London, UKSanya Richards-Ross is back in business – and in perfect time to defend her World 400m title.
The 26-year-old American missed all of last season with injury and, by her own admission, has found it hard to return to her previous form. But her victory at the Aviva Grand Prix here on the second day of the Samsung Diamond League event in 49.66 - almost a second faster than her previous season’s best of 50.61 - has put her right into the medal reckoning for the IAAF World Championships which start in Daegu on 27 August.
“It’s been a long, hard season for me and I haven’t really been able to get my rhythm and run sub-50 seconds so to do it here on a great card in Britain just before Daegu really means a lot to me,” said Richards-Ross.
“It’s taken longer than I thought to put things together, but now I feel ready to defend my title in Daegu.”
Ohuruogu was characteristically forthright after her race. “I’m not going to lie,” she said. “I am really disappointed with that. It was very tough and not what I expected at all. I felt a lot better than I had done but these type of races expose your weaknesses and I just haven’t got enough in my legs.
“These girls are coming to their peak and I’m a bit behind. It’s not ideal, but we’ll keep pushing on. Three weeks isn’t a long time but it’s enough for me to do what I need to get done.”
Ohuruogu could only manage third place at the Trials, in 51.91, but that was less problematic than it might have been as the winner, Perri Shakes-Drayton, will be concentrating on the 400m Hurdles, and second-placed Shana Cox - who finished a place ahead of her here in 51.63 – will not be eligible to compete for Britain until November due to delays in processing her application for a British passport.
Richards-Ross refuses to write off the chances of the Briton who defeated her in the Olympic final. “Christine has shown that she is excellent at championship meets and like me she has great experience, so I think she’ll definitely be one of my top competitors.”
Rosemarie Whyte of Jamaica was second in a personal best of 49.84, with fellow countrywoman Novlene Williams-Mills third in 50.46.
Jeter and Pearson roll on
Carmelita Jeter and Sally Pearson are also looking good bets in Daegu after emphatic wins in the 100m and 100m Hurdles respectively.
Jeter will be seeking her first global title after collecting 100m bronze medals at the World Championships of 2007 and 2009.
The American won here in 10.93 against a field which included Jamaica’s World and Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who faded slightly over the final 20 metres after matching the US athlete’s start, allowing Kelly-Ann Baptiste of Trinidad to take second place in 10.97. Fraser-Pryce finished third in 11.10.
“I’m going to Daegu running great, but I know that the other girls are running great too,” said Jeter, who now has a commanding lead in her Diamond Race. “My start wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, but it was better than all of last year.”
Pearson finished a stride clear of her opposition in 12.58 after another beautifully composed performance over the hurdles, with Danielle Carruthers of the United States finishing second in 12.67 and Britain’s naturalised American, Tiffany Ofili-Porter, third in 12.78.
“I’m slightly disappointed with my time today,” said Pearson, who leads this year’s world list with 12.48. “But hopefully I can run quicker in Korea.”
Silnov soars 2.36m
Andrey Silnov, Russia’s Olympic High Jump champion, gave Russian selectors something to think about after winning a competition which kept the Crystal Palace crowd noisily involved throughout.
Silnov secured victory with a season’s best clearance of 2.36m to move clear of the American with whom he now shares top billing in the Diamond Race, Jesse Williams.
The American appeared to be on course for a win himself as he made first time clearances all the way through to 2.36m, which the Russian had reached at the cost of six failures.
But a first-time clearance by Silnov tipped the balance of competition, and although Williams raised the stakes by passing to 2.38m after one failure at 2.36m, it was a gamble which did not pay off for him.
“It’s a great competition I have with Jesse, so it is great to jump big and get the win today,” said Silnov, who was clearly frustrated after narrowly failing to clear 2.38m. “I think I can jump more still though.”
Adams collects another win over Ostapchuk
Another field rivalry played out in the women’s Shot Put, where once again the World and Olympic champion Valerie Adams managed to defeat the Diamond Race winner of last year, Nadezhda Ostapchuk of Belarus.
The big New Zealander extended her lead in the Diamond Race with the only 20 metres effort of the competition – 20.07m – in the third round. Ostapchuk responded in the fourth round with 19.52m, but was unable to improve upon that.
Nadine Kleinert of Germany took third place with 19.06m.
“I tweaked a muscle in my neck a little bit in training yesterday, so I wasn’t sure whether to compete,” Adams said. “That was in the back of my mind throughout the competition, so I was a bit cautious – obviously I didn’t want to do anything to it with the World Championship so close.
“My goal is to win a third world title. That’s what keeps me motivated. That’s why I keep coming out. I love it.
“My edge this year is all down to my new coach (Jean-Pierre Egger). Technically I’m a lot better, and that all goes down to the work I have done with him in the last eight months. It was pretty frustrating last year, but that’s what sport is about. Now I’m pretty happy where I am. I’m in the best shape ever.”
Taylor’s 17.68m PB leaves Idowu in the dust
Britain’s World Triple Jump champion Phillips Idowu – set on defending his title in Daegu in a competition that will be without the Frenchman who heads this year’s world lists with 17.91m, Teddy Tamgho – produced a slightly underwhelming performance.
Despite taking an early lead with a first round effort of 17.07m, the Briton was overtaken by the exuberant 21-year-old American Christian Taylor, whose victory in a personal best of 17.68m has put him right into the picture for Korea.
Idowu, with hair dyed white and a blue, Mohican-type stripe down the centre, looked buoyant after his opening flourish, but was unable to improve upon that level as former Briton Tosin Oke, now competing for Nigeria, took second place with a season’s best of 17.21m.
But it was Taylor who made the big impact, taking the lead with 17.21m in the second round before leaping and bounding out of the pit after the third round jump which produced his top mark.
Fast-finishing Manzano impresses in Mile
The sight of three athletes in a line coming down the final straight is a sight as traditionally stirring as the event in which it occurred here, the Emsley Carr Mile, established in 1953 to honour a former chairman of the News of the World during happier times for that newspaper.
Kenya’s defending champion Augustine Choge, who had taken up the lead at the bell, was one of that trio, with former World champion Bernard Lagat and his US team mate Leonel Manzano alongside him.
And it was the latter, an Olympic semi-finalist in 2008, who took the victory in a race which counted for Diamond League points, edging clear to cross the line in 3:51.24, with Lagat finishing second in 3.51.38 and Choge having to settle for third place in a season’s best of 3:51.50.
“That was a very intense race,” said Manzano. “I didn’t really know how it was going to pan out…I’m really excited for the World Championships and hoping to go there and win. These guys have beaten me once or twice this year, so to beat them here at one of the only miles in the world is fantastic.”
Battling wind, Dix cruises to comfortable 200m win
Walter Dix restated his medal potential for Daegu as he won the 200m by five metres, finishing in 20.16 despite running into a 2.0 metres per second headwind.
Jamaica’s Warren Weir was the man who got closes to the powerful American as he finished in 20.43, equalling his personal best, with Alonso Edward of Panama third in 20.55.
The win took Dix to 12 points in the Diamond Race for this event, where he now holds a joint lead with World record holder Usain Bolt.
“It was a tough wind out there, but I ran a great race, I think,” Dix said. “I need a couple of medals at the World Championships and people will start to look out for me.”
Chemos and Fleshman best in the distances
Milcah Chemos, who was third at the 2009 World Championships just four months after taking up the 3000m Steeplechase, will fancy her chances of turning bronze into gold after extending her winning sequence here in a time of 9:22.80.
The Kenyan found Ethiopia’s Hiwot Ayalew moving ahead of her at the bell, and almost tripped on her heels as she moved into lane two before regaining a lead she never lost. Ayalew was second in a personal best of 9:23.88, with Kenya’s Mercy Njoroge third in 9:27.45.
The women’s 5000m saw Lauren Fleshman of the United States earn a commanding victory in a season’s best of 15:00.57 after making a break with 600 metres remaining.
But the home cheers sounded out for the woman charging down the straight in pursuit, Britain’s 37-year-old European indoor 3000m champion Helen Clitheroe, who secured the A standard qualification mark she required to make the British team with a personal best of 15:06.75. No wonder she was grinning broadly through the pain at the finish.
Grace Momanyi of Kenya was third in a season’s best of 15:07.49.
Another win for Culson
Angelo Taylor, the Olympic 400m Hurdles champion, established a dramatic early lead which took him past the two British athletes outside him, Rhys Williams and Richard Davenport, as the field reached the halfway point of the back straight.
But the big American appeared to pay for his early flourish as he reached the final straight as the tall, straight-backed figure of Javier Culson came past him over the penultimate flight of hurdles and secured a clear victory in a season’s best of 48.33.
Taylor just hung on to second place, clocking 48.83, with his faster-finishing colleague Michael Tinsley third in 48.90.
Culson may have looked unchallengeable, but he revealed afterwards that he was looking better than he was feeling. “Over the last 100 metres I felt very tired,” he said. “I need to build up my strength for the last 100 metres.”
Alekna’s momentum continues
Virgilijus Alekna, twice and Olympic and twice a World champion, demonstrated that the competitive urge remains strong within him at the age of 39 as he dominated the Discus event, despite a last round challenge from Hungary’s Zoltan Kovago.
The big Lithuanian established himself in the lead with his first effort of 63.35m and built on that position with subsequent efforts of 65.05m and 66.71m. Kovago almost overtook him at the last, but his effort of 66.29m was just 42cm short.
Ehsan Hadadi of Iran earned third place with a consistent series, the best of which was 64.39m, finishing one position ahead Estonia’s Olympic champion Gerd Kanter, who managed 64.56m.
For two young throwers who finished outside the two automatic qualifying places for the World Championship at last weekend’s British trials – 22-year-old Brett Morse and 19-year-old European under 23 champion Lawrence Okoye – this competition represented the last chance to make a good impression upon the UKA chief coach Charles Van Commenee and earn the last available place before the team is announced on Tuesday.
Morse will have left feeling happier, having finished eighth with 61.96m. Okoye, whose best this year of 67.63m puts him fifth in the 2011 world lists, could only manage 58.61m after three attempts, failing to make the top eight who went on to have three more throws each.
“We’ll see when the team is out, but I am hopeful of going to the World Championships now,” said Morse. “It’s crazy because two years ago I was No1 in the UK with 59 metres and that’s really bad. Now, two years later, there’s five guys over 63m so it’s great.”
Dobriskey defends home turf in 1500m
The women’s 1500m final offered home runner Lisa Dobriskey the opportunity to set things straight domestically after her defeat by Hannah England in the previous weekend’s Aviva Trials and Championships.
After taking the lead at the bell, Britain’s world silver medallist pushed hard all the way round to win 4:04.97, with England, moving from fourth to second in the final straight, just leaving her final charge too late as she finished in 4:05.38.
Shannon Rowbury of the United States was third with a season’s best of 4:05.73.
“I was coming down the home straight and I thought I could just hold on,” said Dobriskey. “But then I heard the announcer say that Hannah England was coming up strong and so I thought ‘No!’ The line couldn’t come soon enough.”
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF