Merritt on form as Bekele struggles

American runs 44.19 as the 2012 Samsung Diamond League gets under way in Doha, but Ethiopia’s distance king is just seventh

Posted on May 11, 2012 by
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Kenenisa Bekele (Mark Shearman)

Lashawn Merritt may have been big news in the off-season due to the legal battle surrounding his legitimacy to compete at London 2012 going his way, but the American is also making the headlines with his performances on the track early in his Olympic campaign.

Merritt beat his own world-leading time with 44.19 to suggest he is on form to defend his title in the English capital. Dominican Republic’s Luguelin Santos was his nearest challenger with his national record of 44.88. Just behind Angelo Taylor (44.97) was Britain’s Martyn Rooney, who finished strongly to take his second sub-45 of the year (44.99).

Merritt had been set to have to miss the Olympics because of the IOC’s ruling that stopped athletes who had served a drug ban since the last Games competing at the next, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport declared that rule illegal.

Kenenisa Bekele’s poor performance was the big news of the meeting-ending 3000m. The Ethiopian, who bounced back from a disastrous showing at the Bupa Edinburgh Cross in January with a 27:47 road 10km in Dublin recently, was competing below his best distance and looked out of sorts as he struggled to 7:40.00 and seventh.

At the front, Kenya’s Augustine Choge blazed around a 54.87-second last lap to pull away from world 5000m champion Eliud Kipchoge and Moses Kipsiro and a time of 7:30.42.

In the women’s event, Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot held off Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar to win in a world lead of 8:46.44 after a pedestrian start to the race.

Earlier Britain’s Steph Twell had been the only athlete to go with the pacemaker and had a lead over a quality field of around seven seconds at one stage. However, Twell – who had shown good form with a 15:15 5000m recently – slowed over the last kilometre and dropped to 13th in 9:01.64.

The 100m may have been missing the “big two” of Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake, but the winning time of 9.87 for Justin Gatlin, as he edged out Asafa Powell, showed how great this season could be for this event.

Jamaica’s Powell got away well and led for the most of the race but he was passed in the last 10 metres by the world indoor 60m champion, who produced his quickest time since 2005, the year of his 100m and 200m world titles. Powell clocked 9.88, while Jamaica’s Lerone Clarke equalled his PB with 9.99.

Paul Koech endured a tight battle with compatriot Richard Mateelong before stopping the clock 7:56.58 – the 12th fastest time in history. The 2008 Olympic bronze medallist was just 0.13 clear of Mateelong, who went under eight minutes for the first time.

World 800m record-holder David Rudisha is planning a quiet Olympic build-up and he made the most of a rare planned race to win in 1:43.10. The Kenyan was being pushed unexpectedly by compatriot Job Kinyor with 100m to go, but he pulled clear over the last 50 metres. Kinyor took 1.31 off his best with 1:43.76 for second.

Britain’s Andrew Osagie finished well to win the battle for the minor places and secure a PB of 1:44.64. Continuing his form after his world indoor bronze in March, he sliced 0.72 off his best. Another Brit, Michael Rimmer, enjoyed a great start to his season, finishing fifth with 1:44.86, his best-ever season-opener. In the B race, Brit Mukhtar Mohammed came within a second of the Olympic ‘A’ standard in fourth with 1:46.41.

For someone who is contemplating running the 400m at the Olympics – possibly in conjunction with the 200m – Allyson Felix showed scintillating form to take the 100m against a top field in 10.92. The three-time world 200m champion, who has a 400m best of 49.59, broke her PB from 2008 by 0.01 as she beat 2011 world silver medallist Veronica Campbell-Brown into second by two hundredths.

That Andy Baddeley’s world lead of 3:35.19 was surpassed in the 1500m was no surprise. Thirteen athletes did so, led by Kenya’s Silas Kiplagat in 3:29.63. But the outcome could have been different had Olympic Asbel Kiprop not stumbled going into the home straight for the final time. Kiprop came back well after appearing to be clipped by Kiplagat to clock a PB of 3:29.78, meaning that already this year two athletes more than in 2011 have broken 3:30.

Four years after 19-year-old Pamela Jelimo enjoyed a massive breakthrough season to take Olympic gold and three years after Caster Semenya emerged from nowhere to take the world title, this season has started off with yet another teenager leaping into world-class. Ethiopia’s 19-year-old Fantu Magiso challenged Jelimo closely before the world junior record-holder pulled clear to an impressive early-season time of 1:56.94.

Magiso took 1.27 off her PB with an Ethiopian record 1:57.90. In fifth Emma Jackson became the first Brit to set an Olympic ‘A’ standard this season as she clocked 1:59.37.

In the 400m hurdles, Melaine Walker’s campaign to defend her Olympic title got off to a great start. The Jamaican clocked 54.62 to go top of the world rankings, passing Britain’s Perri Shakes-Drayton, who went off quickly and faded to third in 55.25 – her best-ever season-opener. Kaliese Spencer, the Jamaican who has been fourth at the last two world championships, was second in 54.99.

After recently equalling the British record with 8.35m, Greg Rutherford failed to break eight metres as he placed fourth in the long jump. Russia’s Aleksandr Menkov took the win with 8.22m, while Rutherford’s highlight was 7.98m. He complained the athletes weren’t told they were only having four jumps. Contrary to the official results, his co-record-holder Chris Tomlinson was not competing in Doha.

Russia’s world champion Mariya Abakumova set a world lead in the javelin with 66.86m to overcome the Olympic champion Barbora Spotakova of Czech Republic. Britain’s Goldie Sayers was slightly disappointing with 61.03m for fifth.

Russia’s Anastasiya Savchenko won a low-standard pole vault with just 4.57m. Brits Kate Dennison and Sally Peake were fourth and ninth with 4.50m and 4.20 respectively – an Olympic ‘A’ standard for the former.

Britain’s Samson Oni enjoyed a perfect record in the high jump to 2.27m but his failure at 2.30m left world indoor champion Dimitrios Chondrokoukis of Greece with victory.

Jamaica’s Brigitte Foster-Hylton comfortably won the 100m hurdles from American Kellie Wells in 12.60.
American Walter Dix ran a strong bend and straight to take the 200m in 20.02. Poland’s Piotr Malachowski found 67.53m enough to win the discus, while Belarus’s Nadezhda Ostapchuk set a meeting record of 20.53m. In the triple jump, Olga Rypakova of Kazakhstan took the win with 14.33m.

2 Responses to “Merritt on form as Bekele struggles”

  1. Nick Yearsley says:

    OK, no winners for the Brits in Doha but Mr Van Commenee must be encouraged by the early season form of a number of athletes. Excellent performances by Osagie & Rimmer in the 800, both dipping under 1:45, Rooney under 45 in the 400. Perri Shakes-Drayton has got to be pleased with 55.25 as an opener. Great to see Kate Dennison clearing 4.50, only 7 cm off the "gold" & what a great PB for Emma Jackson, in May!….. It would have been great if Greg Rutherford had followed up his 8.35 with something similar & if Goldie Sayers had got nearer 65 mtrs, but hey, you can't have everything! With the Olympics round the corner, I'm seeing a big improvement in so many athletes, bodes well!

  2. Stan Hutt says:

    Gatlin and Merritt almost as fast as they were when taking drugs.Not sure what that means.

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