• Curtis Anderson

Amos, Niyonsaba shine on Diamond League stages

EUGENE, Ore. – Oregon Track Club Elite athletes flexed their collective muscle on the Diamond League circuit in both Monaco and London this past weekend.

Nijel Amos and Francine Niyonsaba were particularly impressive with outstanding performances in the men’s and women’s 800 meters.

Amos stunned an excellent field in Monaco with a blistering time of 1 minute, 42.14 seconds on Friday, hitting the tape more than a second ahead of his closest competitor. The native of Botswana then traveled to London and turned in a fourth-place finish of 1:43.29 on Sunday. For Amos, it was his best showing in back-to-back races since claiming the silver medal in the 800m at the 2012 London Olympics with a PR of 1:41.73. He is currently tied with Sebastian Coe as the third-fastest 800m performer of all-time.

“Those who understand the sport will realize just how impressive Nijel’s weekend was,” OTC Elite coach Mark Rowland said. “This was a great opportunity for him to see how he responds to two high-quality races in short proximity, just as he would in major championships over the next couple of years.”

For her part, Niyonsaba placed second in Monaco with an exceptional time of 1:55.96, adding to her overall lead in the Diamond League standings – 43 points in six races – with her fifth sub-1:58 performance of the outdoor season. The reigning 2016 Olympic silver medalist claimed runner-up honors despite being limited in training with a hip injury.

“As ever, Francine maximized her mental strength with her current fitness to be very competitive for second,” Rowland said. “That’s a tall task with the hip issue she’s been carrying.”

After the race, Niyonsaba flew home to Burundi to meet with government officials to discuss helping underserved women and children in that country through the establishment of her proposed foundation. She also represents UNICEF in Burundi as a motivational speaker.

“I want to inspire them to dream, to believe in themselves,” Niyonsaba told Ken Goe of The Oregonian. “I tell them they push me. Their support gives me motivation.”

Also in London, Hassan Mead clocked a season-best time of 13:19.81 to place ninth in the 5,000 meters. Mead, a 2016 Olympian in the 5,000m, ran well against a deep and talented field, showing improved form despite interruptions to his training this year.

“He put himself in the race and ran the best he could for his current condition,” Rowland said. “Hassan just doesn’t have that required base right now to compete against the big boys and sprint at the end. This is an experimental year, and our aim has been to race and compete, and not worry about times.”

Andrew Osagie also competed in the 800m in London. The native of Great Britain placed 10th with a solid time of 1:45.25, just off his season best of 1:45.09.

Elsewhere, Hanna Green picked up her first professional win on a global stage with a victory in the 800m at the Morton Games in Dublin last Thursday. She crossed the finish line in 2:01.66. Green went on to place fourth in the 800m at the KBC Night of Athletics in Belgium on Saturday at 2:01.28.

“A good win in Morton backed up with a solid race two days later,” Rowland said. “The results were secondary in many ways because this is her first experience of having to cope with international travel.”

Back in the U.S., 2016 Olympian Ben Blankenship returned to racing for the first time since the Pre Classic on Friday night with a seventh-place finish in the Liberty Mile on the streets of downtown Pittsburgh. He was clocked in 4:04.