Justin Gatlin raced the fastest 100m of the season at Sunday’s Shanghai Diamond League meet, while Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix failed to recapture her previous magic, finishing fifth in the 400m.
Gatlin ran under 10 seconds for the first time this year, claiming victory in 9.92 seconds after leading from the blocks — and then immediately vowed to improve on that time.
“To go out there and technically run a 9, 9.92, with no wind at all. I think it puts me in the right direction of where I need to go,” Gatlin said. “My next step. My ultimate goal is ... to run a couple of 9.7s, a 9.6, just put together a good race and try not to burn out towards the end of the season.”
The US athlete, who came back from a four-year doping ban in 2010, became only the second 100m sprinter to dip below 10 seconds this year, beating South African Simon Magakwe’s 9.98 seconds achieved last month.
However, it was a disappointing night for Felix in her first race of the season.
The four-time Olympic gold medalist had vowed to return to form this season after winning only two Diamond League races last year, before crashing out of the Moscow world championships 200m with a hamstring injury.
Her race was won by Novlene Williams-Mills, who showed serious grit at the London 2012 Olympics when she took a 4x400m relay bronze medal having been diagnosed with breast cancer shortly before the Games.
She subsequently had four operations, including a double mastectomy in January last year.
It was also a night to remember for Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare, who claimed victory in the 200m and the long jump.
Okagbare won the women’s 200m with a time of 22.36 seconds, a race which also saw Veronica Campbell-Brown return to the Diamond League circuit after her doping controversy.
The Jamaican former Olympic champion spent 10 months on the sidelines, before having a two-year ban overturned in February.
Campbell-Brown finished the race in fifth, while Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was a late withdrawal.
Fraser-Pryce reportedly pulled out with a “shin injury,” which may have been caused before the warmup as she was not seen in the stadium, but had traveled to Shanghai.
Okagbare had earlier won the long jump with a 6.86m leap.
Men’s 400m hurdles Olympic silver medalist Michael Tinsley stormed to victory after he summoned extra strength at the climax of the race to edge in front.
Meanwhile, France’s indoor world record pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie won his event with a jump of 5.92m.
He said that he was feeling stronger after breaking the world record in February, but injuring his foot in the same event, leaving him out for five weeks.
“Three months ago, I was not even able to put my foot on the ground because of my injuries,” Lavillenie said. “For me it is a big improvement. I think it [recovering from injury] has made me stronger than I was before.”
The homegrown star of the evening was Xie Wenjun, who won the 110m hurdles in front of an ecstatic home crowd, which included Chinese superstar Liu Xiang.
Xie, who is a close friend of the 2004 Olympics 110m hurdles gold medalist, won the race with a personal best time of 13.23 seconds, ahead of France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde and world champion David Oliver.
“Today’s result is the payoff for my hard work in the past few months,” Xie said. “I didn’t expect that I could finish first in today’s race because all my rivals are world-class athletes, like David Oliver, so it is a great surprise and a great pleasure for me to win at home.”