Highlights a plenty at the Prefontaine Classic, the first of two Diamond League meetings held on US soil
On Friday night at the Pre Classic the distance events took centre stage, but less than 24 hours later on the main day of competition in Eugene it was the shorter races that shone, showing that the historic track is not only magical for endurance athletes, but for sprinters too.
In fact, it has probably been the best meeting of the Samsung Diamond League series so far, but the only blemishes on an otherwise outstanding two days of track and field actions were a couple of controversial decisions whereby it seemed that two athletes in particular got away with false starts.
The women’s 100m had been one of the most highly anticipated races, boasting the likes of world and Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser, world and Olympic silver medallist Kerron Stewart and the second-fastest woman of all time Carmelita Jeter.
The only athlete missing was Veronica Campbell-Brown, who earlier this week ran a world-leading 10.76. But the Jamaican’s PB did not last even a full week as the world leader as Jeter blitzed to a 10.70 clocking in perfect 2.0m/s conditions.
It is the third time Jeter has ran 10.70 or faster in the 100m. Only world record-holder Florence Griffith-Joyner has achieved the feat on more occasions (four). Fellow American Marshevet Myers finished second with a PB of 10.86 from Stewart (10.87), Fraser (10.95) and Sherone Simpson (11.00), all three Jamaicans setting season’s bests.
The men’s 100m also saw a spate of fast times and PBs as Jamaica’s Steve Mullings improved his PB for the third time this year, winning with a time of 9.80. Michael Rodgers was 0.05 behind in second as four other men – Nesta Carter (9.92), Darvis Patton (9.94), Michael Frater (9.94) and Justin Gatlin (9.97) – dipped inside 10 seconds.
For Gatlin, the disgraced former Olympic 100m champion, it was his fastest time since returning from his drugs ban. Gatlin’s presence wasn’t the only controversial point, as it looked as though Ivory Williams – who finished eighth in 10.02 – caught a flyer, but was allowed to continue.
He was not the only athlete given such lenient treatment, as Allyson Felix appeared to do the same in the women’s 400m. But the three-time world champion – perhaps aware that she could be disqualified – appeared to not run as hard as she usually does and settled for third in 51.41 behind winner Amantle Montsho (50.59). World champion Sanya Richards-Ross was once again well beaten in fourth (51.78).
When former world record-holder Liu Xiang last met with US record-holder David Oliver, the Chinese athlete pulled off a surprise victory on home soil, winning in Shanghai last month. Now on Oliver’s home territory, the American this time exacted revenge and clocked a world-leading 12.94 in the 110m hurdles as Liu recorded a season’s best of 13.00 in second.
Aries Merritt was third (13.18), with Britain’s Andy Turner taking fourth in 13.33 – just 0.02 ahead of world indoor heptathlon record-holder Ashton Eaton, who set a big PB of 13.35.
While ‘The Big Three’ of the men’s 100m rarely meet on the circuit, the world’s leading trio in the women’s 400m hurdles never shy away from each other. In the latest three-way clash between Melaine Walker, Lashinda Demus and Kaliese Spencer, it was Demus who came out on top as all three dipped well below 54 seconds.
Demus clocked a world-leading 53.31 from Spencer’s 53.45, with world and Olympic champion Walker taking third in 53.56. European bronze medallist Perri Shakes-Drayton ran a UK-leading 55.36 in fifth place, her fastest ever season opener.
In the prestigious Bowerman Mile, Haron Keitany led a Kenyan 1-2-3 as the top five athletes dipped under 3:50. Keitany won in 3:49.09, beatling last year’s world 1500m leader Silas Kiplagat (3:49.39) and Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop (3:49.55). Fifth-placer Caleb Ndiku ran 3:49.77, the second fastest time in history by a junior athlete. The ‘international mile’ was won by Australia’s Ryan Gregson in 3:53.86.
Bernard Lagat fell some way short of the American record in the two miles, but the veteran’s 8:13.62 was enough to win from Kenya’s Edwin Soi (8:14.10). Isaiah Koech replicated team-mate Ndiku’s feat from the mile, running the second fastest junior time in history (8:14.16) in third.
British record-holder Greg Rutherford caused something of an upset in the men’s long jump to win with a slightly wind-assisted 8.32 (+2.1m/s) – the farthest jump under any conditions by a Briton. World silver medallist Godfrey Mokoena was one centimetre behind, while Olympic champion Irving Saladino failed to register a valid jump.
World indoor high jump champion Ivan Ukhov lost for the first time this year, finishing an uncharacteristic sixth in 2.29m while three other men – led by Germany’s Raul Spank – cleared 2.32m.
The men’s shot was a close affair with Reese Hoffa once again getting the edge over Canada’s Dylan Armstrong, 21.65m to 21.60m, while Christian Cantwell improved his season’s best for the fourth consecutive competition, throwing 21.59m in third. The women’s shot was more clear-cut with European champion Nadezhda Ostapchuk opening her season with a world-leading 20.59m.
Germany triumphed in the other throwing events, with Robert Harting winning the discus (68.40m) and Christina Obergfoll taking the women’s javelin (65.41m). World pole vault champion Anna Rogowska opened her season with a winning 4.68m clearance, while European triple jump champion Olga Saladuka leapt a PB of 14.98m to go straight to the top of the 2011 world lists.
Maryam Jamal’s winning streak proved to be short-lived in the women’s 1500m as she was beaten convincingly by Ethiopia’s Gelete Burka, 4:04.63 to 4:05.44.
Kenia Sinclair pulled off a surprise in the women’s 800m as she won in a world-leading 1:58.29 to beat world champion Caster Semenya (1:58.88) and 2007 world champion Janeth Jepkosgei (1:59.15). Britain’s Jemma Simpson finished 10th in 2:00.68, one place ahead of Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo (2:09.12), who is clearly still struggling to regain her sparkling form from three years ago.
The men’s two-lap race saw a great return to form from Abubaker Kaki, who won by almost two seconds over USA’s in-form Khadevis Robinson, 1:43.68 to 1:45.40.
Elsewhere, Ezekiel Kemboi won the 3000m steeplechase (8:08.34), Walter Dix once again won the 200m (20.19) and Angelo Taylor upset Jeremy Wariner in the 400m, winning in 45.16 from the former Olympic champion’s 45.43. European silver medallist Michael Bingham was fifth in 45.74.