Mutaz Essa Barshim rekindled his Hayward Field magic and added to his growing resume in the high jump at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene, going over a meeting record of 2.41m on Saturday (30).
The Qatari didn’t miss a jump all day at the famous Prefontaine Classic meeting and had first-time clearances at 2.24m, 2.28m and 2.35m. But, after passing 2.38m and then watching China’s Zhang Guowei go clear at that height and add three centimetres to his personal best, Barshim needed to go higher to win.
He was up to the task and did so. Victory secured, Barshim did not make any further attempts due to some slight cramping.
Zhang also didn't attempt anything higher but his performance in Eugene elevates him into medal consideration for the IAAF World Championships this summer on home soil in Beijing.
In the women’s triple jump, Colombia’s world champion Caterine Ibarguen needed a sixth-round jump of 15.18m to snatch the win from Russia’s Yekaterina Koneva and extend her winning streak to 24 competitions.
Koneva set a personal best of 15.04m on her second attempt, with a legal following wind of 1.7m/s. Ibarguen got close in the fifth round with 15.01m and then uncorked her big jump with her final effort, both leaps being helped with breezes just over 2.0m/s.
Both of the women’s 100m races produced fast times and had the benefit of strong, but legal, tailwinds.
In the ‘international’ section of the women’s 100m, USA’s English Gardner and Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson both posted times of 10.84, with Gardner being declared the winner and world leader.
However, that latter accolade lasted only about 10 minutes as Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce won the Diamond Race discipline in 10.81.
“I think I can take away that I started very well today, that is a plus, and then I can work on the middle and then I can work on the end,” said the world champion.
Murielle Ahoure of Ivory Coast chased the Jamaican all the way. She also ran 10.81, a national record, but had to settle for second.
James nearly usurps Johnson
In the men’s 400m, Kirani James became the first man to run faster than 44 seconds this year and he almost broke Michael Johnson’s meeting record in the process.
The Grenadian ran 43.95, well ahead of LaShawn Merritt, who finished second in 44.51. James was only 0.03 off Johnson’s mark from the 2000 edition of the meeting.
The expected duel between Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross in the women’s 400m, not a Diamond Race discipline, resulted in a surprisingly comfortable victory for Felix.
After a relatively controlled and conservative first 200 metres, Felix gained control of the race and never relented, finishing in 50.05.
“I feel like the first half of the race could be more aggressive,” said Felix after her first 400m in more than a year.
“I just really wanted to see where I was at and kind of what things I need to work on moving forward.” Behind Felix, Richards-Ross ran 50.29.
Justin Gatlin posted a world-leading time in the men’s 200m. The US sprinter got off to a quick start and was never challenged, crossing the line in a meeting record of 19.68. The time equals his personal best that he set last year in Monaco.
Anaso Jobodwana set a South African record of 20.04 in second place.
Martinot-Lagarde starts his summer with world lead
Pascal Martinot-Lagarde began his 2015 season in superb form, running 13.06 in the men’s 110m hurdles, the fastest debut of his career and a world lead.
“The weather is always good (in Eugene),” said the defending Prefontaine Classic champion Martinot-Lagarde. “There is a power here; you feel it when you warm up.”
Olympic champion Aries Merritt finished second in 13.12 and moved closer to the form that also took him to the world record in 2012.
The final lap of the Bowerman Mile was extra thrilling because of the presence of local star Matthew Centrowitz.
The crowd roared as he stalked Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman but the latter held his position over the final lap and broke the tape in 3:51.10.
Centrowitz had the best IAAF Diamond League finish of his career to come home second in 3:51.20 and finish ahead of Kenya’s world 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop.
In the men’s 3000m steeplechase, Ezekiel Kemboi and Jarius Birech both ran faster than the meeting record of 8:03.59.
The two Kenyans were the only two remaining contenders at the final water jump.
Kemboi emerged with a slight lead off the barrier and held it all the way to the finish, winning in 8:01.71 with Birech second in 8:01.83.
The women’s 800m saw another Kenyan win. Eunice Sum and USA’s 2012 world junior champion Ajee Wilson came home clear of their rivals but Sum just held off the American and took the win, and the world lead, in 1:57.82. Wilson was just 0.2 away from her personal best in second place with 1:57.87.
Jenny Simpson held true to her pre-race pledge to prioritise winning over fast times this year.
The 2011 world champion ran 4:00.98 in the women’s 1500m and beat a tough field that included Mercy Cherono, Sifan Hassan and Shannon Rowbury.
“There’s not going to be a single race this year that’s easy to win,” said Simpson. “It feels really good to start off with a win, to start with a good time. I don’t think I’ve ever run my first 15 (1500m) in four flat so that’s really good.”
Kevin Sully for the IAAF