Paris, France | AFP |
Kenyan-born Olympic champion Ruth Jebet obliterated the 3000m steeplechase world record Saturday as Dafne Schippers got back to winning ways in the 200m at the Paris Diamond League.
On a sultry Parisian evening, Jebet’s performance was the standout, the now-Bahraini having transferred allegiance to the Gulf state in February 2013 as a 16-year-old.
“I’m so happy. I’ve tried to beat the world record several times, but tonight we decided to push ourselves to go looking for a good time,” said Jebet, now 19.
“The pacemaker was very strong. She was at the Games… I wasn’t expecting such a difference with the previous record,” Jebet said, adding that she would now wrap up her season.
Jebet clocked 8min 52.78sec, smashing the previous record of 8:58.81 achieved by Russian Gulnara Galkina at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Jebet, who now owns three of the four fastest times in history, won Olympic gold in Rio with 8:59.75, the second fastest time ever in the event, having also clocked 8:59.97 at the Eugene meet in the United States last May.
Only Galkina and Jebet have ever dipped below the nine-minute mark in the event.
Jebet’s victory shone the light on what the IAAF has conceded is one of their most challenging problems: the transference of allegiance of athletes.
Many distance runners from east Africa now compete under the flag of Gulf countries, while Morocco, Jamaica and Nigeria-born athletes are also seen to be running for other countries.
“We want to make stricter the rules on transfers of allegiance,” IAAF president Sebastian Coe said at the Stade de France, with Jebet saying she quit Kenya five years ago for “animal health” studies.
France’s IAAF Council member Bernard Amsalem has been charged with investigating the trade in athletes.
“We’ll go looking for the athletes in mainly Kenya, but also Ethiopia, Morocco, Jamaica a little bit and Nigeria increasingly for the sprinters,” he said.
“Poor countries, in difficulty. It’s easier to turn an athlete of those countries by giving them a lot of money because it represents a lot compared to their daily wage.”
Jebet’s father gave the game away when she was honoured in Kenya for her Olympic gold, thanking her for enabling him to buy a house and cattle.
Jebat’s irritated manager Marc Corstjens cut conversation short in Paris.
“Tomorrow, we’ll return to Bahrain where the king awaits her for an official ceremony,” he said.
Elsewhere on the track, Dutchwoman Schippers, silver medallist in the 200m in the Rio Games, went one better by winning in 22.13sec ahead of Britain’s Desiree Henry (22.46, a new personal best) and American Jenna Prandini (22.48).
Kendra Harrison, with eight of the nine fastest times this season, won the 100m hurdles in 12.44sec, short of her own world record of 12.20.
“I just love competing. I came out here to pick up a win. Now I have a few days off and I’m looking forward to Zurich,” said the 23-year-old, who also won at the Lausanne Diamond League two days ago.
“I didn’t have my best start but then it’s certainly my best race!”
France’s Renaud Lavillenie got his season back on track with victory in the pole vault with a best of 5.93m.
“Honestly, I was very tired after Lausanne but the public’s support pushed me and it was the best thing for this last meeting at the Stade de France,” Lavillenie said, with next year’s meet set for the Charlety stadium in the south of Paris.
In the field, New Zealand’s Olympic bronze medallist Tom Walsh threw 21.81 metres for the Kiwi, Oceania and meeting record.