Jasmin Stowers was very much an unknown quantity internationally before she arrived in Qatar, despite her world-leading times of 12.40 and 12.39 in Des Moines and Kingston in the past three weeks, but she showed her poise and class to power to a personal best and IAAF Diamond League record of 12.35 on Friday (15).
She was quickly out of her blocks, second on reaction times to Olympic champion Sally Pearson, and although she had to play second fiddle to the Australian over the second half of the race, the Louisiana State University graduate moved up a gear over the final four hurdles to leave one of the classiest fields of recent years trailing in her wake.
Fellow US hurdler Sharika Nelson, just a few months senior to the 23-year-old Stowers, came through in lane one to record a personal best of 12.54, which under other circumstances would deserve significant attention and does get huge plaudits. But the night belonged to Stowers.
She has never been to an international competition other than the 2007 IAAF World Youth Championships, where she finished fourth, but now has to be installed as the long-range favourite for the IAAF World Championships this coming August in the Chinese capital of Beijing.
“It’s been a sensational start to the season,” said the understandably delighted hurdler.
“It means a lot to be competing with such great women and athletes. It feels just great. Now it’s Rome, New York (both IAAF Diamond League meetings) and then the US Trails. I definitely want to be in Beijing.”
Behind the US pair, it was a tough day for the past two Olympic champions.
Pearson, after her blistering start, faltered over the last two hurdles and finished fourth in 12.69, visibly disappointed she couldn’t take advantage of the favourable conditions for fast running.
Dawn Harper Nelson, the 2008 Olympic champion and 2014 Diamond Race winner, saw her rhythm fall apart and she trailed home eighth and last in 13.24.
Stowers is a refreshingly new face on the international athletics scene. By contrast, the history of Justin Gatlin is well-known and opinions about him are polarised.
Nevertheless, he was a class apart of the rest of his rivals in the men’s 100m, scorching to a world-leading time and personal best of 9.74, the fastest time in the world for almost three years.
He was not the fastest out of the blocks but once into his stride about 20 metres into the race there was little doubt about the outcome.
Gatlin’s compatriot and colleague Michael Rodgers, who handed over to Gatlin in the USA’s national record 4x100m outing when winning at the IAAF World Relays two weekends ago, finished second with 9.96.
Earlier Tianna Bartoletta produced a world-leading mark of 6.99m with the last attempt of an enthralling long jump, despite leading from the first round.
She opened with 6.96m but could never relax as Canada’s Christabel Nettey, the best woman in the world undercover this winter, reached 6.93m in the following round.
Great Britain’s Lorraine Ugen consolidated her third-place position with a personal best of 6.92m in the fourth round and then went out to what was initially announced as 7.10m in the fifth round before that result was reviewed and revised to 6.88m.
Fellow Briton Shara Proctor then equalled her national record of 6.95m, which had dated from 2012, to move up from fourth to second; although you would not have known from her stoic expression as she left the pit.
But despite the pressure throughout the competition, Bartoletta still found herself in the lead with her one effort remaining.
With the last jump of the competition, she flew out to 6.99m; just three centimetres short of her personal best which she jumped in Oslo last year, her 7.02m leading the world lists for 2014.
“The weather helped a lot,” admitted Bartoletta, acknowledging the fact that the thermometer read between 35C and 37C during the competition and stayed at that level throughout the night, also contributing to Stowers’ and Gatlin’s fast times.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF