Dawn Harper Nelson’s two previous IAAF Diamond League outings this summer had been mildly frustrating affairs but all that was forgotten, at least temporarily, in Paris on Saturday night (5).
In both Rome and New York, the US 100m hurdler had run fast but had to settle for second behind her compatriots, Brianna Rollins and Queen Harrison respectively, losing out by a mere 0.01.
However, the 2008 Olympic champion, and silver medallist in London two years ago, ran one of the best races of her life, clocking 12.44 to fly to the top of the 2014 world lists in her event.
Harper Nelson scorched out of her blocks with a reaction time of just 0.102 seconds. From her first stride she was in front, and never relinquished that position.
Helping push her to such a fast time though was Harrison, who was in the lane on Harper-Nelson’s inside. Despite a slightly sluggish start, Harrison was almost level with Harper Nelson at the eighth hurdle only for the latter to edge away again.
Harrison took second in a season’s best of 12.46.
“After losing two Diamond League races by 0.01, I reckon I’ve got that back now,” said the ebullient Harper Nelson, who now sports a Mohawk hairstyle.
“Despite feeling heavy legs after the US Champs (a week ago), I managed one of my best ever times. I would credit all that to my weightlifting coach. I improved a lot and despite this not being a championship year, I’m putting pressure on myself to run fast.
“In good weather and when I’m feeling fresh, I think I can attack my personal best (12.37 from the London 2012 Olympic final) this year,” she added.
In fact, it was a great night for sprint hurdling in the French capital on Saturday.
Despite the men’s 110m hurdles not being an IAAF Diamond League event in Paris, it produced the best men’s performance of the meeting as Jamaica’s Olympic bronze medallist Hansle Parchment sped to a world-leading time and national record of 12.94.
Pascal Martinot-Lagarde had been commanding the pre-race attention, and deservedly so after his personal best of 13.06 to win in Lausanne two nights before, but Parchment broke local hearts when he beat the young Frenchman, who was running in lane five and directly on his inside, for speed coming off the final hurdle.
Parchament took a huge 0.11 off his own national record set in Eugene last year.
Despite his disappointment at being unable to win in front of his family and friends, Martinot-Lagarde got some consolation by shaving his personal best by 0.01 to 13.05.
With Parchment having become the 16th hurdler in history to run faster than 13 seconds for the event, Martinot-Lagarde looks the most likely candidate to become the next man to join that elite club.
Certainly, Martinot-Lagarde has Ladji Doucoure’s French record of 12.97 in his sights after his feats this week; Doucoure was in Saturday’s race but finished ninth and last in 13.63 so got a first-hand look, albeit mainly from the rear, of the man who may one day supplant him as the fastest Frenchman over the barriers.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF