Usain Bolt and Phillips Idowu open outdoor season at Rome Diamond League
The last time Usain Bolt stepped foot on a track in a competition, he suffered his highest-profile loss to date, losing to Tyson Gay in Stockholm. For the first seven seconds of the 100m final at the Rome Diamond League tonight, it looked as though Bolt would suffer another loss, this time to team-mate Asafa Powell.
Powell, the former world record-holder, got the better start and at one point it seemed as though he was pulling away from Bolt. But with 30 metres of the race left, Bolt suddenly hit top gear and edged ahead just metres before the finish line to take the victory in 9.91 (0.6m/s), just 0.02 ahead of Powell.
European champion Christophe Lemaitre clocked a season’s best of 10.00 in third, one place ahead of Olympic silver medallist Richard Thompson (10.12).
It was the 10th time Bolt and Powell have met over 100m, and the ninth occasion that Bolt has come out on top. It was Bolt’s 22nd sub-10 performance and Powell’s 67th.
European triple jump champion Phillips Idowu was a more decisive winner in his event. The Briton took an early lead with 17.25m, which was bettered by former Olympic champion Christian Olsson in round two with 17.29m. But Idowu then produced a world-leading 17.59m leap in the third round.
Olsson and Idowu did not improve in the final three rounds, leaving the world champion a clear winner and just one centimetre short of Jonathan Edwards’ meeting record. It is also Idowu’s best ever wind-legal season opening mark.
The highlight of the women’s events was the double clash between world champions Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross in both the 200m and 400m. The longer sprint was up first, which Felix won comfortably with a world-leading 49.81, her second-fastest time ever behind her 49.70 PB from four years ago.
Some seven metres behind perpetual second-place finisher Amantle Montsho once again took the runner-up spot, clocking 50.47, with USA’s Francena McCorory in third (50.70).
European 400m hurdles bronze medallist Perri Shakes-Drayton was a last-minute addition to the one-lap sprint, and she ran a PB of 51.47 to finish inbetween the top two from the 2009 World Championships – Richards Ross (50.98) and Shericka Williams (51.53).
But Felix’s exertions in the longer sprint perhaps slightly blunted her speed for the 200m, and she had to settle for fourth place in her specialist event with 22.81 behind winner Bianca Knight (22.64). Richards-Ross was also beaten, finishing fifth in 22.88.
European champion Dai Greene got his season off to a very encouraging start, finishing second to world-leader LJ van Zyl in the 400m hurdles. The South African, who has already raced several times this year, clocked 47.91, while Greene crossed the line in 48.24 to defeat Olympic champion Angelo Taylor (48.66) and world champion Kerron Clement (50.03).
Greene’s 48.24 is the fastest ever season opener by a British athlete and some 0.8 quicker than his first race from last year. Rhys Williams finished eighth in 49.94.
The men’s 5000m promised much and it lived up to expectations as six men dipped under 13 minutes. Kenyan youngster Isaiah Koech did his best to push the pace, but the quality of world cross-country champion Imane Merga shone through as the Ethiopian kicked away to win in 12:54.21, 0.38 ahead of Koech.
A high-quality field was also assembled for the women’s 1500m, although a mid-race melee ruined the chances of a few runners. World champion Maryam Jamal escaped the drama and looked back to her best as she strode to victory in a world-leading 4:01.60 with Ethiopia’s Meskerem Assefa smashing her PB in second with 4:02.12.
Britain’s Lisa Dobriskey, competing in her first track race of the year, lacked her customary finishing speed and faded to 10th in a UK-leading 4:06.35.
World champion Brittney Reese overcame two early fouls to go out to 6.94m in round four of the long jump, repeating it in round six. It was just one centimetre shy of the world-leading mark, but was just enough to beat fellow American Funmi Jimoh by seven centimetres. New Brit Shara Proctor jumped 6.62m to finish fourth.
Aside from Idowu, the only other field event athlete to set a world-leading mark was European champion Renaud Lavillenie in the pole vault. The Frenchman went clear first time at 5.82m, but missed out at 5.92m. Germany’s Malte Mohr was second with 5.72m.
A fast women’s steeplechase saw Milcah Chemos set a world-leading 9:12.89 to win by more than two seconds. Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa set a national record of 9:15.04 in second place, while team-mate Birtukan Adamu set a world junior record of 9:20.37 in fourth.
European Championships fourth-placer Hatti Dean clocked a UK-leading 9:37.95 in sixth, easily her fastest season opener and her second-best time to date.
The women’s 100m hurdles continues to be one of the closest and most competitive events on the circuit, and here Olympic champion Dawn Harper notched up another win. The American ran a season’s best of 12.70 to finish 0.03 ahead of Kellie Wells. Britain’s Tiffany Ofili finished eighth in 12.91, while world indoor champion Lolo Jones hit a hurdle mid-race and failed to finish.
Canada’s Dylan Armstrong continued his winning streak and dominance of the men’s shot, winning with a throw of 21.60m. Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski, who has struggled with injury in recent years, showed a glimpse of his best form to throw 21.20m in second place. American duo Reese Hoffa (21.13) and Christian Cantwell (21.09) also made it past 21 metres.
The men’s 800m was without world record-holder David Rudisha after the Kenyan recently withdrew, still hampered by injury. It was something of a weird race in his absence, with junior David Mutua making an early kick for home, only to fade notably in the final 150m. USA’s Khadevis Robinson, better known in recent years as a pacemaker, seized the opportunity and kicked hard, stretching away to win in 1:45.09.
World champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi was second (1:45.50), while European silver medallist Michael Rimmer faded drastically in the closing stages, clocking 1:47.68 in 10th place.
Blanka Vlasic notched up her second Diamond League victory of 2011, but again did not appear to be in her usual dominant form. She found 1.95m enough to win over St Lucia’s Levern Spencer (1.92m).
Although not a Diamond League event in Rome, the men’s 200m produced a surprise and welcome winner in long jump specialist Andrew Howe. The Italian crossed the line in 20.31 to come out on top of a field which included former Olympic champion Shawn Crawford (fourth in 20.82), European silver medallist Christian Malcolm (fifth in 20.95) and Commonwealth champion Leon Baptiste (ninth in 21.16).
Elsewhere, European champion Sandra Perkovic came out on top again in the women’s discus with 65.56m, Russia’s Mariya Abakumova threw a world-leading mark of 65.40m in the women’s javelin, and world indoor champion Chris Brown took the men’s 400m in 45.16 as Martyn Rooney finished eighth (46.12).