LONDON: Wariner 44.05

With his 22.43 heave, Hoffa steals the spotlight in London - World Athletics Tour
Friday 3 August 2007
London, UK - A scintillating return to one lap racing by Jeremy Wariner was the highlight of the Norwich Union London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace this evening, a meeting that featured the first 22m shot put in the world this year by Reese Hoffa and some superb jumping competitions on a warm, breezy evening in south London.

The London meeting is a Super Grand Prix status event as part of the IAAF World Athletics Tour 2007.

The world and Olympic champion made the most of the near perfect conditions to demonstrate that he will again be the man to beat when the world’s best athletes gather in Japan in three weeks time, clocking 44.05, merely three hundredths slower than the last time he ran a 400m back in early May.

“I am about where I need to be – almost but not quite,” was Wariner’s verdict. “I need to go back home and do a couple of weeks work to get myself fully ready. I would have liked to have gone under 44 but I am happy with tonight’s race.”

Wariner lined up to run a 400m in Sheffield three weeks ago but slipped coming out of his blocks and went down as a DNF. This time he made no mistake, showing he’s lost none of his competitive edge as he held off last year’s World Cup champion LaShawn Merritt.

Merritt in lane three came into the final straight half a stride ahead of Wariner in four, but the man who’s won 14 of his last 16 races wasn’t going to let this one go easily. Wariner held his nerve and his form to win in the second best time in the world this year.

“That was a close race,” he said. “I knew he would be there and I felt him on the turn, but I managed to find enough strength to hold him off.”

Merritt finished second in 44.23 while Johan Wissman in third proved that his move up to 400m has been worthwhile. The Swede clocked a national record 45.03, finishing ahead of Commonwealth champion John Steffensen, while Britain’s Tim Benjamin produced his best form of the year to finish fifth in 45.28, surely enough to see him on the plane to Osaka.

Sanya Richards in London
(Getty Images)

Mammoth 22.43 for Hoffa

Reese Hoffa made the most of the spotlight shone on the men’s Shot Put – it was staged in the centre of the infield – as he pushed himself onto the cusp of the all-time top ten at this event with a best of 22.43m, the climax of a thrilling competition.

Hoffa had led from the first round with 21.35 until his fellow American Christian Cantwell – who’d had four fouls following his first round 20.67 – snatched the lead with the penultimate put of the competition, at 21.66. The furious Hoffa was having none of it and he returned to the circle to unleash a throw of 22.43, the best in the world this year by nearly half a metre and his best ever outdoors by 46 centimetres.

“When Chris threw a bomb in the last round I knew I had to pull one out,” he said. “He beats me all the time in the last round so I knew I had to hit the ball as hard as I could. Everything went right and I get a new PB – a massive PB. I can’t believe it.”

With 17.58 career best, Wilson takes stellar Triple Jump battle

After the rain in Shefield and the wind in Manchester, many in the stadium couldn’t believe they were at a track meeting in Britain bathed in warm sunshine. The triple jumpers had it even better as a gentle breeze blew down their runway, propelling US champion Aarik Wilson to his best ever leap, 17.58m, the third best jump in the world this year, and his two Caribbean rivals to national records – well, almost.

Wilson’s winning leap was merely the best of an excellent competition, as Leevan Sands was just 3cm behind him, missing out on a Bahaman record only because he was aided by a 2.5m/s wind. Behind him, Randy Lewis had to settle for third place despite smashing the Grenadan record with 17.43. How Britain’s injured pair, Nathan Douglas and Phillips Idowu, must have wished they were able to compete.

Britain fared better in the Long Jump though, where national record holder Chris Tomlinson repeated his feat from the UK championships last weekend – winning in the very last round, this time with 8.16. Tomlinson had been level pegging with Brian Johnson on 8.14 thorugh most of the competition, but the American held first place by virtue of his better second jump.

But the Briton seems to have developed a habit of saving his best until last and did so again here as he snatched the victory by 2cm. “That was absolutely brilliant,” said Tomlinson. “To get a result like that against Brian just before the Worlds is amazing.”

Jeremy Wariner in London
(Getty Images)

Richards fights off Felix

On the track Sanya Richards followed Wariner’s lead in holding off a fellow American in a close fought contest over 400m, producing something close to her best form of the year in the process. Richards entered the home straight stride for stride with Allyson Felix but showed her strength to come home first in 49.79. Felix was impressive too, clocking her best ever time, 50.17, good enough to move into this year’s world top ten. Jamaica’s Novlene Williams was third in 50.91.

“I haven’t raced that much and each time I do I’m getting better and better,” said Richards, who’ll meet Felix again over 200m in Osaka. “I defintely think I can win the gold. It’s going to be tough because Allyson is really strong – she showed that today.”

Britain’s Nicola Sanders, the European indoor champion, produced her best performance of the year to finish fourth in 50.97, seemingly untroubled by the knee injury she picked up last weekend. “The line-up doesn’t get better than that,” she said. “I was up there with them and didn’t feel out of my league.”

Campbell dominates

Felix may be full of running but the world 200m champion will still have a battle on her hands in Japan later this month if tonight’s performance by the Olympic champion, Veronica Campbell, is anything to go by. The Jamaican destroyed a world class field over 200m this evening to win by well over half a second in 22.55, great sprinting into a -1.9 wind. Not that Campbell was satisfied.

“Things have been going well and I am in good shape so I was hoping to run faster tonght,” she said.

Nevertheless, USA’s former world 100m champion, Torri Edwards, second in 23.19, and Belgium’s European champion Kim Geveart, third in 23.31, were left trailing in her wake.

There was a Jamaican victory in the men’s 200m as well, as Usain Bolt held off Wallace Spearmon to win in 20.06, again into a headwind.

17.58 PB for Aarik Wilson in London
(Getty Images)

Gay content with 10.02 win

Indeed, the breeze that helped the jumpers hindered the sprinters, and though Tyson Gay was an impressive winner of the 100m his time was slower than many had hoped at 10.02. The -0.8 wind had something to do with that, although Gay eased off in the final strides.

“I slowed a touch towards the end but I am in good shape,” said Gay, who declared his troublesome knee was now fully fit again. “If I had run to the line I would have run 9-something.”

European champion Francis Obikwelu was second in 10.18 just ahead of a British trio – Marlon Devonish, Craig Pickering and Mark Lewis-Francis.

Another Briton, the former world indoor 60m champion Jason Gardener, bid farewell to competitive athletics in his home country after being eliminated in the heats. Gardener, a 2004 Olympic relay champion, will finish his career at the end of this outdoor season, although he may yet run again as a member of Britain’s 4x100m team in Osaka.

Lagat storms to first 1500m win of the year

Solid victory for Tyson Gay in London
(Getty Images)

Bernard Lagat got revenge on Andrew Baddeley in the 1500m, storming from behind the Britain who’d beaten him in Sheffield, and eating up Nicholas Kemboi’s big lead to win in 3:35.71. Kemboi was second in 3:36.13 and a disappointed Baddeley third in 3:36.68.

Craig Mottram was another man back on form after a disappointing outing in the British Grand Prix three weeks ago. The Australian kicked away from the field to win the 2 Miles by a huge margin in 8:11.16, with Mo Farah second in 8:20.47, a personal best.

There were PBs aplenty in the women’s 3000m – seven in all – and in particular for USA’s Lauren Fleshman who outsprinted Britain’s Jo Pavey to win in 8:43.92.

The vertical jumps saw impressive victories for two Olympic champions.

Stefan Holm produced his best of the year to win the high jump. The Swede cleared 2.32 on his third attempt to take victory from the Czech Republic’s Tomas Janku when failure would have thrown the pair into a jump off.

And Yelena Isinbeyeva surprised no-one by winning the pole vault, clearing 4.82, while her Russian rival Svetlana Feofanova was second with her best of 2007, 4.76. USA’s Jenny Stuczynski was third with 4.70.

Matthew Brown for the IAAF


Peerless Gay claims 100m victory

Gay is the leading 100m runner this season with a time of 9.84 seconds
World number one Tyson Gay powered to a dominant victory in the 100m final at the Norwich Union London Grand Prix.
Gay cruised home in 10.02 seconds ahead of Francis Obikwelu and Britain’s Marlon Devonish and Craig Pickering.

Mark Lewis-Francis staked his claim to the third 100m place in Britain’s World Championship team, finishing fifth in 10.31 with rival Tyrone Edgar seventh.

Jason Gardener failed to reach the final as he trailed fourth in his heat - his last 100m race on UK soil.

Highlights: London Grand Prix athletics
Interview: British sprint star Jason Gardener

The 31-year-old could, however, still be selected for the world relay team.

He told BBC Sport afterwards: “The management want a fit, healthy and fast Jason Gardener travelling to Osaka and there’s no way I’d want to go unless I can give a good performance for the team.”

Lewis-Francis, who finished third at the UK trials, hoped he had done enough to convince the selectors he is worthy of an individual 100m spot in Japan.

I’ve proven I am a championship performer and I can get in good shape for the Worlds

Becky Lyne

“I’m not going to get too excited,” said the 24-year-old. "I hope I’ve come out and done enough.

“That was probably my worst race of the year, I false-started and I just ran it but I felt strong.”

The British sprinters failed to produce a rousing send-off in the closing 4x100m relay at Crystal Palace.

Gardener had safely passed the baton to training partner Pickering, who tried to make up ground but failed to transfer to Devonish and their race was over.

Gardener is looking for a place in the six-man relay squad and selectors will have to think carefully as expectations of a 4x100m medal in Japan are high.

The meeting was the last chance for British athletes not yet selected for this month’s Worlds in Osaka to stake their claim before the team is finalised on Monday.

Laura Turner claimed the women’s 100m in 11.37 seconds ahead of UK champion Jeanette Kwakye.

Both athletes were hoping to secure their spots at the Worlds but Turner’s career-best winning time was still below the required qualifying ‘A’ standard of 11.30.

Britain’s World Youth champion, Asha Philip, finished fifth and could be included in the relay squad for Japan.

Tim Benjamin looked to have done enough for an individual 400m spot as he produced a season’s best 45.28.

The Welshman finished fifth while Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner poured on the pace to overhaul fellow American Lashawn Merritt on the home straight to win in 44.05.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself as I’ve not been running great,” Benjamin said. “I think I can find a sub-45 run from somewhere.”

Nicola Sanders also continued to improve after an Achilles problem, recording a season’s best of 50.97 in the 400m.

Becky Lyne will also be wondering if she has done enough for the selectors to give her the last pick in the 800m.

The European bronze medallist ran a season’s best of two minutes 00.86 seconds, but was just edged into fifth by Jenny Meadows, who also wants to join Marilyn Okoro and Jemma Simpson in Japan.

Kluft was making just her second outdoor appearance in the UK

“I really do feel I can get in good shape for the Worlds,” said Lyne, who has been struggling with injury.

“I’ve proven I am a championship performer and I’m making big strides.”

Triple Jumper Tosin Oke improved his chances of joining Phillips Idowu on the runway in Osaka as he rode his luck to produce a personal best.

The 26-year-old Londoner disputed the foul call he received on his second jump and was rewarded with a personal best of 16.86m, which excedes the qualifying ‘B’ standard of 16.70m.

Idowu, who pulled out of last weekend’s trials with a back problem, also delivered some good news as he watched from the stands.

“My injury has recovered quite well and I’m confident I’ll perform well in Japan,” said the Commonwealth gold medallist. “I’ll try and find another meet before then too.”

Chris Tomlinson continued his run of good form in the long jump, winning the competition with his final jump of 8.16m.

Olympic gold medallist Veronica Campbell was in impressive form as she cruised to an emphatic win in the 200m in 22.55 seconds.

There was another Olympian in the race - heptathlete Carolina Kluft - but the Swede came home last as the non-specialist sprinter in the field.

Jamaica’s Usain Bolt recovered from a slow start to power to victory in the 200m, holding off a fast-finishing Wallace Spearmon to win in 20.06.

The Britons trailed home well short of the required qualifying mark of 20.59, with Luke Fagan (21.11) fourth from Alex Nelson (21.11) and Christian Malcolm (21.19).

UK Athletics selectors have yet to pick a representative for the 200m.

Jo Pavey came through a competitive 3,000m as final preparation for her 10,000m tilt in Osaka.

The Devon runner was overtaken by American Lauren Fleshman on the last lap and just failed to close her down with a sprint finish, crossing the line second in 8:44.13.

Stephanie Twell, 17, proved her future credentials as she produced a personal best of 8:53.34.