ATHLETICS: Americans Kerley, Bednarek, Cherry, Allen, Hayes and Allman take Diamond League titles in Zurich; Sidorova vaults 16-5 1/4!

Diamond League 200 m champion Kenny Bednarek of the U.S. (Photo: Adam Eberhardt for TrackTown USA)

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Six American victories highlighted the final day of the 2021 Wanda Diamond League at the Weltklasse Zurich, with many of the winners getting a direct entry into the 2022 World Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

It was a busy day with plenty of drama and money, with the top eight receiving $30,000-12,000-7,000-4,000-2,500-2,000-1,500-1,000, and a 2021 world-leader in the women’s vault:

Men/100 m: Half of the Olympic final was on the line, including Tokyo silver winner Fred Kerley of the U.S. and bronze medalist Andre De Grasse (CAN). American Ronnie Baker – always a strong starter – had the lead early, but Kerley and De Grasse came alongside at halfway. All three were close at 90 m, but then Kerley had a late surge that carried him across first in 9.87 (wind: -0.4 m/s). De Grasse equaled his lifetime best in second (9.89), with Baker at 9.91 and American Trayvon Bromell fourth in 9.96. American Michael Rodgers was seventh in 10.23.

An amazing year for Kerley, a 400 m star coming into 2021 and one of the world’s top sprinters at the end of it.

● Men/200 m: Tokyo gold and silver winners De Grasse and Kenny Bednarek (USA) were on the line, as was 100 m winner Kerley. But off the start, “Kung Fu Kenny” was strong, taking the lead from lane seven and never looking back. He maintained a clear lead over De Grasse all the way to the finish, only making it close as he slowed across the line, 19.70-19.72 (+0.5), with Kerley third in 19.83. American Vernon Norwood got seventh in 20.46.

For Bednarek, he extended his record of sub-20 performances in the season to 13.

● Men/400 m: London Olympic champ Kirani James (GRN) took the early lead, ahead of American Michael Cherry, but James, Deon Lendore (TTO) and Norwood came off the turn all close. But Cherry rocketed into the lead on the final straight and he and James separated from the field, with Cherry diving at the line for a 44.41-44.22 win. Lendore was third (44.81) and Norwood fourth (44.84).

That’s 14 straight sub-45 second 400s for Cherry this season. Wow.

● Men/800 m: Kenyans Emmanuel Korir and Ferguson Rotich ran 1-2 in Tokyo and when the hard running started with 300 m to go, Korir was leading Canada’s Marco Arop, but both were passed by a sprinting Rotich. He had the lead coming off the turn, but then Korir put on the jets and separated from the field to win 1:44.56 to 1:44.96 for Rotich.

Arop looked to be third, but Clayton Murphy of the U.S. made a major charge in the final 60 m to get third on the lean, 1:45.21-1:45.23 over Arop. Isaiah Harris of the U.S. was sixth in 1:45.70.

● Men/1,500 m: Australia’s Stewart McSweyn gave up the lead at the bell to Kenya’s Tim Cheruiyot, with Olympic champ Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR) right behind. Tokyo silver winner Cheruiyot and Ingebrigtsen were set up at the front with 120 m to go and in the straight, Cheruiyot had the best finish and won in 3:31.37-3:31.45. McSweyn got third with a finishing sprint of his own over countryman Ollie Hoare, 3:32.14-3:32.66.

● Men/Steeple: Everyone was in contention with two laps to go, but Kenya’s Olympic bronze winner Benjamin Kigen controlled the race from the front with a lap to go and then tried to run away on the final backstraight.

He opened up a lead, but was still being pressed by teammate Leonard Bett with Tokyo winner Soufiane El Bakkali (MAR) moving up smartly with a half-lap to go. But Kigen had a good final water jump and looked to be running away with the win until he had some trouble with the final barrier and El Bakkali sprinted up to challenge, but fell short, 8:17.45-8:17.70. Kenyans Abraham Kibiwot and Bett were 3-4 in 8:18.16-8:20.20. Hillary Bor of the U.S. was seventh in 8:24.81.

● Men/110 m hurdles: Jamaica’s Olympic gold and bronze winners Hansle Parchment and Ronald Levy were in lanes 5 and 7. Parchment was off well, but American Devon Allen got in front by mid-race and while he and Parchment were dueling in the middle of the track, Levy was coming on strong on the outside. At the lean, Allen and Levy were 1-2, both in 13.06 (+0.6), with Parchment third (13.17) and American Daniel Roberts fourth (13.31).

Despite winning, Allen – who was fourth in Tokyo – won’t get an auto entry into the 2022 Worlds since fellow American Grant Holloway already has it for the U.S. in this event as 2019 World Champion. But it’s a big win for Allen and his no. 2 time ever.

● Men/400 m hurdles: Norway’s Karsten Warholm was in his first post-Tokyo race in this event, but Turkey’s 2017 Worlds silver winner Yasmani Copello was disqualified for a false start. On the re-start, Warholm got his usual rocket start from lane seven and won decisively in 47.35. He was pressed on the home straight by Brazil’s Tokyo bronze winner Alison dos Santos (47.81), with Kyron McMaster (IVB: 48.24) in third.

For Warholm, the time seems ordinary, but by someone else, it would rank 15th on the all-time list. Wow.

● Men/High Jump: Olympic co-champ Gianmarco Tamberi (ITA) cleared five heights in a row to lead at 2.30 m (7-6 1/2), then took two tries to get over 2.32 m (7-7 1/4). Andriy Protsenko (UKR) and Ilya Ivanyuk (RUS) also cleared 2.30 m, but could not go higher.

Tamberi tried 2.34 m (7-8) and with the crowd in a frenzy, made it on his second try to secure the win.

● Men/Pole Vault: The real jumping started at 5.93 m (19-5 1/2), with Olympic champ Mondo Duplantis (SWE) over on his first try, with American Sam Kendricks and Timur Morgunov (RUS) clearing on their second. At 5.98 m (19-7 1/2), Duplantis cleared on his second try, but no one else could. Duplantis then sailed over 6.06 m (19-10 1/2) and raised the bar to a world-record height of 6.19 m (20-3 3/4) once again, but missed three times.

Americans Chris Nilsen and K.C. Lightfoot cleared 5.83 m (19-1 1/2) to place 5-6.

● Men/Triple Jump: Portugal’s Olympic champ Pedro Pablo Pichardo went to the lead at 17.26 m (56-7 1/2) in the first round and no one could match him. Hugues Fabrice Zango, third in Tokyo, finished second at 17.20 m (56-5 1/4). But Pichardo extended his lead to 17.27 m (56-8) in round five and then a terrific 17.70 m (58-1) in the final round. American Donald Scott was sixth at 16.22 m (53-2 3/4).

● Men/Discus: Sweden’s Olympic champ Daniel Stahl got out to 66.49 m (218-1) to take the lead and no one could catch him! Slovenia’s emerging star Kristjian Ceh managed 65.49 m (214-6) for second. It’s Stahl’s 14th straight win on the season and 15 of 17 overall.

● Men/Javelin: Germany’s Johannes Vetter has been the dominant thrower of the season, even with a ninth-place finish in Tokyo. And he got out to 89.11 m (292-4) in the second round to settle the question of the Diamond League winner for 2021. Olympic silver winner Jakub Vadlejch (CZE) reached 85.22 m (279-7) in the first round, but was passed by German Julian Weber (87.03 m/285-6) in round four for second.

● Women/100 m: Jamaica’s double Olympic champ Elaine Thompson-Herah was the focus, and she took control of the race by 35 m and ran away from Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, 10.65 to 10.87 (+0.6). It’s Thompson’s fourth-fastest time ever and her no. 4 time of 2021; that’s how great she has been this season. Asher-Smith was brilliant, only 0.04 from her lifetime best, but not in the same class. American Javianne Oliver was sixth in 11.02.

● Women/200 m: The question is what would Namibian teen sensation Christine Mboma do? The silver winner in Tokyo with her roaring finish was in lane four, but it was 2019 World Champion Asher-Smith running best on the turn and into the straight. But then Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson – 100 m bronze winner in Tokyo – took over, with Mboma charging. Jackson had the lead until the final 15 m, when Mboma got past to win in 21.78 (+0.6), a world U-20 record and an African Record. She’s now no. 19 all-time.

Jackson got a lifetime best of 21.81, now equal-21st all-time, in second with Asher-Smith third in 22.19. American Dezerea Bryant was seventh in 22.99.

● Women/400 m: Olympic fourth-placer Stephenie-Ann McPherson (JAM) had the lead at halfway, but was caught on the far turn by U.S. Olympic Trials winner Quanera Hayes. Dominican Olympic silver winner Marileidy Paulino made her usual late rush on the home straight, but Hayes was equal to the challenge and won in 49.88, just 0.01 behind her winning time in Eugene. Paulino finished in 49.96 and Sada Williams (BAH) nipped McPherson for third, 50.24-50.25.

A sweet end to the season for Hayes, only seventh in the Tokyo final and who did not run on the Olympic 4×400 m team.

● Women/800 m: Jamaica’s notorious front-runner, Natoya Goule, took the lead with 300 to go, but Olympic silver medalist Keely Hodgkinson came up to challenge on the turn. Into the straight, Hodgkinson found the best finishing gear in the final 50 m to win in 1:57.98. Goule looked to be second, but American Kate Grace stormed after her and got second on the lean, in 1:58.34 for both.

● Women/1,500 m: Another match-up of Olympic gold and bronze medalists Faith Kipyegon (KEN) and bronze winner Sifan Hassan (NED). Australian star Linden Hall had lead at the bell, but Kipyegon, Hassan and American Josette Norris blew by on the turn and were headed for the top three places. Kipyegon had a small lead with 200 m and then it was an all-out sprint with Hassan over the last 120 m, with the Kenyan holding her off, 3:58.33-3:58.55. Norris was a quality third in 4:00.41; American Helen Schlachtenhaufen was fifth in 4:02.30.

● Women/Steeple: The fast early pace saw world leader Norah Jeruto (KEN, soon to be KAZ) leading Olympic bronze winner Hyvin Kiyeng, Ethiopia’s Mekides Abebe (ETH) and American Courney Frerichs for much of the race. Abebe took the lead with a lap to go and tried to run away, but Jeruto and Kiyeng passed her on the backstraight. Jeruto had a fabulous final water jump and steamed away alone to the win in 9:07.33.

Frerichs roared off the water jump and edged into second past Kiyeng for a moment before the Kenyan sprinted to get second (9:08.55) with Frerichs third (9:08.74) and Abebe fourth (9:09.59). Olympic champ Peruth Chemutai (UGA) was seventh in 9:20.16.

● Women/100 m hurdles: Clapping for the field events interrupted the first attempt at a start. Once it got quiet, Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan – fourth in Tokyo – was even with Dutch star Nadine Visser and Tokyo bronze winner Megan Tapper (JAM) after four hurdles, but Amusan was the strongest in the final third, winning in 12.42 (+0.4 m/s), no. 3 on the world list for 2021. Visser (12.51: national record) and Tapper (12.55) went 2-3, with Americans Payton Chadwick (12.62) and Gabbi Cunningham (12.79) finishing 4-6.

● Women/400 m hurdles: American Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad were not in, so Dutch bronze winner Femke Bol was the big favorite. She did not disappoint, but was chased by American star Shamier Little over the seventh and eighth hurdles; Bol pulled away on the run-in to win in 52.80 to 53.35 for Little and 53.70 for Ukraine’s Anna Ryzhykova. American Cara Hailey was sixth in 55.06.

● Women/Pole Vault: Olympic champ Katie Nageotte of the U.S. no-heighted. Only 2019 World Champion Anzhelika Sidorova (RUS) and 2016 Olympic champ Katerina Stefanidi (GRE) cleared 4.77 m (15-7 3/4) and while Stefanidi missed once at 4.84 m (15-10 1/2) and twice at 4.91 m (16-1 1/4), Sidorova cleared both for the win. The Russian then took the world lead for 2021, clearing 4.96 m (16-3 1/4) for a lifetime best and then made a sensational 5.01 m (16-5 1/4) on her third try to move to no. 2 in history!

● Women/Triple Jump: Olympic champ Yulimar Rojas (VEN) ended the suspense early, powering out to 15.27 m (50-1 1/4) in the first round, equaling the no. 18 jump in history. No one was close, but Rojas extended on her final jump to 15.48 m (50-9 1/2), the no. 4 jump ever!

● Women/Discus: Olympic champ Valarie Allman of the U.S. took control of the event with a superb fifth throw of 69.20 m (227-0) to win easily; it’s her fourth-best throw ever. Two-time Olympic winner Sandra Perkovic (CRO) was a clear second at 67.22 m (220-6).

● Women/Javelin: Germany’s Christin Hussong, ninth in Tokyo, got out to 64.20 m (210-7) in round three and no one could catch her, improving to 65.26 m (214-1) on her final try. Australia’s Tokyo bronze winner Kelsey-Lee Barber managed to finish second at a very modest 62.68 m (205-8).

The Diamond League is over, but what could be one of the best meets of the year is coming Sunday: the ISTAF meet in Berlin in the renovated Olympiastadion.

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