EUGENE, Oregon, CMC – Grenada’s Olympic champion Kirani James stormed to a world-leading time as he won his first major 400 metres duel of the year with American Lashawn Merritt at the Prefontaine Classic here yesterday.
The 21-year-old James clocked 43.97 – the same time as Merritt – as he barely edged out the World champion in a close finish at Hayward Field, in the third meet of the lucrative IAAF Diamond League series.
“We’ll go at it many more times,” Merritt said afterward.
Youssef Ahmed Masrahi of Saudi Arabia finished third in a season-best 44.77 seconds while Bahamian Chris Brown also posted a season-best 45.15 as he came home fourth.
There was disappointment for World silver medallist Tony McQuay, however, as the American finished down the field in seventh, in a time of 46.25 seconds.
The result for James was a reversal of last year’s finish at the event when Merritt took the tape first with James second.
Meanwhile, Jamaican Novlene Williams-Mills won the women’s equivalent, racing to a time of 50.40 seconds, to finish ahead of American Francena McCorory who clocked 50.53 seconds. Jamaican Stephenie McPherson was third in 50.63.
Kaliese Spencer kept Jamaica’s flag in the spotlight by capturing the women’s 400 metres hurdles in a world-leading 54.29 seconds. Americans Kori Carter (55.22) and Tiffany Williams (55.97) were second and third respectively.
Jamaican Shevon Stoddard trailed in fourth in 56.15 seconds.
There was a massive shock in the women’s 200 metres, however, when Jamaican superstar sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce finished dead last in 23.06 seconds.
American Tori Bowie clocked a 22.18 seconds, the fastest time this year, as she beat Nigerian Blessing Okagbare who was timed at a personal best 22.23.
Olympic champion Allyson Felix of the United States was third in 22.14 seconds.
American Justin Gatlin continued his great form this year, clocking a wind-assisted 9.76 seconds, to remain undefeated this season.
He was ahead of compatriot Michael Rodgers who was second in 9.80 seconds, with Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut third in 9.89 – the same time as Jamaican Nesta Carter who was fourth.
Nickel Ashmeade, also of Jamaica, was fifth in 9.95 seconds.
In the men’s sprint hurdles, Frenchman Pascal Martinot-Lagarde sped to a world-leading 13.13 seconds as he beat Jamaican Hansle Parchment into second in 13.20.