Bolt flies to top of world rankings

Usain Bolt’s 19.73 for 200m put him ahead of Tyson Gay on the 2013 world lists while Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad smashed the European record for 3000m steeplechase

Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt set a world lead and meeting record of 19.73 (0.2) for 200m at the Diamond League in Paris.

Looking in confident form ahead of next month’s IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Bolt beat fellow Jamaican Warren Weir (19.92) as Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre finished strongly for third with 20.07.

Bolt’s time was also one hundredth of a second quicker than the previous world lead held by Tyson Gay of the United States.

Bolt aside, the highlight of the meeting was a men’s 3000m steeplechase that saw Frenchman Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad break the European record with 8:00.09 to finish a close runner-up to Ezekiel Kemboi, the Kenya clocking a world lead of 7:59.03.

Cheered on by his home crowd, Mekhissi-Benabbad broke a record held by fellow Frenchman Bob Tahri – 8:01.18 – as he came within a tenth of a second of becoming the first European to smash the eight-minute barrier.

The 28-year-old Mekhissi-Benabbad, who won silver at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and took the European title last year, has a controversial reputation. In 2011 he was suspended by his national federation after a trackside fight with Mehdi Baala, while he has also been in trouble for pushing mascots who have tried to congratulate him after races.

King Kirani

A ‘fantasy athletics’ head-to-head would surely see Bolt race Olympic 400m champion Kirani James over a neutral distance of, say, 300m. We saw why in Paris as the Grenada athlete further enhanced his reputation with victory over American LaShawn Merritt.

Always in control, James posted a rare sub-44 clocking with 43.96 – just two hundredths short of his lifetime best – as he beat Merritt by 15 hundredths of a second.

Like James, Tirunesh Dibaba also ran a world lead for 2013 with a 14:23.68 victory in the women’s 5000m.

Close sprints action

The women’s 100m was much tighter as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce beat Blessing Okagbare by one hundredth of a second with 10.92.

The men’s sprint hurdles was another very close race with Aries Merritt, the Olympic champion, showing a great return to form with a narrow victory in 13.09 (0.0) ahead of an inspired 13.12 performance by Frenchman Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, with a stacked field including David Oliver, Ryan Brathwaite and Dayron Robles behind.

Mixed night for Brits

In the 400m hurdles, Perri Shakes-Drayton ran 53.96 for a solid second behind Zuzana Hejnova’s Czech record of 53.23.

Chris Tomlinson was also in good form with 8.08m (0.2) in the long jump with second place behind winner Damar Forbes of Jamaica’s 8.11m (-0.2), but there was disaster for Olympic champion Greg Rutherford as he pulled his hamstring after a best leap of 7.99m.

Marilyn Okoro clocked a season’s best and World Championships ‘A’ standard 1:59.76 in an 800m led by Francine Niyonsaba’s 1:57.26.

Elsewhere, Steph Twell was 11th in the 5000m in 15:18.60, while Steve Lewis jumped a season’s best of 5.60m for sixth in the pole vault.

Harting keeps busy

In the throws, the imperious Robert Harting won the discus with 67.04m and then jumped in his car to drive to Ulm for the German Championships. Similarly dominant in the women’s shot, Valerie Adams won by more than a metre with 20.62m.

The men’s 1500m was a war of attrition after a vicious first two laps of 1:50.51. Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti won in 3:32.55 from Aman Wote of Ethiopia (3:32.65) and Leonel Manzano of United States (3:33.14) with another inspired Frenchman, Florian Carvalho, challenging for the lead with 100m to go but eventually fading to seventh in a PB of 3:33.47.

More predictably, Renaud Lavillenie was another Frenchman to rise to the occasion – literally, in the pole vault – as he won with 5.92m.

» A full report and photographs will appear in the July 11 issue of Athletics Weekly

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