The US got the better of sprint rivals Jamaica in the season-opening Diamond League meeting in Qatar on Friday, with 100m victories for Justin Gatlin and Allyson Felix.
Gatlin overcame the steamy desert heat and a poor start to run down a tiring Asafa Powell in the closing stages to win in 9.87 seconds, while Felix, better known as a 200m runner, pipped Jamaica’s former world champion Veronica Campbell-Brown in 10.92 seconds.
Despite a desperate lunge for the line, Campbell-Brown was second in 10.94 seconds and Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce took third with 11 seconds.
“It was very good to get one over Campbell, especially at 100 meters,” Felix said. “Jamaica has some really good racers, and I think the rivalry is good.”
Powell was ahead for most of the men’s race, but finished 0.01 seconds behind Gatlin and put his defeat down to the effects of traveling from his native Jamaica.
“The jet lag is in my legs. I tried to go, but my legs just wouldn’t go there,” he said. “I’m still happy with the time. It was an OK race, considering that I’ve only been here two days, traveling from Jamaica. It’s only the first race, so I’m feeling good,” added Powell, whose compatriot and world-record holder Usain Bolt recorded 9.82 seconds, the fastest time of the year, in his first individual race of the season last weekend.
Gatlin, the world indoor 60m champion, was confident he had more to offer.
“I thought I was sluggish in the beginning, but I showed that there’s a lot left in these legs,” said the American, whose world gold in Istanbul in March was his first since serving a four-year ban for doping which ended in 2010.
“You have to see track and field as a soap opera with spikes on. With these races, it shows who is a competitor and who’s just a runner. This shows I can run very well anywhere in the world,” he added.
Kenya’s world-record holder David Rudisha eased away from compatriot Job Kinyor over the final 50m to win the men’s 800m in 1:43.10, the fastest time of the year.
Wearing bright-red running shoes and a wide grin as he clutched his bouquet, which he later threw into a crowd of ecstatic Kenyans, the softly spoken runner said he was pleased with his performance.
“[It] is a very good time for me. I know that all the athletes want to beat me now, but I am well prepared to face the challenge. Great runners like [Sebastian] Coe failed to win an Olympic gold [at 800m], but I’ll do my best to make it,” said the 23-year-old, who did not compete at the Beijing Games after missing the Kenyan trials through injury.
Ethiopia’s double Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele could only manage seventh in his first track 3,000m since 2009, finishing almost 10 seconds behind winner Augustine Choge of Kenya, whose time of 7:30.42 was the quickest of the year.
Eliud Kipchoge was second in 7:31.40, while Bekele, Olympic champion over 5,000m and 10,000m struggled to 7:40.00, which he attributed to missing a week of training.
The 29-year-old has grappled with injury over the past two years and has yet to decide if he will attempt the distance double at the London Games.
Kenya also dominated the women’s event with 5,000m world champion Vivian Cheruiyot holding on to beat Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar in a world-leading time of 8:46.44.
Russian world champion Mariya Abakumova got the better of Olympic gold medalist Barbora Spotakova in the javelin with 66.86m, after opening her competition with a no-throw.