David Oliver and Carmelita Jeter produced scintillating performances respectively in their 110 metres Hurdles and 100m flat races which stood high on a pedestal of nine world leading performances which highlighted the Prefontaine Classic - Samsung Diamond League meeting in Eugene today (4).
Oliver in his eagerly awaited clash with Liu Xiang after losing his unbeaten 18 race streak to China's former World and Olympic champion and World record holder in Shanghai (15 May), gained revenge when becoming the first high hurdler to dip under the 13 seconds barrier this year.
Likewise Jeter, already the world's second fastest-ever 100m performer, roared to a superfast time of 10.70sec, a mark which only fellow Americans Florence Griffith-Joyner (10.49), herself (10.64) and Marion Jones (10.65) have bettered.
Those two races and accompanying mouth-watering displays both on the track and in the field, left the near 12,188 capacity crowd packing Hayward Stadium for the annual Prefontaine Classic meeting, hoarse as they acknowledged the athletes' flat out efforts.
The world leads came in the following events: 800m (Abubaker KAKI 1:43.68), in both men’s Mile races, firstly in the International Mile (Ryan GREGSON AUS 3:53.86), a time which was improved in the Bowerman Mile (Haron KEITANY KEN 3:49.09), and in the 110m Hurdles (David OLIVER USA 12.94). While in the women’s events: 100m (Carmelita JETER USA 10.70), 800m (Kenia SINCLAIR JAM 1:58.29), 400m Hurdles (Lashinda DEMUS USA 53.31), Triple Jump (Olha SALADUKHA UKR 14.98) and Shot Put (Nadezhda OSTAPCHUK BLR 20.59). *see note below – men’s 100m.
Remembering last night’s 10,000m (Mohammed FARAH GBR 26:46.57) and two World records** in the 30,000m race (inc. 25,000m split) as well, these results mark this meeting out to be one of the best in the distinguished history of the Prefontaine Classic.
Oliver bounced back brilliantly from his unexpected defeat at the hands of Liu Xiang three weeks ago in Shanghai to score a fabulous victory in a world leading time of 12.94.
That clocking saw him thwart the challenge of his Asian rival who nevertheless lowered his season's best to 13.00 dead, with Aries Merritt in third place doing likewise by recording 13.18.
The race totally lived up to the expectations of a classic head-to-head. Oliver, marginally beaten out of the blocks by Liu, matched his rival's stride until the seventh hurdle. Then the US record holder moved slightly ahead and with the crowd willing him on, he thwarted the counter-attack by Liu for a very satisfying victory.
"It's cool," said Oliver after returning to winning form. "I ran sub-13 in May last year too so it's nothing I'm not accustomed to. I'm just happy for the good performance."
Oliver relieved to be back in the event's driving seat, added: "I was able to get in a good rhythm and hold on. I don't have to reinvent the wheel. It's just about getting race-driven. Practice is a lot different this year than last year. It's setting up for the later rounds. I just have to be more consistent."
The Olympic bronze medallist who will return to Eugene for the national championships and World trials (June 23-26), insisted: "I got to go and execute what I got to execute. At the end of the day the biggest event for me is the US championships."
Jeter runs her own race
Jeter produced a stunning flat-out dash from gun-to-tape to blow away the challenges of her world class rivals and score a fantastic win with the following wind exactly on the legal limit of 2.00m/s.
Jeter's world leader and meet record saw her fly out of her blocks at the head of the race and really put her foot on the gas just after halfway, to pull well clear of one of the best field assembled outside of a major championship. In her slipstream fellow American Marshevet Myers lowered her lifetime best to 10.86, with Jamaica's World silver medallist Kerron Stewart, third in a season's fastest 10.87.
Jeter, disappointed to have lost to Veronica Campbell-Brown in the Samsung Diamond League meeting in Shanghai, was determined to wipe the slate clean and restore her self-belief.
The two-time World bronze medallist who was running in lane 4, who is coached by John Smith, said; "I just wanted to execute a good race. I wanted to finally start putting my good race together. My last couple races I was running other people's races and not my race. But today I wanted to come out and run ‘Carmelita's’ race."
Smith lectured her about concentrating on the track ahead and not the opposition. "I just focused on Lane 4. That was the only lane that mattered to me today.”
"John Smith was on me the past two weeks. If I didn't run lane 4, it was going to be a problem. I was scared, frightened to run Lane 4.”
But once the starter's pistol fired she did everything right which will bolster her confidence before her next outing at the Samsung Diamond League in New York next Saturday.
South Africans Semenya and Pistorius given great welcome by fans
World 800m champion Caster Semenya making her debut on American soil, although running what seemed a tactically inept race that let the eventual winner get away unchallenged, came through in the home straight to earn second place behind a dominant Kenia Sinclair.
The 20-year-old South African managed to clock 1:58.88 her first sub-two minute display of the season behind Jamaica's IAAF VTB Bank Continental Cup silver medallist who roared away to a world lead of 1:58.29. Janeth Jepkosgei, who preceded Semenya as World champion, was third in 1:59.15.
Eighth for most of the race Semenya gradually moved into a podium position down the back-straight but Sinclair and her other experienced opponents forced her to run in the second lane until coming off the final bend.
Into the home straight Sinclair, unbeaten on the track this year, accelerated to a convincing victory with Semenya also speeding up, successfully moving past Jepkosgei.
Semenya, unfazed that her tactics may have been wrong, said "(I'm) very happy with the race. The time is good. I'm very happy. Really good. Under two minutes, - that was the plan, under two minutes."
Her eyes on defending her World title, she added: "So yeah, I did what I wanted. Now I can train harder so I can run a fast time."
In total six went under the two minutes barrier.
Two-time Olympic 400m Hurdles gold medallist Angelo Taylor stunned his specialist one lap flat rivals with a surprise victory in his season's best time of 45.16.
Taylor, oozing strength, had no problem of holding of a late challenge from former World and Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner who, on his return from injury, recorded 45.43, with Belgium's European champion Kevin Borlee third in 45.51.
"I felt pretty good," said Taylor. "It was a nice strong race. Not one of my fastest times, but it was a strong race. It was a confidence-builder, definitely right on time in preparation for the nationals. Everything is going according to plan."
It was fellow 400m hurdler Bershawn Jackson who first pushed the pace along the backstraight followed by Britain's Michael Bingham, before Taylor coming off the final bend opened a winning lead. That was enough to withstand the late challenge of a rusty looking Wariner, who no doubt will sharpen up before returning to Eugene for the National Championships at the end of the month.
"Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius who was last in 46.33, said: "I won't ever be happy with that time. It's one of those things. It was slower than I wanted.”
Bowerman Mile remains Kenyan property for fifth successive year; 1-2 in the Steeplechase
The Bowerman Mile always the last event and major highlight of the Pre-Classic schedule again produced a high quality contest with the first five finishers dipping under 3:50 and five more beating the 3:52 barrier.
Pacemakers Mark Wieczorek and Joshphat Kithll led the 14 strong field through metric splits of 55.62, 1:54.73 and 2:52.11 with Silas Kiplagat at the point passing through 1500m in 3:34.46.
The pace began to heat up frantically down the back-straight and down the final 100m it looked as if Kiplagat the 21-year-old Commonweaqlth gold medallist might hold on and clinch victory.
But 20m from the finish line Haron Keitany, who set his personal best of 3:48.78 in the 2009 Bowerman race, slipped by on the inside to win in a world lead of 3:49.09.
Kiplagat lowered his PB by three seconds to 3:49.39 in the progress taking the scalp of Olympic 1500 champion Asbel Kiprop, the winner of the race for the last two years whose time of 3:49.55 ensured a Kenyan 1-2-3.
Reigning World 3000 Steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi making his season's debut again demonstrated the superiority he holds over fellow Kenyan Paul Koech with a solid victory in that event.
Kemboi as he has done so many times powered away after winding the pace up at the bell to win in a time of 8:08.34 ahead of Koech who clocked 8:10.13 and Ethiopia's Gary Roba who posted a season's fastest of 8:11.34.
Haron Lagat set a brisk early pace through the first kilometre in 2:45.57 and led to the second (5:33.92) before calling it a day, his pace-making duties over. Koech also second at the first Samsung Diamond League Steeplechase in Shanghai, then took over the front running but when Olympic champion Kemboi moved onto to his shoulder at the bell, the result seemed inevitable.
Roba runner-up at the 2010 IAAF / VTB Bank Continental Cup got between his fellow African's down the back-straight but Kemboi's response approaching with 200m to run was to produce an explosive turn of speed. That carried him well clear as Koech earned more valuable Diamond Run points when passing Roba coming off the final water jump obstacle.
Dix and Demus win again
Walter Dix, who in last year's race soared to a 200m meet record of 19.72sec, was a shadow of the man who on that occasion thwarted the ambitions of fellow American Tyson Gay. Indeed Dix, the Beijing Olympic 100 bronze medallist, looked set to lose to Norway's Jaysuma Saidy Ndure until getting his act together 60m from the finishing line.
Then the 25-year-old and winner of the first Diamond Race 200m event in Doha at the beginning of May went into top gear winning in 20.19 with Ndure clocking a season's best of 20.26, as did Churandy Martina, now running in the colours of the Netherlands, who recorded 20.39.
Lashinda Demus successfully defended her 400m Hurdles title in a thriller which produced a world lead of 53.31 ahead of the Jamaican pair of Kaliese Spencer and Olympic champion Melaine Walker.
Demus, who finished between the pair in Shanghai last month, a race which she blamed her poor technique for not winning, looked majestic as she hit the front after the coming off the first hurdle. The 2009 World silver medallist maintained the momentum and coming into the home straight held a comfortable advantage ahead of her Caribbean rivals.
Spencer, the 2010 Diamond Race winner, searching for a second Samsung Diamond League victory of 2011, and with Walker running alongside her, raised her game and it looked 10m from the line that they would catch Demus.
But the American and meet record holder kept her concentration to win in a world leading time of 53.31, with her Spencer and Walker lowering their season's bests to 53.45 and 53.56.
"(That was) way better than my first race," said Demus. "I had a clean race for the first time this year. I still have work to do, I'm excited. I think I have a lot of time to work on minor stuff."
Ostapchuk, Harting, and Saladuka impress
World leader Nadezhda Ostapchuk, a standout winner of last year's Diamond Race Shot Put title, was again in dominant form. The 30-year-old giant Belarusian dominated the competition beating Connie Price-Smith's 14-year-old meet record of 19.19m with all of her valid five throws, the best a world lead of 20.59m coming in the fifth round.
Jillian Camarena-Williams who herself equalled her fellow American's mark throwing 19.91m briefly held the meet record until Ostapchuk last into the circle produced a throw of 19.94. The American improved to a lifetime furthest of 19.76 with Cleopatra Borel-Brown of Trinidad throwing 18.85 for third.
World Discus Throw champion Robert Harting was in awesome form as he maintained a clean sheet this season easily winning the competition with a throw of 68.40m.
The 26-year-old German led from the opening round with an effort of 66.06m before improving to 67.59m in the third. Then in the next round the world leader (68.99m a fortnight earlier), produced his winner which blunted the ambitions of former World and Olympic champion Virgilius Alekna and the 2008 Beijing silver medallist Piotr Malachowski. However, the Lithuanian and Polish big hitters both produced their season's best efforts of 67.19m and 65.95m.
European Triple Jump champion Olha Saladuka celebrated her 28th birthday in great style not only setting a personal best on two occasions but three times smashing the year-old meet record (14.62m) of Russia's Nadezhyda Alekhina.
Saladukhova taking only took three jumps because of a sore ankle, shattered Alekhina's previous figure venue record with her first attempt of 14.81m a season's best. Then the Ukrainian raised her game even higher when adding five centimetres to her lifetime best with a leap of 14.89m, before producing an even bigger effort of 14.98m, which replaced the world leading mark (14.95m) that Cuba's Yargelis Savigne had posted in March.
Behind her Blessing Ufodiama raised her PB by 14cm to 14.06m, with Russia's World bronze medallist Anna Pyatykh setting a season's best of 13.98m.
Low key Javelin, High Jump and Pole Vault
Christina Obergfoll won a low key Javelin Throw competition which only came to life when she unleashed a season's best effort of 65.48m in the fifth round. Until then World record holder Barbora Spotakova had led with an opening effort of 64.87m which was her best of the year by a narrow 13 centimetres.
But the Czech Republic star saw herself relegated to third position when Germany's Obergfoll hit the lead and Russia's Mariya Abakumova, the winner in Rome last week, threw 65.30m also in the penultimate round.
World bronze medallist Raul Spank equalling his season's best of 2.32m claimed victory in the High Jump on count-back ahead of Andrey Silnov and Jesse Williams. Spank, in a contest not really living up to its billing, after entering the competition with the bar at 2.21m kept a clean sheet until along with his two rivals he crashed out at 2.35m.
Silnov, the 2006 European champion, who entered at 2.16m went clear until a first time failure at 2.32m, while Williams until recently the world leader brought down the bar once at 2.26m and then twice at 2.32m.
World champion Anna Rogowska, in a Pole Vault competition which also never seemed to ignite properly, took top honours when winning with a height of 4.68m from Svetlana Feofanova and Fabiana Murer. Rogowska, who returned to better form when winning the European Indoor gold medal in March, and was making her outdoor debut here, was the lone vaulter to clear that height.
Feofanova and Murer - who had cleared a world lead of 4.70m to win the South American title two days earlier - crashed out with the bar at that height. Feofanova took second place after clearing 4.58m with her second attempt, while Murer the World Indoor champion having passed at that height had a best of 4.48m.
Standout win for Rutherford
Former European silver medallist Greg Rutherford scored possibly his best ever international victory when silencing several of his much more fancied Long Jump opponents.
Rutherford produced what would have been a personal best clearance of 8.32m but for the wind (+2.1) being marginally over the permitted level to beat-off the challenge of Olympic silver medallist Godfrey Mokoena, who himself had a windy 8.31m (+2.6) in the same fifth round.
Mokoena in his first competition of the year outside South Africa, until then had led throughout, his attempts including a legal 8.19m and season's best in round two. Germany's European Indoor champion Sebastian Bayer with the wind blowing even stronger in the final round (+4.1) moved into third place with 8.03m to thwart the ambitions of Bermuda's Tyrone Smith who produced his best - a valid 8.00m - in the second round. Irving Saladino did not record a valid jump.
Non Diamond Race events
In the men’s 100m, Steve Mullings reduced his world lead* and personal 100m best with a meeting record of 9.80 ahead of American Michael Rodgers (9.85 PB) and Nesta Carter the winner's Jamaican teammate (9.92).
There was also a 800m world lead from Abubaker Kaki who flew around his two laps in 1:43.68. His meet record left the USA's Khadevis Robinson and Boaz Lagat of Kenya well off the pace as they finished in 1:45.40 and 1:45.49.
Aussie Ryan Gregson won the International Mile in 3:53.86 a world lead which onblky lasted until it was bettered later in the afternoon by Haron Keitany in the Bowerman Mile, while Bernard Lagat with a blistering finish won the Two Miles in 8:13.62.
Amantle Montsho of Botswana with a 400m time of 50.59 easily beat off the challenges of US stars Debbie Dunn (51.37), Allyson Felix (51.41) and Sanya Richards-Ross (51.78).
Ethiopia's Gelete Burka (4:04.63) with a strong finish inflicted the first 1500m defeat of the summer on Bahrain's world leader Maryam Jamal (4:05.44), with Morgan Uceny of the USA third in 4:06.32.
The host nation's world leader Reese Hoffa added to his recent Shot victory in Hengelo last weekend with a winning effort of 21.65m. Canada's Dylan Armstrong and Christian Cantwell of the USA finished behind him with efforts respectively of 21.60 and a season's best of 21.59.
Dave Martin for the Samsung Diamond League
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*The men’s 100m (Steve MULLINGS JAM 9.80) was also assumed to be a world lead until we heard news of Tyson Gay’s 9.79 run in a small meet in Florida earlier today.
**Subject to ratification