21 May, 2019

Shanghai drama signals vintage Diamond League season

We’re just two meetings into the IAAF Diamond League season but already 2019 is shaping up as a classic year.

Maybe it has something to do with the Doha World Championships on the horizon in September, but minds and performances were certainly sharpened at a sizzling Shanghai Diamond League at the weekend.

August’s Muller Anniversary Games arrives just before Doha and already global stars Reece Prescod, Andre De Grasse and Elaine Thompson are some of the names confirmed - they were all part of the drama in Shanghai.

SPRINT BATTLES SET TO LIGHT UP SUMMER

Where else can we start our rundown of the action in China than with the men’s 100m, a hyper-intense battle that looks set to twist and turn all summer.

A classy field lined up in Shanghai and in the end they had to be split by a photo finish, American Noah Lyles pipping compatriot Christian Coleman to the line – both clocking 9.86 (+0.9) but Lyles edging it by six thousandths of a second.

Coleman, world record-holder over 60m, typically got off to a lightning start but in a contrast of styles, 200m specialist Lyles chased him down with a PB, Akani Simbine of South Africa (9.95) in third.

And yet still a fourth man went under 10 seconds, London Stadium-bound Prescod opening his outdoor season with 9.97 - faster than he ran at this stage last year and the fourth time the European silver medallist has legally gone sub-ten.

Ominously for his rivals, Lyles celebrated but also targeted improving his start: “I think the more races I have, the better. As I grow up, I’ll hopefully get more muscle. But mostly it’s little things like getting out of the blocks better.

“I don’t really think this was a message to my rivals it was more of a message to myself. The 100m has never been my dominant event so I wanted to make sure that this year everybody knows I’m not just a 200m runner.”

Anything the 100m can do, the 200m can also do, with its own national one-two as Canadian Aaron Brown (20.07) edged out Andre De Grasse in 20.21 - just 0.01 off his season’s best.

European silver medallist Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake showed he’s making progress during the early season as he clocked a season’s best 20.60 for fifth, improving on both his place and time from the first Diamond League event in Doha.

HOBBS’S DREAM DEBUT AND SAMBA SIZZLES

In the women’s 100m, double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson clocked a season-best 11.14s, the Jamaican’s first effort at the distance this season, as America’s Aleia Hobbs took gold.

Hobbs, the 2018 US champion, made her Diamond League debut a notable one, taking a convincing victory in 11.03, 0.04 clear of Nigerian Blessing Okagbare and 0.11 ahead of Thompson.

The 23-year-old also achieved the feat with a heavily taped wrist she broke two weeks ago.

“I knew I had to have a good start, and I got out well but everything else was kind of blurred,” Hobbs commented. “Then I felt the push towards the end but I tried to stay relaxed and that’s what I did.”

Abderrahman Samba was equally hot in the 400m hurdles as he completed a statement victory in his first meeting with rising star Rai Benjamin.

The Qatari ran his second fastest time ever to take victory in 47.21 and make a perfect start to his qualification campaign.

Diamond Trophy holder Beatrice Chepkoech, meanwhile, also delivered a dominant performance in the women's 3000m steeplechase to get her title defence off to a dream start.

The performance of the weekend though must go to Omar McLeod, who was uncertain whether to compete in the 110m hurdles following the death of his aunt and was in tears after clocking 13.12 to beat Wenjun Xie, Sergey Shubenkov and Orlando Ortega.