Kendra Harrison en route to victory in Birmingham (© Jean-Pierre Durand)
Among the seven meeting records that tumbled at Birmingham’s IAAF Diamond League Meeting on Sunday (5), two came in eagerly anticipated appearances by Eugene winners Kendra Harrison and Kirani James in the 100m hurdles and 400m respectively.
The women’s hurdles had promised fireworks and it did not disappoint. Harrison arrived a week after her sensational 12.24 victory in Eugene, which elevated her to the number two position on the world all-time list.
The 23-year-old got out of the blocks slightly sluggishly and had ground to make up during the first half of the race but edged in front by the sixth barrier before pulling away from her rivals, exhibiting a wonderfully smooth and crisp technique en route to a 12.46 meeting record.
Brianna Rollins, who had been lifted of her US record by Harrison last week, was the only hurdler to get close to her compatriot and led for the first half of the race before the 2013 world champion finished second in 12.57.
Olympic champion Sally Pearson, who returned to competition after a year’s absence, was a distant seventh in 13.25.
“I'm a little bit disappointed at the moment with my body, it's not in the best shape but I was so determined to be out there, whatever happened,” Pearson said.
“I was willing to risk having a bad race, time and position but it is kind of worth it to be back out here competing and in competitive line-ups again.”
James, the Olympic champion and world leader at 44.08 from early April, was equally dominant. The Grenadian, in his usual composed style, controlled the field entering the homestraight and pulled away in 44.23, another meeting record.
“I was happy to execute my performance as planned," said James, who clocked a nearly identical 44.22 in Eugene. "It shows I'm in good form but I have to stay focused and keep my plan for Rio.”
Former African record-holder Isaac Makwala of Botswana was a distant second in 44.97.
Britain's Europan champion Eilidh Doyle didn’t want to leave anything to chance in the women’s 400m hurdles, arriving from a third-place finish in Rome after her early world-leading time in Doha. Doyle went out strong and led until the final hurdle, where the US duo of Cassandra Tate and Georganne Moline closed in to produce a blanket finish on the line.
Tate, the world bronze medallist, was given the nod over Doyle, both credited with 54.57 and just 0.001 separating the pair.
Short-dash wins for Gardner and De Grasse
Bouncing back from a second-place finish in Rome, English Gardner beat back a competitive field to collect her first IAAF Diamond League 100m win of the season. The picture of consistency, she clocked 11.02 in both her heat and the final.
“My coach wanted me to run in this meet to get me used to running rounds, I've got two solid performances now,” said Gardner.
“Whenever you run in the Diamond League you know that the competition is going to be strong, from (lanes) 1 to 9 all the girls are talented and able to win, so it makes you feel good about yourself that you are able to get out there and compete with the best in the world. That's what Diamond Leagues are about.”
World 200m champion Dafne Schippers was second in 11.09, just ahead of world long jump champion Tianna Bartoletta.
Andre De Grasse, Canada’s world 100m bronze medallist, closed strongly to win the 200m in 20.16, just 0.01 ahead of 2015 Diamond Race winner Alonso Edward. Ameer Webb, who had been unbeaten over the distance this year, was surprisingly never a factor, finishing sixth in 20.65.
It may not have been a Diamond Race discipline, but the men’s 600m certainly proved a thriller.
David Rudisha impressed with a 1:13:12 run, an African best over the distance, the Kenyan shaving 0.58 from his own meeting record.
The 800m world record-holder was chased to the line by Frenchman Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, whose 1:13:21 was a European best.
Double world and Olympic champion Mo Farah yesterday announced that 2017 would be his last season on the track, but the display he put on in Birmingham did not look like that of someone who is thinking about retirement.
Farah capped the meeting in style with a 7:32.62 national record in the 3000m to eclipse the mark former 5000m world record-holder David Moorcroft set in 1982, the year before Farah was born.
Drums played as Farah followed pacemaker Reuben Bett who brought him through 1000m in 2:30.88, as requested. Farah took over with a little less than one kilometre to go, 2000m pased in 5:01.75, before extending his gap on the field to more than 100 metres.
In an electrifying atmosphere, the stadium announcer counted the seconds as Farah approached the line to collect his sixth British outdoor record.
Farah dedicated his victory to Muhammad Ali, the legendary boxing world champion who passed away on Friday.
Michelle Sammet for the IAAF