Shanghai, ChinaPole Vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva, who has broken the world record 24 times (14 outdoor and 10 indoor) was the brightest shining star in the field at the fourth annual Shanghai Golden Grand Prix, garnering the biggest cheers of the evening from the Shanghai audience.
But the best performances of the evening came from Bejing Olympic champions Veronica Campbell-Brown, Dawn Harper and Wilfred Bungei, who produced solid late-season outings in the 100m, 100m Hurdles and 800m respectively.
This fourth edition of the Shanghai meeting has been designated as the start of the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Tour, a qualifying event for the IAAF / VTB Bank World Athletics Final 2009, with athletes competing at the meet able to get a head start on qualifying for next year’s final, to be held 12 - 13 September 2009, in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Five of Eight Beijing winners collect victories
Of the eight newly crowned Olympic gold medallists in tonight's line-up in Shanghai, five of them came out on top this evening. Here is an event-by-event rundown:
100m: Michael Frater of Jamaica came out on top clocking a decent 10.05 on a ground that was still partly wet due to rain earlier during the day. Frater was closely followed by fellow Jamaican Nesta Carter (10.10) and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey of Great Britain (10.17) in third place. The race was delayed by two false starts, with Douglas Caimin of the Netherlands being disqualified after the second false start.
200m: Brian Dzingai of Zimbabwe and American Rodney Martin were well ahead of the field, with Dzingai taking the win in 20.38. Martin followed in 20.42 and Great Britain's Marlon Devonish was third in 20.66.
400m: American Angelo Taylor, the 400m Hurdles gold medallist from Beijing, had no problem winning with a 44.94 clocking, although he was challenged by an inspired Gary Kikaya of the Democratic Republic of Congo (45.09). South African LJ Van Zyl set a personal best of 46.02 for his third-place finish. American Bershawn Jackson, who took the bronze in the 400m Hurdles in Beijing, was not up to par this evening and ended up a distant fifth place.
800m: The 800m race was one of the highlights of the evening. An overall season record, three personal season bests and two personal best records were recorded. The shining star was Beijing Olympic gold medallist Wilfred Bungei of Kenya who looked strong and impressive heading the field through the finish line in a season’s best 1:44.63. Second place went to Poland's Pavel Czapiewski (a season-best 1:44.96) and in third was Bungei's countryman, the young star Geoffrey Rono, in a personal-best 1:45.13.
5000m: Nine of the sixteen runners in the field came from Kenya, including two pacesetters, but Kenya almost lost the victory, with Levi Matebo edging himself past James Kwalia of Qatar (himself Kenyan-born) in the last second. Matebo's winning 13:16.26 clocking was just .03 seconds ahead of Kwalia. Ethiopians Sahle Warga Betona and the Olympic 10,000m silver medallist Sileshi Sihine finished third and fourth, respectively (13:16.49 and 13:16.60).
110m Hurdles: David Oliver was a bit troubled in the start, hitting the first hurdle, but cruised to victory with a strong finish (13.25). Maurice Wignall of Jamaica fell in the middle of the race as he fought to stay with Oliver. Otherwise the heat saw one of the two Chinese top performances of the evening, with Xie Wenjun setting a new personal best with 13.47 for second place. Third went to Marcel van de Westen of the Netherlands in 13.51.
"The race was OK, nothing spectacular," Oliver said. "I had a difficult time at the start, I really smashed the first hurdle. I just wanted to come and get a win to finish my season with another victory. Now it's time to put 2008 on the shelf and get ready for 2009."
High Jump: Andrey Tereshin of Russia won with a 2.31m clearance. The American Jesse Williams was second, jumping perfectly through 2.28 before missing all three attempts at 2.31, though he was close on the last attempt. Sweden's Linus Thornblad, last year's Shanghai Golden Grand Prix winner, made his second attempt at 2.28 but missed all three runs at 2.31, slipping to third place behind Williams.
Long Jump: For a while it looked like a huge Chinese upset was in the offing as Su Xiongfeng tied his personal and season-best mark of 8.08m in the first round and then saw the field struggle behind him. The drama lasted all the way until the last round, where he was finally passed by the United States' Miguel Pate (8.17) and Fabrice Lapierre of Australia (8.15). Still, Su's third-place showing was the best placement by a Chinese athlete in the meet.
Shot Put: The men's Shot Put saw a rematch between the Beijing Olympics gold medallist Tomasz Majewski and the runner-up in the Bird's Nest, American Christian Cantwell. This time it was Cantwell who was the stronger with a throw of 20.84m, although Majewski (20.36) had an invalid throw in the neighborhood of 21 metres. Cantwell's countryman Dan Taylor took third with a 19.63m.
100m: The gold medallist at 200m in Beijing, Veronica Campbell-Brown showed her class when she sailed away from the field in the 100m race here, clocking 11.01. A quick gun left Campbell-Brown, the reigning 100m World champion, in the blocks after a sluggish start (0.567 reaction), but she still regrouped to win by more than two metres. Lauryn Williams of the United States was a distant second (11.26) and Great Britain's Jeanette Kwakye, the silver medallist at the 2008 World indoor championships at 60m, was third (11.32).
400m: This race saw the fall of one of the bigger pre-race favorites, Beijing Olympics gold medallist Christine Ohuruogu, who ended up a distant fourth. It was another strong showing for Jamaica as Shericka Williams and Shereefa Lloyd took first and second place, respectively (50.88 and 51.24). Third place went to Russia's Tatyana Firova in 51.31.
1500m: Gelete Burka of Ethiopia won comfortably in 4:02.30, a full five seconds ahead of runner-up Anna Mischenko of Ukraine (4:07.89) and Helen Clitheroe of Great Britain (4:08.36).
100m Hurdles: The 100m Hurdles featured another Beijing Olympics gold medallist in American Dawn Harper. She brought Olympian efforts to the task, as her winning (and stadium record) 12.56 was only 0.02 seconds slower than the Olympic final in Beijing. The runner-up Brigitte Foster-Hylton (12.66) was also outstanding, challenging Harper to the last hurdle. Olympic Heptathlon silver medallist Hyleas Fountain took third in 12.96 seconds.
400m Hurdles: Olympic silver medallist Sheena Tosta (54.51) cruised to a safe victory in front of Tiffany Ross-Williams of the United States (54.70). Beijing Olympics bronze medallist Tasha Danvers of Great Britain had to settle for fourth, as she was bested for third place here by Anastasiya Rabchenyuk of Ukraine (55.14).
Pole Vault: Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva won solidly but the audience did not get the spectacular performance they were hoping for. She faltered on her first attempt at 4.60m, normally a pedestrian height for the World record holder, and cleared it with a slight touch on the bar with her second attempt. Title in hand, she then attempted a 4.75m vault (several centimetres lower than her own stadium record of 4.83m set last year), but she was never close this evening. Tatyana Polnova of Russia took second place, clearing 4.50m on her first attempt, and Caroline Hingst of Germany was third after taking two tries to clear 4.50.
Triple Jump: The Women's Triple Jump saw another meeting between the Beijing Olympic gold and silver medallists, Francoise Mbango of Cameroon and Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia. This time the roles were reversed as Lebedeva won with a leap of 14.83 metres, eight centimetres better than Mbango's best. Russia's Anna Pyatykh was third with a 14.71-metre leap.
Surgery under consideration for Liu
Some big names were missing this evening. 110m Hurdles Beijing Olympic gold medallist Dayron Robles pulled out early on due to an ankle injury suffered at the Zagreb IAAF World Athletics Tour stop on 9 September. Another 110m Hurdles giant, the 25-year-old Shanghai resident and Athens Olympics gold medallist Liu Xiang, was missed even more by the Chinese audience.
The trauma Chinese sports fan suffered when Liu withdrew with an injury from his Olympic qualifying heat in Beijing's Bird Nest is still being felt in China. However, the trademark smile had returned to Liu's face when he attended a Shanghai Golden Grand Prix welcome on Friday night, where he was joined by China's other mega sports hero NBA player Yao Ming. Liu's smile grew even bigger as he was presented a gift "to get through his injury period" by his old adversary, former 110m Hurdles Olympic and World champion Allen Johnson.
Liu's coach Sun Haiping said on Friday that they are considering several different treatment methods for Liu's Achilles tendon injury. Liu just finished his consultation with Shanghai doctors and will now go on to Beijing before continuing to the United States next month, where an operation might be considered. Sun said, however, that he would prefer safer physical treatment such as massage and Chinese traditional medicine. The coach still sounds hopeful and is planning a comeback for Liu in June next year.
Bjorn Grip for the IAAF