DOHA: Sweden’s Armand Duplantis competes in the Men’s pole vault during the IAAF Diamond League competition on September 25, 2020 at the Suheim Bin Hamad Stadium in the Qatari capital Doha. – AFP

DOHA: Sweden’s Armand Duplantis maintained his amazing form to turn the tables on world champion Sam Hendricks for a 16th consecutive victory in the men’s pole vault at Friday’s Diamond League meet in Doha. American Hendricks was the last person to beat the Swede, in Doha’s Khalifa Stadium at last year’s world championships. But a couple of kilometers away at the more intimate Qatari Sports Club, Duplantis walked away with victory with a best vault of 5.82 metres, far off the world outdoor record of 6.15m he set in Rome last week.

Duplantis failed once at 5.92 and also 6.00m before calling it a day. “It’s been a fantastic season and I enjoyed sharing the moment tonight with the guys,” said Duplantis. “I enjoyed the jump and the rivalry with Sam. It’s been fun with him as we have always got back at each other.” Echoing the views of many athletes, Duplantis added: “It’s been a rollercoaster year, sort of. I broke the indoor world record earlier in the year and I was enjoying the season but all of a sudden the pandemic came and everything shut down and no one knew what will happen next.

“It’s great (to be) back and I hope things keep improving.” Hendricks was second on countback and France’s Renaud Lavillenie third in humid, hot conditions with a temperature of 32 degrees Celsius (90F). On the track, Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica followed up on her 10.85sec in Rome with a facile victory in the 100m in 10.87sec, Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou a distant second in 11.21. “I am happy to win but my major focus is to finish the year healthy,” said Thompson-Herah. “Preparations for the Olympics is next on my agenda and it begins in earnest.”

‘Disturbing’ year
Kenya’s Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon timed a world leading time of 1:57.61 in winning the women’s 800m, an event won by sidelined South African Caster Semenya in the last three meets in the Qatari capital. “I am happy to win here in Doha considering this is my second 800m race after about three years break from it,” Kipyegon said, adding that she was looking forward to turning the page on the coronavirus pandemic. “The year has been a disturbing one for everyone and I am glad it is coming to an end. We can’t wait enough for 2021 to be here.”

There was no such luck for Kipyegon’s compatriot Timothy Cheruiyot, the world 1500m champion struggling as he, too, stepped down to race the men’s 800m. Two-lap specialist Ferguson Rotich won in 1:44.16, 0.40sec ahead of Briton Elliot Giles, Cheruiyot eventually coming in eighth well off the pace. There was success for another Kenyan who had chosen to swap her normal distance, two-time world 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri winning a high-quality 3,000m in 8:22.54, with seven runners nailing personal bests.

“The season has not been the best for everyone but I am happy it is coming to an end. We are all focusing on next year – an Olympic year,” said Obiri. In-form Stewart McSweyn bettered his own Australian record for a new personal best in the men’s 1500m, sprinting away for victory in an impressive 3:30.51. “I wasn’t in the best of shape coming into this race but to win tonight is something I am very delighted about,” said McSweyn. “I just wanted to race again considering how this season has been. It was a very competitive race but I executed my plan quite well and I maintained the pace.”- AFP