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Niyonsaba, Aregawi win Diamond League 5,000m final

Ethiopia's Berihu Aregawi runs his fastest time ever of 12:58.65 to win men's 5,000m, but his time is unofficial due to the irregular 560m track

The Diamond League final kicked off Wednesday in Zurich, Switzerland, with the men’s and women’s 5,000m. Several of the world’s best runners lined up on the unconventional 560 metre track on the Sechselautenplatz – one of the city’s most famous squares on the shores of Lake Zurich to compete for the Diamond League crown, but it was Francine Niyonsaba and Berihu Aregawi who took the honours.

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The 560m track created a lot of confusion for not only the athletes but for the fans and commentators as well. The gantry (the arch above the finish line) was located 30 metres past the finish, which confused many runners as they mistimed their kicks to the finish line. The Diamond League went in this direction to build a presence and uniqueness around the final in Zurich.

With their win, Aregawi and Niyonsaba won wild-card qualifier spots to the 2022 World Championships in Eugene, Ore.

Women’s 5,000m

The first champion to be crowned at this year’s final was Niyonsaba in the women’s 5,000m. The Burundian athlete outkicked world leader, Hellen Obiri of Kenya, on the oversized, 550-metre track to cross the line in 14:28.98. Obiri was close behind her in 14:29.68 and Ejgayehu Taye of Ethiopia took third place in 14:30.30. Canada’s Kate Van Buskirk paced the race, leading the group through the first 1,000m in 2:49.49, stepping off to allow the leaders to take over about 500m later. In a post-race interview, Obiri said she was not disappointed to finish second to Niyonsaba, and in fact, she was quite happy with how her race went.

“This race was like a championship. It was a new experience, we did not know where we can start to kick and to accelerate, etc. It was the first event like this,” she explained. “It was a memorable moment for me. The race was hard for me, I tried to kick and did my best but Francine is a former 800m runner. She had a stronger kick.”

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Men’s 5,000m

The men’s race started out fairly conservatively, resulting in a lead pack of six athletes staying tightly packed for nearly four kilometres, led by Michael Kibet of Kenya. With two laps to go (about 1,100m left) Aregawi of Ethiopia took over the lead and cranked up the pace to thin out the lead pack. With a blistering 2:26 final kilometre, the 20-year-old, who finished fourth in the 10,000m in Tokyo broke away from the field and won the race in 12:58.65, which does not count as a personal best due to the irregular track. Second place went to Birhanu Balew of Bahrain in 13:01.27, followed by Jacob Krop of Kenya in third in 13:01.81. 1,500m gold medallist Jakob Ingebrigtsen was on the start list but pulled out of the race at the last minute to focus on Thursday’s 1,500m.