Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei produced a brilliant display of solo running to break Kenenisa Bekele’s 16-year-old 5,000 metres world record by almost two seconds as athletics returned with a bang at the Monaco Diamond League meeting on Friday.
Cheptegei, 23, had predicted a world record run in the big event of the season and duly delivered as he clocked 12 minutes, 35.36 seconds, destroying the 12:37.35 that Bekele set in the Netherlands in 2004.
Athletics fans had waited a long time for the first Diamond League meeting and the 5,000 spectators allowed in the stadium and millions watching on TV were not to be disappointed on a night of impressive performances as athletes of every discipline showed that they had clearly found ways to keep in shape during their various lockdown restrictions.
Leading the way was Cheptegei. The 2019 world champion over 10,000 metres was in hot form before lockdown, setting world records over 10km and 5km on the road – the shorter of those also coming in Monaco in February – his last race before Friday’s meet.
He took up the running at halfway, churning out 61-second laps and delivered a 2:30 split for the final kilometre, remembering to stop his own watch as he crossed the line.
“It took a lot of mind setting to keep being motivated this year because so many people are staying at home but you have to stay motivated,” he said.
“I pushed myself, I had the right staff with me, the right coach. I’m also usually based in Europe, but being based in Uganda with my family was actually great. I will for sure celebrate the world record when I get home.”
In the women’s 5,000, world champion Hellen Obiri surged clear of Letesenbet Gidey to win in 14:18.37 after Sifan Hassan dropped out with three laps to go.
Timothy Cheruiyot was another world champion who showed no signs of suffering from disrupted training as he overcame a potentially reckless fast first lap to win the men’s 1,500m in 3:28.45.
Just behind him was Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen, whose 3:28.68 was a European record, while third-placed Jake Wightman became the second-fastest Briton of all time. His 3:29.47 took two seconds off his personal best. While he remains behind Mo Farah, he surged past the timings recorded by celebrated trio Steve Cram, Seb Coe and Steve Ovett.
It was a family double in the 200m as Noah Lyles won in 19.76 seconds, with his younger brother Josephus second in 20.30.
Karsten Warholm finished strongly to win the 400m hurdles in 47.10 seconds, beating American Kevin Young’s 28-year-old meeting record, while Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon ran the second-fastest ever 1,000m, clocking 2:29.15.
Ajla del Ponte of Switzerland looked as surprised as everyone else in the stadium when she took the women’s 100m in 11.16 seconds, with favourite Marie-Josee Ta Lou a sluggish fourth in 11.39.