Johnson pips a surprising Arnold, as Liu Xiang is relegated to third in New York

Johnson pips a surprising Arnold, as Liu Xiang is relegated to third in New York

Sunday 12 June 2005

New York City, USA - The anticipated 110m hurdles face-off between four-time World champion Allen Johnson of the USA and Olympic gold medallist Liu Xiang of China, respectively the IAAF World Ranked number one and two sprint hurdlers, at Saturday’s Reebok Grand Prix (11 June), came within ten steps of not being won by either of them.

Fellow American Dominique Arnold, World Ranked just 15th for the event, led both Liu Xiang and Johnson off the final hurdle, and only Johnson’s perfect closing sealed the victory as Johnson finished in a world-leading 13.03 to Arnold’s 13.05. The Olympic champion was just a half-step behind in 13.11.

A stepping-stone to Helsinki

“This is just a stepping stone to Helsinki,” Johnson told reporters afterward, “(just) one race at the beginning of the season. We are going to line up many more times.”

“I was pleased with the way I hurdled today,” he continued. “It’s about overcoming your mistakes in the race.”

A false start by Liu Xiang was charged to the field, and he conceded that his memory of last week, when Johnson was disqualified for a false start at the Prefontaine Classic, caused him to be slower than usual out of the blocks the next time. “I was trying to calm down.” Liu said he false-started because last week, he had started behind the others, and he wanted to improve his start this week; he wound up “improving” too much in the other direction.

After that, by Liu Xiang’s description, the race was a series of small errors: he hit the first hurdle, and was afraid to rush to catch up: “I knew if I did that I would fall.” In the middle of the race, he found himself off-balance to his left side. All in all, he said, it was a “middling” performance, and he could’ve done better. He congratulated Johnson and Arnold for surpassing his previous world-leading mark, and added, “They inspire me to work harder.”

Arnold, for his part, was “ecstatic” about his performance. “We’ve been working on my weaknesses,” he explained. "My run off the last hurdle is something we haven’t addressed yet, and Allen is the greatest at doing that, who’s ever stepped on the track.

More world-leading hurdling

The women’s 100m Hurdles was also won in world-leading time, by Heptathlete Michelle Perry in a stunning 12.45. Perry just surpassed Olympic gold medallist Joanna Hayes, who finished in 12.47.

Perry now faces an interesting puzzle: which events should she contest in Helsinki? Rounds of the Hurdles take place during the second day of the Heptathlon, and “…running 12.45 is easier for someone with fresh legs,” she explained. The answer will come in two weeks when the USA selects its teams at their national championships.

Greene running fast and talking sweet

Former three-time World champion Maurice Greene won the 100m with a 10.08, with Olympic 200m champion Shawn Crawford second in 10.10. Greene appeared electrified by the win, bouncing back to the finish line to wave to the adoring crowd.

“I am like fine wine,” Greene announced afterward. “I get better with age. As long as I continue to have fun, I’ll still be here.” Greene turns 31 this summer.

Crawford, however, did not take his defeat in stride. “I was shocked,” he said. “I know Maurice isn’t faster than me.” While Greene claimed that the race was won between 45 and 75 metres, Crawford contested that he lost the race at the beginning: “I was last coming out of the blocks.” When Greene said, “My top-end speed is better than anyone else in the world,” Crawford bluntly expressed disbelief.

Greene shrugged off Crawford’s barbs. “You have to let the race come to you,” he said. “You can’t chase it.”

Ethiopian women dominate distances

Olympic 5000m gold medallist Meseret Defar and Ethiopian countrywoman Werknesh Kidane shared the lead in the women’s 3000m until Defar took it for good with just over 200m to go. Defar then powered home for an 8:33.57 victory, improving on her own season’s best time. Kidane, second in 8:36.39, was also ahead of Defar’s previous list leader.

Defar spoke of the race as though it had been a short workout, explaining, “It was hot, but good to work hard with my teammate.” The humid afternoon weather was a challenge, she admitted. “Back at home, there is usually no humidity.”

Later in the meet, World Cross Country double champion Tirunesh Dibaba took on the 5000m distance with her sister, Ejegayehu, the Olympic 10,000m silver medallist, much as she had in January’s Boston Indoor Games. While that race led to an World indoor record, this one was ‘merely’ an American all-comer’s record, as the diminutive Dibaba pushed through to a 14:32.42 season’s best. (The previous all-comer’s mark was 14:45.35 by Regina Jacobs.)

“I’m very pleased with the result,” said Dibaba, but went on to add that the weather was difficult for her as well. “It’s not as hot in Europe.”

Sinclair women’s 800m list leader

Jamaica’s Kenia Sinclair was the surprise winner of the women’s 800m in 1:59.10. Sinclair was comfortably positioned in the pack when they took the bell in 58.5 seconds and the USA’s Jen Toomey moved to the lead. With 150m remaining, she challenged Toomey for the lead, then took it for good on the homestretch, holding off a strong finish from American Treniere Clement, who finished second in 1:59.59 with Toomey third in 1:59.96. Kemeisha Bennett made it four under 2:00 with her 1:59.99.

“My main goal was to be under 2:00,” Sinclair said afterward. “I felt good, but I didn’t want to go and not finish. I knew I was in good shape, and I just did it today.”

Gebremariam wins again

Ethiopian 5000m champion Gebre Gebremariam, unlike Defar and Dibaba, preferred to stick with the pacemakers in the men’s 3000m. Kenyans Boaz Cheboiywo, Meshack Sang and Martin Keino made appearances in the lead, but as they began the final lap the crowd came to their feet when American Tim Broe made his move to the front. Gebremariam matched Broe’s move immediately, then held off a homestretch run by Cheboiywo to win in 7:39.48 to Cheboiywo’s 7:39.82. Broe took third in 7:41.07.

“I was hoping for a fast time, even faster than this,” said Gebremariam, but it was not to be.

Nelson finally bests Godina

The men’s Shot Put saw two-time Olympic silver medallist Adam Nelson finally topple John Godina from his spot atop the American shot pile. Nelson’s 21.58 pitch, his best this season, easily beat Godina’s 21.40. Adding injury to defeat, Godina rolled his ankle in the competition, and now has two weeks to rehabilitate before the U.S. nationals.

“This is the first time I’ve been healthy and pain free since February,” said Nelson. “This is in the best shape I’ve been in ever. You’re going to see a completely different Adam Nelson.”

Bolt in 200m

The men’s 200m was won by Jamaican junior Usain Bolt in 20.31. Bolt dominated the race, shutting down in the final metres and coasting across the finish line. “That’s just me,” he said. “If I know that I’ve got the victory, I don’t even finish the race.” Bolt said the flag-waving crowd made New York feel like “a second Jamaica. It feels like home.”

Kipchirchir in 1000m

The men’s 1000m was supposed to be a middle-distance meeting of the USA’s best 800m runner, 2003 World Indoor champion David Krummenacker, and their best 1500m runner, national champion Alan Webb. When Webb followed the pacemaker through an ambitious 53.7 first lap, Kipchirchir, Elkanah Angewenyi and Krummenacker moved up to pounce. With 200m to go, the trio moved around Webb and flew for home, with Kipchirchir taking the win in 2:16.94 and Angwenyi and Krummenacker following in 2:17.13 and 2:17.57 respectively.

Other winners

China’s Limei Xie won the women’s Triple Jump with a 14.09 leap. The women’s 100m went to Me’Lisa Barber in 11.05, and the women’s 400m to Monique Hennagan in 50.67. Sheena Johnson won the women’s 400m Hurdles in 55.46, and Bayano Kamani won the men’s 400m Hurdles in 48.76.

Parker Morse for the IAAF