of the “popular” sports. While people get excited if a PGA golfer breaks a record, it is secondary to actually winning the tournament. How many people watch NASCAR to see track records? Most just want their favorite driver to win. Why do people watch the NFL and NBA since most the scoring is actually the same from game to game. I have never heard an NBA fan say “that game was boring because neither team broke the scoring record.” Maybe we need to increase the emphasis on who wins and how much $ they receive by placing to change the current trend.

    1. I disagree – if people watch a crappy NFL or NBA game, they say so. Regardless of records or expectations, a bad game is a bad game. While Bislett wasn’t “crappy” by any measure, it was definitely missing something. I had the great fortune to attend the Pre Classic, Rome Golden Gala, Birmingham, and Oslo over the last couple weeks, and Oslo just didn’t measure up from a competition standpoint. The breezy conditions played a role clearly, but I think it was just one of those days. I mean…look at the high jump competition. Nobody seemed to be “on” (Genzebe excepted) throughout the meet. I think it’s okay for us to be honest when a meet just isn’t that exciting. Bislett is still a great meet, there was still great talent there, and it doesn’t mean the sport is in danger.

      1. Bowermancurve:

        That’s quite a travel schedule. Who do you think you are, Larry Eder?!

        The fact that the sport seems so defensive in the face of any criticism whatsoever suggests a fragility that doesn’t become it. Today’s races at the Adidas GP in NYC also felt like the athletes had on restrictor plates as well. The headwind didn’t help, obviously, but every post-race chat was about how this plays into either the U.S. or World Champs, not about winning today’s race. The sport can’t expect to thrive if only the national or world championships count and everything else is just a prelim, including the Diamond League.

  2. Perhaps people are getting too caught up in times or distances and not just simply enjoying the drama or competition. Every event had its share of drama or competition, if you weren’t caught up in numbers. I didn’t find it boring at all.

    1. Dear Enquiring Mind: Perhaps much of it is the expectation placed on times rather than competition, especially when the conditions don’t support fast times. Maybe there should be equivalency measures, so that Ahoure’s 11.03 with a minus 4 m/sec wind would translate to her 10.81 at Pre with a plus 7 m/sec tailwind. Or whatever it might be. Plus, there are no perceived stakes at all, no mention of money or what a win or a fast time might generate in the overall scope of the meet or the tour. More context, please. Thanks for reading and replying.

  3. I felt bad thinking it – I flew from the US specifically for this meet! But I had the same thought; the whole meet just lacked oomph. It became clear early in the evening that we weren’t going to see any memorable efforts, although Genzebe Dibaba had another gutsy solo run. The weather certainly played a part, you could feel the breeze gusting throughout the stadium, but as you say, the athletes simply aren’t going with the pacers this year for some reason. In addition, and the athletes mentioned this too, at one point the shot put was simply shut down for 20 minutes while various ceremonies took place. It all just felt a little disjointed and odd. btw, I think Laura Muir was quite smart to run the way she did, it allowed her to take advantage of that trend and build an insurmountable lead.

    1. Sometimes watching on TV or the computer gives an impression that is not shared from the stands. But when Jack Waitz wrote back saying the meet was boring, something was up. Let’s see how things go this weekend in New York City. Thanks for replying.

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