Hurdler treats home fans to victory in quickest time since 2007
In a meeting in which torrid conditions largely wreaked havoc on the times and distances, Liu Xiang delighted the home crowd by closing off proceedings with a superb 12.97 in the 110m hurdles.
The 2004 Olympic champion ran his first sub-13 since 2007 – despite a wet track after heavy rain had blighted most of this second Samsung Diamond League event of the year.
The best field of all disciplines on the night was no match for Liu, whose career has been affected by injuries since he set his now former world record of 12.88 in 2006.
Leaving behind him American record-holder David Oliver (second in 13.13), world champion Jason Richardson (third in 13.16) and Aries Merritt (fourth in 13.26), one of China’s biggest sports stars has made himself an early favourite to win gold in London to make up for his injury withdrawal in front of his home crowd four years ago.
Genzebe Dibaba confirmed her status as favourite for the Olympic 1500m title as she recorded the world’s fastest time since 2010 of 3:57.77.
She led through the bell in 2:56 with two just behind. Her fellow Ethiopian Abeba Arigawi pursued her more closely than would be expected over the final lap and her time of 3:59.23 was also faster than anything achieved in 2011 and a PB by more than two seconds.
As for Dibaba, the world indoor champion’s previous outdoor PB of 4:05.90 belied her talent as she had improved massively on that by five seconds during the indoor season.
Having concentrated more on the longer distances before this year, the younger sister of Olympic 5000m and 10,000m champion Tirunesh Dibaba has truly found her niche.
Britain’s Phillips Idowu put together a strong series of triple jumps considering the conditions, beating the world champions outdoors and indoors respectively, Christian Taylor and Will Claye.
In his first competition of 2012, Idowu had four jumps over 17 metres, led by 17.24m in the second round. Claye was the only other to go over that barrier, doing so by a margin of 12cm, as Taylor was third with 16.96m.
Much interest was centred on the appearance of Kenenisa Bekele in his first 5000m of the year, but the double Olympic champion faltered again after his seventh place in the 3000m in Doha, this time finishing fifth in a tactical race in 13:13.89. His 17-race winning streak at 5000m, which extended back to 2006, thus came to an end.
It was another Ethiopian, 18-year-old Hagos Gebrehiwot, who won what ultimately came down to a 400m race in a world lead of 13:11.00, running 54.35 for the final lap. Kenya’s Thomas Longosiwa was second in 13:11.73.
A large field went through the bell together, but Bekele was always near the back until the closing 400m when he pulled through. That Augustine Choge, the winner of the 3000m in Doha, was among those the world record-holder beat in the sprint finish will at least give him some comfort.
Jamaica’s Novlene Williams-Mills timed her 400m to perfection to clock 50.00, overhauling by some margin world champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana, who had expended herself in the first 200m.
Montsho saw her big lead gobbled up as Williams-Mills was just one hundredth off her world lead. Montsho clocked 50.83m.
Milcah Chemos led six other athletes under the world lead in the 3000m steeplechase. The Kenyan world bronze medallist was challenged until the home straight by Ethiopian Sofia Assefa before moving 1.02 seconds clear to win in 9:15.81.
Britain’s Barbara Parker had felt in shape to attack the UK record of 9:29.14, but in the conditions did well to run 9:40.16 – five seconds outside her best.
As in Doha, Asafa Powell got away to a fast start in the 100m, but there was no Justin Gatlin here to overtake him. The Jamaican coasted to a comfortable victory, clocking 10.02 to the 10.08 of American runner-up Mike Rodgers as the sprinters went into a headwind of 0.4m/sec.
Reese Hoffa, this year’s world No.1 shot-putter, duly won his event with a last-round throw of 20.98m. Canada’s Dylan Armstrong pushed him close, his final and best effort being measured at 20.93m. Americans Ryan Whiting and Christian Cantwell were the only others over 20 metres.
American Chaunte Lowe, the only woman over 2.00m in the high jump so far this year, was another favourite to score maximum Diamond League points. She and China’s Zheng Xingjuan were the only athletes to clear 1.92m. As both were precisely matched on countback following three failures apiece at 1.95m, they needed what turned out to be a long jump-off. They each had a failure at 1.95m, 1.93m, 1.91m and 1.89m before a clearance at 1.87m by Lowe finally let them get in out of the rain.
However, the favourites struggled in the javelin as two-time Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway and former world champion Tero Pitkamaki of Finland both failed to surpass 80 metres. Czech Republic’s Vitezslav Vesely, who was fourth in last year’s Worlds, took the win with 85.40m, nearly four metres clear of Germany’s Matthias De Zordo.
In the 400m hurdles, Olympic champion Angelo Taylor recorded his first win of the season, although his time of 48.98 showed how difficult the conditions were. The American blasted off from the start and was caught in the home straight by compatriot Justin Gaymon, just managing to stay ahead by nine hundredths.
Olympic champion Veronica Campbell beat world No.1 Carmelita Jeter in the 200m in 22.50 with a following wind of 2.8m/sec. The Jamaican led into the home straight but the American closed on her. Jeter seemed to pull up slightly injured in the last few strides, but Campbell looked the winner by that point anyway and was 0.12 clear at the end.
The weather also effected the long jump where American Janay De Loach won with a meeting record 6.73 into a 0.8m/sec wind and Britain’s Shara Proctor struggled with only 6.31m for eighth.
The pole vault marks were well down as Yangsheng Yang found 5.65m enough to take a home victory. The return to top form of Olympic champion Steve Hooker has been halted – temporarily at least – as he went out with three failures at his opening height of 5.35m.
However, Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic made light work of the conditions, winning the discus with a national record 68.24m. More than four metres clear of the rest of the field, she achieved a mark bettered only this year by Germany’s Nadine Muller.
Meanwhile, 17-year-old Leonard Kosencha of Kenya found 1:46.04 enough to win the 800m. In the absence of world record-hurdler David Rudisha, the field ignored the pacemaker and heard the bell in outside 51 seconds. Poland’s European champion Marcin Lewandowski was only eighth in 1:48.51 and Britain’s Mukhtar Mohammed was just 11th in 1:49.55 – more than three seconds outside his season’s best.
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