PARIS – Asafa Powell continued his immaculate form on the season with a dazzling 9.81 secs to win the men’s 100m at the Diamond League meet in Paris on Saturday.
The Jamaican former world record holder got away from the solid field early before easing down in the closing metres on his way to victory.
Powell, who won his sixth national title at the Jamaica trials last week, was lowering his seasonal best of 9.84 secs.
“It was a great race today,” Powell said. “I worked on my start last week and it paid off.”
The 2006 Commonwealth Games champion said he could have gone faster had he ran smoother in the last part of the race.
“At the end I got too excited and did not run that smoothly, so that means I want to run faster in my next races.”
Coming home second was an elated Jimmy Vicaut after the Frenchman equalled the European record of 9.86.
American Mike Rodgers earned the third-place finish with a time of 9.99 secs, with Jamaican Nesta Carter, a former training partner of Powell, getting fourth in 10.02.
Meanwhile, in the men’s 400m, Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada tasted a rare defeat this season, after he was outpaced by South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk to the line.
Van Niekerk came into the home straight with James and the Grenadian struggled to shake off the South African who went on to sealed the win in a new African record and lifetime best of 43.96.
“Pushing myself to improve is my goal this year,” Van Niekerk said. “Making all what my coach is asking, that is the key to improve.
“Kirani is the guy who inspires me, so it is something special that I was able to win. I think it’s the start of something great for me.”
James, who remains as the world-leader, was graceful in his defeat, as he faded behind Van Niekerk in second place with 44.17.
“It was a very competitive race today. Wayde ran a very good one,” James said.
David Verburg of USA was third in 44.81, with Jamaica’s Rusheen McDonald getting fourth in 44.84.
Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana had bravely targeted the women’s 5000m world record at her press conference on Friday, but it was her compatriot Genzebe Dibaba, who stole the show, despite stopping well short of the seven-year mark.
Slow pacemaking inside the opening 1000m forced Ayana to take a gamble and increase the pace right away after the pacemaker stepped away.
However, that decided came back to haunt the world championships bronze medallist after as ran out of steam and was destroyed in the last 400m by Dibaba, who went on to set a meeting record and personal of 14:15.41.
Ayana, who still holds the world-leading time at 14:14.32, was with Dibaba until the last quarter-mile, but she began losing ground on her Ethiopian teammate in the final 360m and she faded badly to 14:21.97.
Reigning IAAF World Championships gold medallist Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic returned to action on a winning note after she recorded an impressive 53.76 secs to win the women’s 400m hurdles.
“I’m back,” said Hejnova. “The rhythm was at my level from 2013. “I know about room to improve, we will work now on some speed endurance.”
The winning time by Hejnova was the second fastest for the season behind American and NCAA collegiate champion Shamier Little’s 53.74.
Behind her, Sara Petersen of Denmark was setting a new national record of 53.99 for second place, with Bahrain’s Kemi Adekoya also setting a national record of 54.12 for third.
Elsewhere, there were world best of Nikoléta Kiriakopoúlou (GRE, 4.83) in the women’s pole vault, Silas Kiplagat (KEN, 3:30.12) in the men’s 1500m and Jairus Birech (KEN, 7:58.83) in the men’s 3000m steeplechase.
There were missed opportunities though for Renaud Lavillenie of France in the men’s pole vault and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar in the high jump.