Liu Xiang was giddy over his win in the 110m hurdles and even more gleeful after seeing his time of 12.87 seconds in the Prefontaine Classic on Saturday.
Liu bounded around the track with an unbridled exuberance after holding off a star-studded field in a time that would have tied the world record, but it was wind-aided by a slight margin. So the world mark belonging to Cuba’s Dayron Robles remains safe — for now.
Robles was actually scheduled to be in the field, but the Cuban had trouble securing his visa and pulled out of the competition at the last hour.
There were still plenty of other rivals to push Liu, who held off Aries Merritt and Jason Richardson in what was billed as one of the marquee events. The race certainly lived up to the billing, with Liu getting off to a good start.
“I just treated it as a regular race,” Liu said through a translator.
His reaction to the win proved it was anything but just another race, especially this close to the London Olympics. And had the wind not been gusting, this very well could have been a performance to remember.
HARD TO MISS
Allyson Felix was hard to miss in her aerodynamic black bodysuit with neon yellow patches on each leg. She was impossible to catch, too. In a 200m race that was supposed to be tight, Felix breezed away from the field, easily beating training partner Jeneba Tarmoh and crushing her main rival Carmelita Jeter.
Felix’s time of 22.23 seconds was hardly spectacular, but her performance was, especially with the Summer Games right around the corner. She showed that she is definitely rounding into form.
“I feel like I’m in a good place right now,” Felix said. “I tried to focus and power in, but they told me it didn’t look like I pushed very hard at the end.”
ENDS IN A BANG
While Felix won with a big burst out of the starting blocks, the other big race of the day — the men’s 400m — ended with a bang.
As in, a second bang to stop the race for a false start.
Teenager Kirani James of Grenada left the blocks a split second too early and was disqualified. However, he protested and was allowed to run while the matter was sorted out.
The 19-year-old James got off to a solid start and had a slight lead on the home straight. However, Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt used a strong kick to pass James with a few meters remaining.
That was the opposite of what transpired at the world championships last summer in South Korea. In that race, Merritt couldn’t hold off the hard-charging James.
“I wanted to focus on staying relaxed and running strong,” Merritt said. “I feel like I’m in great shape, the training has been going well. It was just a matter of me not beating myself.”
As for the false start, James said he thought the runners may have been held in the blocks a little too long.
“It happens,” James said. “I’d rather it happen here than at the big one.”
For Oscar Pistorius, his mission is to simply qualify for the Summer Games, and he’s quickly running out of time. The double-amputee sprinter known as the “Blade Runner” finished the 400m in a disappointing time of 46.86 seconds.
Pistorius needs to run in 45.30 seconds or better to give the South African his second Olympic time in the qualifying window. He has another chance next weekend in New York at the Adidas Grand Prix.
“I have to refocus after this and get some fuel in the tank for the next race,” he said.