Olympic champion Dayron Robles won his 110m hurdles showdown with David Oliver at Crystal Palace on Friday, but it was Grenadian teenager Kirani James who stole the limelight with a world-leading time in the 400m in his first race as a professional.
Robles laid down a marker ahead of the world championships by setting a new stadium record of 13.04 seconds, leaving US rival Oliver trailing in third.
In the last Diamond League meet before the world championships begin on Aug. 27 in Daegu, South Korea, 18-year-old James burst into contention by clocking 44.61 to upstage his more experienced rivals.
Yohan Blake took advantage of the withdrawal of injured fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell with victory in the 100m in a time of 9.95 into a headwind, while world record holder David Rudisha won the 800m in 1 minute, 42.91 seconds, the fastest time over that distance ever run on British soil.
Robles and Oliver were separated by three-thousandths of a second when the Cuban won their head-to-head at the Paris Diamond League meet last month.
Oliver is still the only man to go under 13 seconds this year but that came back in June and he was a distant third in London.
Robles, the world record holder, held off Jason Richardson of the US, who beat Oliver for the second time in a row after his Stockholm win last Friday.
“I feel very good because the time is my best this year,” Robles said. “I am working to run under 13 seconds in Daegu — I think I can do it.”
Oliver did not seem overly concerned by his performance, tweeting later: “Finish felt strong, technique felt good, got three weeks to sharpen this start and get back fresh ... no worries.”
James of Grenada is the world junior champion and set world age best times at ages 14, 15 and 17. His time at Crystal Palace beat the 44.65 set in April by fellow Grenadian Rondell Bartholomew, who could only manage a seventh place. Jermaine Gonzales of Jamaica was second, ahead of Chris Brown of the Bahamas.
“I’m feeling really good, this shows that I’m on course for Daegu,” James said. “I just went out there and tried to improve on my time and that’s what I did.”
Blake gave Jamaican rivals Powell and Usain Bolt a warning that it may not be a straight head-to-head in Daegu by equaling his season’s best 100m time against a 1.6 meters per second headwind. Powell pulled out earlier on Friday with a slight groin injury.
“Running like this in the leadup to the world championships, trust me, it’s wonderful,” Blake said.
Rudisha of Kenya controlled the 800m from the front and though he was pressured by twice world indoor champion Abubaker Kaki all the way to the finish, the taller Rudisha had too much power.
“To beat Kaki is very important as it’s a few weeks before the world championships,” Rudisha said. “I’m feeling in good shape and hopefully after the worlds I’ll think of running something really fast.”
The 22-year-old Rudisha, whose father Daniel was an Olympic 4x400m silver medalist for Kenya, set the world record of 1:41.01 in Italy a year ago and has the fastest time in the world this year.
Rudisha failed to reach the final at the worlds two years ago and will aim for his first major title in Daegu.
In the women’s 400m hurdles, Kaliese Spencer sliced half a second off the best time in the world this year, finishing strongly to clock 52.79.