20 August, 2017

Farah's farewell at Muller Grand Prix Birmingham

Sir Mo Farah brought the curtain down on an illustrious track career in Britain in typically dominating fashion, winning the 3000m as an historic summer of athletics in the UK ended with the Müller Grand Prix Birmingham.

Eight days after returning from the IAAF World Championships London 2017 with gold over 10,000m – his tenth global title – and silver over 5000m, Farah was back to bid farewell to a British track at the Alexander Stadium.

Farah did so in a way that he has done so for much of the past six years, hitting the front with just over a lap to go, holding off the challenge of a rival, this time Spaniard Adel Mechaal, and sprinting clear down the home straight.

His winning time was 7:38.64 minutes with Mechaal finishing 1.70 seconds adrift before Davis Kiplangat of Kenya and British teammate Andy Butchart (Derek Easton).

Farah said: “It has been an amazing week. I’ve managed to have a bit of downtime with the family and relax but emotions have been high coming into this event; not as much as London but it is my last time at home and I really enjoyed it.

“I never dreamed that I would become a four-time Olympic champion and multiple world champion. All I dreamed of as a youngster was running for Great Britain, from world juniors and European under-23s – you go through the ranks and you dream of becoming Olympic champion.”

On a stellar day of athletics, Farah wasn’t the only one to light up the crowd with world champions Katerina Stefanidi, Sandra Perkovic, Ramil Guliyev, Pawel Fajdek, Tomas Walsh and Mutaz Essa Barshim all victorious in Birmingham.

Barshim arguably delivered the performance of the day with a world lead of 2.40m in the men’s high jump while Sifan Hassan set a meeting record in the women’s 3000m and Jake Wightman (Geoff Wightman) made history for Britain in the Emsley Carr Mile.

After initially struggling at 2.31m and then with two fouls at 2.39m, Barshim pushed the height to 2.40m and cleared it with ease, picking the bar up and taking it with him in celebration afterwards.

Barshim won the world title in London with a clearance of 2.35m while world bronze medallist Majededdin Ghazal of Syria also bettered his London effort, jumping 2.31m for second.

Barshim said: “I knew I had that jump in me but I needed that pressure on my shoulders. It was a strong competition, which really tested me and that made me perform at my best. I love it here; I had the meeting record here from 2014 and I also won in Birmingham last year so it is a lucky place for me.

“I got so much support from the fans and my fellow competitors which really helped me to perform to my best. I can jump as high as possible. I don’t want to put any limits on myself. 2.40m was great and I didn’t want to push it too much a risk injury so I was just sensible.”

In a highly competitive women’s 3000m, Hassan – bronze medallist over 5000m at the World Championships – set a new meeting record and national record of 8:28.90 with victory.

Hassan timed her sprint to the line to perfection for a record-breaking performance while Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen also set a new national record of 8:29.89 for second. Seven other athletes set personal bests in the race including Britain’s Eilish McColgan (Liz Nuttall) in fifth.

Hassan said: “It has been three years since I last ran a 3000m so I enjoyed the opportunity to run the distance here. Racing over distances like the 800m and 3000m always surprises me but it was a fast race and I ran a very good time. The fact that it is a national record and meeting record is a nice bonus for me.”

Ten days after claiming his maiden world title in London, Guliyev followed up with a dominant victory in the men’s 200m in 20.17. Guliyev finished strongly to take the win by 0.09 ahead of Ameer Webb of the USA while Canadian Aaron Brown was third in a season’s best 20.30.

New Zealand world champion Walsh followed suit as he won the men’s shot put with a best effort of 21.83m. Walsh moved ahead of American Ryan Crouser with his penultimate attempt, throwing 21.75m before pushing that onto 21.83 with his last effort.

Another world champion Stefanidi took her unbeaten tally for the outdoor season to nine events, a best effort of 4.75m enough for victory in the women’s pole vault. Brit Holly Bradshaw (Scott Simpson) led the best of the rest on 4.61m.

Fellow Olympic and world champion Perkovic followed the Greek pole vaulter’s lead as she won the women’s discus with a best distance of 67.51m. Perkovic regained her world title in London and was not to be beaten with Cuban duo Denia Caballero and Yaime Perez second and third respectively.

There was a tight three-way finish to the women’s 400m with World Championship silver medallist over the distance in London Salwa Eid Naser the first to cross the line for the win.

In a near repeat of London, Naser edged out Allyson Felix once again, clocking 50.59, but this time the American star finished second with teammate Courtney Okolo third. Just seventh hundredths of a second separated the top three.

In the women’s triple jump, Colombia’s world silver medallist Caterine Ibarguen also went one better than she did in London as she triumphed with a best leap of 14.51m.

Venezuelan world champion Yulimar Rojas was seventh with 13.94m, bronze medallist Olga Rypakova third again with 14.29m as Jamaican Kimberly Williams finished second with 14.44m.

Like Stefanidi, Botswanan Nijel Amos was a comfortable winner in the men’s 800m by almost a second ahead of world silver medallist Adam Kszczot of Poland.

Amos was fifth in the World Championship final but wasn’t to be stopped in Birmingham crossing the finish line in 1:44.50, 0.78 ahead of Kszczot.

Another world silver medallist was forced to settle for second again in the men’s 110m hurdles as the Olympic champion from 2012 Aries Merritt beat Sergey Shubenkov to the line.

After a false start reduced the field by two, Merritt and world silver medallist from London Shubenkov finished strongest with the American winning by 0.02 in a time of 13.29.

In the women’s 100m Elaine Thompson, fifth at the World Championships, returned to winning ways, following up victory in the heats with a strong run of 10.93 to win the final.

Thompson was one of two to dip below 11 seconds, double world silver medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou the other, clocking 10.97 to take second behind the Jamaican.

American Jarrion Lawson was the first winner of a Diamond League event on the day and also the first World Championship medallist from London to claim victory on the day.

Lawson was the first man to clear eight metres in the men’s long jump, leaping 8.19m with his third attempt, and that wouldn’t be beaten despite the efforts of Ruswahl Samaai and compatriot Michael Hartfield.

Samaai, who took bronze behind Lawson’s silver at the World Championships, managed 8.03m with his fifth effort for second while Hartfield hit 8.02 with his final attempt for third.

Fourth in the World Championship final, Zuzana Hejnova lowered her season’s best to 54.18 to win the women’s 400m hurdles ahead of American Dalilah Muhammad, who took silver in London. Hejnova came from behind on the home straight at the Alexander Stadium to dip in front of Muhammad with her winning margin just 0.02.

Dawit Seyaum of Ethiopia was a clear winner in the women’s 1500m, her time of 4:01.36 almost a second better than Kenyan runner-up Winny Chebet.

Away from the Diamond Race events, there was a first British winner of the Emsley Carr Mile since 2005 as Wightman outsprinted teammate Chris O’Hare (Terrence Mahon) down the home straight for victory in 3:54.92. In a tight race, Wightman and O’Hare broke clear from the rest around the last bend with the former coming out on top by 0.09 to also become the first Scottish winner of the event since 1978.

Wightman said: “I needed to redeem myself after the worlds, where going out in the semis was pretty gutting. With 300m to go I could feel Chris and I knew one of us was going to win, and I've not beaten him in a long, long time.

“I knew the shape I was in before the worlds that I had the ability to get into that final and I just got it wrong, so I wanted to win out here. I thought I could do it with 300m to go and I could hear the crowd roaring, the noise is class.”

In an event first, a special Walk vs Run challenge was staged pitting race walk world record holder Tom Bosworth (Andi Drake) over 1000m against fellow Brit Adam Clarke (Geoff Watkin) over 1400m. Clarke did his best to cut Bosworth’s lead in an intriguing battle that had the crowd hooked over the last 400m but fell just short as Bosworth crossed the line in 3:28.28, taking victory by 0.71. 

Bosworth said: “I found that absolutely great fun – that’s how athletics and sport should be. It was such a different experience. I was scared Adam was going to catch me too early and I certainly thought he was in the last 100m. I never have that sort of sprint finish in a race so it was very strange. Thank you to British Athletics for coming up with this idea and then implementing it into a Diamond League.”

The men’s and women’s hammer competitions took on a new twist in the form of a three nation combined pairs event where the best efforts from each thrower were added together to determine the winner.

Polish duo Joanna Fiodorow and world champion Fajdek threw 71.14m and 78.51m respectively for a combined distance of 149.65m and enough for victory ahead of Brits pair of Sophie Hitchon (Tore Gustafsson) and Nick Miller (Gustafsson).

Hitchon and Miller managed bests of 70.96m and 71.69m respectively for a total of 142.65m while Germany’s Carolin Paesler and Johannes Bichler were third with 136.03, after efforts of 65.97m and 70.06m.

One of the standout performances of the day came from Britain’s Dwayne Cowan (Lloyd Cowan) as he capped a fine season over 400m with victory in a new personal best.

Cowan, part of the British 4x400m relay team that won bronze at the World Championships, came from fifth on the home straight to win by 0.18 ahead of Vernon Norwood of the USA in 45.34.

Habitam Alemu of Ethiopia won the first track event of the day, the women’s 800m, in 1:59.60 after a sprint finish with Britain’s Lynsey Sharp (Mahon). Sharp did duck inside the two-minute barrier as she clocked 1:59.97 for second with American Charlene Lipsey finishing exactly a second behind for third place.

An all-British men’s 100m race saw world sprint relay champion CJ Ujah (Stuart McMillan) take victory in a tight contest in 10.08. James Dasaolu (Cowan) claimed second by 0.02 ahead of Zharnel Hughes (Patrick Dawson)

The stars of the World Para Athletics Championships London 2017 were also out in force in three dedicated sprints, which saw Britain take two victories in front of a home crowd.

Jonnie Peacock (Michael Khmel) showed exactly why he is the reigning Paralympic and world champion as he broke away from rival Jarryd Wallace to take the win in the men’s T44 100m in 11.03.

Sophie Hahn (Joseph McDonnell) won a women’s T37/38 100m race containing four world champions in 12.83 and South African Ntando Mahlangu upset another world champion in the shape of Richard Whitehead (Keith Antoine) for victory in the men’s T42 200m.

Peacock said: “I managed the win but it wasn’t the quickest – I’m happy though because it’s the first time I’ve put my blade on since the worlds final. I honestly didn’t care if I lost, I just wanted to thank the crowd for all of their support. It was the first time my event has been included in the Diamond League in four years so it meant a lot to me.”