Niyonsaba, Crouser shine in opening Diamond League finals

Zurich (AFP) –


Francine Niyonsaba again trumped Hellen Obiri in the women's 5000m while two-time Olympic champion Ryan Crouser won the men's shot put on the first of two days of Diamond League finals in Zurich on Wednesday.

In hot, sunny conditions at the Sechselaeutenplatz square on the shores of Lake Zurich, Niyonsaba best negotiated an unorthodox 560-metre track to win in 14:28.98, 0.70sec ahead of two-time world champion and Olympic silver medallist Obiri.

Niyonsaba's victory saw her bag $30,000 in prize money to cap a tremendous season in which she switched to the 5,000m after being barred from running her favoured 800m.

The former Olympic and world 800m silver medallist, like South African Caster Semenya, has fallen foul of World Athletics regulations that prohibit athletes who have unusually high levels of testosterone from competing in races between 400m and a mile unless they undergo treatment to reduce the levels.

"I love challenges. I have a lot of resilience and determination," said the 28-year-old.

"I stayed behind most of the race, this was my tactic, I am still learning after switching from 800m to longer distances.

"I did what I had to do. We love to see the people around here, cheering for us. This race was amazing."

The Burundi runner left it late, taking the lead at the bell for the last lap ahead of her Kenyan rival and comfortably keeping her nerve through to the line.

"This race was like a championship," said Obiri. "It was a new experience, we did not know where we can start to kick and to accelerate.

"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."

- Cowboy Crouser -

Crouser was introduced to the crowd of 2,500 basking in the early evening sunshine in his customary cowboy hat, but quickly shelved that to take an early lead.

USA's Ryan Crouser
USA's Ryan Crouser Fabrice COFFRINI AFP

The 28-year-old, who set a world record of 23.37m in the pre-Tokyo US Olympic trials in June, managed a best of 22.67m on his third attempt.

Tokyo silver medallist Joe Kovacs finished second with 22.29m, with Serbia's Armin Sinancevic claiming third spot (21.86).

Crouser also beat by 7cm the meet record set in 2018 by Tokyo bronze medallist Tom Walsh, the New Zealander -- who sports "Space for rent" on the front of his all-black vest after losing sponsorship -- finishing fourth (21.61).

"This meeting record is a big one for me," said Crouser. "This is my first Diamond League victory. I am honoured to be here and come out with a victory.

"I love great events like this, you can see and feel the energy of the crowd. This is a perfect evening."

Crouser was joined on the winners' podium by teammate Maggie Ewen, who won the women's shot with a best of 19.41m, having failed to even make the Olympics.

Olympic champion Mariya Lasitskene of Russia won the women's high jump in a meet record of 2.05m.

Russia's Mariya Lasitskene
Russia's Mariya Lasitskene STEFAN WERMUTH AFP

"The venue here is difficult and fantastic at the same time - difficult because of the track and fantastic because of the spectators," said the three-time world gold medallist.

There was no such luck, however, for Germany's Malaika Mihambo, another Tokyo champion, who could only finish fifth in the women's long jump, which was won by Serbia's Ivana Spanovic in 6.96m.

Sweden's Thobias Montler won the men's long jump with a last-gasp 8.17m, while Ethiopian Berihu Aregawi topped the podium in the men's 5,000m in 12:58.65.

All 25 other Diamond League finals are scheduled for Thursday at the iconic Letzigrund Stadium, where more than 20,000 spectators traditionally create a raucous atmosphere.