Noah Lyles at the Racers Grand Prix (© Athelstan Bellamy)
The Racers Grand Prix, a World Athletics Continental Tour Silver meeting, made a successful return on Saturday (3) after a three-year hiatus with world champions Noah Lyles and Shericka Jackson speeding to season’s bests in Kingston.
Two-time world 200m champion Lyles saved the best for last as he brought the curtains down with a world-leading 19.67 (0.3 m/s) to win the men’s 200m, breaking the meeting record in the process. Running out of his favourite lane seven, Lyles shrugged off a brief challenge from Great Britain’s Zharnel Hughes (20.14) around the bend before opening up a sizeable lead to win comfortably in front of the fair size appreciative crowd.
“The crowd was electrifying and I didn’t know what kind of reception I would receive based on the social media comments,” said Lyles. “Tonight, the first 20 metres of my race was great, however, there’s room for improvement in other areas but things are coming together and I feel great to get the meeting record. Bolt (Usain) came over and congratulated me and gave me words of encouragement to become the new face of the sport and take it forward.”
Jackson, the world champion over 200m, stepped down to the 100m and registered a commanding win in a season’s best of 10.78 (1.6 m/s), also breaking the meeting record. Bahamian sprinter Anthonique Strachan’s upward trajectory continued as she finished second in a season’s best of 10.99.
“I think it was a solid run tonight,” said Jackson. “My start has improved tremendously and I know my coach is smiling and definitely I’m taking it one step at a time and looking forward to greater things this season.”
World record-holder and two-time world champion Wayde Van Niekerk demonstrated he’s getting back to his best form when winning the men’s 400m ‘A’ final in a meeting record of 44.21. The South African dragged Jamaica’s Zandrion Barnes, the runner-up, to a huge lifetime best of 44.90.
“I was excited to perform in front of this crowd and used their energy to my advantage, “said Van Niekerk. “Running fast times in two different conditions, one at altitude and the other in wet weather, shows some consistency and I’m using it as a positive moving forward as I make gradual progress.”
A heavy downpour at the start of the evening didn’t dampen the spirits of 2017 world U18 champion Antonio Watson, who sped to a lifetime best of 44.75 to win the men’s 400m ‘B’ final.
World champion and world record-holder Tobi Amusan of Nigeria won the women’s 100m hurdles in a season’s best of 12.57 (-0.4 m/s) with USA’s Tia Jones finishing second in 12.72.
“The love and hospitality from the people here are just massive,” said Amusan. “Tonight’s not my best-executed race but I’m happy I came out of it injury free.”
In a windy men’s 110m hurdles (2.3 m/s), a fierce battle played out among three former world U20 medallists. Tyler Mason (13.14), the 2014 world U20 silver medallist, prevailed ahead of the fast-finishing 2018 silver medallist Orlando Bennett (13.18) with 2018 gold medallist Damion Thomas (13.29) third. De'jour Russell, the winner of the world U18 title in 2017, was fourth in 13.53.
USA’s 2019 world 100m champion Christian Coleman won his first race on Jamaican soil, winning the men’s 100m in 10.03 (-0.3 m/s).
Elsewhere, Fedrick Dacres (62.85m) suffered a rare defeat on home soil after placing fourth in the men’s discus won by Samoa’s Alex Rose, who sent his disc out to 65.86m. Traves Smikle claimed the runner-up spot with 65.15m. Shanieka Ricketts won the women’s triple jump, bounding out to 14.32m (-1.5 m/s).
Noel Francis for World Athletics