ATHLETICS: Americans lose lustre at Zurich’s Golden League
ZURICH: US track stars who shone at the World Championships lost little of their lustre in the fourth Golden League meet in a storm-hit Zurich on Friday, winning six events.
Driving rain and wind evoking memories of last week’s adverse weather conditions in Helsinki failed to dampen the spirits of world champions Justin Gatlin, Jeremy Wariner, Bershawn Jackson and Michelle Perry en route to victory. Compatriot Dominique Arnold made up for his disappointment of placing fourth in the Finnish capital by posting an impressive win in the ever-competitive 110m hurdles.
And Sanya Richards also won the 400m, although the bubbly Lauryn Williams lost out to Jamaican arch-rival Veronica Campbell in the 100m. Russia’s Tatyana Lebedeva meanwhile kept alive her hopes of bagging the $1 million jackpot for winning her event in all six Golden League meets by doing just that in Zurich. Her rival for the purse, veteran French sprinter Christine Arron, however, failed to win and blamed her fourth-placed finish on the weariness of having raced nine races in Helsinki.
American sprint king Gatlin, who won the 100m and 200m in Helsinki, clocked 10.14sec in winning the blue riband event at the Weltklasse here. “The secret to my success is technique, control and confidence,” said the 23-year-old who is also Olympic champion. “I was the last man out of the blocks today, but I continued to prove my dominance. I’m simply a survivor.” Gatlin was followed over the line by Francis Obikwelu of Portugal and Ghana’s Aziz Zakari, both of whom flopped in Helsinki but who here finished ahead of West Indian world medallists Michael Frater and Kim Collins.
Gatlin’s compatriot Maurice Greene, whose Helsinki outing was reduced to watching his team-mates drop the baton in the 4x100m relay, could only finish a disappointing eighth in 10.39sec. “I just had a bad start,” said Greene, who has clocked a record 52 sub-10sec for the 100m. “It was my first race after a long time and it’s clear I need more races. Don’t worry, I’ll be back.” In the 400m, Wariner delighted the capacity Swiss crowd in the quirky Letzigrund stadium by holding off a brave challenge from Canadian Tyler Christopher to cross the line in 44.67sec.
Jackson wrapped up the 400m hurdles in 48.14sec ahead of Panama’s Bayano Kamani, while Arnold won the 110m hurdles in a fast 13.03sec in front of China’s Liu Xiang and world champion Ladji Doucoure. “I’m very satisified because my fouth place in Helsinki was very ungratifying. The final there was not my race but it was tonight,” said the 31-year-old Arnold. Ethiopian running phenomenon Kenenisa Bekele looked in great form winning the 3000m in a season’s best of 7:32.59. Bekele, a four-time world cross-country champion who won the 10,000m in Helsinki, was using the event as preparation for a bid to break his own world record for the 10,000m next week in Brussels.
But Qatar’s two-time world champion Saif Saaeed Shaheen failed in his attempt to break his own world record in the 3000m steeplechase, falling at the last water hurdle but dominating the field all the same to stretch his winning run in the event to 23 successive races. The 22-year-old Kenyan-born athlete timed 8:02.69, eight seconds ahead of Kenya’s world bronze medallist Brimin Kipruto, who produced a great sprint finish to pass compatriot Paul Koech on the line. “Zurich is my favourite meet and I wanted to break the record,” said Shaheen. “Coming on to the last water jump I was thinking I can break the record because I was preparing for a strong last 150m.
“I don’t know what happened. I have no explanation for my fall. I still have one more race to try for the record in Brussels.” Kenya wrapped up the 800 and 1500m races in the shape of Daniel Komen and Wilfred Bungei, who both also had disappointing worlds. In the women’s 100m, Arron could only finish fourth behind double world silver medallist Campbell, Williams and Chandra Sturrup of the Bahamas. The first two both posted personal bests of 10.85 and 10.88sec respectively.
Sanya Richards set a new world lead and personal best of 48.92sec in the 400m, the Jamaican-born runner gaining sweet revenge on the Bahamas’ Tonique Williams-Darling, who had won in Helsinki. World champion Zulia Calatayud of Cuba won the 800m in 1:59.16, while Bahrain’s Ethiopian-born Maryam Jamal won the 3000m in 8:29.45, two seconds ahead of former compatriot Berhane Adere and Isabelle Ochichi of Kenya. The win at least allowed Jamal, who lives in Switzerland, some crumb of comfort after missing out on a medal in Helsinki after being elbowed out on the last lap.
US world champion Michelle Perry clocked 12.55sec to win the 100m hurdles, and Yuliya Pechonkina of Russia continued her dominance of the 400m hurdles, winning in 53.30sec. In a gripping see-saw battle in the triple jump, Lebedeva reacted to Jamaica’s world champion Trecia Smith taking the lead with her second jump by soaring to 14.94m. Smith no-jumped four times and was unable to catch the Russian.
“This competition was not against the other jumpers but against myself and my pain,” said Lebedeva, who pulled out of the event in Helsinki with an injured left achilles tendon. “I think the pressure will be there in Berlin,” she said of the sixth and final Golden League meet before the Grand Prix finals in Monaco on September 9-10. afp