By Larry Fine
NEW YORK, June 3 - Americans Marion Jones and Justin Gatlin ruled the sprints today with emphatic wins in their respective 100 metre races, and Meseret Defar of Ethiopia capped off New York’s rousing grand prix meeting with a world record in the women’s 5,000 metres.
Former Olympic sprint champion Jones showed she is still a force by beating a world-class field in her third race back after an 11-month absence from competition due to injuries.
Jones, 30, powered her way to victory in 11.06 seconds ahead of world championship silver medallist Veronica Campbell of Jamaica, who clocked 11.11, and 2003 world champion Torri Edwards of the US in 11.23.
World champion Lauryn Williams of the US finished fifth in 11.44.
Gatlin, the Olympic and world champion and co-world record holder, streaked to victory in 9.87 seconds in his first 100m race run in his native New York.
Tyson Gay was a distant second in 10.04 followed by Leonard Scott in the all-American race.
Olympic champion Defar put a grand finishing touch on the meeting held on a wet track at Icahn Stadium by winning the 5,000 in 14 minutes 24.53 seconds to break the previous record of 14:24.68 set by Elvan Abeylegesse of Turkey in 2004.
The 22-year-old Defar ran the final 400 meters in a blazing 61 seconds, and was greeted to loud cheers when she crossed the line. ``New York, New York’’ started blaring on the public address system.
``I was very confident when I saw the time with a lap to go that I could break the record,’’ Defar said.
Jones, who won three golds at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and five medals in all, has swept all three of her races this year. She won her first race in an altitude-assisted 11.06 seconds in Mexico and triumphed last Sunday in the Netherlands in 11:16.
I felt pretty strong. I felt powerful,'' Jones said after the race. A win is a win. I would have liked it to be faster, but conditions were difficult. Still, it’s great to get a win against such a strong field.’’
``It builds the confidence a little more. It’s been a bit low the last two years.’’
The 24-year-old Gatlin, who last month tied the 100m world record of 9.77 set by Asafa Powell of Jamaica, said he was disappointed in the wet, cool conditions but happy to prevail in front of more than 30 family and friends.
It turned out to be similar to Prefontaine,'' Gatlin said about his 9.88 time last week in rainy Oregon. I felt some pressure before the race to do well in front of my family. I wanted to make sure I got hugs and pats on the back.’’
Gatlin said he will be take some time off and had no other meets planned before the US nationals in three weeks’ time where he will concentrate on the 100.
In other events, American Wallace Spearmon streaked to victory in the men’s 200m, raising his right arm and easing up as he hit the tape in 20:09 seconds, the third fastest time this year.
Abraham Chebii of Kenya launched a devastating kick from 250 metres out to win the men’s 5,000m in 13:04.56, the fastest time ever run in the US Chebii, the 2005 world cross country silver medallist, ran away from compatriots Micah Kogo and Benjamin Limo as he bettered the former US all-comers record of 13:05.59 set by Said Aouita of Morocco at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Kogo was second in 13:06, followed by world champion Limo in 13:07.14.