International Athletics

Gatlin digs deep, Ayana misses world record

2016-06-03 07:49
Justin Gatlin (Gallo Images)

Rome - Controversial American sprinter Justin Gatlin dug deep to edge to victory in the men's 100m at Thursday's Diamond League meeting, but Ethiopian Almaz Ayana just missed out on a new world record in the 5000m.

Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m gold medallist who has served two doping bans, produced a savage dip at the line for victory by one-hundredth of a second in 9.93 seconds.

That dip was enough to deprive American teammate Ameer Webb, who had earlier won the 200m (20.04), a sprint double on a balmy night in the Italian capital.

Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut also dipped under the 10sec mark with 9.99.

"I executed this race and made it to the finish line safe and sound. I kept my composure," said Gatlin, 34.

But it was not an American sweep of the blue riband event, Jamaica's Elaine Thompson, in a season's best 10.87sec, outstripping English Gardner in the women's race.

In a top-quality meet, Ayana fell just short of toppling compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba's world record of 14:11.15 in the women's 5000m, clocking a second-ever fastest time of 14:12.59.

There was also talk of a record attempt in the men's 3000m steeplechase, but that petered out, Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto winning in 8:01.47, almost 8sec off Saif Said Shahin's best.

"I tried to push it too hard, but it did not work," lamented Kipruto.

Two Olympic champions who have dominated their events, New Zealand's Valerie Adams and Colombia's Caterine Ibarguen, recorded victories in the women's shot put and triple jump respectively.

Following up on her win in Rabat last week, Adams threw a season's best of 19.69m as she continued to put last year's injury woes that necessitated knee surgery behind her.

"I guess this year I am more motivated than ever," said Adams, the four-time world outdoor champion, three-time world indoor champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist.

"2016 is an Olympic year. It is a great challenge, a great year. Last year was really tough for me... what I need is to get competitions under my belt."

Ibarguen extended her amazing winning streak to 34 races over the last four years with a final effort of 14.78m for victory.

"I am focused on the Olympics. I won a silver medal in London and this year I'll give anything to take the gold," the 32-year-old said.

South African track hopes for Rio look promising.

In-form Caster Semenya made it three from three, equalling her own world leading time of 1:56.64 to win the women's 800m. And her team-mate Wayde Van Niekerk, the world 400m champion who this year became the only male athlete to have run the 100m sub-10sec, the 200m sub-20sec and the 400m sub-44sec, clocked 44.19sec to win the one-lap race.

"Now I need to be consistent, to maintain this shape until the Olympics," said the 25-year-old Semenya, who won the 2009 world title in Berlin before sitting out several months of competition after it was announced she had been subject to gender testing.

"My dream, my main goal is of course Olympic gold. Getting the gold medal in Rio is very important to me. Now is the right time, I got a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics and now I can take fast paces."

Van Niekerk added: "It's a good start to build up towards the rest of the season. The Olympic Games will be a new challenge for me, new motivation with a different, fresh spirit."

Sunette Viljoen wrapped up a nice evening's work for South African athletes by winning the women's javelin (61.95m).

Read more on:    justin gatlin  |  athletics


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