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TrackLife International

Some Stars Find Going Tough at Prefontaine Classic


Quarter-mile stars LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James battled their way to the finish line; Frenchman Pascal Martinot-Lagarde upstaged two sprint hurdles favorites and sprint queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce ran a disappointing eighth in the 200m, all on Saturday, the second and final day of the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon.


James outleans Merritt at the line.

Merritt, the 2013 Moscow World Championships, entered the meet as the early favorite after defeating James at the Drake Relays in April, winning convincingly at the May 17 (Puerto Rico) Ponce Grand Prix, and running an impressive 4×4 relay anchor to take his team from 3rd place to first at the World Relays in the Bahamas a week ago.

At the top of the home straight both Merritt and James continued to be locked in a duel that developed on the backstretch and saw them racing neck and neck to the line, where James, the 21-year-old Grenadian and 2012 Olympic gold medalist, edged out the 27-year-old Merritt in a photo finish. They were credited with the same world-leading time of 43.97secs, just off Michael Johnson’s meet record of 43.92 set in 2000.

“There’s a lot of spots in that race that I could work on,” Merritt said after the race. “And the fact that I ran fast and I feel there’s still some things I could work on, that’s great for me.”

James remarked that, “When you say LaShawn and me have a rivalry you automatically cancel out all the other guys, but they’re in the background getting better each and every meet, and no one’s really focusing on them. It’s not really a rivalry between me and LaShawn, but it’s a rivalry between the top 10 guys in the world.”

While Aries Merritt, the reigning Olympic gold medalist and world record holder over 110m hurdles, pulled out of the meet Saturday morning after sustaining a hamstring injury in practice, Martinot-Lagarde took the event by storm, defeating Moscow 2013 gold medalist David Oliver of the USA and London 2012 bronze medalist Hansle Parchment of Jamaica in a season-best (SB) 13.13. Parchment registered 13.20 and Oliver, a SB 13.21.

The women’s 200m was gobbled up by the American and former NCAA champion Tori Bowie, who clocked a personal-best (PB) 22.18 to upset a star-studded field that included Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare (PB 22.23 ), USA’s Allyson Felix (22.44), Ivory Coast’s Murielle Ahoure (22.61), and Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the 2013 World 200m champion. Fraser-Pryce, who looked lack-luster at the World Relays a week ago, faded to finish eighth in 23.06.

She later posted on Facebook: “Congrats Tori Bowie! On another note, Blessing’s hair is absolutely fabulous! Really appreciate the support and encouraging words. I am not worried and neither should anyone else. Goodnight and good morning :)”

Fraser-Pryce was not the only star who finished at the back of the field. Kenya’s 800m world record-record holder David Rudisha – who was competing for the first time since sustaining a knee injury while training in New York in May last year – found the going tough and finished 7th in the event. The race was won by Botwana’s Amos Nijel in a world leading 1.43.63. In second place was Ethiopian Mohammed Aman (1:43.99) and Sudan’s Abubaker Kaki (1:44.09) finished third.

The final day of the meet resulted in 12 world-leading times this year, 5 Prefontaine Classic meet records, as well as season and personal bests in each event.    Results

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