By Noel ‘Bravo’ Francis, Special to TrackAlerts.Com
The second day of the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League produced some magical performances. Several world leading marks and national records were established and no one can argue with the Prefontaine Classic being the best athletics meet so far this season. May 30th, 2015, was exactly forty years to the day that the man the meet was named after died in a car accident and he would have been proud of all the athletes who made this year’s staging such a wonderful success. Many of the fans who witnessed the day’s proceedings will never forget the following events at the iconic Hayward Field:
Both Women’s 100m
At first many track & field fans were slightly disappointed when they learnt that Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson was switched to the International Women’s 100m event. Nevertheless, fans were treated to a cracking race by Thompson and English Gardner of the U.S.A as both women registered identical 10.84 seconds. Gardner was declared the victor by the closest of margins. The end result was satisfactory and outstanding from the viewpoint that it was a personal best effort from both athletes.
The feature women’s 100m event came up right after and one of the questions on the lips of onlookers would have been if the super time just witnessed would be matched or surpassed. Track fans did not have to wait long for an answer as two-time Olympic and World Champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce answered her critics with a world leading 10.81 seconds on her way to a narrow victory. In fact, Ivorian Murielle Ahoure who claimed the runner-up spot was also accredited with the same time as Fraser-Pryce. Ahoure’s time represented a national record for the Ivory Coast.
The race was extremely fast, recording at least six season best efforts including third place finisher Tori Bowie (10.82), Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor (10.87) who was fourth and Carmelita Jeter (11.02) in fifth. One of the pre-race favourites, Michelle-Lee Ahye, pulled up during the latter part of the race and hobbled across the line in 8th place. The Caribbean fans are hoping that this injury will not end her season prematurely.
Tyson Gay produced the third fastest 100m time in the world this year. Gay ran 9.88 seconds showing a late burst of speed to overhaul Mike Rodgers (9.90) and surprise package Su Bingtian of China who ran a lifetime best of 9.99 seconds. Bingtian running out of lane one claimed some famous scalps including Kim Collins (9.99), Nesta Carter (10.02) and Richard Thompson (10.27). Although credit must be given to Bingtian, who obviously set a national record being the first Chinese man under 10 seconds, the efforts of the experienced Caribbean sprinters on this fast track were unsatisfactory. Let us hope this dent to their pride will spur some improvement going forward.
This event underlined that Justin Gatlin is in tremendous form at the moment after he chalked up another impressive win equalling his personal best of 19.68 seconds. His unbeaten streak is now stretching towards 20 races and at present he is running like a man with four lungs. South Africa’s Anaso Jobodwana ran brilliantly for second in 20.04 seconds. It was the second time in a month Jobodwana was lowering both his personal best and country’s national record. Jamaica’s Nickel Ashmeade was a distant third albeit in a season best of 20.18 seconds.
Allyson Felix who has an automatic bye in the 200m for the World Championships ran and won her first 400m race in 50.05 seconds. It was the second fastest 400m time this season. Felix who looked commanding throughout the race plans to explore the event at the US trials next month. World leader Sanya Richards-Ross had to settle for second for the second successive Diamond League meeting. Richards-Ross was timed in 50.29 seconds followed by Jamaica’s Stephenie Ann McPherson who posted a season best of 50.40 seconds. Her compatriots, Novelene Williams-Mills (51.89) and Christine Day (52.29) finished disappointingly in 6th and 8th place respectively.
Kirani James continued on his merry way destroying a quality field with the first sub-44 seconds clocking this season. James at one point threatened Michael Johnson’s meet record of 43.92 seconds but had to settle with a world leading time of 43.95 seconds. His main rival LaShawn Merritt ran a season best of 44.51 seconds to claim his first runner-up spot this year. The evergreen Chris Brown posted another remarkable time of 44.54 seconds for third. Yousef Ahmed Masrahi from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (44.75) and Qatar’s Abdalleleh Haroun (44.80) were 4th and 5th respectively. The 18-year old Haroun was registering his fourth sub-45 seconds clocking this year.
Men’s 110m Hurdles
The biggest hurdles clash this season produced the fastest time in the world. However, it was the defending Diamond Race winner Pascal Martinot-Lagarde of France who obliged. He produced a solid race throughout to dominate a stellar field winning in 13.06 seconds. The event also saw four men dipping below the previous world leading mark of 13.15 seconds coming into this meet. The top four was completed by Aries Merritt (13.12), David Oliver (13.14) and Orlando Ortega (13.14). Interestingly, the previously unbeaten Aleec Harris was almost forgotten by some observers who did not remember he participated in the event until his name was posted in 7th place on the big screen.
Men’s 400m Hurdles
Johnny Dutch produced possibly the biggest upset of the day when he won the men’s 400m hurdles in a season best of 48.20 seconds. It was the second fastest 400m hurdles time in the world this year. Dutch was almost caught while celebrating, by the fast the finishing world leader Bershawn ‘Batman’ Jackson who registered 48.22 seconds. It was a clean sweep for the Americans as Michael Tinsley was third in 48.79 seconds. Jamaica’s World Junior Champion, Jaheel Hyde, running out of lane 8 was seventh in 50.80 seconds in his second professional outing. Hyde showed nimble footwork in the home straight when skipping over T&T’s Jehue Gordon who fell awkwardly in his lane.
Other outstanding performances on the day include France’s Renaud Lavillenie who established three records in one moment of magic in the pole vault. He established a world lead, Prefontaine Classic meet record and Diamond League meet record. The Frenchman cleared 6.05m on his first attempt.
The men’s high jump was highlighted by the outstanding jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar. Barshim cleared 2.41m which was not only a meet record but also the highest clearance of the season so far. Colombia’s Caterine Ibarguen continued her unbeaten streak in the women’s triple jump with a wind-assisted effort (15.18m +2.1m/s).
The men’s Bowerman mile, produced a great finish with Ayanleh Soulieman (3:51.10) outsprinting Matthew Centrowitz (3:51.20) and Asbel Kiprop (3:51.25). The women’s 800m was also extremely exciting with World Champion Eunice Sum of Kenya just edging the 21-year-old rising star Ajee Wilson of America. The race produced the three fastest 800m times this year with Sum (1:57.82), Wilson (1:57.87) and Brenda Martinez (1:59.06).
The 2015 Prefontaine Classic meet will be remembered for the world class performances that were displayed and track fans are looking forward to rest of the season.
About the Author:
Noel ‘Bravo’ Francis is a very exciting and creative freelance sports writer specializing in the fields of athletics and cricket. His colourful down to earth yet professional personality makes him a favourite amongst athletes and fans. Readers are often exposed to his detailed knowledge and passion which usually increase their interest in the athletes, events and the sport overall. He has a first degree in Banking & Finance and works in the financial industry. Contact Noel at [email protected]