Thu, Jul 30, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Van Zyl, Demus set leading times at Herculis meet

AP , MONACO

French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie competes at the Herculis Super Grand Prix at the Louis II Stadium in Monaco on Tuesday. Lavillenie won with a height of 5.88m.

PHOTO: AP

L.J. van Zyl of South Africa and Lashinda Demus of the US set world-best times this year in the 400m hurdles at the Herculis Super Grand Prix on Tuesday.

Van Zyl’s late burst over the final 10m took him past Bershawn Jackson — the 2005 world champion and Olympic bronze medalist last year in Beijing — who looked to be coasting to victory.

Van Zyl won in 47.94 seconds, beating Jackson’s mark of 48.03 set at the US Championships last month.

Three days after breaking her own world-best time for this year at the Crystal Palace meet, Demus improved with 53.63 — a fraction quicker than the 53.65 she ran at the meet in London on Saturday.

Demus had also set a season’s best when she ran 53.78 last month at the US Championships.

Maggie Vessey of the US also set a world-best time for this year in the women’s 800m.

Vessey even surprised herself by clocking 1 minute, 57.84 seconds to beat Russian Anna Alminova’s mark of 1:57.86 set in Cheboksary, Russia, only five days ago.

“I’m usually last, being up there with everyone is really racing,” Vessey told French television after her win in warm temperatures at Stade Louis II.

Vessey’s win was even more unexpected considering she ran 2:00.13 at the Golden Gala in Rome just over two weeks ago, and only 2:01.32 at the US Championships last month.

Less than three weeks ahead of the world championships in Berlin, Croatian high jumper Blanca Vlasic narrowly beat Germany’s Ariane Friedrich. Both passed 2.03m, but Vlasic did so at the second attempt, while Friedrich did so on her third go. Both then failed to pass 2.05m.

Vlasic, the Olympic silver medalist in Beijing, could find it harder when she takes on Friedrich in front of her own fans at the worlds, yet seems to be relishing the challenge.

“I hope they will also have some energy to cheer for me,” Vlasic said. “I’m not worried about that, I have lots of fans in Germany.”

Elsewhere, Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt of the US won the men’s 400m, despite a difficult start.

“I was a little bit restricted at the start,” said Merritt, who was looking ahead to getting a gold medal in Berlin.

“In 2007 I came second, I don’t have a world title under my belt,” said Merritt, who got a silver in the 400m two years ago in Osaka, Japan. “I want that world title.”

World record-holder and Olympic champion Dayron Robles of Cuba won the 110m hurdles, but accepts he still needs some improvement before Berlin.

“All I have to do is keep working hard and things will happen,” Robles told reporters.

Elsewhere, Shelly-Ann Fraser won the women’s 100m in 10.91. Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie of the Bahamas was second in her season’s best of 10.97. Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica was third in 11.03.

“When you get under 11 seconds it’s always good,” Fraser said. “I’m just happy that I came out here and won against a quality field.”

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