Jamaican sprint star storms back into action with victory in London, while Laura Muir and GB 4x100m team break British records
He told the world he was ready for Rio and Usain Bolt proved true to his word by clinching 200m victory to close day one of the Müller Anniversary Games in London.
The multiple Olympic and world champion wasn’t in typically imperious form – he did tighten a little in the closing stages of his highly-anticipated comeback – but he still managed to clock a time of 19.89 and, crucially, demonstrate his fitness as he came home ahead of Panama’s Alonso Edward (20.04) and Britain’s Adam Gemili, who looked impressive in third place with a season’s best 20.07.
The hamstring concern which caused his withdrawal from the Jamaican Olympic trials meant Bolt still had to convince the selectors that all was okay with their sprint superstar. There’s no doubt now that he is heading to South America to defend his 100m, 200m and relay titles. The concern for his opponents is that he insists there is so much more to come.
“I could feel the rust, definitely,” admitted Bolt. “I needed races and that’s why I’m really sad that I didn’t get to compete at my trials because I needed those runs. I came out here as the first one and the execution wasn’t perfect, but it’s my first run so I can’t complain.
“I definitely feel on track. I definitely feel in better shape than I was last year. All I’ve got to do is continue working and continue pushing myself. My coach will watch the race and determine what we need to work on.”
Gemili said: “It was fast, Usain is fast! It was key to run here but I would have liked to have gone under that 20-second barrier. I have more work to do and hopefully I can get myself into that final in Rio.”
The evening ended with a firework display but it proved an explosive evening on the Olympic Stadium track, too.
While Kendra Harrison broke the world 100m hurdles record (read report here), Laura Muir came of age with a British record breaking performance – a feat also matched by the women’s 4x100m relay line-up.
Muir has long been knocking on the door of Dame Kelly Holmes’ 1500m mark – which had stood at 3:57:90 – but the 23-year-old promptly burst through it with a truly impressive display of front-running. Taking control with around 600m to go, Muir gritted her teeth to hold off Sifan Hassan of Netherlands and obliterated the rest of the field to break a record which has stood for 12 years, clocking 3:57.49.
There surely could not be a better way of signing off for Rio than overtaking a revered double Olympic champion. The 1500m field was packed with Brits, with the Rio-bound trio of Laura Weightman (fourth in 4:02.66), Eilish McColgan (a personal best of 4:03.74) and Steph Twell (4:06.20) all completing their preparations.
While Muir may have stolen the show, the meeting began in record-breaking style, with Great Britain’s ‘A’ team sending out a real message of Olympic intent by storming to victory in the women’s 4x100m relay.
The line-up of Asha Philip, Desiree Henry, Dina Asher-Smith and Daryll Neita looked hugely impressive as they clocked a world leading time – not to mention a British record – of 41.81 seconds in perfect conditions.
Brazil were a distant second in 42.59, with France third in 42.84. The British ‘B’ side of Louise Bloor, Bianca Williams, Rachel Johncock, Sophie Papps were fourth in 43.16.
“It was such good fun,” said Asher-Smith. “I was watching Daryll (Neita) down the last 100m. I could see the time counting down and just thought, ‘oh my god, we are going to do it’. To run the British record is sensational.”
A disjointed finish left Eilidh Doyle with fourth place and a feeling of frustration in the women’s 400m hurdles. Having put herself right in contention coming off the final bend and with the crowd producing the first real roar of the evening to urge the 29-year-old Scot on, an untimely stutter coming into the final hurdle saw her lose momentum and the chance of being right in the mix in the closing 50 metres.
Doyle has been in excellent form of late – breaking her own Scottish record with 54.09 when winning in Monaco last week – but this time she had to settle for 54.70. America’s Dalilah Muhammad was first in 53.90, while Sara Petersen of Denmark came from a long way back to take second with a season’s best of 54.33. South African Wenda Theron Nel was third in 54.47.
It might not have been how she wanted to sign off before the Olympics, but Doyle insisted the experience will be more than useful for her preparations.
“I clashed arms with someone after the final hurdle and that threw me,” she said. “I concentrated a bit too much maybe, and mucked it up really. I’ll watch that back hundreds of times, you learn more from mistakes like that. Those are the races I watch back more. I will be back more confident and look to nail it in the first round of the Olympic Games.”
A Kenyan 1-2-3 ensured that their domination of the Emsley Carr Mile goes on. Silas Kiplagat took the prize this time – presented by former winner and IAAF president Sebastian Coe – after coming out on top in the straight battle with countrymen Timothy Cheruiyot (3:53.17) and Vincent Kibet (3:53.19), crossing the line in 3:53.04.
Kenyans have won the event – first contested back in 1953 – since 2012, and they were in little danger here. There was, however, a fine performance from Jake Wightman for the home crowd to cheer. He fell short of qualifying for an Olympic spot but finished fourth with 3:54.20. Lee Emmanuel was seventh in 3:55.43.
One Briton who is harbouring dreams of Olympic success over 1500m is Chris O’Hare but a slight knee problem took effect. After making a strong start, he faded to a disappointing 12th.
In the men’s javelin, Jakub Vadlech of the Czech Rebublic took first place with his throw of 85.72m. Trinidadian Keshorn Walcott was second with 83.60m, Hamish Peacock of Australia third with 82.94 and Britain’s Matti Mortimore eighth with 68.41m.
Full results can be found here.
» For further coverage of the Müller Anniversary Games, which incorporates the London leg of the Diamond League series, click here, and see the July 28 edition of AW magazine for 13 pages of reports, pictures and results from London