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Athletics entertainers take centre stage in Perth

Athletics Australia

Ten Olympic A qualifiers, a near world record and Patrick Johnson in scintillating form excited the large Perth crowd at the BankWest Grand Prix, part of the Optus Grand Prix Series at Perry Lakes Stadium tonight.

In the closing stages of the meet the crowd erupted during Emma George’s world record attempt at 4.61 metres and Shane Hair’s tremendous long jumpvictory with 8.21 metres.

George won the pole vault with a season’s best of 4.50 metres and narrowly missed at her final attempt at 4.61 metres. She has set a great match up next weekend in Brisbane and Sydney with World Champion and co-world record holder Stacy Dragila (USA) who jumped 4.45 metres today in New York.

Hair continued on with his promising early season form to win the showdown against Australian record holder Jai Taurima, Commonwealth gold medallist Peter Burge and Kareem Streete-Thompson of the Cayman Islands. Burge was second with a leap of 7.83 metres, Taurima third (7.75 metres) and Streete-Thompson fourth (7.74 metres).

In the men’s 100 metres Patrick Johnson powered to the line to win in an equal personal best of 10.15 seconds from Matt Shirvington (NSWI) 10.23 and the season’s improver Keiran Noonan (NSWI) who ran a p.b of 10.29 seconds.

Commonwealth Games 200 metres gold medallist Nova Peris-Kneebone portrayed her talent once again over the longer distance of 400m this season. She won in a p.b and Olympic qualifying time of 51.77 seconds from Susan Andrews 52.27 and Lauren Poetschka 52.78.

Men’s 400m star Patrick Dwyer ran a controlled one lap and surged clear towards the finish to clock 45.31 and confirm his status as Australia’s number one 400m sprinter. He beat promising Queenslander Blair Young who ran a p.b of 46.02 seconds in the favourable conditions.

The javelin throwers excited the crowd early with two Olympic A qualifiers. Adrian Hatcher threw 83.42m to beat compatriot Andrew Currey who recorded 82.11m in his first major competition of the season.

World Championships silver medallist Dmitri Markov cleared an Olympic qualifying height of 5.60m to take the pole vault from former World Junior champion and Commonwealth Games silver medallist Paul Burgess 5.40m.

In what was an exciting preview of things to come later this month, Olympic finalist Kyle Vander Kuyp clocked a season’s best 13.58 to win the 110m hurdles. The conditions were ideal for track and field with legal tailwinds throughout the evening and top performances from the track to the jumps pits and throwing circles.

In other results Alison Inverarity cleared a season’s best of 1.88m in the high jump to tie for victory with Russia’s Elena Elesina. Israel’s Konstantin Matusevich also produced a personal best and world class height in the men’s high jump clearing 2.36m.

Chryste Gaines (USA) won the 100 metres in 11.35 seconds from Jodi Lambert who ran 11.47, while USA's hurdler Valerie Manning took out the 100m hurdles event in 13.39.

Peter Elvy won the discus with 54.92 metres, Czech athlete Jiri Muzik (49.02) and Queenslander Adrienne McIvor (57.21) took out the men’s and women’s 400m hurdles respectively, Kenyan David Kiptoo (1:48.49) was victorious in the 800 metres, and Western Australians Kylie Reed (6.35m) and Nicole Mladenis (13.35m) won the long jump and triple jump respectively.

Russia’s Olga Kouzenkova (66.70m) proved too strong in the hammer throw and Olympic marathon hopeful Ray Boyd showed his versatility by winning the 3000m (8:21.45).

The Optus Grand Prix Series moves to Brisbane on Friday 11 February and Sydney next Sunday 13 February.