Muir, Asher-Smith and Sember star at Gateshead
The weather was the winner as athletes shiver in Diamond League meeting
The 11,800 capacity Gateshead International Stadium has been the scene of several world records and countless stirring athletics performances since it was built in 1955 at a cost of £30,000. Unfortunately, the opening Wanda Diamond League meeting of the season – the Müller Grand Prix Gateshead on Sunday 23 May – was hit by unseasonably cold, wet and windy weather leaving athletes shivering.
The legendary Brendan Foster set a world 3000m record of 7:35.20 here in 1974 and Asafa Powell (Jamaica) equalled his own world 100m record of 9.77sec in June 2006. The event was due to be held in Rabat, Morocco – where conditions would have been somewhat warmer – but was transferred to Gateshead due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The meeting concluded with a stunning 1500m victory for Laura Muir (Dundee Hawkhill Harriers, 4:03.73) to send the sodden 2,000 spectators home happy. Muir powered away over the final 400m to win by four seconds – a country mile in 1500m terms – from Rababe Arafi (Morocco, 4:07.73) and Katie Snowden (Herne Hill Harriers, 4:08.92).
Reflecting on a mission accomplished, Muir said: “Today wasn’t about times, it was about getting out there and getting a win in front of a home crowd. I’m really, really pleased, I just wanted to sit in and use my strength over the last half, which I did. I’ll have to watch the race back but it went really well.”
Jacob Ingebrigtsen (Norway, 3:36.27) dominated the men's 1500m, where the leading GB athlete was sixth-placed Archie Davis (Brighton Phoenix, 3:41.66). “This is normal weather back on the west coast of Norway,” said Ingebrigtsen. “It’s really tricky to run fast in these conditions and it turned out to be a tactical race”.
Earlier in the evening, there was a well-earned 3000m steeplechase PB for Mark Pearce (8:32.65) in fourth place behind winner Hillary Bor (USA, 8:30.20). Meanwhile, one of the most delighted victors on the night was Mohamed Katir (Spain, 13:08.52) who also showed that big personal bests were possible despite the conditions in the 5000m. Andrew Butchart (Central) – sporting a new blond hairstyle – was sixth in 13:23.73.
Cindy Sember (Woodford Green & Essex Ladies, 13.28) won the 100m hurdles and Jessica Turner (Amber Valley & Erewash, 56.56) was runner-up to Denmark's Sara Slott-Petersen in the 400m hurdles in tricky conditions for the technical events.
The British and perhaps meeting highlight was Dina Asher-Smith's victory over a top-class field in the 100m (11.35). The Blackheath Harrier was running into a headwind of more than 3m/sec as she went more than a tenth of a second clear of current world leader Sha'Carrie Richardson (USA), the world bronze medallist Marie-Josée Talou (Ivory Coast) and the world champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica). It truly was a storming performance!
Image: Laura Muir by Filip Bossuyt via Wikimedia Commons