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What We Learned: Diamond League Oslo

Published by
RunnerSpace.com/Pro   Jun 11th 2014, 8:58pm

Americans Fare Well in Norway

By Scott Bush

The Bislett Games, the fifth stop on the Diamond League circuit, showed why America owns the world's best track and field team. Across the board, Americans fared well, with a slew of top three finishes and a handful of wins. Despite many of the top U.S. track and field athletes staying stateside to prepare for this weekend's adidas Grand Prix, American track and field fans had plenty to cheer about in Oslo, Norway on Wednesday.

Here's what we learned.

Felix Continues to Rise

It's been an uphill battle for Allyson Felix (USA) the past two years, but the former champion is back to her winning ways, taking home her first Diamond League win this season with a strong 22.73 winning 200m effort. Felix, who ran into a slight headwind, easily proved the class of the field, besting runner-up Jodie Williams (GBR) in 22.97. This was a big step forward for Felix and it should be very entertaining to see her progression throughout the season. Fingers crossed!

Jager Nearly Breaks His American Record

With an eye on his American record of 8:06.81, Evan Jager (USA) took his best shot in Oslo to beat his best and lower his mark from 2012. Jager closely followed rabbit Haron Lagat for the first few laps of the race, then took the lead and continued to push the pace before Jairus Birech (KEN) took over with two laps to go. Jager, who actually ran sub-8 minute pace for a few laps, really laid it on the line, controlled the race and showed why he's a legit medal threat next year and in 2016.

One has to wonder how Jager would have done had he already raced a steeple this season. Birech won by four seconds, but he's raced the steeple a handful of times already this season, owning four of the top nine marks in the world in 2014. This was Jager's seasonal debut in the event and he nearly eclipsed his record. The Bowerman Track Club standout isn't only eyeing his AR this season, he's also hoping to dip under the vaunted eight minute barrier. Wednesday's race was a great step forward, while also establishing him as one of the world's top three steeplers, as he bested some serious talent and now only trails Birech and Ezekiel Kemboi (KEN) in my mind.

Bartoletta Soars Over Seven Meters

Remember when Tiana Bartoletta (USA) won gold at the World Championships? If not, don't worry, that happened way back in 2005. Since then, the former University of Tennessee All-American has won relay gold and finished fourth in the 100m at the 2012 Olympics. Getting back into the long jump, Bartoletta soared to a 7.02m world leading time in Oslo, showing she's back to being the best in the world, while setting a new PR.

Bartoletta's first jump of 6.69m was solid, establishing her amongst the field and putting her off on the right foot with five jumps to go. On the second, she simply reached new lengths, hitting the board just perfectly and launching herself past the magical seven meter barrier. She didn't take any of her remaining four jumps, settling for the victory off of one of the best jumps over the past few years. It's always nice to see a past champion return to their glory event.

Eaton Wins Gold

A decathlete had never won a race at a Diamond League event until Wednesday. Ashton Eaton (USA), who competed over the 400m hurdle event, popped a 49.16 effort, good enough to solidly beat runner-up Johnny Dutch (USA). While Eaton went 49.07 for a PR in his runner-up effort in Hengelo this past Sunday, winning in Oslo was big. Eaton has now clearly established himself as the third best long hurdler in the United States, trailing Michael Tinsley and Bershawn Jackson. He holds a better seasonal best than Jeshua Anderson, who owns a 49.22 SB, and beat Dutch here. How much more will Eaton improve this season remains to be seen, but a half second approvement between now and the end of the season means he's a legit trophy contender moving forward.

*Note: The men's 400m hurdles were part of the Diamond League Oslo meeting, but wasn't a Diamond League event. 

Distance Crew Runs Well

We really don't need to write it, but we will anyways - Galen Rupp, Ajee' Wilson and Matthew Centrowitz are all amazing. Somewhat quietly, Rupp eyed the American record in the men's 5k of 12:53.60 set by rival Bernard Lagat (USA) in 2011. After his record breaking 10k performance at Pre, the Portland-based athelte felt confident that he could really challenge Lagat's best. A slow early pace crushed that dream, but Rupp still competed hard and showed why he's one of the very best in the world with his third place, 13:03.35 effort. Rupp will no doubt get another chance to run sub-13 this season, but for now he'll need to continue working on his closing speed, as he was trounced by winner Yenew Alamirew (Ethiopia) over the final 400m of the race.

Fellow American Andrew Bumbalough finished ninth overall in a new seasonal best of 13:13.67 and continues to close in on a sub-13:10 performance.

Meanwhile, in the women's 800m, Ajee' Wilson (USA) positioned herself to near perfection in a very crowded field and came away with a runner-up effort in the women's 800m. Breaking the two minute barrier for the first time this season, Wilson couldn't quite upset winner Eunice Sum (KEN), but finished second in a seasonal best of 1:59.68. With 13 athletes in the race at the start, this race was far too crowded and it showed. Numerous athletes simply couldn't move and it cost some athletes strong finishes. Molly Beckwith-Ludlow (USA) again nearly cracked the two minute mark with her 2:00.79 performance, while Brenda Martinez (USA) was one of the athletes effected by the huge field, finishing a distant tenth in 2:02.27. Martinez' sub-par performance came four days after her 1:59.24 winning effort in Hengelo, so obviously the fitness is there.

Not to be outdone, Rupp's teammate Matthew Centrowitz (USA) looked like he may just win the men's mile, but tied up badly over the final 250m and simply couldn't shift into one more gear. Centrowitz had prime position for much of the race, keeping an eye on the leaders, with enough room to bounce outside and move up if need be. While the early pace was hot, once the rabbit dropped the pace lagged a bit, as the top runners got ready for their final charge. Into the final lap, Ayanleh Souleiman (DJI) made a move from 300m out, putting himself in the lead, while Centrowitz continued to hold. As Centrowitz started to fade with just over 200m to go, Nick Willis (NZL) moved up and charged into the homestretch. Souleiman was able to hold off Willis for a 3:49.49-3:49.87 victory, whiel Centrowitz came home in eighth in 3:52.27 and well off Alan Webb's American record of 3:46.91.

Claye Continues His Winning Ways

if we know anything from the Diamond League season thus far, it's that Will Claye (USA) continues to perform as the world's best triple jumper. On Wednesday, running second heading into his final attempt, Claye unleashed a 17.41m effort, blowing by then leader Christian Taylor's (USA) 17.15m best, taking home yet another win. Taylor, who set his personal best with his runner-up effort, shows why the United States has arguably the top two triple jumpers in the world. Claye's consistency this season is amazing. Winning Pre then coming back to win the Bislett Games' event is mighty impressive. These two friends and former University of Florida teammates continue to push each other to perform at their very best. Oh, and lets not forget just how wildly entertaining they are!

Stop Kovacs

Joe Kovacs (USA) is a man on the rise. All season long the American has continually impressed, not only positioning himself as one of the very best in the world, but showing he has the talent and drive to become the very best shot putter. On Wednesday, Kovacs took another big step forward and won the men's shot put, besting David Storl (GER) and Reese Hoffa (USA) with a 21.14m performance. Kovacs didn't necessariy have his rhythm going, scratching four of his six attempts, but his one big throw was enough to seal the victory.

Now onward to New York City and the adidas Grand Prix!

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