The 1st Annual Grand Prix Cristobal de Leon Santo Domingo 2004 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic witnessed the defeat of home hero, the double World 400m Hurdles champion Felix Sanchez over the flat 400m on Saturday 1 May.
Sanchez, 26, who had won the Pan American Games Hurdles title in front of 30,000 enthusiastic fans on 6 August last year in Santo Domingo’s Juan Pablo Duarte Stadium, yesterday finished in fourth place in the same venue in 46.98 seconds.
In the context of his opening flat 400m races of the past three seasons the time must be a disappointment. On the same weekend in 2003 Sanchez opened at the flat 400m with 45.22 (altitude; 3 May 2003), and he was also faster with his first flat 400m outings in 2002 and 2001 - 45.15 (16 May 2002), 45.23 (16 June).
The winner on Saturday was Dominican teammate Johelin Santa who zoomed past Sanchez and the rest of the pack in the last 50 metres, taking the win in 45.34, with American Otis Harris in second (45.50), while Ato Modibo, from Trinidad and Tobago, finished third (45.97).
“I don't like to lose any race, whether it's the 400 metres or the 400 metres hurdles,” commented Sanchez. “I'm happy for Johelin. He's a great runner.”
Despite the loss, thousands in the crowd gave Sanchez a standing ovation. Sanchez responded by blowing kisses to adoring fans and throwing his shoes into the crowd.
Good sprint hurdling
USA’s Miesha McKelvy won the women’s 100m Hurdles in 12.90 from Jamaican Vonette Dixon, who finished second in 13.00, with Natasha Danvers (GBR) finishing third in 13.46.
There was also a win for compatriot Suziann Reid in the women's 400m (51.09), beating fellow American Monique Hannagan (52.04).
Ron Bramlett (13.61) and Ryan Wilson (13.84) also made it an American 'one – two' in the men’s 110m sprint Hurdles.
Home relay win
There was a win for a Dominican 4x100m quartet (Leonardo Matos, Luis Morillo, Juan Seinfleur and Joel Baez) in 39.60, holding off a USA squad (39.62), which was composed of Coby Miller, Gregg Saddler, Aaron Armstrong Demario Wesley. The Netherlands Antilles took third (40.11).