Almaz Ayana after running the fifth fastest 5,000m time in history in Rabat ©Getty Images
Ethiopia’s world 5,000 metre champion Almaz Ayana used Rabat’s staging of Africa’s first International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Diamond League meeting to serve notice of her Olympic ambitions as she won in 14min 16.31sec, the fifth fastest time in history - but not fast enough to achieve her ambition of a world record.

The 24-year-old’s time was less than two seconds off her best of 14:14.32, set last year in Shanghai, which stands third in the all-time list behind the 14:11.15 run by fellow countrywoman Tirunesh Dibaba in 2008 and the 14:12.88 clocked by another Ethiopian, Meseret Defar, in 2008.

“I feel disappointed because I wanted to break the world record,” said Ayana.

“However the wind was too disturbing today. 

"I am sure than I can break the record in one of my next races this year.

"In the Olympics, I am aiming to compete in both the 5000 and the 10,000m.”

The result will bolster Ayana’s resolve to add the Olympic 5000m title this year despite the potential opposition of Dibaba’s younger sister Genzebe, who broke the world 1500m record last season but may still challenge over the longer distance in Rio.

This historic meeting at the Complexe Sportif Moulay Abdellah in Morocco’s capital city also offered South Africa’s controversial Caster Semenya the opportunity to strengthen her grip on the women’s 800m event in Olympic year as the 25-year-old produced the fastest time run so far in 2016, 1:56.64.

Following her world title win in 2009 it was revealed that the then 18-year-old Semenya had undergone gender testing and she was withdrawn from international competition until July 2010.

But last year the rules introduced by the IAAF in 2011, partly in response to Semenya’s case - which required female athletes with high levels of male hormones to obtain medical clearance before competing - were suspended for two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

South Africa's Caster Semenya, pictured winning the 800m at the opening IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha earlier this month, ran even faster to win in the first African Diamond League meeting in Rabat ©Getty Images
South Africa's Caster Semenya, pictured winning the 800m at the opening IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha earlier this month, ran even faster to win in the first African Diamond League meeting in Rabat ©Getty Images

Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi was not too far behind Semenya in 1:57.74, which moved above two other times run by the South African to take second place overall this season.

“In training, we try to do tactical races and fast sessions,” said Semenya.

“What you see here is the outcome of the training.

"Of course, it gives a strong moral boost to beat a strong field like this one.

"I need to keep working hard in training now and there is more to come.”

Kenya’s 2013 world champion Eunice Sum was fourth in 1:59.32, one place behind France’s Renelle Lamote who ran 1:58.84 and one place in front of Britain’s former European champion Lynsey Sharp who clocked 1:59.51.

Kenya’s 21-year-old Conseslus Kipruto maintained his 2016 pre-eminence in the 3000m steeplechase over the 23-year-old fellow countryman who has won Diamond Race in this event in the past two years, Jairus Kipchoge Birech.

In one of the most keenly anticipated African rivalries on the night, the 2013 and 2015 world silver medallist, who defeated his rival in the opening Diamond League of the season in Doha, won in 8min 02.77sec, with Birech second in 8:03.90.

France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse earned a morale-boosting victory in an 800m race stacked with talent in the form of London 2012 silver medallist Nijel Amos of Botswana, Algeria’s London 2012 1500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi  and world 800m bronze medallist Amel Tuka of Bosnia.

Bosse timed his challenge perfectly to win in 1:44.51, with Makhloufi second in 1:44.91 and Tuka third in 1:45.41, with Amos struggling home sixth in 1:47.34.

David Oliver, the 34-year-old 2013 world 110m hurdles champion, served notice that he will still be a competitor to be reckoned with in Olympic year as he won in 13.12 ahead of Orlando Ortega of Spain, who clocked 13.13.

Pierre-Ambroise Bosse earned victory in the men's 800 metres
Pierre-Ambroise Bosse earned victory in the men's 800 metres ©Getty Images

Nigeria’s Commonwealth 100 and 200m champion Blessing Okagbare-Ighotegu had to settle for second place in 11.11 in a 100m won by Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson in 11.02.

Poland’s world discus champion Piotr Malachowski lived up to expectations with victory in a meeting record of 67.45m, with fellow Pole Robert Urbanek second on 65.04.

Valerie Adams, still seeking peak fitness after a year of injury as she looks ahead to defending her Olympic shot put title in Rio, took an important stride towards that ambition as she won with 19.68m, just a centimetre off her meeting record of 2014.

Colombia’s world triple jump champion Caterine Ibarguen, whose unbeaten record stretching back to 2012 was strongly challenged by Venezuela’s World Indoor champion Yulimar Rojas in the opening Diamond League meeting in Doha, had an easier time of it in Rabat as she won with 14.51m.

Second place went to Greece’s Paraskevi Papachristou with 14.28, while the 20-year-old Rojas could only manage fourth place with 14.11.

Bohdan Bondarenko of Ukraine produced a season’s best high jump of 2.31 to win from the US London 2012 silver medallist Erik Kynard, who managed 2.28.

Cuba’s world pole vault champion Yarisley Silva had to settle for third place with a best effort of 4.50 as victory went to Greece’s Katerina Stefanidi with a meeting record of 4.75.

World 400m champion LaShawn Merritt won in 44.66 ahead of Belgium’s Kevin Borlee (45.26) and Isaac Makwala of Botswana, who clocked 45.38.