And so the impossible became possible. Wanda Diamond League action returned for the first time in 2020 with Oslo’s Impossible Games. Although an exhibition event, a host of records and entertaining battles lit up the unusually empty Bislett Stadium.
The most notable of those records came from the hero of Norwegian athletics, Karsten Warholm. So often the man to illuminate an athletics meeting – or press conference, for that matter – the sharp-lipped world champion lived up to his pre-event billing with a stunning 33.78 world best in the 300m hurdles.
Warholm, the sole competitor in his race, is known for his fast start, and earlier this week stated his intention to go out even harder here. So it proved. Striding out like a long jumper, arms pumping hard, it was clear that he was treating this competition with himself as seriously as promised.
He continued to charge through the bend and down the straight, thrusting his arm forward in superman style as he crossed the line. Although his eye-catching performance took place in a near empty stadium, Warholm still beat his chest and roared in typical fashion. His time was well within the previous record of 34.48, set by Great Britain’s Chris Rawlinson in 2002, and under Kevin Young’s 400m world record split (34.1) to boot.
An entertaining women’s 300m hurdles was won by Denmark’s Sara Slott Petersen, who had enough in the tank to outsprint Amalie Iuel to the line. Lea Sprunger, attempting a 13-stride pattern, was first to rise over the opening hurdle but began to lose rhythm soon after. Iuel came to the fore as they hit the home straight but Slott Petersen, the 2016 Olympic silver medallist, kicked off the final barrier to win with a dip in 39.42 by 0.02.
Records galore for Ingebrigtsens
The evening’s track action commenced with a Norwegian record for Filip Ingebrigtsen in the 1000m. The 2017 world 1500m bronze medallist sat behind Andreas Roth and Thomas Arne Roth in the early stages, passing 800m in 1:48.8. From there, with only the wave light technology to guide him, the 27-year-old dug in to cross the line in 2:16.46 – well inside his compatriot Vebjørn Rodal's 2:16.78, set in the weeks after he won Olympic 800m gold in 1996.
His younger brother Jakob was soon in on the record breaking act, claiming the European 2000m record with victory in 4:50.01
Filip was part of the effort, running as a team along with elder brother Henrik, as well as Narve Gilje Nordas and Per Sevla. The event was a showdown with a Kenyan quintet headed by Timothy Cheruiyot and Elijah Manangoi, the 2019 and 2017 world 1500m champions respectively. Those two were joined by Rongai Athletics Club training partners Edwin Melly, Vincent Keter, and Timothy Sein, the five competing remotely in Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi.
Conditions were far from ideal for Team Cheruiyot: besides the near 6,000ft altitude of Nairobi, they also had wind and rain to contend with. The Ingebrigtsen brothers fell in behind their pacing partners, who were further aided by the wave light on the inside rail. Filip began to show signs of fatigue; but it was soon apparent that so was Manangoi, who was well off the pace, perhaps still paying from an injury-ravaged 2019
After around 1500m, Jakob had taken up the running in Oslo, trailed by Henrik, and Cheruiyot in Nairobi. At the bell, Cheruiyot was running solo and trailing by three seconds. As well as the win, Jakob – who passed 1600m in 3:55 – had the European record within his sites: the 19-year-old European champion pulled away from his older brother, closing in 54-seconds to secure both. Henrik (4:53.72) and Filip (4:56.91) were both ahead of Kenyan leader Cheruiyot (5:03.55) to secure an emphatic win, 14:40.64 to 15:34.80 combined for the respective front threes.
Later in the evening, there was a European record for Sondre Moen in the even more rarely run 25,000m. The Norwegian, who had been due to run the London marathon in April, was well on target as he passed 10,000m 28:37, and although his pace began to slow – he went through 20km in 57:55 – he remained within his target. His time of 1:12:46.5 was well under the previous best of 1:13:57.6, set in 1999 by Germany’s Stéphane Franke.
In the night’s other distance challenge, Therese Johaug clocked a personal best of 31:40.67 running on her own in the 10,000m.
Duplantis back on top
Mondo Duplantis and Renaud Lavillenie resumed their remote rivalry, with the current world record holder prevailing over the previous. Duplantis, who had lost to Lavillenie in the Ultimate Garden Clash in April based on failures, won outright this time courtesy of a third time clearance at 5.86m. His French opponent, who vaulted in his garden earlier this week, laboured at the early heights but found some rhythm to clear at 5.81m.
Elsewhere in the field, world champion Daniel Stalh recorded just two legal throws in the discus, but both would have won him the contest. His best of 65.92m saw him finish ahead of fellow Swede Simon Pettersson, who managed 64.54m.
Norway's Marcus Thomsen prevailed in the shot put with a very satisfying series. He topped out with 21.03m; all six of his throws were beyond his previous personal best.
Victory in the women's 200m hurdles, billed as a battle between Norway vs Finland, was clinched by home hurdler Line Kloster. She and fellow Norwegian Isabelle Pedersen were level off the curve, but as the latter tied up badly, Kloster showed great strength over the final three barriers to win in 26.11. Nooralotta Neziri was second to the line in 26.65, a nudge ahead of her compatriot Annimari Korte (26.70).
The women’s 600m saw Norway’s Hedda Hynne beat Swiss Selina Buchel. Running in separate lanes with an according stagger, Buchel suffered for her speedy 25.9 opening 200m. Hynne passed on the inside with 150m remaining, pulling away for victory in 1:29.06 to Buchel’s 1:30.10.
Visually impaired Norwegian Paralympic athlete Salum Kashafali took the honours in the men's 100m, winning in 10.59 ahead of Mathias Jove Johansen (10.78).
Tom Byrne for World Athletics and the Wanda Diamond League