They know how to stage an athletics meeting in Monaco and the latest IAAF Diamond League 30th Herculis meeting on Friday night (21 July) lived up to our expectations as athletes went through their final rehearsals for IAAF London World Championships starting two weeks later.
The first Monaco Herculis meeting in 1987 was held in the newly-constructed Stade Louis II arena. Diamond League status was granted in 2010 and Herculis ranked as the world's best meeting for outstanding performances in 2011, 2014 and 2015. Innovations at Herculis include a series of 1000m races open to all before the meeting starts and music, lights and fireworks illuminate the night sky at the end of the competition.
Not all the results on the track this year lit up the stadium but there were a number of encouraging performances from the small British contingent present. Laura Muir (8:30.64 PB) and Eilish McColgan (8:31.39 PB) were third and fourth in a cracking 3000m, won by Hellen Obiri (Kenya, 8:23.14). Muir improved her PB by eight seconds and McColgan smashed her best by 12 seconds to boast a time quicker than her mum managed in her pomp.
Lynsey Sharp (1:58.01) ran a season’s best, just three tenths outside her PB, for sixth in a top class 800m behind Caster Semenya (South Africa, 1:55.27). Francine Niyonsaba (Burundi, 1:55.47) and Ajee’ Wilson (USA, 1:55.61) were close runners-up and all three set national records. With Semenya seemingly controlling the pace, the world record held by Jarmila Kratochvílová (1:53.28) since 1983 could be threatened in London.
Elsewhere, there was a PB and new Scottish record for Chris O'Hare (3:33.61) for seventh in the men's 1500m, won by Elijah Manangoi (Kenya, 3:28.80), but the performance of the meeting for this correspondent was American record holder Evan Jager's victory by six seconds in the steeplechase in 8:01.29 – fastest in the world this year – over a field packed with top Kenyan 'chasers.
One disappointing note for distance running enthusiasts was that 3000m was the longest race on the programme and the crowd was bizarrely denied a lap of honour from the legend that is Usain Bolt after his win over 100m (9.95) as he was prevented from taking his usual languid post race stroll around the stadium by officials.