Kaliese Spencer continued to consolidate her status as the best 400m hurdler in the world at this early stage in the season with a world-leading run of 53.97 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome on Thursday (5).
She became the first woman to break 54 seconds for the event this year after her best run for almost two years. The Jamaican dominated the race from the gun and was never seriously threatened.
She also now has a good lead in her event’s Diamond Race, with the 400m hurdles being one of the few events to have enjoyed three rounds so far, and Spencer has 10 points to her name after also winning in Eugene and finishing second in Doha last month.
Behind her, Georganne Moline fulfilled her statements on various social media that she was coming to Rome to vindicate herself after tripping up in Eugene on Saturday and the US hurdler came through strongly to finish second in a season’s best of 54.56.
The other women’s hurdles event made its Diamond Race debut for 2014 in Rome.
Brianna Rollins looked sharp in the 100m hurdles as the world champion, racing in an IAAF Diamond League meeting for the first time now that she is a professional athlete after finishing her studies at Clemson University, led from the first hurdle to the line and clocked a world-leading 12.53.
However, two lanes to her outside with the intervening lane a void due to the late withdrawal of Sally Pearson, who suffered an injury while warming up, Dawn Harper Nelson started to eat into Rollins’ big lead with four hurdles to go and was almost on her US compatriot’s shoulder coming off the last barrier before having to settle for second place just 0.01 behind.
Another world-leading mark was achieved in the pole vault by Cuba’s world indoor champion Yarisley Silva, who slithered over 4.70m on her third attempt. She had two failures at 4.80m before calling it a night.
Germany’s Lisa Ryzih, a former world youth and junior champion, cleared 4.60m on her third attempt for second place.
Silas Kiplagat and Ayanleh Souleiman battled for supremacy over a mile in Eugene on Saturday, with the latter winning in a superb national record of 3:47.32 to the Kenyan’s personal best of 3:47.88. But five days later, in the Italian capital over the slightly shorter 1500m, the tables were turned as Kiplagat pulled away in the final 50 metres to win in 3:30.44 with Djibouti’s world indoor champion second this time in 3:31.89.
World champion Asbel Kiprop was more of a factor in this race than he had been in the Eugene mile and the Kenyan tried to challenge off the last bend but had no answer to the acceleration of the two men in front of him and came home third in 3:31.89.
Another Kenyan winner came, fairly predictably, in the 3000m steeplechase but wasn’t predictable was the man who crossed the line first, and on this occasion it was Jairus Birech.
Running away from the rest of the field with just over laps to go and with a 40-metre lead at the bell, Birech finished in 8:06.20 for the third-fastest time of his career.
He beat a host of better-known fellow Kenyans, including Paul Kipsiele Koech, who was second in 8:10.53.
LaShawn Merritt could be forgiven for feeling a bit jet-lagged after his long trip halfway around the world after his run in Eugene ion Saturday, but it barely showed as he showed a clean pair of heels to his opponents, winning over one lap of the track by more than half a second in 44.48.
Running in lane five, by 150 metres he was up on the shoulder of one of the two men perceived to be his main rival, Saudi Arabia’s Youssef Ahmed Masrahi, but the real danger lay further out towards the curb as USA’s David Verburg and Botswana’s Issac Makwala were running well.
Merritt pulled away from his challengers with 50 metres to go as Masrahi then found another gear and squeezed through to take second in 45.14, with the tiring Verburg 0.04 adrift.
Eunice Sum executed a tactically perfect 800m and was in pole position with 120 metres to go and had enough speed in her legs to keep her rivals at bay, winning in 1:59.49.
Behind her, the Cuban teenage talent Sahily Diago showed good maturity in only her second European meeting – the first being the 2011 IAAF World Youth Championships – and held off plenty of more experienced runners to finish second in 2:00.01.
Having clocked a world-leading 1:57.74 on home soil in Havana just two weeks ago, the 18-year-old Diago could be one of the potential stars of the forthcoming IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene next month.
Will Claye won the triple jump with his fifth-round jump of 17.14m, overtaking his former University of Florida training partner and Olympic champion Christian Taylor who had jumped 17.08m two rounds earlier. Although the latter improved to 17.11m with his final attempt, it wasn’t quite enough to take the win.
However, in many respects, the big news in the triple jump came in third place when Cuba’s Lazaro Martinez jumped 17.07m in the second round and had another jump over 17 metres.
Still only 16, Martinez jumped a world youth best of 17.24m in Havana back in February and clearly can go further.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF