Grenada's Kirani James celebrates his 400m victory (© Getty Images)
Grenada’s Olympic 400m champion Kirani James showed stunning early season form when he flew around the track at the Drake Relays to win the 400m in 44.22 in Des Moines, USA, on Friday night (24).
Only two men, Michael Johnson with 43.75 on 19 April 1997 and Jeremy Wariner with 44.12 on 22 April 2006, have run faster earlier in the year and it was inevitably a world-leading mark.
“I’m very happy with my time,” said James modestly said after the hugely impressive outing in cold and windy conditions. “This shows that I am in good shape. Good things can happen this season, but nothing is guaranteed. It’s still early.”
Into the bargain, James broke Johnson’s meeting record of 44.41 which had stood since 1996.
Yousef Ahmed Masrahi of Saudi Arabia finished second in 44.70 with The Bahamas’ Chris Brown third in 44.76. World champion LaShawn Merritt could only manage fifth place in 45.27.
“I didn’t do so well as far as place-wise, but I still feel good,” Merritt told local reporters. Today wasn’t really about the time. I just needed to work on some things.”
Merritt’s fellow US sprinter Tony McQuay was fourth in 45.15, while Dominican Republic’s Olympic silver medallist Luguelin Santos finished seventh in 45.69.
Aleec Harris ran a world-leading 13.16 into a 0.6m/s breeze to win the men’s 110m hurdles.
He left an impressive list of high-profile hurdlers trailing in his wake, including world champion David Oliver, who was second in 13.19.
Jamaica’s Andrew Riley was third in 13.32 with world record-holder Aries Merritt a modest fourth in 13.37.
”It means a lot,” said Harris. “That’s where the pressure was really, knowing who was in the field, those are the guys I’m going to see at (the US Championships).”
In the men’s 400m hurdles, USA’s Bershawn Jackson won in 48.87 with compatriot Michael Tinsley second in 49.39 and Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson third in 49.47.
In the field events, Greek pole vaulter Ekaterini Stefanidi cleared a world-leading mark of 4.71m while Canada’s Derek Drouin went over 2.32m to retain his men’s high jump title in Des Moines, the meeting where he jumped his national record of 2.40m 12 months ago.
Elsewhere in the USA, there was some notable sprinting at the Tom Jones Memorial Classic in Gainsville.
The Bahamas’ former world youth and junior 400m champion Shaunae Miller improved her best to 50.17, the best time in the world in 2015.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Keston Bledman put in a morale-boosting performance ahead of next weekend’s IAAF World Relays in The Bahamas when he won the men’s 100m in 10.01 (1.5m/s) and his compatriot Kelly-Ann Baptiste took the women’s event in 10.98 (0.2m/s), with the USA’s Shalonda Solomon second in 11.06.
The Netherlands’ European 100m and 200m champion Dafne Schippers took the longer sprint in Florida in 22.63 with USA’s Tiffany Townsend second in 22.89.
Kendra Harrison had an impressive victory in the 100m hurdles, winning in a personal best of 12.62 (0.9m/s).
Phil Minshull for the IAAF