With little more than three weeks before the gun goes on the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships, many athletes with medal pretentions were in action at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rabat on Friday night and none more so than the Netherlands’ 2014 European 1500m champion Sifan Hassan.
Hassan, who may well try to attempt the double of 1500m and 5000m in Berlin, hung onto Hellen Obiri when the Kenyan hit the front just after the bell and was rewarded with a European record of 14.22.34, and a personal best-cum-national record by almost 20 seconds.
"I'm looking forward to Berlin now, I'm feeling very strong," said a smiling Hassan, who showed great tenacity by staying with the pace and then being the only runner in a classy field to challenge Kenya's reigning world champion Hellen Obiri over a thrilling last lap, although the latter eventually prevailed in 14:21.75.
Hassan has also won continental titles indoors and over cross country but left Amsterdam two years ago, in front of her family and friends, after only getting the silver in the 1500m.
Maria Lasitskene remains the gold medal favourite in the German capital despite her impressive 45-meeting winning streak coming to an end in Rabat when she failed to go higher than 1.90m.
“I had no problem, no injuries, it was just a bad day, these things happen,” said the Russian, admirably making no excuses despite some swirling wind conditions noted by several other jumpers.
Mirela Demireva and Yuilya Levchencko both cleared 1.94m while Lasitskene surprising failed at a height she has negotiated with ease so many times in the past.
Demireva, with a flawless record up to that point, then passed 1.97m and watched her Ukrainian rival fail three times. With the competition won, Bulgaria’s 2016 Olympic silver medallist had the bar put up to a personal best height of 2.02m but to no avail.
German javelin thrower Andreas Hoffmann launched his implement out to a meeting record of 88.58m in the second round and looked well on his way to victory for the next three rounds but, lying third at that stage, Estonia’s Magnus Kirt unleashed his final effort out to a national record 89.75m and neither he nor Thomas Rohler, who were to throw after Kirt, could respond with a 90-metre throw.
“I was struggling in the first rounds, but in the end I did much better,” reflected Kirt, has improved his best by more than three metres in the last six weeks, improved the national record three times and has a six-strong winning streak.
Germany’s Christina Scwanitz, who continued her comeback after missing all of last summer to start her family by notching up her ninth successive win of 2018.
Throwing last in the first round, the German opened with 19.40m and that proved to be the winner and she had three efforts better than anyone else in the competition although she always had to look over her shoulder as Belarus' former European U20champion Aliona Dubitskaya added seven centimetres to her personal best when she reached 19.21m in the second round.
“Actually, I was expecting to be the winner, especially with the help of the audience. The good weather helped as well,” commented Schwanitz, who competed before the sun went down and the temperatures cooled.
Notabl second places in Rabat were also achieved by Norway's reigning European 1500m champion Felip Ingebrigtsen with 3:33.40 and Poland's 2011 pole vault world champion Pavel Wojciechowshi, who cleared 5.80, while Great Britain's 2016 European 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith looked sharp as she prepares for the defence of her title in Berlin and clocked 22.40, a time only she and the Netherlands' Dafne Schippers have beaten this year among European sprinters.
Full results of the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rabat can be found here.