LaShawn Merritt of United States runs the final leg ahead of Leford Green of Jamaica in the men's 4x400 metres relay heats during day six (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Merritt 44.73 world lead, Robles opens with 13.19 in Guadeloupe

Olympic 400m champion Lashawn Merritt set a world leading 44.73 in the 400m and fellow Beijing gold medallist Dayron Robles opened his season with a meet record of 13.19 at the 8th Great Caribbean international meeting in Guadeloupe.

On the women’s side, 2011 World Triple Jump bronze medallist Caterine Ibargüen of Colombia confirmed her fine early season form by leaping 14.73, just days after her world leading 14.95 in her hometown Medellin.

A frequent competitor at the meeting on the French Caribbean, Merritt won his first 400m of the year in comfortable fashion, ahead of Dominican Republic junior and Pan American Games runner-up Luguelin Santos (45.29) and twice Olympic 400m hurdles winner Angelo Taylor (45.31).

Merritt set the meet record of 44.34 in 2008.

As in 2011, Robles chose the Guadeloupe meeting to open the season and achieved his goal of running his first 110m hurdles of 2012 around 13.20.

"I am fully recovered and happy with my first race of the year. I look forward to my next events in preparation for the Olympics," said Robles, who arrived after a two-week training camp in Ecuador.

His winning time of 13.19 was just two hundredths of a second off David Olivier`s world leading time and also broke the meet record (13.24), set by American Terrence Trammel in 2006.  Behind him were American Ronnie Ash (13.30) and training partner Orlando Ortega (13.31). The next stop for the Olympic champion is the Ponce Grand Prix on 12 May.

Ibargüen confirmed her ambitions in this Olympic year and provided the highlight among women with 14.73m. The Colombian found no serious challenge from Cuba`s two-time world champion Yargelis Savigne, who was a distant second in 14.24. Jamaican Kimberly Williams settled for third in 14.19. Ibarguen and Savigne are expected to clash again over the Long Jump in Ponce on May 12th.

Another Olympic champion opened her season in great fashion. American Dawn Harper ran her first 100m Hurdles of the year in 12.71, the third fastest time of 2012. She was followed on the finish line by fellow American Ginnie Crawford (12.87) and Canada`s Beijing silver medallist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep (12.95), coming back after maternity break.

Lashauntea Moore produced a fast 100m (11.11), the first time the distance has been contested among women in this Caribbean meet.  She won comfortably over countrywomen Jeneba Turnbull (11.24), 2005 World champion Lauryn Williams (11.26) and Bahamian Debbie Ferguson McKenzie (11.29).

Moore also holds the 200m meet record (22.46) since 2010.

Another notable performance was produced by Canadian Michael Mason in the High Jump. The 2004 World junior champion went over 2.30m for the first time outdoors and was rewarded with a personal best and meet record of 2.31m. American Jamie Nieto was second with 2.25m.

Other winners were Dutchman Churandy Martina in the 200m (20.40), Kenyan Haron Lagat in the 3000m steeple (8:38.17), USA's World Indoor champion Will Clay in the Triple Jump  (17.05m), Cuban Rose M. Almanza in the 800m (2:03.18), USA`s Rachel Yurkovich in the Javelin (61.06m) and Nigerian Joke Odumosu in the 400m Hurdles (55.07). Almanza and Yurkovich set new meet records.

The Great Caribbean international Meeting has become a favorite destination for many athletes from the Americans to open their season. Many will converge in Puerto Rico on May 12 for the 6th Ponce Grand Prix.

Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF

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